Lessons I learned from 30 Consecutive Weeks Publishing This Podcast
Hard Fought Lessons On How To Grow a New Podcast
We reached a little bit of a milestone here on LimeLight DIY about a week ago when we hit episode number 30. That makes 30 weeks in a row that we have published an episode of LimeLight DIY every Friday morning, and I assure that you some weeks were a little bit more difficult to get an episode out there than others, but, I renewed my commitment a few weeks ago to double down on this podcast and I’ve tried to create more of an in-depth informational format, bringing you content that might be a little bit more tactical and a little bit less theoretical. That has resulted in a lot more hours spent on the podcast.
That kind of got me thinking: there were a lot of things that I had in my mind when I started this podcast in terms of how it was going to go, and if I look at things 30 episodes later, there’s a lot of things that have changed considerably since I started. So, I thought “ Hey, maybe this could be helpful to some of you out there?”. If you are starting your own platform, or if you already have a platform and you’re thinking to pivot, or – really- wherever you happen to be in your journey, I figure that maybe if I spill my guts a little bit and go through some of the lessons I’ve learned, then maybe my experiences will help you skip over some of the pitfalls that I had along my 30 episodes.
I really started LimeLight DIY in January and February of 2019, and I assumed that the format would be to have a weekly guest on the show who would talk about how they grew their platform. It would be deep on specifics, going into what they did, how it worked out, what went wrong, etc. Interviews are more entertaining on a lot of levels, and full transparency, when you do an interview, the idea is that it’s not only youp marketing that episode, but the guest is going to help you push it too, so you’re going to be exposed to new audiences.
That is theoretically how it works.
The first 24 episodes of LimeLight DIY, sort of fit into that initial format- doing long format interviews, 45 minutes to an hour a piece, and then the format changed. It HAD TO.
Let’s get into what happened- what caused the change and where we are now.
When this podcast first started, I had this idea of this little media empire I was going to create. There would be a podcast up every week. Every week, there would be a coinciding YouTube video. There would be social media posts in between everything. I had an idea for a thriving Facebook group that would offer mentoring, where a guest could volunteer to mentor people, potentially at times that would actually be a paid service for the creators doing the mentoring. All these huge ideas, and 6 months later, a lot of them haven’t come close to happening, and that’s because a lot of it them fairly unrealistic, especially for someone who was just starting out. I have done more than one podcast before, but limelight is by far the most strenuous project I’ve ever had to work on because I’m publishing every single week no matter what, and I assure you, there have been weeks where it is hard to get something out. It doesn’t matter if I’m sick, if my kids are sick, or if my wife is sick. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to be out of town. It doesn’t matter if there’s a death in the family. I made a vow to put an episode out each and every Friday and each and every Friday there has been an episode put up.
That has not been easy to do, and that has not come without its own consequences.
My health has taken a bit of a beating because this process has taken a lot more time and effort than I ever thought was possible, and time that I may have been at the gym or relaxing or sleeping is now been put into creating the podcast. I’m not complaining about it. I love doing this podcast. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they get a lot out of it and that feels great to know that we’re putting stuff out there that might actually help people.
Still, I got into this summer an 24 episodes in, there were some lessons that I had learned.
Lesson # 1: Guest Format Is More Work Than You Might Think.
First, let’s get to the most obvious problem: I was trying to do WAY too much to begin with. I work a full time job, I have a long daily commute,. I have a family, have a friends and a life outside of this podcast. As much as I want to say that I can commit 100% to the podcast, those are things that still do come up as high priorities- some much higher. In order to have the time to do all the things I originally said I was going to do with this podcast, I thought that I would just batch four or five interviews one Sunday a month and then the next weekend I would edit them all, and the third weekend would be creating YouTube versions and pre-populating my monthly social media posts, and on the fourth weekend I would book all the guests for the coming month. That’s a nice idea, and that might be possible when you do this full time without other full time commitments. That doesn’t apply to me though.
Especially when I was relying on a guest format.
The first lesson that I’ve learned from 30 episodes of doing this podcast is that guests are fantastic. You learn something, you get a completely different point of view, you get to network with some great people. Some of the guests really do help your channel to grow, but there is a downside to having guests on constantly as well. And that is that you are effectively turning the reigns over to other people and saying, “I am going to base this week success on you”, and that’s not fair to your guest, and that’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to ask someone else take on that kind of responsibility, and that’s not fair to you to be at the mercy of however their week goes.
When I have a bad week, it’s up to me to say “Okay, that’s fine. I understand that this is a rough week. I’m still going to get this podcast out”. When you were relying on a guest who has a bad week, you can’t expect them to just drop everything and say “Nope, I’m going to let this week get to me, I’m going to do this interview anyways”. Sometimes they have to cancel or reschedule, so you end up a lot scrambling- trying to put together something that will replace a guest who has for reasons outside of their control, had to take a step back.
And for me, that happened a lot. I’ve had more than 20 guests on the show and I have rescheduled interviews probably twice as many times, and that’s fine. People have lives. , and when you were interviewing somebody, you have to understand that their schedule is going to come first- that’s how it should be. They are doing you a favor by being on the show so you can’t get upset about it.
And I’m not, I’m grateful that all of them have given me the time. I’m grateful that they at least tried to join me on the show and to help make LimeLight DIY what it is.
The biggest thing that I learned from the first 30 episodes is that when you turn over control of how your platform is going to move forward to somebody else and when you rely 100% on somebody else for your plans, that can be a very dangerous thing.
Of course it’s not an inherently bad thing to rely on other people sometimes, as long as you at least have some sort of plan set up to handle the contingency that if- for whatever reason- they cannot come through, you can still succeed.
That’s a big part of why we changed the format over the last five to six episodes to move away from strictly doing interview type episodes to doing a lot more of these in depth dives into specific strategic and tactical information.
Leson #2: You Won’t Book All the Guests That You Assume You Will
A somewhat humbling revelation to me came in realizing that if I can book half of the people that I think I am going to be able to book, that’s more than a little bit of a miracle.
We would all like to think that we’re Tim Ferris and that we can pick up the phone and get ahold of any guests we want and that they’re going to be thrilled to appear on the show, but even Tim has revealed his book “Tribe of Mentors”, that there have been lot of people who he wanted to interview for his podcast, who just did not have the time or the wherewithal to follow through on that.
In my case, there’s a lot of people whom I’ve gotten to know over the last several years- some of them are friends, some of them are mentors and some of them are just acquaintances that I thought “ hey, they’ll probably do this because we’ve got this relationship”, but a lot of them have not been able to appear on the show- or have just not wanted to.
There’s a lot of reasons for that.
Some of them don’t want to do podcasts at all. They won’t do interviews. Some of them want to do an interview, but their schedules are already overbooked and they just can’t make it work, and some of them just don’t want to participate in ANYTHING right now- they’re just too busy, and you kinda gotta say “Okay, I understand that and not take it personally”.
Lesson #3: Content May Be Kind, But Consistency is Queen…and The Queen Rules.
Lesson number three has been all about building consistency in brand, and this is something that I failed miserably at during the opening months of LimeLight DIY. When I started this podcast, I took a page out of the “Lean Startup” and I launched a minimal viable product with the intention to grow it up from there once life settled down enough that I would have the spare time to really fix all the things that were only 80% “cooked”.
Well, of course, life never really does completely settled down, does it?
Once we entered July of this year and I realized that I still have a very, very, VERY basic website. Worse, other than a logo, I hadn’t really done the branding I should have. My social media was all over the place, and my colors for the brand were technically set but not consistent. Then it hit me. The successful creators were always consistent. ALWAYS.
I’ve been working hard on correctly that over the past few weeks, and it’s, it’s starting to get there. I certain have got some more work to, but every day I’m working on it and trying to make it all much more consistent. Be that from the sound on the show from week to week, to making sure the brand is there everywhere you find the show online, to making sure everything I do tells you what the show is all about.
By the way, if you are thinking about launching a website for your particular brand- and I would definitely suggest that you do- I cannot speak highly enough of WordPress.org as being the go-to for building that website If you are new to this whole website building thing. I’m not sponsored by wordpress in any way. It’s just a healthy tip from, from me to you.
Also, If you are curious, I am currently using Thrive Themes and Thrive Architect on the website. Thrive Architect is a drag-n-drop system that allows you to design your page simply by dragging elements to where you want them, and then to customize them.
Lesson #4: Interviews Don’t Always Go the Way You Think They are Going to GO
another lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that interviews don’t always go the way that you think they’re going to go. I’ve had a few interviews that I’ve had to spend hours to edit because a couple of the unexpected.
When you were interviewing somebody, you don’t control what they are going to say. You can’t control what they are thinking, what they’re feeling, what kind of day they’ve had, what kind of audio gear that they’re using, what kind of video gear that they’re using, etc, leaving you somewhat at their, their mercy.
There have been several times when I had a particular topic that I wanted to go into with an guest, and they had other ideas.
Now, let me be clear- I’ve been lucky enough that most of my guests have been open to allow me to steer things a little bit when we get too far off topic, and I’m grateful that they do. Still, there have been a lot of times where I will say “Hey, let’s talk about this”, and either they just don’t want to talk about that, or they simply don’t understand what I’m getting at, and the interview will steer off into a completely different direction.
On other occasions, there will be audio problems because – while I use somewhat professional equipment on my end, I can’t expect everybody that I interview to have access to the kind of gear necessary for high quality sound. A lot of guests are doing the interview on phones or on iPads or laptops. Sometimes they have headphones, sometimes they do not. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes it does not.
There are a lot of things that can happen during an interview that you have zero control over. I’ve learned that when you are doing an interview, you just gotta roll with the punches. You have to be willing to take a step back and say “ Okay, this didn’t go the way I had planned, but I’m gonna work with this, and, and we’re gonna make something good out of it”.
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Lesson #5 : Don’t Let Your Plans Outgrow Your Capabilities
One of the most sobering lessons I have learned comes from setting big goals. We’re all supposed to set big goals, right? I had some BIG goals. I still do.
The problem BIG goals is that it doesn’t matter how great your intentions are, what matters is if your goals are realistically achievable.
You can come up with grand plans in- and you should. You should write them down and you should work towards them.
When goals and plans are bigger than what you can possibly come close to achieving, they just become discouraging anchors around your neck. Yes, goals should be big and should constantly make you stretch to reach them, but they should also be inspirational. If your goal is to get healthy over the next 6 months with a well thought out plan of diet and exercise, that’s a good goal. If your goal is to get healthy in the next week and a half by running 15 miles a day when you have never run before, you have set yourself up for disaster. That’s what I did. I told myself that I would work to get on the I-Tunes New and Noteworthy section in the first 3 weeks. I would have at least 2000 downloads per episode in the first 6 months. I would have two new streams of reliable monetization and begin a calendar of speaking gigs.
Those were unrealistic goal that I was never going to achieve because I didn’t have the right tools going into things. I was new at this. We’re 6 months in and I am finally seeing hundreds of downloads on episodes. I have booked one event appearance, and I JUST added my seconds sponsorship to the show- and I assure you- neither of those sponsorships is Quit-your-Job-Money.
The unrealistic goals caused some very serious problems. They made me feel like I was failing miserably during the first several months of this podcast, no matter how hard I was working.
The lesson is this- big goals are great, and of course they should always be things that make you stretch yourself, but be realistic enough to understand that you aren’t going to go from zero to lightspeed over night. Set up some mini-goals and celebrate those victories.
Lesson #6: Evertthing Will Cost More Than You Expect It Will
Likewise, everything is going to cost a little bit more than what you’re expecting. Yes, you can do podcast for free. Yes, you can do YouTube for free. The unfortunate reality though is that to get to an acceptable level of quality where your platform is going to have a chance to take off, you are going to have to make some sort of an investment.
If you are doing a podcast, the VERY least you’re going to need to pay for is a host. Yes, there are places like Anchor.FM out there that will allow you to host your podcast for free, and we’re actually going to do an episode about some of the free podcasting host coming up soon, and yes, you CAN record a show on a cell phone, or by speaking into you laptop webcam, but the lack of quality with these options will usually tell your audience that you aren’t taking this seriously. The truth is that everything takes money.
If you are serious about your platform, you will probably need to invest in a website, and either that means you’re going pay somebody to put one together for you ( which I don’t think you should do), or you’re going to put one together yourself, but you’ll still have to at least register a domain name and pay some monthly hosting fees for that.
If you are on YouTube, , you’re still going to end up needing to have a camera of some sort. Yes, you could start with your phone and a lot of people do- heck, I still use my phone for a lot of things, but you’re going to have to get some editing software at some point. You’re going to most likely switch to a higher quality camera before you actually “ascend to the limelight”. There are just going to be a lot of costs that a lot of creators just aren’t thinking about. Everything will cost a little bit more. Understand that.
One of the other things that I’m learning more recently is that sometimes you do have to pay to outsource a few things. Recently I have realized that it’s taking me way too long to get these podcasts out into the world, Because the new format has me trying to transcribe my podcast each week so that I can add it to the website, I went searching for some way to earn back a few hours. In my search, I discovered a service called REV.com. They’ve offer a few options to transcribe your audio for you, either automatically for a few cents per minute, or by a human transcriber for a slightly higher cost.
Recently I started using the automated service. I simply upload my show audio file to their website, and within ten minutes, they send me a text file. It’s usually about 90% – 95% correct and I do have to go back through to edit out the vocal ticks that might not be as noticeable when listening to the podcast, but I save at least 2 hours a week at a cost of maybe $5. Next week I will likely spend a few more dollars to have the human version of the transcription made to see if it’s any cleaner.
These are the kinds of costs I never factored in, but the kinds of costs that are easy to justify in the grand scheme of things.
So let’s get into this week’s Hot Take of things, shall we?
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned over 30 episodes is that you don’t need to have everything figured out in order to launch, but once you do launch, you’re going to need to go back and start working all those unfinished things out, and you need to do that fairly quickly.
When I launched, I put out the minimal viable product. I wanted to make sure that this was going to work in the format that I had it in and truthfully I’ve learned over the last 30 episodes that I had to make some tweaks to the format to make it into the show that I wanted it to be – and to make it into a show that people can really embrace.
I’ve done that to a great degree, but it’s not over yet and this show will continue to evolve as time goes by.
Over the first several months of this podcast, I got sucked into the show itself and I kind of forgot to go back and take care of all the infrastructure that goes into growth, and that’s something that I’m working on correcting now. It’s a slow process, but I’m working on getting that website to where it needs to be. I’m working on getting that brand to where it needs to be.
I’ve got some very big plans that involve the YouTube channel, which I have. I’ve basically put aside, because there hasn’t been enough time to work on both the podcast and the YouTube station and I wanted to grow the podcast first. , I’ve got some very big plans over the next several weeks for the YouTube channel that’s going to see a very big push simultaneously with that too. I’m excited to go into that, but , it’s, it’s still a couple weeks away. So the biggest lesson that I’ve learned with this whole thing is, like I said, you don’t have to be perfect when you launch. You don’t even have to be 100% finished, so to speak. But once you’ve got it out there and you’ve proven the concept and you see what, what is working, what isn’t working, get rid of what isn’t working, double down on what is working and then go back and fix all the things that you left unfinished. Make it a finished product, a finished brand. That’s the only way you’re going to ascend the limelight.