Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

Pod From The Heart: 5 Podcasting Tips To Start (And Maintain!) A Successful Show

Tips + Tools Work

“You should start a podcast. In a few years everyone’s gonna be doing them. If you want to, now’s the time. But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Sitting in a café in Silverlake across from my friend Jessica on a crisp April afternoon, I soaked in her words as my eyes wandered in the way they do when I agree with someone but am also a little terrified by what they’re saying.

It was 2015 and I’d just launched the website for my new project, WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, three months earlier. I was simultaneously working as an editor for a wellness site, which I joked was my “grad school” since it was so clear that everything I had learned about navigating the digital space over my four years thus far was directly applicable to what I was creating on my own. There were clear formulas, processes, and platforms to follow and utilize.

Podcasting, however, was brand new territory. I barely knew of anyone who listened to podcasts…let alone HOSTED them. Well, except Jessica. Did I have what it would take to start my own??

It’s over five years later and I’m so glad I took Jessica’s advice when I did. My podcast, WANTcast: The Women Against Negative Talk Podcast, launched in September 2015 and just celebrated its fifth birthday (I’ve got a kindergartener, folks!). Not only am I relieved that I got to podcasting before the medium’s big boom post-Serial…I’m relieved I took the second part of Jessica’s advice to heart just as much as the first part:

“…But you know, also, don’t do it if you don’t want to.”

Expectation vs reality.

My heart both bursts and breaks when I think about people starting podcasts today.
It bursts because I absolutely love how accessible podcasting is. I love that with minimal equipment and overhead, almost anyone can create a show. I love that with the slew of podcasting platforms that exist at various price points, almost anyone can subscribe and listen. I love the wide range of possibilities that exists with podcasting.

It breaks for the same reasons one’s heart breaks when anything they love becomes a bit too mainstream. I’m reminded of the bloggers circa 2010 and the big blog boom that followed soon thereafter (side note, try to say big blog boom 10xs fast). It seemed like every single mega company was adding a blog to their website – and if independent bloggers weren’t willing to turn their blog into a business to keep up, they’d fall back into the shadows.

Big media companies now dominate the pod charts, making it harder and harder for smaller, independently-run podcasts to get the downloads (and even visibility!) they deserve. If you’re a small fish in the big pond of pods and want to monetize your podcast, the mainstreaming of podcasts has made it REALLY hard to do so, especially without the help of an ad network.

But that’s not all: while podcasts *seem* relatively easy for anyone to create, the process of creating a quality episode – let alone entire show – is anything BUT. With only your voice, mind, and sound quality to connect with listeners, something as small as a faint clicking sound in the background (your dog walking on hardwood floor or husband typing on his computer, perhaps?) can get listeners saying No Thanks. The one exception is if you’re a big celebrity…in which case, people find the lack of polish somewhat endearing. Stars! They’re just like us! 

The problem with THAT is that those might be the podcasts people are being inspired by when they say they want to start their own. But the bar listeners have for a new voice is so different than the bar they have for their favorite celeb who feels “so accessible!” to them. You can have the best ideas and the most well-thought-out episode…but if your sound quality isn’t decent, it’s going to be tough to retain listeners…if that’s what you’re after. And that’s not even taking into account episode structure, intros, outros, interview skills and styles, editing or lack thereof, storytelling, coughs, sneezes, ums, likes, laughs, and so many other purely subjective things that the listener may or may not love or loathe.

Even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about making bank off your pod, the expectation vs. reality gap of “starting a podcast” has become so wide that, according to studies, half of all podcasts don’t get past 15 episodes (this one study from 2018 said that 12% don’t even get past the first episode). 

Because I want to.

I’m so glad I followed (and have stuck with) Jessica’s initial advice of “you know, don’t do it if you don’t want t0.” While I’ve worked with sponsors in the past, I stopped doing ads back in early 2019 because I didn’t want my need to make money from podcasting cloud my judgement of whether I actually WANTED to podcast or not. With every single decision, pivot, and new season of the WANTcast, I’ve asked myself: is this something I am doing because I feel like I have to, or because I feel like I want to?

So far, the answer has been: because I want to.

Because of this rule of thumb, I’ve been able to cross the half-decade mark feeling so proud of not only the show, but the listener community we’ve developed. I trust my audience, and they trust me. And they know I don’t take that trust lightly. They know I choose topics, guests, spotlights organizations, and the very rare very occasional sponsor with them in mind.


Over the last half-decade, I’ve invested in this mic, this mic, and this mic (which I use currently). I’ve made sure to never sacrifice the quality of the episode, which means I’ve turned down many guests who are ok but not a stellar fit, and have hired an editor to make sure my sound is as clean as can be given the equipment I’m willing to pay for.

Our topics are deep and nuanced. We’ve covered: Facing your fears, Creative depressions, Personality types (astrology, human design, Myers Briggs, and more), Body image, Trauma, Sex education, Speaking up, Racism, Sexism, Ableism, Ageism, Jealousy, Forgiveness, Visions, Dreams, Goals, Self-doubt, Self-worth, Anxiety, Overwhelm, Mental illness, Ghost worries, Circumstantial happiness, Experiential longing, Fat-phobia, Body neutrality, Addiction, Recovery, Through lines, Grief, Boundaries, Planned Freak-Outs, Self love, Self like, and SO much more.

And if there’s one thing I’ve embraced, it’s that I do things MY way.

I don’t do things by the book, but I attribute the WANTcast’s longevity to sticking to a few specific self-made rules. Take what works for you, leave the rest.

Here are my top podcasting tips for anyone who wants to start a pod from the heart:

Set your own schedule.
Pick a schedule that works for you, and don’t be afraid to alter it when it no longer does. Refuse to sacrifice the quality of experience for the quantity of episodes. When I began the WANTcast, I started on an every-three-weeks schedule, because I was working a full-time job, community to and from that full-time job, and knew I would never have the bandwidth to create and produce episodes on a weekly basis considering the rest of my life. All the podcasts I listened to were on a weekly schedule, but I knew I’d be one of those people who never got past 15 episodes if I followed their lead.

Since then I’ve been on an every-three-weeks schedule, every-other-week schedule, a weekly schedule, and what is now an every week-or-two schedule (because right now, I need that flexibility for my own mental wellbeing). Consistency is key but it will also screw you over if you’re too married to it. Find what works for you, whether it’s what you see others doing or not.

Fuck analytics.
Analytics are overrated, and subjective. DO NOT look at analytics to tell you how “good” or impactful your pod is. Marie Forleo calls these Vanity Metrics: numbers that don’t actually move the needle in your business. Are you giving people a clear CTA in your episode about how to let you know they’re listening and loving your show? Do you prompt them within the episode to share? Are they sharing? What are they sharing? What are they saying?

The only thing I find analytics good for is to see what’s working and what might not be working as well as it could. Know your average download rate. What episodes fall below that rate? Which ones fall above it? Did an episode spike in listeners and then drop back down right after – a sign that maybe someone with a big following shared your episode, and so their followers ONLY listened to that episode? Look at analytics with a critical eye. Once you do, you’ll start to see patterns, and you’ll be able to get information about what kinds of content people are loving the most, so you can make more of it.

Don’t be afraid of the PIVOT.
Begin with clarity of vision, model, and purpose…AND be willing to pivot to serve the greater vision. Start with a clear reason WHY you are starting your pod. What is it that speaks to you? What are your objectives? How will you know whether you’re achieving those objectives or not? Will you have guests? Sponsored ads? What problem are you solving for you listener, or how exactly are you looking to enhance their life?

Start your pod with those at the forefront. Make your plan. Stick with it for at least 10-15 episodes so you get into a rhythm and can accurately gage what is working, what isn’t, and what were just growing pains.

AND THEN…if you EVER feel like you need to make changes, make them with that clarity of vision in mind. Get back to your roots. Your whys. Your mission. Maybe that means you change the format of your episodes, maybe that means you change your schedule. But whatever it is, don’t just keep doing something simply because it’s how you’ve always done it. I promise you that if you’ve developed a close relationship with your community, they’ll most likely be on board and be able to see the bigger picture.

Do it  because it’s a fit for you.
Do it because you love it. Do it because it’s fun. Do it because it’s a fit for you.

Do NOT do it to “keep up.” Do NOT do it because you think you should. Do NOT do it because someone else told you to. If it works for you in one season of your life, great. If it stops being a fit for you and doesn’t work in the very next season of your life, let it go. There will always be a new platform or medium to get into. That doesn’t mean every single one is going to be the best fit for YOU…or ALWAYS be the best fit for you.

There are no rules.
My last rule I’ve followed is…there are no rules 🙃

Well, other than to stay in integrity with yourself and your show by constantly re-assessing if your intentions align with your impact. But other than that. No rules other than the ones you make for yourself.


WANT YOUR SELF:

Have you started a podcast? Have you chosen NOT to start a podcast? Why, or why not? Are you THINKING of starting one? Which of these tips did you find the most useful?

And if you’re a WANTcast listener…what has been your favorite episode so far? Did you have a favorite guest? Or maybe a favorite topic we covered in a solo episode or a favorite story that’s stuck with you? I would LOVE to hear.

Not subscribed to the WANTcast? Subscribe here in iTunes or over on Spotify.

And while you’re at it, subscribe to Jessica’s podcast, One Part Podcast. She is very very wise.

WANTcast Episode 112: Why (And How) You Should Bother with Jennifer Louden

WANTcast Episode 112: Why (And How) You Should Bother with Jennifer Louden

the WANTcast

Ever felt like you want to start something, do something, be something…but “what’s the point?” Or maybe you’ve “already tried”? Or it just seems too daunting, too trivial, too…fill in the blank? Have you ever asked yourself, rhetorically, some version of the question: Why bother??

Jennifer Louden thinks you should ask that question more – but for real. Jen is a personal growth pioneer who helped launch the concept of self-care with her first bestseller, The Woman’s Comfort Book. Since then, she’s written six additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Woman’s Retreat Book and The Life Organizer, with close to a million copies of her books in print in nine languages. Her newest book, Why Bother? Discover the Desire for What’s Next, challenges us to open our minds, our hearts, and our lives by following where that question leads.

In this episode we talk about why (and how) to bother, prioritization, making a difference/impact, reframing success, tapping into what your desires actually are…oh, and her rendezvous with Oprah. This episode is a MUST LISTEN for any age, life stage, or mindset.

 

Show Notes:
Why Bother? book
Instagram
Facebook
Jen’s site

Navigating Your Self-Talk During The For-Now Normal event on 9/19

WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk


This episode is in support of NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. To get involved, learn more, or donate, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org

WANTcast Episode 111: Building Healthy Body Image with Helen Phelan

WANTcast Episode 111: Building Healthy Body Image with Helen Phelan

the WANTcast

This episode is for anyone and everyone who wants to rework their relationship with their body – maybe after years’ worth of body-shaming the skin you’re in.

Helen Phelan is a Health At Every Size aligned pilates instructor, intuitive eating coach, and Reiki practitioner, who works with women to heal their body image and find joy in movement and food. Her approach is creative, anti diet-culture, and designed to enhance your intuition to feel better on and off the mat. Helen is dedicated to improving the collective body image and diet culture issues within the wellness industry by proving that fitness can be good for both the body and soul. Her method is designed to elicit STRONG sensation to encourage improved body awareness and mindfulness while strengthening and mobilizing the body to unstick any energy we don’t need, and make room for feeling good.

In this episode we talk about HAES principles, the business of digital fitness, how to find a trainer/coach (and red flags to look for), body neutrality vs body positivity, thin privilege, how to cultivate body awareness, and more.

To workout with Helen for 50% off:
Go to https://tv.helenphelanstudio.com/
Choose monthly membership
Enter code: WANT50 (must enter code for 50% discount after the free 10 day trial)

WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

This episode is in support of NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). NEDA supports individuals and families affected by eating disorders, and serves as a catalyst for prevention, cures and access to quality care. To get involved, learn more, or donate, visit nationaleatingdisorders.org

WANTcast Episode 110: Freedom, Structure, and Flow with Daigi-Ann Thompson

WANTcast Episode 110: Freedom, Structure, and Flow with Daigi-Ann Thompson

the WANTcast

Most podcasts are just interviews OR solo episodes…cue that  song from Sweet Charity: there’s gotta be something OTHER than this! Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE interviews and solo episodes and they’ll continue to remain the bulk of our podcast episodes….but shifting your self-talk also requires activating your creative brain and getting inspired in unexpected ways.

For the first time on the WANTcast, we’re interviewing a spoken word artist…and then she is PERFORMING her piece here on the show. We were so moved, and know you will be too.

Daigi-Ann Thompson is an actress, dancer, spoken word poet and fitness instructor from The Bronx, New York by way of Jamaica. She grew up an athlete, running track and playing basketball up until college where she made the pivot and studied Theater and dance at Buffalo State College. Writing poetry since she was 12 years old and performing spoken word since 2012,  she performs under the stage moniker, The Perfect Dai. She has performed and won an open mic slam at the world renowned Nuyorican (noo-your-ee-can) Poet’s Cafe, performed on the No Boys Allowed Tour, a college performance tour for female emcees, poets and singers. She was also an original member of the NYC artist collective “Good Vibes Creative Minds,” a community of artists dedicated to curating experiences and events for POC creatives. She is also a part of the intergenerational new media collective Eres.you, a platform dedicated to empowering and uplifting folx of color. In addition to a commitment to movement and wellness, Daigi is also committed to a lifetime of inspiring action and progressive thought through creativity and will continue to share her gifts and voice with the world.


Listen on iTunes | Listen on Spotify

 

SHOW NOTES:
Daigi on Instagram
Stars In The House
Eres.you
Variis
Angela Scarfia (Daigi’s fruitfluencer friend)
Lindsay B. Davis (LBD Workout)
Daigi’s spoken word piece on Stars In The House/Plays In The House on 6/17
WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk


This episode is in support of Small Projects Istanbul. Small Projects Istanbul is dedicated to helping those displaced by the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, or the M.E.N.A. region, rebuild their lives. They do this through supporting community development, education and empowerment. Their Community Centre is designed to be a place of safety and belonging; and within this space they are committed to working with the community to ensure the best opportunities for families, students and individuals to reach their full potential in Istanbul and beyond. Within the Community Center, SPI strives to provide livelihood support opportunities through the establishment of a Women’s Social Enterprise, enabling skills development, income generation and economic integration. To get involved or to donate, visit smallprojectsistanbul.org

WANTcast Episode 109: Do The Best With What You’ve Got And The Best For What’s Next

WANTcast Episode 109: Do The Best With What You’ve Got And The Best For What’s Next

the WANTcast

A negative self-talk loop is when the demeaning and degrading story we tell ourselves about ourselves or our life not only plays on repeat in our brain, but leads to even more demeaning and degrading thoughts. And since negative self-talk thrives off of uncertainty, it makes complete sense that it’s been having a field day for so many of us in so many ways throughout 2020 in particular.

 

If the self-talk coming up for you right now is along the lines of: “I’m exhausted. I’m doing everything I can and it’s just not cutting it. I’m so behind. I can’t believe I’m still HERE. If I only had [fill in the blank], this wouldn’t be so hard.”…then this episode is for you.


SHOW NOTES:
Episode 71 with Christen Brandt

WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

This episode is in support of Small Projects Istanbul. Small Projects Istanbul is dedicated to helping those displaced by the conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, or the M.E.N.A. region, rebuild their lives. They do this through supporting community development, education and empowerment. Their Community Centre is designed to be a place of safety and belonging; and within this space they are committed to working with the community to ensure the best opportunities for families, students and individuals to reach their full potential in Istanbul and beyond. Within the Community Center, SPI strives to provide livelihood support opportunities through the establishment of a Women’s Social Enterprise, enabling skills development, income generation and economic integration. To get involved or to donate, visit smallprojectsistanbul.org

WANTcast Episode 108: The Life-Changing Power Of Turning Off Your Notifications with Kelsey Patel

WANTcast Episode 108: The Life-Changing Power Of Turning Off Your Notifications with Kelsey Patel

the WANTcast

Burnout and overwhelm are timeless and can show up any time, any where, around any THING. Kelsey Patel is one of Hollywood’s leading wellness and reiki experts, as well as newly published author of Burning Bright: Rituals, Reiki, and Self-Care to Heal Burnout, Anxiety, and Stress. She is not only a sought-after spiritual empowerment coach, yoga teacher, reiki healer and meditation teacher, but also a multi-faceted entrepreneur and inspirational speaker. She is the creator and founder of Magik Vibes, a soul-enhancing lifestyle brand, which is also the name of her wellness-meets-spirituality podcast. Patel is an expert on burnout and conscious capitalism, facilitating workshops and giving keynote addresses for organizations such as Free People, Aerie, GOOP, and more.

Kelsey’s first book, Burning Bright is a path out of pain, anxiety, burnout, and overwhelm, and shows you the tools you already possess to heal through unique rituals, reiki, and self-care practices.

This episode was recorded a few months back, specifically to address coronavirus-related burnout and overwhelm, and how to transition from what we’ve been calling the ‘For-Now Normal’ to what will eventually be our new normal. Kelsey shares so many ACCESSIBLE tools we can use to, as the artist Bansky once said, “Learn to REST, not QUIT.” Listen for more on this in the episode.

Additional listening centered specifically around burnout while doing anti-racism work, and leaning into wellness as a person of color:

PAUSE ON THE PLAY
Episode 42: How To Avoid Burnout As An Imperfect Ally

BLACK GIRL IN OM

 


SHOW NOTES:

Burning Bright
Website
Instagram
Magik Vibes podcast

WANT website
Katie’s Instagram
Leave a review on iTunes!
Subscribe to The (Good) Word, our monthly email digest filled with tips, tools, motivation, and inspiration to shift your self-talk

 

This episode is in support of Reclamation Ventures, a family of brands reclaiming our right to be well. They create conversations, invest in the best talent, and support innovative programs to transform wellness – for all of us. They believe “that when we elevate the capacity of diverse wellness leaders to thrive, we can start to close the wellness gap and increase health equities in communities that need it most.” To get involved, click here.