With Season 1 of our podcast, Beer, Beats, & Business wrapping up, I wanted to share some of the lessons that I learned from my first few months into the podcast world. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m proud of what we’ve created so far.
If you are looking to start your own podcast, these concepts will steer you along the right path. They apply to much more than podcasting, though. Whether you are starting a podcast, a book, a blog, or a business, these ideas are totally relevant.
1. Now is Better than Perfect
The podcast idea started kicking around my head 6 months before I got around to starting. I knew a little about audio recording from my band days, but didn’t know much about how to set up a podcast. I felt that I had to research, get the right equipment, and wait for the stars to align before I dove in. Then I was telling someone about the project and instead of using the future tense, I used the present tense: “I make a podcast.” Aw, crap, now I had to begin.
Within 6 weeks of making the decision to just start the show, I posted the first one. It wasn’t perfect, but committing forced me to take action. Once I did, it was a lot easier than I had feared and ideas and people kept popping up to help.
Lesson: Our desire for making something perfect is usually just procrastination playing dress-up.
2. Get Help
You really can’t do it on your own. I wrote an article about all the ways that my network helped me put the show together. I can’t emphasize the power of collaboration, mentorship, and just plain asking for help. Whether it was Tom Couch taking the production to a pro level, or rockstar podcasters like Ryan Rhoten and Will Barron sharing their insights, I needed the help.
I often joke that you can learn any skill with an hour and access to YouTube. That’s only a half-truth. Even with all of the information available online, it still doesn’t replace engaging with another person who knows more about you on a subject. The result of this help: our show is 10x better than anything I could have created on my own.
Lesson: Be humble, ask lots of questions, and act on the advice you get.
3. It’s All Invented
I was often reminded about a chapter from the book The Art of Possibility: “It’s All Invented”. Most podcasts don’t have “seasons”, but we wanted ours to have concrete segments. Our seasons have 11 episodes each and we totally made them up. There are no rules to the game that we have to follow. There are great ideas and practices that we liberally borrow from our peers, but we get to invent the show that we want.
It’s very freeing, but it also demands a lot of responsibility. Because there are no constraints on the form of the show, we’ve had to create our own. Being completely free-form might work for some people, but we crafted our own flow and structure. We’ve had to work hard to find the best way to work within that structure. But at least it’s ours.
Lesson: You can do anything you want on your show, but make sure it follows its own internal logic.
Although the word has become an awful business buzzword, the concept is incredibly powerful. One of the ways I was able to stop procrastinating and make the first show was that I decided that Season 1 was a test lab. If you listen to the first eleven episodes back-to-back, you’ll notice shifts in how they are structured, how I interview, and lots of little tweaks. Even our website design changed completely halfway through the season.
Now, I realize that the show will constantly be evolving. Not only is that OK, I think it will make it stronger. It’s the same reason your smartphone apps keep updating: there’s always a way to make it a little better. The coolest thing about putting out a “product” that has many episodes: I get to keep improving it.
Lesson: Start with something and then work to make it a little better each time.
5. Systems are Paramount
Beer, Beats, & Business is just one part of my professional world. I’ve got a lot of other responsibilities, and if I didn’t have systems in place, I would be screwed. There are so many moving parts to putting out a show that I need to “outsource” some of the work. I created spreadsheets, templates, and reminders that kept all of the guests and shows organized. Podcasting is already a huge time commitment, and without systems in place it would have taken at least twice as much time.
By having these systems, I kept tasks from falling through the cracks. It isn’t perfect, but it has allowed me to leverage my time quite a bit. And to piggyback on the iteration idea above, I am constantly tweaking my systems behind the scenes. In fact, I view everything about the show as an evolving process.
Lesson: Anything that you will do repeatedly should have a detailed and written out system.
6. Do it Because You Enjoy It
All the online podcasting courses try to sell you on the fame and fortune, but the reality is much less glamorous. Yes, it’s a popular and growing medium, but there’s a lot of us out here. I started the show to help build my professional presence and credibility, but I knew that it would be a long-play. If you want to see thousands of downloads and lucrative sponsorship right out the gate, you’ll most likely be disappointed.
I’m reminded of something I learned in my first band. We always played music that we liked because there was no promise that we would have a lot of people (or any) at our shows. We played for ourselves. It’s the same in the podcasting world. Make a show that you enjoy making and that you would enjoy listening to yourself
Lesson: True success is enjoying the process and putting something new into the world.