10 Lessons From My First 100 Podcast Episodes

Michael Leonard
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Podcasts changed my life in 2017 and 2018 when I was a broke, depressed writer struggling to keep going.

When things got bad (which was often), I turned to podcasts to escape my current reality. I always found it amazing that super successful people would share their knowledge and tips with the world for free. They kept me motivated to keep going and not give up on my entrepreneurial dreams.

After listening to thousands of hours worth of episodes, I finally decided it was time to launch my own show. I was always waiting for the right time, until I realized there was no right time, I just had to do it.

My first episode released in January of 2019, 18 months later I hit 100 episodes. Here’s what I learned.

Consistency is Key

The first eight months my podcasting schedule was extremely inconsistent. I did my best to stick with a schedule, but ultimately I published when I wanted to because I was an overworked solopreneur. Despite a lot of hustle, in the first eight months, I only had XX downloads. I took the last 3.5 months of 2019 off to regroup and focus on 2020.

This year, I came out of the gates hot and have stayed consistent. Each week I’ve produced at least two solo episodes and 20 guest episodes. Like clockwork, my downloads have increased almost every month!

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Consistency is vital to your success. People want to subscribe and know that you won’t leave them. Staying consistent will help people make listening to your show a habit, not a one-off occasion. Plus, I’m convinced that Apple’s algorithm likes more consistent podcast content, just like Google does with blog content, (just my theory).

You Need a Niche

Podcasting is what blogging was a decade ago, it’s just getting started. Only about 50% of the United States even listens to podcasts, so there’s a huge opportunity moving forward.

But similar to blogging, there is a graveyard of dead podcasts that are rotting away on Apple podcasts. The main reason I think this happens is that people don’t get enough downloads to warrant them to keep going, and they quit before it gets good.

The main reason: they don’t have a niche. Everyone tries to be everything to everyone. I know because I did this for the first eight months of my show. While my intention was good, (I just wanted to help and inspire people), my show lacked an identity. People need a reason to listen to your show.

According to Forbes, there are over 800,000 choices for listeners to choose from. That stat was from November 2019, so there’s likely closer to a million shows now. The sheer number of podcasts is why you need to niche down so you can stand out in the marketplace that is only getting more crowded. Once you get people to listen to your show and grow your audience base, then you can expand and test out new content or ideas as well.

Don’t Focus Solely on Big-Name Guests

When I first started, I always thought having millionaires, billionaires, and best-selling authors was the key to success. But when I look at my best-performing episodes, a lot of them are solo ones, just me, an outline, and the microphone. And some of the best interview episodes are from lesser-known guests.

Here’s the thing: people love to listen to the greats like Tony Robbins, Ed Mylett, and Dean Graziosi, or whoever is big in your niche. It’s inspiring to hear how they made hundreds of millions of dollars and came from nothing. But at the same time, for a lot of people, these types of success just aren’t attainable. Most individuals’ reality is too far removed from big names, so they can’t relate.

Instead, guests that are just a few steps ahead of them feel more attainable. Their mind can get on board with their stories, and people seem to listen more. Have a mix of smaller, mid-size guests, and sprinkle in some bigger guests to build your authority.

Create Theme Days

With such a vast array of podcasts people can listen to, it’s crucial to keep your audience entertained. If you don’t, they’ll go elsewhere. To keep them engaged, I like to mix up my format and have tested out all kinds of ideas to see what works and what doesn’t.

One thing that has worked well is theme days. With theme days, each episode follows a certain theme, usually for a quarter at a time. For my show, I have Monday’s with Michael where I share entrepreneurship/freelancing advice. Two days later I share all my writing tips on Writing Wednesday. And on Feature Friday I have fellow writers and entrepreneurs as guests.

Not only does it keep it fun for me, but it’s also inspiring for the audience.

Don’t Just Depend on Guests

When I started podcasting, I thought people listened to podcasts mainly for the guests. Maybe I had some imposter syndrome or wasn’t sure what to talk about, but I didn’t do very many solo episodes in 2019. But in 2020, I’ve released nearly 50 solo episodes already.

Don’t rely solely on guests unless that’s the format that you want for your show. I’ve found some of my most successful episodes are just me, 20 minutes, and a $70 microphone. With solo episodes, I’ve tried out all types of formats including 5-Minute Friday, full-length episodes, repurposing Medium stories for podcasts, and more.

You are enough to carry a show. As long as you have a clear niche, your ideal listeners will find your show, enjoy the value you provide, and become lifelong fans.

Keep It Simple

People make podcasting so much more difficult than is needed. I was in several Facebook groups for podcasters when I first started and I saw so many people drastically over complicate the process. They would create elaborate studios and spend tons of money before recording a single episode.

The truth is, you don’t need much to get started with podcasting. I record all of my episodes with my MacBook, a $70 microphone, GarageBand, or Zoom if I’m doing guest interviews. For guest interviews, I outsource the editing to a company overseas for $20/episode, that’s it.

I don’t have a soundproof studio, rent out a room, or spend thousands of dollars on complicated editing software. I simply record sitting in my office for solo episodes (praying my corgi doesn’t bark) or do interviews with guests around the world.

Batch Your Content

Batching has saved my online business from being just another personal brand that died too early, especially with podcasting. Now, I pump out eight to twelve episodes per month with minimal effort.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Set podcast days in my schedule.
  • Outline solo episodes, pour a beer, and batch record four to six episodes two times per month.
  • I also set up guest interviews on these days and pitch myself to other shows to get more exposure for my brand.

That’s it. I outsource pretty much everything else so I only spend a few hours recording episodes and that gets me through the entire month.

Create a System to Repurpose Content

While Gary Vee seemingly created the term repurposed content, it’s something every personal brand or podcast should be doing as well.

In 2019, I didn’t repurpose my content well, which led to becoming overwhelmed and burnt out because I was trying to do it all myself. Now, I work with Podblade and a Virtual Assistant to help me get the show out to more listeners.

Here’s how I repurpose my content now:

  • Write a story on Medium or interview a guest via Zoom.
  • Share more about that story to my email list and send them a friend's link so they can access it easily.
  • Record a podcast episode about that Medium post.
  • Have my team create a smaller, short-form blog post so we can create a pin and share it on Pinterest.
  • Have my team make an audiogram and share on Instagram stories or as a main feed post.
  • Have my team share a quote card or snippet on Twitter.
  • Have my team share the video version (which I only do with guests) to YouTube.

One story on Medium just turned into seven-plus pieces of content. Hope you’re proud Gary Vaynerchuk.

Reviews Are Important

Yes, reviews are important, but they aren’t the end of the world.

The main reason you want more reviews is that Apple tends to rank podcasts with more reviews higher on their charts and appear to listeners more organically. This means more listeners for you, which could translate to sponsorships, clients, or whatever else you’re doing to monetize your podcast.

Here’s how I started getting more reviews:

  • Asking for them: I know it sounds simple but you can’t assume people will do anything. Ask your audience each podcast to leave a review, not just a rating, and tell them how much you’d appreciate the small gesture. Don’t forget to mention how to do it as well.
  • Talk about reviews in your outro: In 2020, I updated my outro and said, “If you’re the type of person that likes to help others, make sure to leave a review so more people can find the show.” I use some NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) in that statement to get people to take action.
  • Remind your email list: If you have a podcast, I hope you have an email list so you can promote your new episodes. One thing I started doing: every other email, I add a P.S. or P.S.S. letting them know how much it would mean if they could leave me a review, and then link to the show so it’s easy for them to do it.

I also plan to start doing some promos for free coaching and picking reviewers, running ads to the show, and more. Get creative and it’ll pay off.

Be a Guest on Other Podcasts

Finally, don’t forget the importance of tapping into other people’s audiences. This is one area I haven’t tapped into enough but am making it a huge priority for the rest of 2020.

Why? Because you can tap into other people’s audiences and get your message out to more potential listeners without all the work. All you need to do is reach out to show that you think you’re a good fit to share your knowledge and stories with the world. The podcast is responsible for editing, hosting, and promoting. All you do is show up, share, and help promote once it’s live.

Looking back, I would’ve reduced my total number of episodes and tried to appear on more podcasts sooner. I think this would have definitely helped speed up the growth of my podcast and email list.

Final Thoughts

Podcasts changed my life on both sides of the headphones. Other shows helped me get through tough times and my show has opened up all kinds of doors that never would’ve happened without a podcast.

Thanks to podcasting I’ve been able to:

  • Appear on other shows
  • Add a new revenue stream for my courses/coaching
  • Impact people on five continents
  • Meet one of my favorite podcasters (Tom Bilyeu) and visit the set of Impact Theory while he filmed an episode in his Beverly Hills mansion.

And a lot more. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, just start. You don’t need anything fancy. All you need is consistency, a niche, and a drive to share a message with the world.

Amazing things can happen when you go after your dreams. Get out there and make it happen.

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My name is Michael Leonard and I am the creator of Inspire Your Success. I'm on a mission to help readers build online writing businesses and quit their jobs to live a life of freedom!

Scottsdale, AZ
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