On January 1st, 2016, I launched Dreams In Drive – a weekly podcast that teaches creative and lifestyle entrepreneurs how to take their dreams out of PARK and put them into drive. I remember the dread I felt before launching. My vision was to create an online destination for entrepreneurs (or aspiring entrepreneurs) who need help pursuing their dreams. Before launch, I remember the questions that plagued my inner mind: Will anyone listen? Will people enjoy my guests? Why am I even doing this?
It amazes me that I’m now 48 episodes in and have interviewed successful entrepreneurs I admire like Tiffany “The Budgetnista Aliche”, Dawn Fitch,Olori Swank, Teri Johnson, Amber Aziza, Anthony Frasier, and more. I marvel at how 11 months ago, I knew NOTHING about launching a podcast and now have a pretty solid system in place. Now the podcast can be streamed via Soundcloud, Google Play, and iTunes.
If you’re thinking about launching your own podcast (personal or branded), here are 10 lessons I’ve learned along the way that may help you along your own journey:
- You don’t need a lot of money to get started. A lot of times we use the fact that we don’t have a big budget as a hindrance to getting started. When I launched, I bought a $40 AudioTechnica microphone and used Garageband on my Macbook Pro for editing. I opted for the FREE Soundcloud service for my first episodes but upgraded to a monthly pro pricing ($15/month) as I grew and wanted more flexibility and statistics. If you want to grow, start budgeting early-on for the tools that you will need to invest in later.
- Don’t skip the technical. Before you launch, take some time to understand what podcasting is and some of the more technical aspects of launching. One of my favorite crash courses was John Lee Dumas’, creator of popular podcast Entrepreneur On Fire, online tutorial “The Ultimate Guide To Podcasting”. He currently generates over $250,000 a month in revenue from his podcast. Also, take time to know your competition and get a lay of the land before launching. CURLS CEO Mahisha Dellinger told me early on, “It’s okay if you’re the third one to market. You can do your research on those companies, launch, and do better than they did. Do what they didn’t do well and you can take over that market.” Browse the top iTunes podcasts and research why those brands/individuals are so successful.
- Invest in a podcast site. As a marketer, blogger, and freelance writer, I understand the importance of having a “home” for your podcast. Because I want to eventually grow Dreams In Drive into a larger entity, I needed a core place that I was driving traffic to and that I could acquire data about the users that visited my page via Google Analytics. I wanted it to be a “destination” that had other resources and information. Now, people know that by going to dreamsindrive.com, they will be able to get everything they need in one place. My site is also where I grow my email list. As a brand, gathering the emails of your audience is integral to your marketing/sales strategy. Anything you can do to drive your listeners to some sort of gated content or content opt-in so that you can directly engage with them later is key!
- Be consistent. When starting out, commit to a schedule. As you grow your following, people will want to know that if you say you’re weekly, they can come back weekly and find a new episode. People get excited and will anticipate next week’s episode. Think about how you feel as you wait for your favorite TV show to air each week. It’s the same concept for podcast. Leverage that feeling.
- Have a clear focus/niche when starting out. “Don’t try to be everything to everyone” is probably the best advice I got from one of my podcast guests. The focus of your podcast should be very clear. Ask yourself: What is my expertise?What is my target demographic? What problem am I helping them solve? What will be the focus of each episode? Personally, focusing on providing motivational content for creatives & lifestyle entrepreneurs has allowed me to grow an engaged audience. It also helped me focus on WHO would be coming to speak on the show and WHO I would be promoting the show to. Your branding should be specific. Figure out what value you want to bring to your audience.
- Distribution & creative promotion is key. When you’re just starting out (and aren’t already a well-established name in your industry), promoting your podcast will be hard. Think: Who can you partner with? What other podcasters/ brands can you ask to share your episodes? What types of content can you create that link back to your podcast? For example, each time I release a new episode, I publish a post on dreamsindrive.com, ranacampbell.com and my Linkedin pages that all contain the podcast embed link. I use “Click to Tweet” to create tweetable quotes on the site. On social, I create podcast-specific show graphics and quotes to share. Some podcasters even use paid ads to promote specific episodes. As the podcast grew, I made the decision to reach out to an iTunes Podcasts executive and tell him about the show. Our conversation eventually led me to getting an episode feature on the iTunes homepage and a spot in the Black Voices in Business category for almost two months! In the beginning, you must put on your “hustler of the year” hat and hit the streets guerilla-style. Think strategically about the relationships you can build.
- Make booking & sharing easy for your guests. I learned early on booking and podcast promotion can be a pain, so I decided to look for tools that would ease that process. For booking, I use Calendly, a tool that allows guest to schedule appointments based on your calendar availability. When an episode goes live, I always send guests an email that contains share links that I create using Share Link Generator. Getting guests involved in promotion is key to your success early on. I use Streak, an email plugin, to create email templates so that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each week. Guests respect an easy and professional booking and follow-up experience. Give them something to be impressed by. Note, I also use Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule weekly social posts.
- Document your process. Write down every step of what is involved in producing an episode. Use this to create a mini-checklist that you can follow each week. If you’re producing and editing by yourself, this will help to make sure that you don’t miss a step. While making one can be a pain, this standard operating procedure will come in handy as you grow and hand off different responsibilities to team members. Stream-line as much as you can.
- Create your signature statement/be unapologetically YOU. A podcast is a great platform to let your brand’s personality shine. What will be that thing that sets your podcasts apart? What is it about you that your listeners will love? Take some time to hone your voice. While it can be smart to look at other podcasts as inspiration, do not use them as the blueprint for what you should do on YOUR show. Also, don’t be afraid to talk about real issues. Create a “signature.” On my podcast the first question + lightning round sets me apart from other podcasts in my space. It’s something I do each week and guests love listening in to hear the answers. I also try to make sure my witty and inquisitive personality shines through on each show. I don’t shy away from being me – quirks and all. People like quirks.
- You don’t have to have it all figured out to get started. Many times, we don’t start driving because we’re too worried about the road ahead. As one of my guests Olori Swank said best, “Jump and build your wings on the way down.” When I launched, I didn’t have a “logo” in the formal sense of the word, but I didn’t let that stop me. The legacy you are working to build should be what drives you. The best thing you can do is get the ball rolling and figure it out along the way. Define what success means for you and believe in it.
To be honest, there are days when I doubt. Why doesn’t Dreams In Drive have more listeners? Sometimes when I think “progress” isn’t happening fast enough, I remember that building a brand doesn’t happen overnight. In just a little over a year- through consistency and strategic goal-setting, I have been able to amass over 50,000 downloads and am streamed in over 50 countries! Your brand can do the same. Keep going. Don’t stop. Stay focused. If you want to build a successful podcast, following these 10 tips can help you get started as you strive towards greatness. Good luck!
Rana Campbell is a 2013 Princeton University graduate, marketing consultant, freelance writer/blogger, and host of the Dreams In Drive (@dreamsindrive) podcast that helps creatives learn how to build brands that SHINE in the business world.