5 Questions to ask when deciding if you want to start a podcast

The beginning of a year, a quarter, a month, a week or even the start of a new day all feel like great times to start something new. Including that diet that always starts next Monday, even if today is Monday.

And right now there is a lot going on - coaches are selling courses, there are more 5 day challenges than you can shake a stick at and if you're listening to this close to when it comes out you're more than likely in some form of lockdown and maybe dealing with childcare and homeschooling. A pandemic is a lot to to deal with, especially when it's been going on for quite some time and the rules keep changing.

Obviously I want you to be podcasting. It's a brilliant medium to get your message across, build your audience and even make sales. But I only want you to be podcasting if it's the right thing for you and at the right time for you. It's so easy to get caught up in the latest distraction, shiny thing - the MUST HAVE for 2021! There are some great FOMO tactics going on to get you to spend money!

Last week I told you how to podcast for free, this week I'm going to be telling some of you not to start your podcast. I'll forgive you for thinking I'm still on the Christmas sherry given my whole business is based on podcast services. And yes it does feel counter-intuitive, except I want you to be successful at podcasting. There's no point doing this half-heartedly. You won't see the results and you'll give up, get frustrated and potentially lose money. I've seen too many podcasts start only to suddenly stop 3 or 4 episodes in. No explanations, no nothing.

How do you make sure that doesn't happen to you? Well before you start you should ask yourself these questions. And make sure you're honest with your answers.

Why Am I Starting A Podcast?

This is the first thing I ask everybody who wants to work with me. Why are you starting this podcast? It might sound strange that I don't want to know what the podcast is about but the content isn't important until you understand what the content is for.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to start a podcast. These are a few that I get told the most when I ask the question. It's not an exhaustive list so please don't think if your reason isn't on this list it's not a valid reason. In fact most reasons for starting a podcast are valid - as long as that reason is the true reason you are starting a podcast.

"Because everybody else is doing a podcast so I thought I should too" is not a great reason for starting a podcast, nor is "my mate, my boss, my partner, my business coach or a podcast coach told me I should start a podcast". Not unless you can go a bit further as to why YOU agree with them that you should start a podcast.

The most popular reason I get told for starting a podcast is probably to connect with potential clients, followed by build up an audience and then next is probably show off expertise.

I've also heard people say they want a podcast to build their network by inviting people on to be guests. Others tell me they want a podcast so they can produce consistent content that can be used across all their platforms. Increasingly there are people producing podcasts exclusively for their clients or membership as a way of replaying events or as a perk of membership.

And of course they are a great way for you to spread a message - whether that be raising awareness of an issue or campaign or simply raise awareness of you and what you do.

You need to understand why you are starting your podcast because each why will lead to a different approach in how you do your podcast.

Of course you can have more than one reason for starting your podcast - my reason for doing this podcast is to show off my knowledge - but I also do it to grow my audience and connect with potential clients in a way that they want to work with me. (And strangely put off people who won't be a good fit. You get a lot of my personality in this podcast and that is what you get in real life. If you don't like me here, you probably won't like me in real life. That's fine and the good news is I can recommend other podcast people who will be a much better fit for you! But please keep listening to the podcast so I can get my listens up!

Knowing that my goal is to show off my knowledge means that every week I plan episodes full of content that is valuable to the person I want to be listening to the podcast - ie people who want to start a podcast for their business.

If my primary goal was to build my audience I'd be using the podcast to drive you to my lead magnets and my email list. I absolutely should be doing that more than I do but I'm still faffing around with my lead magnet. Next week...

If my goal was to increase my network I'd be having more guests on the show so I could make connections with those expert guests and keep them in my network.

And so it goes on.

So the very first thing you have to do, the very first question you have to answer is why? Why am I starting a podcast?

Who Is The Podcast For?

This is a natural follow on from the first question. Once you know why you are doing the podcast you need to know who you are doing the podcast for.

In the past I've always said you are doing your podcast purely for your listener. And that is true in the content sense. But I also accept when it comes to business podcasting there may well be an expectation of a return on investment or at least a benefit for you and your business.

We will look at this in a bit more detail in the last question you need to ask yourself. This question is focussed on the audience.

Identifying who your podcast is for means you can target the content precisely to them.

Is your podcast going to be exclusively for your clients, is it for the wider public? Is it for people in the UK or further afield? Are you targeting foodies who want to know more about their local food scene? Is it for academics in your field?

A podcast exclusively for clients will sound different to a podcast for the wider public because it's clearly a different audience - your clients who have bought into (and indeed from you) compared to an audience who may have found you by accident and have no idea who you are, let alone bought into you!

Same as a podcast aimed at academics in your field (I edit a podcast about data science that's why this is in my mind) is going to sound very different and indeed have a different language to a podcast about the food scene in Shropshire (another podcast I edit).

These are of course extremes. And I'm using them to prove a point - but I can't stress enough how important it is to understand who you are talking to and why!

What Does Success Look Like For You?

After going through the first two questions the answer to this should be really obvious to you.

Lots of people fall in to the trap of thinking success is all about huge listener numbers, huge downloads, number one in all the charts.

And yes that is a measure of success. I won't lie when I see this podcast in the top 20 UK marketing podcast chart on Apple Podcasts I do a little dance. And it does get there a fair bit.

But that's not the marker of success for me for this podcast.

Remember my "why" is to show off my knowledge to an audience of people who want to start a podcast for their business. The secondary why is to connect with potential clients who will then work with me.

Therefore success for me looks like feedback from listeners who find it useful - and you can always email me your thoughts - and getting clients signing up who tell me they found me through my podcast.

Those are the goals I am aiming for and how I measure my podcast success each quarter when I do my quarterly review.

Your definition of success and your goals are related to your why.

You need to really know what it is that you want to have achieved by having a podcast.

It could be more clients, an increased email list, a bigger following on whichever social media platform you're on. It could also be a number one podcast, a speaking gig, a connection with people you admire and want in your network.

Only you can decide what it is - but knowing what success will look like for you will help you steer your podcast towards that success. And not let it drift, get off focus and you lose interest in your podcast because it's not doing what you want it to do (especially if you don't know what you want it to do!

How Much Time Do I Want To Commit To This?

I hate to break it to you but science dictates there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week etc etc. We've not quite managed to take over any other planets in our solar system with longer days or longer years so I'm afraid for the foreseeable future this is what we are dealing with. Yes I have been watching Professor Brian Cox talking about planets on BBC 2 this week, no I don't understand an awful lot of it, yes I am talking about the programmes that have been put on for school pupils... Moving on.

And with that in mind I want you to be brutally honest with yourself about how much time you can realistically commit to podcasting.

It could be a morning or afternoon each week, a day every week, a day every fortnight that you can block out or maybe you'll spend one week every 6 weeks working purely on your podcast. This question is not about me telling you how long you should spend on your podcast or how much of your podcast you should do yourself, it's about how long you realistically have spare or can make spare.

I'm going to be doing an episode on how long it takes to write, record and edit a podcast in the not too distant future.

As part of the time commitment question I want you to consider a few other variables.

Are you doing a series (or season if you must) or are you going to publish continuously? Are you having guests - it's always trickier managing guests. You've got to co-ordinate diaries, many people will say no, others will drop out last minute. Have you got the time to deal with that? How much of the podcasting process will you do?

If you don't have a lot of spare time for your podcast now - let's say homeschooling is taking up a large chunk of your day, or you're getting ready for a launch or new service or maybe you're trying to move house in a pandemic (hi! That's me.) then you've got options.

  1. Don't start it yet - but set a date to review these questions in the next quarter.

  2. Outsource some of the processes to free up your time. Of course that does cost money so that leads me on to my next question

How Much Money Do I Want To Commit To This?

You can podcast for free. I showed you how in last weeks episode so if your budget is zero go have a look at that.

But you can also spend a lot of money.

Microphones, sound treating your recording space, recording kit, editing software, hosting platforms.

And that's before you look at outsourcing.

So just what can you outsource when it comes to podcasting? Pretty much everything.

Personally I offer planning services, remote recording services (used to be in person too, one day it will be again), editing, audiogram production, transcription and I suppose you would call it management - uploading the podcast to a hosting platform and writing a short description.

I also do podcast mentoring for the clients who I edit or do recording for. More mentoring services might be on the way later this year... stay tuned.

The only thing I wouldn't outsource if you wanted a podcast to boost your personal brand is the actual podcast host presenter role. Yes I do present a podcast for one of my clients - it's not a personal brand podcast though.

I can also put you in touch with copywriters to use your podcast as the basis of a blog.

There are others who provide podcast launch services - to help boost your podcast visibility and potentially get it in the charts - if that's your goal.

So realistically if you've got the money you can 100% just show up and speak then go on off and never worry about your podcast again.

And this is why you need to know how much time you've got and how much money you've got for podcasting. If you've got a lot of one but not the other you can get away with it.

If you're strapped for both - you might want to put podcasting on the back burner and re-visit these questions again later.

If you've got some budget it's well worth investing in a good microphone and potentially speaking to a podcast coach about your next steps and maybe finding a podcast editor to do your editing. Assuming you want your podcast edited. Editing takes longer than you expect it to. Sometimes it takes me much longer than I expect it to too.

When it comes to finding a podcast coach and indeed editor have a look around. Don't go on price alone, look at what value they will bring to your podcast. I am not the cheapest editor out there by a long shot but I will listen to your content and give feedback - not just a simple cut here and there were there are mistakes etc.

Any decent coach or editor will answer your questions and have a discovery call/chat with you so you can both decide if you are a good fit for each other.

Once you've answered this questions honestly you'll know whether a podcast is right for you and more importantly if a podcast is right for you now.

I'm going to be hosting my room on Clubhouse again on Wednesday where we talk about this episode so if you have any questions you can hop on and chat with me. I am @charlottefoster on clubhouse so give me a follow if you're there.

If not I'll be around on LinkedIn and I'm on instagram a lot too @charlottefosterpodcasts - heck I might do a reel on instagram if you're not careful!

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