On March 23rd it will be a year since the UK was put in to a national lockdown. I wanted to reflect on the podcasting lessons I've learned over the last 12 months.
Having a podcast helped keep me focussed.
I remember this time last year so well. I was in a total panic and spent my days feeling sick as I watched client after client cancel on me. My business at that point was exploring recording events and repurposing them as podcasts. And all of the progress I'd made since January in making contacts, coming up with proposals and being centimetres away from signing them off all disappeared in the space of days.
It was heartbreaking and as some of my long standing edit clients also started to cancel on me I went and got myself a job doing nights at a local supermarket to make sure I could pay the bills. And of course still do the day job of this, or at least figure out what the day job was going to be.
It was then that I really started to understand what my podcast was about, who it was for and why I was doing it.
My podcast is for you and it's to help you start and keep podcasting when you don't know where to start, you're not a tech tech geek and you're not ready to spend 10s of thousands of pounds on it.
In fact figuring out who my podcast was for helped me figure out exactly what my business was going to be! It's a great way to really nail down what it is you do!
As well as that form of focus, the podcast also helped anchor me while I was a bit lost at sea. Knowing I had committed to producing this podcast meant I had something to do. Keeping the content going was my achievement and I celebrated it.
It's so easy to not celebrate the little things but I hope this past year helps me and you recognise those smaller achievements and that we celebrate them. They all add up to the bigger achievements don't they!
You don't need full lockdown and a pandemic though to lose focus or feel at sea. Life throws us enough curve balls and ups and downs to throw us off kilter.
Having a podcast and committing to the publishing it on a weekly (or whenever) basis is a great way to keep your mind on your business, keep yourself on track AND give yourself a win!
It's been an actual life saver for me.
Having a plan to change is far better than having no plan and no idea where to start.
In March last year, in fact I think this was the last time I've been on a train, I headed to Manchester for a planning session with Janet Murray. I made some amazing plans for Q2 and beyond in 2020. Which all got pooped on from a great height in the space of 19 days. Not even three weeks!
But having a plan put me further ahead everybody who didn't have a plan. The people who were a bit aimless to start with. Which if I'm being honest was me in 2019. I had lots of ideas but no plan and that was evident in the fact I started my podcast, then let it slide. It was one of my ideas that didn't have a plan.
Having a plan gives you a solid foundation. Whether that plan is for your business, your podcast, your social media, your running!
But a plan does not and should not be set in stone. Rather it is flexible and ready for changing up when needed.
I planned the first quarter of 2021 podcasts in November last year. A few of those episodes originally planned out haven't made it to air. Episode 55 is the most recent example - I spoke in that about cover art. I had no intention of making that episode in November but I kept seeing questions around cover art about so I decided it was something that needed to talk about. Equally I have been toying with talking about Clubhouse - but I've actually got that pencilled in for later this year. I'd not even heard of Clubhouse until December.
This time last year I threw out my original plans for the podcast and did a daily special (for a week) about ways to keep podcasting in a pandemic. It was the best decision I made.
I'm hoping my 2020 plans will come back in one form or another in 2022. But let's not count chickens!
I don't need a studio and neither do you.
One of my things to achieve pre pandemic was to have my own podcast studio. It was up there as one of my whys, the framework of a lot of what I did - I would ask myself "will doing this get me a step closer to owning my studio"
Now, I can't remember the last time I said that.
Although I have a not very secret desire to convert a camper van (or similar) to a mobile podcast studio and go travelling around the country recording events etc. Once a radio reporter out driving the radio car, always a radio reporter out driving the radio car.
But in all seriousness you don't need a fully kitted out professional studio to record your podcasts in. Yes there are better places to record than others (please don't record in your bathroom), but you can make all the adjustments you need at home. In fact your home might well be a great place to start because you'll have soft furnishings around you and access to a duvet to crawl under and record too. It's all glamour!
The pandemic I think has freed me from my perfectionism. And I don't think I'm the only person.
Zoom will do
Talking about moving on from perfectionism. Remote recordings have come on leaps and bounds.
If nothing else at least people get the concept of hopping on a Zoom call. And yes Zoom will do if you can't get them on to another platform. Just make sure you and your guest have a strong internet connection and record on your computer not to the cloud.
But elsewhere other services have come on hugely during the pandemic. I'm not sure how much of that was planned before March 2020 but it's really beneficial to everybody on all budgets.
The good news about Zoom is we are now so used to hearing (and seeing) interviews recorded on Zoom that our ears accept what we are hearing a lot more freely. It's become normal and that is great when you are just starting and need to learn everything. If you don't need to learn Zoom and your guests don't need to learn Zoom then it will be a smoother and better experience for everybody.
Human relationships are important - you can build them on podcasts.
I'm a hugger. Well, a hugger for people I like, not a random hug everybody I vaguely know hugger. And I miss my friends and family hugs. Listening to podcasts has been a partial substitute for human contact.
Stay with me.
I always listen to podcasts on my own. Always. And the vast, vast, vast majority of times I'm listening to a podcast it is through headphones. It's just me and the person talking to me. I've felt closer to some of those podcast hosts than I have people I'm apparently friends with on Facebook and know in real life. I'm not exaggerating. I have celebrated their wins, nodded along in agreement with stories they've shared and felt stomach punches at their truth bombs.
The voices in my headphones have been my friends more than ever these past 12 months. They showed up and kept me company when I had nobody else because of the pandemic. These podcasts were still able to join me on runs, sit with me while I had a coffee and stay up late with me when I was sewing all the masks in the world!
I found my company in podcasts and found communities in podcasts.
I can't overstate how brilliant podcasts are for doing this.
People don't need a commute to listen to podcasts
I was really worried about what would happen to podcasting as we were all ordered to stay at home, exercise seemed to be cut to 30 minutes a day and home schooling happened.
Would podcasts get forgotten about as our routines flew out the window? With no commute to work when would people listen to podcasts? With no long runs when would people listen to podcasts?
And yes there was a dip in listening to start with. But there was a lot going on! The dip though recovered and podcasting continued to grow - both listening and creation.
People obviously are making their way back to work in places and of course key workers kept working throughout (Thank you all key workers. You're all amazing.) and podcast listening is maintaining.
I often get asked if podcasting has reached a plateau and if you should bother starting a podcast if everybody else has a podcast and there are a gazillion podcasts out there anyway.
And the answer is yes. You should start a podcast. There is still room in the podcast market, you are not too late, it is still growing and nobody has a podcast identical to yours because you are what makes your podcast unique.
Pandemics are TIRING!
It's been an exhausting 12 months. And if I could change anything in my life it would be that I did this podcast in series or seasons. Not ongoing.
I'm not saying I don't love doing this podcast, but it would be nice to have a regular break, re-set and refresh every now and again.
It might be something I look at doing later in the year, maybe. But if I was starting a podcast I think having a "get out clause" of a series or season allows you much more freedom. It also keeps you fresh and helps prevent it becoming a chore.
When it's a chore to produce it's a bore to listen to!
I know the past 12 months haven't been easy at times. It's been a rocky road and I really hope it the light we're seeing is that at the end of the tunnel and not a false dawn.
There have though been some really interesting moments along the way and many of the interesting moments I've experienced are from having my podcast and the community I'm building through it.
If you want to get your podcast started you can download Chapter 1 of my Podcast Planning Toolkit here - it's free and goes through the really important foundation stage that your podcast needs first and foremost.