If you’ve ever thought about starting a podcast, you’re in good company.
An added benefit of a podcast can be using the platform to further establish your credibility in your field, as well as to reach potential new clients.
But how can writers and creatives with podcasts marry the two into business strategy?
We talked with three podcast hosts to find out. Each shared how their shows have helped them get more writing gigs or build their client bases, ultimately making them more money.
If you’ve been thinking about starting your own podcast, consider these tips before taking the plunge.
Build on your existing credibility
The show’s tagline itself offers would-be podcasters good advice most freelance writers would probably nod their heads at: “Do the work. Be boss.”
Shannon points out part of Being Boss’s success is due to the success of the hosts’ own businesses.
“We already established our credibility by having online businesses that are already successful,” said Shannon. “I see people with 300 Twitter followers writing about how to get more followers, and life coaches who are miserable talking about living the dream. We already had those businesses with successful clients, were already running a team of employees, working 30-40 hours max a week. We give ourselves time to travel. What we are preaching, we are already living. That’s where the credibility comes from.”
Ines Bellina co-hosts her podcast, XX, Will Travel, for women travelers with friend and fellow traveler Kathy Pulkrabek. The daughter of a Peruvian diplomat, Bellina was born in Switzerland and has lived in three continents, six countries and nine cities.
“Travel has been a constant in my life,” she said. “Travel was something that happened to me. When I was an adult and could choose to no longer travel, I realized it was a large part of my identity. Not going abroad was not an option.”
Starting a travel podcast geared toward women was an idea that came naturally to both women, who also enjoy travel writing.
“Ultimately we want to be seen as authorities in travel,” she said. “This year want to reach out to either businesses or other podcasts or other outlets that have the same focus we have, which is women travelers. A goal for 2016 is to establish connections among those who make up the travel industry, and collaborate.”
Kevin Allison, host of RISK!, had years of sketch and standup comedy experience before starting RISK, a live show and podcast where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.
Allison, a former member of the MTV sketch comedy troupe The State, started the podcast in 2009 after realizing he had a skill helping others tell their stories.
“I knew that it should be a podcast right from the beginning,” said Allison. “Once we started, it immediately started getting reactions. Writers and performers wanted to do the show and listeners latched on.”
Allison said he recognized his strengths and saw a way to monetize them.
“I would help people create stories for the podcast and realized I was good at acting as a dramatist and editor, and partially as a therapist,” he said. “I worked people through their drafts and helping them figure out what their stories meant what the essential parts were. I realized I had a talent for helping people with that stuff. I knew I could expand the business beyond the podcast.”
Today, the popularity of Allison’s podcast brings him a steady stream of new workshop clients.
Find ways to package your knowledge
The two women behind Being Boss often talk about the tools they offer through their own businesses, Indie Shopography and Braid Creative. They’ve even combined the two to offer a package for listeners called the Being Boss bundle.
“Part of my model now is nurturing our passive income and digital products,” said Shannon. “It’s a one-to-many model, as opposed to one-to-one clients like much of our staff works on. Being Boss has become its own brand but that brand awareness has helped awareness of my company also.”
Bellina has found an expanded, and unexpected, audience through the XX, Will Travel blog.
“We decided to have a website and an accompanying blog so we could post episodes,” she said. “It was meant to be a placeholder until we launched episodes but then we both realized we liked it. It was a different foray for us, too. Our podcast episodes tend to be focused on tips for travel and information, but our blog has turned into this format for creative essays that don’t necessarily have to be informative.”
Maintining that blog has helped Bellina see writing opportunities more clearly. “The blog has forced me to write,” she said, “And has shown me that I have a lot of stories in me that are pitch-worthy.”
Like Being Boss, RISK! offers an online version of Allison’s storytelling course, which is taught in-person at The Story Studio in New York, L.A. and Minneapolis. There, students can take workshops through which Allison helps them hone their storytelling skills.
“Shortly after we started the school, when I was doing the one on ones and corporate workshops in New York, we saw we should create the podcast version of our basic workshop,” he said. “It’s a video and workbook version of the class I teach. That’s kind of the same philosophy we learned, make stuff as easy to access as possible.”
He added he does his best to remember his teaching when creating stories of his own.
“I try to create my own stories by using my own teaching as much as possible,” Allison said. “Sometimes with a first draft I find myself saying, ‘Oh, if I followed my teaching I would add such-and-such.’ The difference between teaching and doing. A lot of the principles of storytelling are easy to apply regardless of your personality.”
Build your network as you grow
Bellina encourages podcasters to take advantage of like-minded groups and word of mouth.
“I read an article this week about how hard it is for any podcast to get any listener,” she said. “Even established ones have a hard time because the whole system is set up to make it hard to discover new podcasts. The best way is through word of mouth, which we are starting to understand.”
Bellina also created the Chicago Podcasters Unite! Facebook group for local podcasters because the groups she was already a part of were great about spreading the word about members’ projects.
“We belong to lots of very active travel groups and storytelling groups,” she said. “One of our strategies was to be very active through those groups and create relationships through them, and so I hope the podcast group grows. We’ve gotten requests for partnering for events, and we have been reached out to about joining a network. There are all kinds of traveler meetups, travel conferences, and podcasting conferences.”
Shannon advises would-be podcasters to focus on sharing your expertise.
“Sharing what you know is important to having a successful podcast,” said Shannon. “Do you know about writing great copy for a specific industry? Talk about that. Talk about the things you say over and over again.”
She also advises doing a test run, either in the form of a short-term audio project like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic podcast, Magic Lessons (held in conjunction with her book release), or as a podcast guest.
“Leverage other people’s audiences first, and be a podcast guest first,” said Shannon. “See what it feels like to be talking, to have the vulnerability hangover first and get it over with. Try that, because it is a lot of work. Don’t invest in it if you’re not going to enjoy it.”
She and Thompson value authenticity in their work, and this comes through on their show.
“I am jamming with one of my best creative colleagues about work, talking shop, wading through some messes,” said Shannon. “We’re asking lots of questions. We don’t have all the answers on the podcast, but it makes us relatable.”
Allison advises aspiring podcasters to focus on how they can differentiate their work from other shows.
“There are other storytelling shows – but one thing that makes RISK so special is people feel like they really do not filter themselves here,” he said. “There’s something cathartic about that. People feel more connected to their fellow humanity.”
Only start a podcast if you’ll love doing it
The most important question to ask yourself is whether you enjoy podcasting enough to produce a show on a consistent schedule. If not, don’t try to force it.
“We’re having a lot of fun with it,” said Bellina. “Even though we were already avid travelers, it motivates us to travel even more. It’s been really fulfilling in a way because we both have day jobs, we’re not travel bloggers making everyone jealous, we’re proud of ourselves for leading normal lives but having this aspect of our lives, travel, that we are able to share. It’s very empowering in a way.”
Shannon concluded with some words about what makes Being Boss work so well.
“It’s successful because Emily and I just really love doing it,” she said. “We love the podcast so much. We love planning it growing it, recording it, publishing it. everything about it, it never feels like a chore. That came across really fast. All those other things: long history, doing work, skill set of running online business, but then there’s that little bit of magic.”
Writers can certainly use podcasting to land more client work and grow a bigger audience. But it will only happen if you’re up to the challenge and can commit the time and energy needed to creating a polished, quality product.
Have you considered starting a podcast as a companion to your writing career?