23 Life Changing Lessons Learned from (Following My Gut, and) Launching a Podcast
It all started way back about six months ago when I decided to push myself a bit (a lot!) and write something for The Huffington Post. As I brainstormed ideas in my local Starbucks one evening while my teenager was at one of her never-ending karate classes, I kept coming back to one particular topic: Side Projects.
I knew from my own experience that building my coaching business on the side of my full-time job had been a game changer for me.
While I’d enjoyed coaching clients, the really unexpected bonus was that as I cultivated my business on the side, I found that my full-time job started to work a whole lot better for me.
I found myself more engaged and full of ideas, and wanting more and bigger challenges at work.
And I rediscovered an innate sense of confidence that had gone missing for some time.
And this experience of mine got me curious about other people’s experiences with side projects.
But when I went Googling — while I found a whole lot about “quitting your job to pursue your passion”, there was no one acknowledging that for most people, quitting a job is not a practical or realistic option. Or, that some people actually like their job, they just aren’t entirely fulfilled by it.
So that’s what I wrote about for The Huffington Post — I posed the idea of hanging onto that steady paycheck and intentionally building something on the side, with my 7 Reasons Not to Quit the Day Job.
But it never felt like it was just the one article.
It felt from the very beginning like it was meant to be something bigger because so many people have interests and passions they want to pursue, but for practical reasons most of us are never going to be able to quit our jobs to pursue them full-time.
And I actually think that’s totally and completely ok.
In fact, I think it’s pretty awesome to have something else you love doing that fulfills you in different ways than your regular job. And it’s equally awesome that it’s not required to pay your bills!
So I decided to start this conversation I wasn’t finding anywhere else. And that felt like a podcast.
I’ll be honest here. I had no idea how much work this new side project of mine was going to be.
But it’s been quite the learning journey and so far — 100% worth it.
It’s now been one whole week since the launch of my show Doing It On the Side.
Take a listen to the first episodes!
And here are the 23 (very!) life changing lessons I’ve learned so far…
#1. Your idea may take on a life of it’s own. What I’ve found in talking with dozens of people about their own side projects is that they mean something different to every single person.
Talking with others about why they pursue side projects, and what they get back, has broadened my understanding far beyond my own personal experience.
And people love talking about what they’ve experienced.
I’ve learned that while my own experience led me down this path, I suspect I’m really just here to open up this conversation for many others to do what they need/like/want with it.
#2. Listen to your instincts. Oh, yes, we’ve heard this one before. And with this process of launching the podcast, it’s held true.
From the initial call to write something for Huff Post, to sharing my idea for the very first time with my coach and friend Jo Casey, to reaching out to my first potential guests, to articles I’ve pitched along the way, to scheduling the launch itself right after Labor Day — in every place where I’ve followed my instincts it’s paid off.
I haven’t experienced any icky “what have I gotten myself into” moments, and while I had some bouts of self doubt, I’ve found my way back by paying attention to what feels right.
#3. Protect your little bud of an idea — be choiceful in who you share it with. Somewhere along the way I picked up this brilliant recommendation to nurture and protect ideas that are super important to you. And that I did.
Excited as I was about the podcast, I didn’t talk about it much until I really knew what I wanted it to be. By only sharing it with people I fully trusted, I didn’t let myself get into encounters with naysayers or questioners. Sure, others can help you refine and expand your ideas, but it’s also important to protect it while it’s still in development within your own head and heart.
#4. Ask for help and what you need most will show up. Very early on I knew that while I didn’t need a lot of input on the idea and concept for the podcast, I knew I wanted help on planning the launch and promotion. I wanted to help it be a success!
Now, I’m typically very DIY, and I’m also a marketer by trade, so I had a lot of ideas about how I might promote the show. But I felt like I needed extra guidance and I wanted to call in the “Big PR Guns” — namely, a former colleague and publicist Leslie Van Every, and Brigitte Lyons, a publicist I’d respected for some time.
This was one of those instances where very early on I thought of Leslie and Brigitte. And then later one, they just sort of showed up at exactly the right moment. Leslie turned out to have an entire army of friends with fantastic side projects who she sent my way. And Brigitte, who I knew I couldn’t afford, ended up posting in a Facebook Group, offering highly discounted consultations sessions as part of a beta offer she was running. I snapped up one of those immediately. Miracle!
#5. Break out of your comfort zone. One of the classes I took about podcasting suggested doing brief pre-interview chats by phone to feel people out and see if they are a good fit for the show before scheduling them and then interviewing them cold. This seemed like a really smart suggestion — but wasn’t one I necessarily welcomed…
You see, I’m just not a phone person, and the thought of having scheduled phone calls during my precious weekends was daunting for this introvert!
But it ended up being a great way to get comfortable talking about side projects and gave me exposure to the wide range of reasons people pursue them... Breaking out of my comfort zone and doing a few of those calls a day over a few weeks, really set the tone for the podcast itself.
#6. Take some classes, but recognize when “you’ve got it”. I have a dear friend who has often listened to me go on and on about something when I’m worried-nervous-anxious-questioning myself, and the best advice he usually has to offer is “you’ve got this”.
When you’re doing something new , the learning curve can be steep.
For practical reasons, by all means sign up for a class or two to get your bearings, but there can also be a point where you think you’ll only be ready after one more class, or maybe a special class on a special topic. When it gets to that point, it’s time to take note and check in with yourself: Do you really need to take one more class? Maybe instead, you’re “ready enough” and you’ve got this?!
#7. Take a break. While I spent the better part of my weekends over the last six months doing something podcast related, I also had a few times when I knew that even though my to do list was as long as my arm, what I really needed to do was take a break.
Taking a day off with no interviews, or no editing, or no working on the website gave me the ability to come back the next day or weekend ready to go. I also took off a good 3 weeks for a big family trip and that was crucial too. When I came home the to do list was still there, and the podcast launch that much closer, but I also had a fresh perspective and renewed energy.
#8. Cancel when you need to. This one is related to #7 above. Sometimes you know you need that break and you have a few things on the calendar. Reschedule the interview. Seriously, it’s ok. You don’t want to do it all the time, or unnecessarily at the last minute because that would be unprofessional, but on occasion to save your sanity, absolutely cancel when you need to.
#9. Life will get in the way. No matter how well you plan, things will come up that you don’t expect and they will impact even the most carefully laid plans. For me, this showed up as a way busier schedule at my regular job than expected. While the last few summers have been pretty low key — this one turned out to be a lot busier and left me more wiped out at the end of the day than I was planning on.
So there no energy left for evening project-time, and my 90 minute bus commute became an important respite, instead of a time to catch up on podcast-related work. And this made my weekends more packed, so #8 and #9 above, were all that much more important.
#10. Everything will take twice as long as you expect. Oh this one! Like they say with a home remodel — double the time estimate. So if you think you can get those things off your to do list in a few hours on a Saturday morning? Double that and make it four to five, minimum.
Sure, there are some things that really are fast, but I’ve found that especially when something is new, it always takes twice as long and a lot more effort than you ever expect.
#11. Dream big, reach high, and put it all on paper. Early on I was more sure than I’d ever felt about any idea before, that this one was meant to go big. And I wrote about what that would look like.
There were some key points along the way where I really needed to go back and look at those early thoughts to remind myself that it wasn’t just early excitement, but a truly, real, Big Idea.
Your mind will play tricks on you. Go big and write it down.
#12. Have a specific goal to focus on and stay accountable to. I set a goal of getting my show into iTunes New & Noteworthy. And as I’ve needed to make choices along the way, I often think to myself — will this help me get into N&N?
Now, there are any number of other metrics I could set that I could actually have a lot more impact on (it’s pretty much out of my hands if iTunes plucks my show from obscurity or not), but it’s a really important one so I’ve chosen to focus on doing everything I can (that also feels authentic and right to me) to get my show in there within the first 8 weeks up on iTunes.
#13. Read all the tips, collect the best and toss the rest. When you’re starting a new project Google is your best friend.
On the topic of podcasting, there is an endless supply of tips, advice and how-to’s, but it can be overwhelming to figure out who to listen to — and many of the so called experts can be super cheesy, entrepreneurial know it all types.
I learned to skim through the blogs and pick and choose what was right for me.
#14. Have a vision. This one relates back to #11 and #12 — letting yourself dream big and knowing your goals, but it’s more about painting a picture of what your brand.
I knew I wanted my podcast to feel like a welcoming, inspiring space, but also a pragmatic one. I knew I didn’t want to be like the in your face entrepreneurial podcasters. I knew I wanted to feature real people across a wide spectrum of interests, geographies and life experience
For me, my branding was the starting place for this vision. It all started with an image of blue sky with a single, old timey plane flying and trailing behind it a line of smoke.
That image led to my color palette and when I found my font for the logo it further solidified the look. I went with Squarespace for my site because their templates are modern and fresh and further reflected the look I was going for.
I was also pretty sure I was onto something with the line “Shining a light on people pursuing their passions on top of full-time lives”, but I knew it was meant to be my brand line when Brigitte Lyons noted it as a strength. To me it’s descriptive, specific and feels optimistic, without being hokey.
#15. Make a project plan and find the systems that work for you. As a marketer in my day job, I tend to think in Powerpoint. So I created a strategy deck to capture my overall idea, and the tactical podcast specifics. That strategy deck became the foundation for everything I was doing.
And then to track my day-to-day tasks I lived out of Google Drive. Spreadsheets to track interviews, pitching, research, Google docs for all the writing and idea capturing, Google Slides for the strategy deck. I use Asana to track my to do list and email myself to items until I can get them into Asana.
#16. Have a place to capture all the ideas as they come. The ideas come in the middle of the night, in the shower, when you’re driving — it’s just the way it goes. So have a list where you can note things down on your phone whenever. It’s another reason why I’ve been living out of Google Drive, I can access it anywhere, anytime on my phone.
#17. Be nimble and willing to shift gears. This is related to #9, life will get in the way. Lots of things will come up, people will cancel, your pitch will get turned down, you’ll spend a day editing only to totally mess it up and need to start over.
Whether it’s a podcast or any other important-to-you project, I’ve learned that you’ve got to be flexible and not too set in your ways.
Yes, have a vision and a clear brand, but when something comes up or something you wanted to happen doesn’t, it’s best to try and roll with it.
#18. Ask for the specific help you need, so people can offer it. It can be uncomfortable to ask people to help you, but most people really do want to help — but they also need to know what you need help with!
One of the podcast tips I picked up and used was to contact my friends and family a few weeks before the podcast was scheduled to launch, sharing an early preview of an episode, with a request to listen to it and then reply if they would be willing to leave a review on iTunes once I launched.
The people who responded were more than happy to help and have since left some wonderful reviews. If I had instead asked them to share my show or something else more general, I wonder if I would have had the same enthusiastic response as when I asked for a very specific type of support.
#19. You will question yourself. You may want to throw in the towel. You will be sure your idea sucks. Somewhere about two months into my project I started to question what the heck I was doing. Who did I think I was, some kind of side projects guru, and trying to launch a podcast, something I knew zilch about. Yep, that voice showed up, and it showed up loud.
Here’s one thing I know to be true for me and for others too, that voice that questions your validity, your right, your value — it’s bound to show up extra loud when something is really important to you.
And while it may sounds like it’s telling you the truth, what it’s really doing is trying to protect you from the danger of stepping out into that great unknown and risking it all. When you hear that voice, instead of believing what it has to say, and instead take it as a sign that you are on the right path and that those risky things it wants to protect you from — it’s what you’re actually meant to be doing!
#20. You can make this thing happen. Closely related to #19 above and #6 “you’ve got this” — this one came up for me in the month before the launch. I was behind on my to do list, a couple pitches that I was hoping to have come through for launch, didn’t and I found myself wondering if I’d been kidding myself that I could launch a successful podcast in a sea of shows.
Who knows if that article I really wanted would have made this launch or not. I’ll never know, but what I do know is I’m making this happen without it.
#21. It’s a marathon not a sprint. With any major endeavor, it’s important to remember to pace yourself. This relates back to #7, take a break and #8 cancel if if you need to — because overall if you want to make something big happen it’s probably going to take a while. Sure, it would be awesome if success happened overnight, but it so rarely does.
With this project, I’ve been at it for six months, the podcast is now live and honestly, I’m a bit tired. It’s been “go, go, go” for longer than I’d like, but I’m really just getting started here and New & Noteworthy needs to happen within your first 8 weeks…
So I’m recalibrating. I pulled out the calendar yesterday and blocked off a good number of podcast-free weekend s— days when I won’t do any interviews, any editing or to do listing. I may do some writing, but nothing overly scheduled feeling. For me, having wide open weekends now and then help make this marathon feel a lot less sprint-like and a lot more doable.
#22. One day your to do list will be all checked off. This happened to me yesterday. While there are still many, many things I could be doing, and that I need to do soon, I hit a spot where the list I’d make for myself for this point and time was completely checked off.
And you know what? It felt really weird. Super awkward.
One of those, “what do I do with myself now” moments… I wasn’t prepared for the void, and it’s something I want to pay attention to. I don’t want to become reliant on “being busy”, that’s not what this is about.
Next time I find myself nearing the end of the list, I’m going to have another list of things I GET to do! It’s going to start with: 1. Put on your running shoes and go outside now. 2. Go to a movie. 3. Text a friend and do something impromptu. I’m ready for next time!
#23. Enjoy it. And last, but absolutely not least, one of the biggest lessons I have learned on this journey is to try and be in the moment and enjoy the process. It’s easy to forget how scary that first interview with a “big name” was, or even the first interview with a regular guest! It’s easy to remember the times my pitches were not accepted… but what about those times when they were!
I’d love to say I glided through this process living fully in the moment and enjoying every second — but that would be A) not true and B) not realistic.
There were many scary as heck times, frustrating I-hate-technology times, and maybe I should just quit now times… but there were also so many other times when I felt joy in connecting with an interview guest, or experienced a deep sense of pride and accomplishment in what I’ve been made happen to date.
This has been my journey so far, and I’m curious, excited and a bit overwhelmed wondering, “where it will go next”?
What I do know is that this side project about side projects — has been a time of massive personal growth. And if that’s a bellwether for side projects in general — then I’m on the right mission.