Finding Clarity When Starting a New Project
Reflecting on a year of this podcast, it also made me think about how to find clarity when working on any new project. It often starts with the basics - who, what, when, where, how and why. Connect with me on your favorite platform: https://pods.link/aardvarkgirl -- It’s officially been a year since the “Business for Self-Employed Creatives” podcast launched. Some of you have been with me since day one, some found it later on, and this might be the first episode you’ve ever heard. No matter what, I appreciate that you’re here. This episode is about reflecting on how I got here, but also about the steps I took and how those can apply to starting any new project. In 2019, I started The Womanpreneur Podcast with my friend Melissa Moats. We had a proper studio and a team of great people who helped us look and sound our best. Then the pandemic came along in 2020 and complicated things. We tried for a short time to keep going, recording remotely via Zoom like so many others, but neither of us had the time or desire to learn how to do everything ourselves. We decided it was time to retire the podcast. That decision was the right one, but I also didn’t want to lose the momentum of the podcast. I had wanted to start it as an additional business tool. A way to connect with a new audience and share what I’ve learned throughout my career in hopes of helping others. I had a lot of fun chatting with Melissa every week, but I simply didn’t have the bandwidth to manage two brands. I found myself prioritizing that podcast because it involved someone else. Meanwhile, I wasn’t doing anything to help Aardvark Girl. With the extra time on my hands from production being shut down, I put my focus back on my own brand and pulled out the list of projects I’d been wanting to work on but never seemed to find time for. I saw that a lot of people were struggling, not knowing what to do because of what was happening in the world. During lockdown, I offered free business coaching for anyone who needed it. I helped people navigate the loan options that were available to them. I helped them figure out ways to be more productive with their time. I helped them brainstorm new ways to make money since the old ways were unavailable. It reminded me why I wanted to start my business in the first place – to help others in their businesses. At the same time, I had been working with Tansy Aster Creative to redesign my website and found more clarity about what I wanted to be doing. I decided I should still do a podcast, but one that was a true extension of my brand. It would be a way to offer the same type of help I was giving my coaching clients, but making it accessible to anyone who wanted to listen for free. I had a lot to figure out since I knew I would be doing this by myself. Fortunately, I have a lot of practice doing things by myself. And this was essentially like starting any new project, so I approached it with that framework in mind. It’s always good to start with the basics. Can you answer the standard six questions – who, what, when, where, how and why? The who was pretty easy for me to identify. For simplicity, I would be the only host. I would continue doing interviews because I really enjoy those conversations and think it’s important to offer different points of view because we can all find success in different ways. The target audience would be the same one I had already carved out for my consulting business. I was focused on single person, or very small, businesses because I felt I could make the most difference there. The bigger the business, the more complicated solutions become, and there are plenty of people out there for that. I want to help those creative individuals who were doing their own thing but didn’t know how to balance their talent with running a business. So self-employed creatives became my niche. And, in taking a note from Melissa and her husband who always said it’s best to name a business what it is, that’s what I called the podcast. It was simple and made it clear in the title what it was about. The what was the podcast itself. I decided on the format pretty early on. I would mix short solo episodes with longer interviews. As much as I’d love to do interviews every episode, those take a lot more time, and I wanted to make sure I was being practical about what I could accomplish. In addition, business owners are busy and creatives don’t always have the longest attention spans, so it made sense to keep most of the episodes short and to the point. The when was dictated by the end of the Womanpreneur Podcast. I wanted to be able to transition seamlessly from one to another so I could do my best to retain our audience. We had our last episode scheduled for the end of May, so I set June 1st as my launch date. I think it’s good to set a target date for any project because that gives you a timeline to work towards. It makes it easier to complete than leaving it open ended and saying I’ll start when I’m ready, because most of us then find excuses to delay. The where for recording was going to be my house. We were in the middle of a lockdown so there wouldn’t have been another option anyway, but that was the most practical. I don’t have a home studio or even a space that would make sense to convert into a proper studio, but I knew I could figure out a way to make it work. It might not be perfect, but with all shows being suddenly forced to do things remotely, people were being more forgiving about sound and not expecting absolute perfection. As for where it would be published, I stuck with Podbean, the same host we used for the other podcast, because I was already familiar with it and knew I could upload there and push to all the standard platforms. The how was the trickiest because I didn’t have anything I needed to do a podcast. I knew I needed to make the investment in some equipment and software to make the quality acceptable. I did a lot of research, consulted with experts, and tried different things. That part of it continues to evolve. I used the time as an opportunity to learn new skills. I quickly figured out that I don’t love doing audio work, but it’s a necessary evil with podcasting. But I also figured out that I would have to outsource my interview episodes. Mixing two separate audio tracks is not my forte, and with so many people recording from less than ideal spaces using less than ideal equipment, I wanted a pro who could keep everyone sounding as good as possible. Fortunately, my brother does this professionally through his company Tansy Aster Creative (sound familiar? They’ve become my go-to for a lot of my business needs), so figuring out who to trust with it was easy. I’ve already talked about the why. The podcast was created to help people. It is a way to offer free value to others while also giving another platform for people to understand who I am before they decide to work with me. I think it’s important to give without the expectation of anything in return. So even though my podcast has led to some new clients, that’s more of a bonus than the reason. Understanding the answers to those basic questions is always a good place to start with a new project. You want to be clear about what you are doing before you start doing it. You may change your mind along the way, but it’s best to have at least a basic roadmap figured out before you start driving. As I set on my path, I started working on all the behind-the-scenes stuff. Getting equipment, figuring out how to use it, defining topics, lining up guests, and recording episodes. It took a large investment of time and money to get started, but I was ready to go. I had this whole big launch planned for June 1st, but there ended up being some far more significant things happening in America that week and it didn’t feel right to talk about my podcast. So it was a quiet launch and I never really did a proper push, which was my own fault. Self-promotion isn’t exactly my strength. Throughout this process, I’ve made a couple significant observations that also could apply to any project. First, passion projects are called passion projects for a reason. You have to really want to do it. This podcast costs me a lot of time and money. It’s important to me, though, because the reasons why I started it still exist. Sometimes it’s stressful finding the time to keep up and I’ve thought about taking a break, but I believe consistency is important so I push through and haven’t missed a publishing date yet. I didn’t think it would be an issue since I launched when I wasn’t really working, but I haven’t had a slow period since mid-June of 2020. Oddly enough, 2020 was my busiest year ever and 2021 is definitely going to beat that record. I’m super grateful, but have definitely been feeling the pressure from all of it, all of which is self-imposed. Eventually, I do want to monetize so I can actually get some money to help pay for my costs and to improve the podcast, but I’m torn on the best way to do that without the traditional annoying ads. I would love to get some sponsors and possibly set up a Patreon or similar account, but I haven’t figured all of that out yet. Having some income from the podcast would allow me to hire more people to help with marketing, PR to get higher profile guests, and things like that. So it’s not about making more money for me, it’s about investing back into the podcast to make it a better show for you. The observation, though, is one I’ve made in other times of my life as well. You make time for what’s important to you. It doesn’t matter what you have going on or how busy you are, if it’s important to you, you will make the time to show up. That’s why I show up here every Monday with a new episode. And I plan on continuing to do that indefinitely. Who knows where the next year will take us. But thank you for being here now and I hope you’ll stay with me as this journey continues.