Starting the WPMRR WordPress Podcast from Scratch

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Over the past 10 years, podcasts have become one of the most popular mediums to connect with an audience today.

Why am I telling you? You already know. You’ve already subscribed to, like, 25 podcasts in your player.

So when I started the WPMRR WordPress podcasts, I felt like I was late to the party. I also didn’t want to be “that person who has a podcast.” You know who I’m talking about…

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Here we are, almost 1 year later, with 70+ recorded episodes and a podcast Christie and I are proud to call our own.

We’ve even gotten to do some really cool stuff with the pod like a panel on podcasting at WordCamp Miami last year.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself…

How did they go from idea to an established podcast?

What were the most important things they did to grow their show?

How can I follow in their path with my own podcast?

Well you’re in luck. This will the the story of starting the podcast, “growing” it, and where we want to go in the future. Hopefully along the way, you’ll pick up a few things to help you launch your own podcast or  grow an existing one.

Onwards!

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The Benefit of Having a Podcast

Lots and lots of people start a podcast for one reason and one reason only: to build an audience.

And to be honest, that’s why I started one.

After four years of running WP Buffs and starting to see some success, I wanted to share my learnings and stories from many different WordPress entrepreneurs with people. But I’d be lying if I said having people see me as a “leader” in the space was completely outside the equation.

But after podcasting for almost a year now, I’ve realized a few huge benefits that I never thought of before I started:

  1. Access to incredible people. When you ask a busy, successful entrepreneur for 15 mintues of their time, it’s pretty unlikely they’ll give it to you. But ask them to be on your podcast for 45 minutes? Your chances are way higher. Having a fantastic conversation with people like Chris Lema, Carrie Dils, Brad Touesnard, Michelle Schulp, Joost de Valk and Matt Medeiro have all been because of the podcast.
  2. I’ve learned a ton from them. I love sharing these conversations with our listeners. But if I’m being honest, I love the podcast because I learn so much from these guests. Usually after I record, I write down a few things to implement in my business that I never would have without that conversation.
  3. I’m forced to think carefully about what I say and self-reflect. One of the hardest part of doing an off-the-cusp podcast like this saying what I really think without regressing to the norm of “what my answer should be.” This causes me to put myself under a microscope in front of everyone and allows me to sharpen my thinking in a way I never could without putting my thoughts on display for everyone.

So while building an audience isn’t a bad reason to start a podcast, these are the things that have had the biggest impact on me and my business.

That being said, my listeners are cool too. Love y’all!

My advice: Always start with why. If you start a podcast purely because you think it will make you money or an instant leader or “influencer” in your industry, you won’t last long. Do it for fun and so you can add as much value for your listeners (and guests) as possible and if that excites you, maybe you’ll make it.

How the podcast idea came about

As you may or may not already now, I run WP Buffs. We manage websites 24/7 for serious website owners and have a 24/7 white-label support program for agencies and freelancers.

We actually found that a good number of agency and freelancer leads didn’t want to use our white-label program as much as they wanted to learn how to do 24/7 support themselves in-house.

So instead of forcing a square peg into a round hole, our team decided to create a round peg in the form of WPMRR (WordPress Monthly Recurring Revenue). It’s a video course that completely open-sourced everything we do at WP Buffs.

Joe's podcast schedule.

When I was putting together the course, I was deciding how I wanted to put it in front of my audience and the WordPress community. Our main marketing channel at WP Buffs is SEO and I just felt like that would be difficult to drive eyeballs to the course.

Instead, we went in another direction and I decided to pair it with a podcast! I’d thought about launching one at WP Buffs, but doing a “24/7 support and maintenance” podcast honestly seemed a bit stale and too sales-y. A podcast all around making more monthly recurring revenue (our bread and butter at WP Buffs) seemed perfect and it left a lot of room for creative episodes and guests.

My advice: Pick a topic for your podcast that you can immediately think of 10 awesome topics you could record episodes about. That means you’re passionate enough about it to do it for the long-term and you won’t quit when you hit lulls (guaranteed to happen at some point).

Creating a solid podcast without a lot of work

I’m going to be brutally honest here. This was one of my main requirements for launching a podcast for a few reasons.

  1. I’m a busy guy! There’s always something happening at WP Buffs that I want to sink my teeth into.
  2. I’m really lazy when it comes to things I don’t like to do. And editing audio & doing podcast admin work is something I know I’d want to quit quickly.
  3. There are other people out there who are way, way better at doing everything related to a podcast besides actually recording episodes.

So I reached out to some of my favorite people, Courtland and Channing over at Indie Hackers. Courtland hosts one of the most popular startup podcasts around, and as a regular listener, I loved how high the production quality was, even for a somewhat informal podcast.

Indie Hackers Page

This is exactly what I was going after so after doing a little feature on IH and becoming friends with the two co-founders, I shot them an email one day and asked who produced their podcast.

Enter, Bradley!

An email exchange between Joe and Bradley about podcasting.

Awesome dude who I got along with immediately and does great work. So I didn’t over-analyze the situation. I just hired him.

You can find all his stuff at Record Edit Podcast.

Note that I started this podcast over at WPMRR when WP Buffs was doing something like ~35-40K MRR. That means WP Buffs was able to fund the production of the WPMRR WordPress podcast. This may not be the same for you so have a budget in place before you start your podcast to know if you’ll have to put in the hours to learning and execution production or if you can hire a freelancer to do it.

My advice: If you’re really starting from 0, keep things cheap. Bradley does great work and isn’t cheap. But there are plenty of audio engineers you can find in places like Upwork. If you have a passion for audio engineering, you can do it yourself. If you’re like me and just want to drop your episode files into Google Drive and have them magically published, hire some help.

Finding a co-host

This was actually a pretty easy part of the process. I knew as soon as I landed on the podcast that I didn’t want to do it by myself. I needed a partner in crime to help challenge me when I was wrong, force me into different thinking and add another element to the podcast that I was lacking.

And Christie was actually the very first person who came to mind. We’d hung out at a few WordCamps and were starting to become good friends. Plus, she’s wicked smart when it comes to businessing.

So I pretty much reached out and forced her to work on this project with me.

An email exchange between Joe and Christina.

I think it would have been tough to do a podcast with someone who I didn’t have a natural rapport with. Christie and I get along great outside of the podcast so when we’re on-air, it doesn’t feel like what I imagine “recording a traditional podcast” is like. It’s just two friends chatting about business, MRR and WordPress and that’s exactly how I like it.

My advice: If you’re trying to find a co-host, reach out to people you already know and have an easy relationship with. That will make recording fun and your audience will resonate with the authenticity of your conversations.

Getting together the proper equipment and software

When we decided to go for it together, we actually got rolling pretty quickly. Here’s all the stuff I bought to get rocking and rolling.

This is ~$150 worth of gear, so it’s easy to start a podcast while staying lean!

And if you’re still not ready to invest at this level, there’s nothing wrong with some headphones with a mic to get started.

As far as hosting for the audio, I went with Libsyn. Don’t tell them, but I’m actually not a huge fan. The audio hosting works great but I’m a sucker for software with great UX and theirs still looks like it’s from 1995. That being said, it’s a good price point ($15/month for 4x 45-minute episodes per month, can go as low as $5/month for beginners) and it does everything I need it to.

My advice: Start wherever you feel comfortable but, I’d recommend if you’re serious about podcasting, go ahead and buy the basic gear. Spending even ~$150 will get you bought in and motivate you to get recording with your fancy new gear.

Coming up with episode topics

Christie and I also keep this pretty lax.

We have a shared Google doc where we keep some of our ideas. To be honest though, we do a pretty bad job of keeping this updated. More often than not, we log on when it’s time to record and come up with a topic right then (unless we’re doing a listener Q&A episode or something).

I also keep a running list of ideas in the Wunderlist app on my phone. Most of my ideas actually come to me right when I’m going to bed so it’s nice to have a place to write them down quickly before bed.

I’ve even woken up in the middle of the night with episode ideas so this is a great way to get them recorded so I don’t forget them.

My advice: Decide before you ever start recording what kind of podcast this is going to be. Will episodes be highly researched and produced? If so, don’t do what we do. If your show is going to be more informal and chill like ours, keep it light and simple to start. Brainstorm some cool ideas and get to recording.

Recording episodes

We keep this simple too. Seeing a pattern there?

We use Zoom to hop on a video call and record the audio here to use as a backup. Zoom compresses audio pretty hardcore so it doesn’t turn out great so better used if primary audio capture fails for any reason.

For primary audio, we each use Quicktime Player to record our individual audio. Make sure you’re recording from your microphone of choice and at the highest possible quality!

When we finish recording, we drop our individual audio files and the Zoom one into a Google Drive folder and they magically get published every Tuesday.

Email list

Just kidding ya. Read publishing episodes in general below!

Podcast artwork

Christie and I were hanging out at WordCamp New York and took a few photos on her new Google Pixel.

I did some fun stuff to one of those photos in Canva.

Yep, that’s it. Did you think we did a professional photo shoot or something?

My advice: This is not the place to spend money, especially when you’re just starting out. And definitely don’t spend a lot of time on this. Do something fun in Canva, maybe include your picture and go for it. You can always upgrade this down the line if your podcast takes off.

Publishing our first episode(s)

When we actually launched the podcast, we started with three episodes all at once. This is supposed to help your show appear in the “new and trending” category or something?

This didn’t get us a ton of initial listeners or anything so I’m not really sure how much this actually matters. What’s more important is getting that first episode published and keep publishing regularly!

My advice: Your show may not meet your expectations immediately. In fact, it probably won’t. The only way to get better at podcasting is to keep releasing new episodes and doing a little better every week. Eventually you’ll be decent at it like Christie and I. We’re far from awesome podcasters, but we found our voice even though it took us dozens of episodes.

Publishing episodes in general

Remember, Bradley, our podcast audio engineer? Well I drop our audio files in Google Drive after recording and he does the rest. Adding the files to Libsyn, publishing the new post on the WPMRR WordPress podcast website, making the episode sound fantastic, etc.

So I actually don’t have have much advice here on how to do podcast editing because I still have no idea what all he does or what’s involved. All I know is we have high-production episodes launch every week. Boom!

We publish new episodes every Tuesday and almost always have a bunch of recordings in the queue so we never feel the pressure that we have to record this week. Actually pretty often, Christie and I will log into Zoom and decide we just want to hang and talk instead of record and that’s a great luxury to have.

My advice: Put the time in to record a bunch of episodes and schedule them out in advance. It takes all the pressure off. Also, stick to your schedule. If you tell your audience you’re going to release a new episode every week, do your best to always keep your promise. If weekly sounds like too much pressure, go bi-weekly or monthly. No harm in starting there, as you can always decide to go more frequently if you want.

Growing the podcast audience

I don’t have a ton of advice in this area because honestly, I don’t think I’ve done a great job here. Getting more listeners is really hard!

Quantitative assessment: According to Libsyn stats, we get ~300 downloads per episode. I’m not sure I believe all the download numbers here (and I’m pretty sure they don’t include iTunes downloads, which is most likely our biggest download area).

Qualitative assessment: Pretty much every WordCamp I go to now, I have a few people mention the podcast and how much they like it. Let’s be honest; people in the WP space are very, very friendly and may say that even if they don’t really listen. But I’ve had a lot of people go into real detail about specific episodes too. This means people are actually listening, and more importantly, getting value from it!

Anyway, here are the ways I try to grow the show.

  1. Get guests to share. When guests book, they answer a few questions, including how they’d like to share the episode when it airs.

I give them the choice and then follow up when the episode is live to see if they’re ready to share in these ways. I never pressure guests into sharing how they don’t want to, but I do assume they’ll share in the ways they told me they would. Thanks, Termageddon!

An email exchanged from Joe.

  1. Guest posting. As you can tell from reading this, I do some guest posting now and again. Whenever I mention WP Buffs, I also work in WPMRR and the podcast when appropriate. Those clicks mean more potential listeners for the show.
  2. I put it in front of WP Buffs subscribers. When people subscribe to our email list over at WP Buffs, the confirmation page suggest they check out the podcast.  That actually drives a good number of WPMRR subscribers!

  1. Include episodes in monthly emails. I send out an email to our WP Buffs & WPMRR lists every month and include all that month’s pod episodes there to garner some clicks.
  2. Being a guest on other podcasts. Usually people who already actively listen to WordPress podcasts are great candidates to join our listenership. The best way to reach them is to hop on other podcasts in the WP space.
  3. Include episodes in monthly emails. I send out an email to our WP Buffs & WPMRR lists every month and include all that month’s pod episodes there to garner some clicks.

Newsletter featuring Joe's podcast.

5. Being a guest on other podcasts. Usually people who already actively listen to WordPress podcasts are great candidates to join our listenership. The best way to reach them is to hop on other podcasts in the WP space.

Wrapping up

Phew! That was a pretty solid read for you, I hope. It means a lot to me that you read this far, so thanks. You totally rock

The most important thing to remember here is everybody who you see as “successful” were exactly where you are today and probably worked their @$$ off to make their success happen.

Be prepared to suck for a little while before your podcast really takes off. Slow and steady growth is the goal here. Attracting new listeners at a high clip is usually the exception, not the rule.

Create the podcast you want to listen to. That’s really all Christie and I did. Turns out there are other people who want to listen to it too and those people are our primary motivation. Love you, listeners!

Now…go do it!

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Joe Howard

Hi! Joe here. I’m the Head Buff at WP Buffs, a 24/7 WordPress website maintenance service for serious website owners and white-label partners. I also run WPMRR, a robust video course that teaches WordPress professionals how to implement, sell and execute ongoing care plans for their clients and increase their revenue every single month. If you want some freebies: grab some free speed and security eBooks, watch some free webinars for WordPress professionals or tune into the WPMRR WordPress podcast. Booyah!