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One Way to Test an Idea

If I have an idea for a business or something else, I try to write it down, or record it in my notes app on my iPhone. One thing I had written down at one point was to write a book about the career paths of various business professionals and entrepreneurs. Additionally, I had begun to compile a list of short and succinct pieces of career advice that I had received from those I had interacted with in my work life. Some were customers, some were coworkers. I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to do with this information but I didn’t want to forget it.

Gradual Progression

So naturally I decided to blog about some of these quotes. In July of 2019, I decided to transition from a free Wix site with a long url to a WordPress.com blog site, which allowed me to have an real looking web address. Ablogaboutbusiness.com is still live today! In fact my fourth post, titled Be a Farmer, was structured around a piece of sales advice I had received from my boss’ boss at a sales training. But in addition to getting quick one liner advice, I really had a desire to sit down with others and learn their stories in an interview type setting.

Using Family as a Guinea Pig for an Idea

Who better to make a guinea pig than a family member? My family and I were visiting my parents at their place in Arizona, and since my Dad owns his own business and I have a lot of respect for him, I asked him if he’d be willing to be interviewed by me. He agreed, being the good obliging father that he is (I think he genuinely wanted to!), and sat down with me for what I guess you could say would be the precursor to Career Yak! The equipment consisted of me using the recording app and built in mic on my iPhone, us talking in an echo filled and tile floored room, and me asking him some questions that I had previously jotted down in my journal. We then were interrupted, moved our conversation out to the patio, and encountered a Tucson thunderstorm (it was monsoon season!) that caused a bit of background noise. Needless to say the production part of the recording was professional grade.

Long story short, we finished our talk, I went back and edited it on my phone, my Dad and I both listened to it, and he gave me some feedback on the pros and the cons and what he’d do differently. I recorded it back during the summer of 2018, I blogged about it initially in February 2019 (you can still read my write up), and if you’ve listened to my podcast you’ll know that I didn’t publish my first full episode until November of 2019. So there was a gap of over a year between the trial interview and my podcast being published. But that was okay.

A Clip of My First Interview (Enjoy the Calming Rain)

Interview with Ken Goodwillie of Divine Design

Test the Waters and Continuously Learn

Could I have started my podcast sooner? Sure. But regardless of when I started it, the lessons I learned doing this real but casual interview with my Dad taught me so much. It gave me a taste of what interviewing someone was like. It gave me experience in prepping an outline. It helped me learn a bit about asking follow up questions. It taught me not to record podcast episodes in an open floorpan tile living room or during a thunderstorm. It taught me that I enjoy interviewing entrepreneurs and talking to them about business.

Sometimes people have an idea, and want to execute on that idea right away. Sometimes that is the right plan of action. But maybe you should consider testing the waters first in order to see if it is something you’d like to pursue. I started a business journal on a Word document to record ideas so they wouldn’t be forgotten. I enjoyed doing it, and later I started a simple blog online. I wanted to compile interviews with business people in some way. Did I get out of bed the next morning and call a book publisher or radio station to discuss my idea of interviewing professionals to learn career lessons? No… Instead I took a few hours during a day on my vacation to interview my Dad. The point is this: chew on and test out your idea in a small way first. Determine how realistic an idea is, and if it is something worth your time and that you actually want to do. And if it is, then keep pursuing it, keep learning, and continuously evaluate yourself and the idea as you progress. Maybe it will turn into something, maybe it won’t, but either way you will have hopefully learned valuable lessons during the process. The time spent is not wasted.

Check out the Career Yak Podcast!

When I Decided to Start Documenting Ideas

Don’t Waste Your Thoughts

I had recently accepted a promotion, moved with my wife to a new city, and was enjoying learning and growing in my new role. During work, I kept having ideas about what could be improved, or lessons I learned, etc. Sometimes I’d write the idea or thought down quickly on a sticky note, then put it somewhere on or around my desk, then quickly misplace it, forget about it, or throw it in the garbage. Maybe the idea was a great idea! Maybe a simple lesson would help me be more productive. It didn’t matter. I didn’t do anything with the thoughts. They were concocted in my head, then passed over and wasted.

The Importance of Documenting

Documenting helps you to remember. Even if you don’t go back and read something, writing something down can be worth it. I had had enough of wasting my thoughts. I wanted to somehow keep track of them. I wanted the lessons I learned from work to be made permanent (at least to me). I also wanted to have a piece of work that down the road, when I had hopefully progressed in my own career or started my own business, I could reference back to and see my journey from early career until present day. So on September 24th, 2017 that’s what I did. Originally I started it as a precursor to hopefully starting my own business someday. I dubbed the document, “Journey to business journal.” It wasn’t shared, it wasn’t online, it wasn’t meant to grow an audience. No… it was private, saved on my personal computer, read and written by me. Sure I told my wife and some close family about it in conversation. But overall it was meant to record ideas and lessons that could be remembered and referenced back to as I grew in my professional life.

Below is my second day’s worth of “entries” to this personal journal back more than two years ago. When it was all said and done, I wrote this personal and private journal for almost exactly one full year. Over the course of the year I had compiled 19 pages worth of material. Look out for my next post in the “My Journey to Starting a Podcast Series” to see why I stopped and what I decided to do instead.

Career Yak podcast logo

My Journey to Starting a Podcast Series: Introduction

I Love Podcasts

I’ve loved podcasting as a medium for a long time. Podcasting has helped me:

  • Learn new skills
  • Grow in my Christian faith
  • Keep up on the latest current events
  • Be entertained

I also love talking about business. Learning people’s stories and what career paths they took has always been fascinating to me. So here I am now, with a fairly new podcast where I interview others about their work lives. But it took me awhile to start. In fact the process of starting a podcast was a gradual multi year journey.

Key Moments that Led Me to Start a Podcast

When I think back over the past few years, I recognize some key moments that drove me toward starting the Career Yak podcast. Yes, I relate these moments to starting a podcast, but the truth is, this process has been instrumental in teaching me how to start anything, how to learn new things, and where to seek resources when figuring out how to do something you’ve never done.

So… with the following posts I want to share the chronological progression of what led me to yakking on Career Yak. Again, sometimes these types of processes are gradual. But throughout it all I’ve learned that you must continue to be intentional, decide to execute, and always be willing to learn new things. Check out my first post here and subscribe to my email list today to get future updates!

Career Yak podcast logo

Monetizing My Podcast

Various Monetization Methods

I’ve listened and read quite a bit about the variety of methods out there for monetizing a podcast. Do I want to monetize mine? Eventually, yes. Did I start it to get rich? Absolutely not. I love everything about podcasts. From listening to creating and everything in between, podcasts are the best. So I started mine out of a desire to share truly valuable career stories. But I’m a business guy, so monetizing it down the road only makes sense… right?

Podcast Monetizing Methods Include:

  1. Donations (through something like Patreon)
  2. Affiliate marketing (referring people to other products, and receiving a commission)
  3. Selling your own products (informational products or physical goods)
  4. Selling ads and sponsorships
  5. Selling exclusive premium content

This list does not cover everything, but it highlights some of the big ones. Multiple sources that I have listened to recommend affiliate marketing as the best route to monetization. Other sources say otherwise. You can find pros and cons with most options. With affiliate marketing, essentially you provide your audience with a customized link to purchase an item on a different website. If someone clicks your link, then makes a purchase, you would receive a percentage of the sale as compensation for your efforts referring that buyer. Commission percentages and agreements with companies vary widely, but you can at least get the gist of it.

Where to Start Monetizing?

With all this being said, I’ve thought… well maybe affiliate marketing is the best route. But where would I start? Maybe you know or maybe you don’t, but Amazon actually has their own affiliate program. Essentially anyone can sign up, and you can refer others to Amazon product pages using your link. And if they buy, you get paid. Just search and you can find helpful videos and articles on how to do it exactly.

So I figured… why not? I’ll sign up, and post links when it makes sense. Long story short…

I made my first affiliate commission yesterday!

I can’t wait to spend the $0.47 burning a hole in my pocket! My lesson to myself in all this? Affiliate marketing is a real thing that people use to sell their products, and others use to make commission money for themselves or their business. Crazy stuff right?

Using Facebook Groups

My first monetized affiliate link was a post that I made in a podcasting related Facebook Group. I’m listening to a book about podcasting right now, thought it’d be helpful to post about it, did so, got engagement from the group, and I guess someone ended up buying the Kindle version. Crazy.

Trying New Things to See What Works

Will this $0.47 be what I need to retire in 12 months on some Caribbean Island? Probably not, it seems a bit lower than what I would need to do that. But until recently, affiliate marketing was a foreign concept to me. Now I understand the basic theory behind it, and getting a real transaction (though it really wasn’t connected to my actual podcast) under my belt seems like a neat milestone that hopefully sets the stage for me to monetize my podcast in the future. I’ve learned a lot in the last few months. I’ve engaged with Facebook Groups for the first time, I’ve put myself out there in asking people to be on my show, I’ve posted affiliate links for the first time. I’ve tried new things. And so far I’m glad I have!

Why I Do Interview Style Episodes

Pivoting Early On

Before starting Career Yak in November of 2019, I had been wanting to launch a podcast for awhile. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite know what the structure and theme of it would be. I write a business related blog on the side called A Blog About Business. So I thought… maybe I’ll have a podcast called, “A Pod About Business,” and talk about my business related experiences and lessons from life, work and the Bible, just like I do on my blog.

So I decided to start somewhere. In September 2019, alone and in my living room, I recorded what I thought might be my first episode. It was me ranting by myself about… wait for it………. commuting and using pockets of time productively. Basically I talked about how people can be intentional in their commuting by listening to various podcasts and audiobooks, praying, calling family, etc. I don’t think the content was all bad. But, it wasn’t exactly something that was going to go viral.

Next. After I finished recording, I brought the laptop upstairs, and asked my wife if she would listen to it and give me feedback. The recording was just under 12 minutes long, so we would give it a quick listen, she’d give me some tips, and I’d be well on my way to podcast stardom. Too easy.

The Hard Truth

I hit play, and we began to listen together. What came quickly thereafter was not intense listening, or a request to pause the recording in order to give productive feedback. No, what came next was laughter. But my show wasn’t supposed to be funny. Oh no. She thought it was absolutely terrible. So sub par was the recording to her that if I’m remembering correctly, she lasted less than three minutes. She didn’t even get through the short 11-12 minutes. Her opinion had been fully conveyed, in a respectful and loving yet sarcastic and honest manner that only wives can give. My mind was made up, and the message was received. I knew the new structure I wanted to have.

The direction I needed to take was clear. Interview interesting people. Tell stories through those interviews. And constantly hone my speaking skills along the way. Is my podcast perfect now? Far from it. I’m just at the beginning stages, so I should hope it will get better! But I am grateful for that moment where my wife chose to be brutally honest with me. I’m glad she let me know that it was the most boring thing she ever listened to (maybe that is an exaggeration but it had to be close). I had spent probably over an hour sitting downstairs by myself recording this short “episode.” The time spent was well worth it. I failed fast in this circumstance, and knew more clearly what my podcast needed to be structured around. Interviews.

Listen to Your Wife!

My wife is the best and her opinion holds so much weight to me. She is real, and now that I have pivoted and have produced the beginnings of what hopefully turns into a great and sought after podcast, she is extremely supportive. She was supportive in the moment she laughed as well. If she had let me proceed to publish that recording, she would have been doing me a huge disservice.

Long story short, I have an interview based podcast today because I have a spouse that chooses to push me to do better. Never underestimate the value of spousal feedback!

Check out the Career Yak Podcast!

Career Yak podcast logo

If you want to hear a clip of the “episode” comment below and I’ll consider putting it on the site!

How I Schedule Podcast Interviews

How I Reach Out

Up to this point, the main way I have been reaching out to individuals is through LinkedIn messaging. I have found that this in some way helps keep my communication streamlined and professional. However, one thing that I have encountered multiple times is people responding letting me know that they rarely check LinkedIn. Some have then given me their email instead.

Email is another way I have initially reached out, as well as text messaging for those I know better. I have found that those I know personally may find it strange that I reach out via an avenue like LinkedIn when in reality I could have just texted them.

I host my podcast on Anchor, and recently joined the Anchor podcasters Facebook group. In my first post I asked how other interview podcasts reach out to potential guests. The first few responses mentioned Instagram DMs as a good way to reach out. I’ve thought about it and am definitely willing to try it out.

I don’t want to be closed minded. One thing I’ve learned working in sales is that persistence can pay off but not every person is reached in the same way. So I need to be willing to be creative and learn from others. Another key is to not be afraid to ask. The worst thing that a target can say is no. Not a big deal. Life does go on!

Using A CRM to Track Guest Interactions

To keep track of my communication with potential guests I have decided to use a web based CRM system (customer relationship management), just as I would in a sales job. By using a simple CRM (Zoho is what I use specifically), I am able to enter contact details and log any activity that I have conducted in trying to schedule a guest. It helps keep things organized and shows historical data on the efforts I have put forth in contacting various guest targets.

Keeping a Calendar

Lastly, to keep a coherent schedule of people that have agreed to be on the show I use Calendly. Calendly has you create an event type and duration (such as a 60 minute podcast interview), manually enter your available dates and times, and then allows invitees to pick and choose what time slots work for them. You can simply send them a link to your Calendly page, and once they click the link they will be brought to a page showing them a calendar of your availability. A time slot cannot be double booked, so it helps keep things clean and organized. It’s simple to use and I’d definitely recommend it.

Recording Podcast Interviews

Before embarking on this podcast journey I wanted to do ample research into the logistics of recording an interview. I definitely want to conduct some in person interviews, but in reality most will probably end up being remote.

I wanted to keep things simple and keep things cheap. It was important to that I took time to test out the various options before a real interview actually came.

Podcasting Equipment and Software that I Use

Computer: MacBook Pro

Editing software: GarageBand

Remote interview recording software: Zoom or Zencastr, but mostly Zoom

Mic: Logitech USB Headset H390 with Noise Cancelling Mic

Remote Interviews

I do anticipate doing in person interviews, but as of now, all of my first five interviews I have conducted (four have been released with the fifth coming in February) have been remote.

After a decent amount of research into what other podcasters recommend, I settled on testing out a few different recording software options. My lovely wife was the lucky one that got to test them out with me so that I could make sure I knew how to use them.

I decided to use Zoom and Zencastr as my two go to options. They work well and both have free options that I can make work for me and my show. The plus side of Zencastr is that the interview records each person on separate tracks, meaning you can edit each person’s audio individually. This is helpful if someone coughs while another is talking, etc. On the other hand, I would say the biggest positive for Zoom is its ease of use. You can enter a meeting via a web link or call in to a phone number on your own phone just like a conference call.

In four out of my first five interviews I’ve ended up using Zoom. The reason…? Ease of use. Only one of my guests had an actual mic, while the rest just called in on their phones and most used iPhone headphones to improve sound. I understand that as I grow in this podcast, I may learn things and implement new processes to improve sound quality, etc. But my focus right now is on getting quality guests who are willing to share their time. The last thing I want to do is over complicate the process for them. Zencastr on the other hand requires Google Chrome or Firefox browsers and I have run into issues with certain guest’s computers or internet service not being capable enough. I did record my fifth interview (that will go live on February 3rd) with Zencastr. It sounded great and the separate track setup was nice. But you know what wasn’t fun…? Editing two tracks. I’m no expert editor yet but I think I spent double the amount of time editing this episode compared to the ones recorded on one track with Zoom. The reason being that I had to match up the timing of the two tracks as I made edits and deleted segments, etc. With one track to edit, the editing is more straightforward and simple. For now my conclusion is that I’m going to make Zoom my top choice for recording remote interviews, and if anything better presents itself, I’ll try to be sure to have an open mind.

If you have an opinion on audio and or podcasting equipment or strategies let me know by commenting below! And don’t forget to check out the podcast by clicking one of the links below or searching Career Yak in your favorite podcast platform.

Sports, Athletics, Changing Career Paths

Excited for the upcoming episode of Career Yak on January 6th! Chris Guyll is my guest and he shares with us details on his journey thus far in the sports and athletics world. Early on Chris made a decision to shift career paths and now flourishes in his current Athletic Director role. Find out why he made the change and the lessons he’s learned along the way by listening to the full episode on January 6th. Just search Career Yak in any of your favorite podcast platforms and don’t forget to rate and subscribe! Click below to hear a clip from our interview. 

Clip from Interview with Chris Guyll, Athletic Director at BASIS charter school in Phoenix, AZ.