How I met Sue
I want to tell you the story about how I met Sue. And how - without her realising - she’s helping me move forward in my own paralysis, work wise.
Sue came to me via email. She was one of almost 500 people who joined one of my BBC DigiCities webinars earlier this year.
Her opening emails to me read so:
“I think I'd like to start a podcast. And I think potentially I'd like to book your 'silver service'.
I really want to get the most from it, and wondered if I could arrange a quick 'discovery call' to attempt to pin down my high level thoughts a bit and see if you think I'm in the right place to book some sessions?
Would that be OK? I had to close my small business so I'm basically twiddling my thumbs and really flexible.
Strange time for me but I'm a bit of a believer that things happen for a reason and life sends things at the right time.
So I'm definitely trying to hold my nerve in the hope that there's something really good on the horizon.
Looking forward to talking soon :)”
And so we connected - initially for four sessions to begin in April and May 2021.
Coaching is something that I stumbled upon by accident when I first set up ASFB productions in 2018.
I have no formal coaching qualifications, but simply a desire to help handful of individuals whenever my production schedule permits - help in a way that means they don’t make the same mistakes I did when I first started out.
8 years ago I was a bit like Sue - wanting to step out in to the work of podcasting but not really sure how.
It felt like a world of nerdy boys, I was a bit overwhelmed at where to start and couldn’t really get past my fear of just starting.
In some cases I even recorded the interviews, had edited them - but there was always a worry that they were never ‘good enough’ to be published…
And so I froze. For months. And sometimes for years.
That’s why, years later, I set up a service to share my learnings as a podcast coach.
After since publishing 25 series and counting, I’ve road mapped an ABC route from ideas on a post-it note to how to start a podcast series. I’m well aware of the inevitable pitfalls that catch many of us along the way.
It’s experience that’s earned me a nod as a ‘Best Podcast Producer’ finalist at the Audio Production Awards in 2019.
When I reflect on my coachees over the last couple of years, many of them are women.
Even so, regardless of gender - all of them are successful, brilliant at what they do.
Heck, some of them even have awards from the Queen!
So it fascinates me how - setting aside our age and experience - we’ve all had that one thing that has stopped us from really going for it.
Some of us mask our fears by worrying about microphones and editing, others of us hide behind not having enough time or experience.
We all critique our voices.
We all worry about what others will think.
And so I realised my role as coach is quite simply to hold people accountable. To getting started. To mapping out their own timelines.
Coaching doesn’t mean I make the podcast for them. It’s not for me to edit their series for them. Or write the descriptions and upload the audio on their behalf.
It’s helping people believe that they have all the tools and skills to be able to do it themselves.
That they are good enough.
That perfection doesn’t really matter.
That genuine passion and authenticity matters more.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve witness my coachees go from a timid shy little mouse, worrying over every little detail…To beaming with pride when someone they don’t know sends them a message because they’ve listened and loved their podcast!
It is so wonderful to watch someone grow in confidence. And I speak with many of them after our sessions, years later.
In truth, I think most of us expect when we open our mouth for the first time into a microphone that we’re going to be perfect straight away.
But the reality is it takes time for us to find our script, our way with words, our presenter styles.
And just like we wouldn’t go to the gym and deadlift 150kg immediately, neither do we click our fingers and magic ourselves into brilliant presenters.
The other part most people don’t realise is how recording the podcast only makes up about 15% of the workload. Planning, chasing guests, writing scripts, setting up a host, editing and writing is all part of the gig too.
And that’s where many hold their hands up and tell me - I don’t know where to start first.
I always start by setting my clients homework, something light and fun. A chance to practicise interviewing family members and friends using their phone. Practise using their swanky new handheld recorder and edit with Audacity. Just without the pressure. After all, most people get into podcasting as a passion project. It’s meant to be fun - right?!
Every step of the way I encourage action. Even micro-action. (Or chihuahua steps as my mum calls them!)
Because I recognise that anyone can pay me for one-to-one sessions discussing how we can craft a brilliant fantasy podcast series…but unless we actually make steps towards starting, that’s all it will be. A fantasy.
And that’s where why I pushed Sue in a completely different direction to my other coachees.
During our second session I put her on the spot and set her the challenge to do a podcast everyday, Monday to Friday for 30 days. Starting that very day.
I wanted to throw her in the deep end.
Fortunately she was game! And so we got to work straight away.
No guests - just Sue recording very personable voice messages as if sharing her inner thoughts with a close friend.
We ignored using her fancy USB plug in microphone.
We ignored making fancy cover art.
We ignored waiting for Apple Podcasts to approve her series on the hosting platform.
We ignored editing and tweaking.
We ignored marketing and promoting the series.
We ignored worrying about how many people would listen.
We just got started.
On her iPhone.
Recording as voice memos.
One long as-live recording, leaving in the cats, helicopters and rain showers.
Everyday we uploaded via the Anchor hosting platform.
‘Finding My Way’ does exactly what it does on the tin.
It documents Sue searching for her next step in her career.
After the death of her dad and a close friend, a global pandemic and turning 50 - she found herself wanting something else from life. She regret how much work had taken over her world - her heart ached after missing friend’s birthdays and crucial family occasions. Simply because she felt she hadn’t been present.
With all in that in mind - she wrapped up her communication training company after 15 years. Sue called a much-needed ‘Time Out’.
So now she’s on the hunt for a new career path. One that will allow her to be closer to her family, home, and much loved foster cats and garden.
But the problem is - right now - she hasn’t a clue what.
And so the open-ended story has begun via the medium of a podcast...
Today as I write this post, we’re 7 days in to her challenge.
Over the last week I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve wowed, I’ve pondered and I’ve listened to her series in awe.
Even from the trailer to present day, you can (quite literally) hear how Sue is growing in confidence from one day to the next.
You can hear her taking action, and making herself accountable - after being stuck for the last six months.
And you can hear how vulnerable she is by putting herself out there - without knowing how the story ends.
This takes an incredible amount of balls. I know and have huge respect for Sue - because I’ve been in her shoes.
It’s a reminder to us all that perfect polished studio recordings aren’t always needed - real, human sharing is far more important.
I’m a terrible blogger of which I apologise. But today I had to stop my editing and write this post because some days it’s not the jobs that pay me the big bucks or win the awards that make my heart smile.
It’s knowing that the things I’ve learnt and now share can help make a difference to others.
Nothing is better than watching people progress and blossom before your eyes.
I revel in watching all of my former coachees go on to make their second or third series.
Some get promotions and pay rises because of the way it raises their profile.
And others just feel like they’ve done something - anything - to step out of their comfort zone.
To know I’ve played a small part in their progress keeps me motivated as a coach.
I simply can’t wait to see where this podcast takes Sue next!
And I thank her too because she brightens up my day with a new episode to listen to on the drive home, and inspires me to keep taking action - no matter how big or how small.
In the end, all of our little chihuahua steps will add up to great progress. So today, with Sue in my heart - I go on to take a few of my own. What micro-step will you take today - to move closer to your podcasting goals?