If you've been online for any length of time, chances are you know somebody who has participated in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.
NaPodPoMo is a similar challenge for podcasters – create daily episodes for 30 days in a row. This may sound easier than writing a 50,000-word novel, but like writing a novel, it's easy to get thrown off track.
Having been through multiple "30-in-30" podcast challenges and making plenty of mistakes along the way, it's my hope that this article will help you to avoid making some common pitfalls, so you can be more successful with a 30-day podcast challenge should you jump in yourself.
When A 30-Day Podcasting Challenge Works, It's Great
I started a podcast on podcast marketing called Big Podcast Daily as part of NaPodPoMo in 2017 in order to work on my solo hosting skills. I had no plans of continuing after 30 days, but I kept going for 240 days before changing the name to Build A Big Podcast in order to give myself a break from the daily schedule.
Since that time, I've done multiple "30-in-30" podcast challenges, the results of which can be found here.
When A 30-Day Podcasting Challenge Doesn't Work, It's Still Great
Previously, I've written about 10 Reasons Why I Recommend NaPodPoMo To All Podcasters. And even if you don't complete all 30 days of a NaPodPoMo-like challenge you'll still benefit from these things – this isn't an "all or nothing" situation.
With this said, like so many things in life, the more you participate, the more you're likely to benefit. So here's what I think you need to know before jumping in:
What You Need To Know About 30-Day Podcasting Challenges
Keep your podcast topic focused and keep individual episodes focused. My suggestion is to do something related to an already-existing show. For example, Build A Big Podcast wasn't that much different from the primary podcast I was working on at the time, RED Podcast. Both were essentially about marketing a message, except Build A Big Podcast focused on how to do that via podcasting, not podcasting as well as other forms of media.
Do you have an idea for a segment that would work within your existing podcast? That's a good place to start if you want to have material you can repurpose later or use a 30-day challenge to "workshop" a related idea.
What's Your Purpose?
"Knowing your why" is a tired cliche, but having a purpose for doing a daily podcast can be helpful to make sure your experience is worthwhile. I jumped in NaPodPoMo in 2017 in order to practice my solo hosting skills – anything to do with listeners or otherwise being "successful" was secondary.
But even something like "practice my hosting skills" can be too general as it's easy for "scope creep" to appear. Stephanie Fuccio of Geopats Podcast mentioned problems with this during her more recent NaPodPomo experience.
I initially thought that I would just record and upload, but I hated how that sounded, so ended up doing a full post-production workflow and doing that daily was exhausting.
Specific and non-production-related reasons to jump in:
- improving a specific element of your hosting skills (avoiding filler words or working from bullet points instead of a script, for examples)
- improving planning / outlining episodes
- improving your ability to read (without sounding like you're reading)
- a shared experience with other podcasters
- testing/workshopping new material
- testing a new podcast topic
- experimenting with and developing a new "podcast persona"
Preparation / Planning / Time Management
You may find it helpful to do all art related to your podcast ahead of time. If you need help with your podcast art, here are some suggestions.
Plan general topics ahead of time. If your podcast topic is tightly-focused and related to another podcast you're doing, you may find it helpful to reach out to the listeners of that podcast for episode topic ideas.
Once you have episode topics, you can outline upcoming episodes ahead of time. At the very least, outline a general episode template with the way you want to introduce episodes of your 30-day podcast, introduce yourself, and close each episode.
Rather than do the entire process of creating a single episode each day, consider batching episode elements to save time. For example, alternating between recording multiple episodes one day and editing multiple episodes the next, with "other work" for getting your podcast published, such as writing episode notes for multiple episodes mixed in.
Bryan Entzminger of 1000 Podcasters mentioned something to me that you also need to consider – other people in your life.
My biggest struggle was balancing the daily podcast with paying clients and still getting it all done while staying married.
Social Elements / Listeners / Networking
One of the best things about NaPodPomo is that everybody goes through it at the same time. Because of this, you have an excellent opportunity to connect with other podcasters and partner with them, whether that's doing a 30-day podcast together, or simply offering support and advice to each other.
Shared experiences are powerful. They are how you can better connect with listeners of your podcast as well as how you can connect with other podcasters.
Take advantage of the shared experience. Meet new people, help them, and learn from them.
If your "30-day podcast" isn't related to the podcast you normally do, get a different feed. Not doing so can be confusing to listeners. And even if podcasting on a related topic, the increased volume of episodes can burnout listeners.
Podcasting for 30 days in a row (or longer) is a marathon, not a sprint. Even experienced podcasters can be caught by surprise.
Because of the amount of work involved in a 30-day podcast challenge, it can be easy to "phone things in." And you can literally do this via apps like Anchor.
But will a quick, phoned-in podcast help you with your related goals?
Don't shortcut the needed work on episodes just to get something out. Respect the time of the listeners who are giving your podcast a shot. It's better to release nothing than something you don't do your best work on. These challenges aren't about releasing episodes, they're about doing the work it takes to release something great.
Imagine trying to do a pushup and you can't. You get on the floor and push, but your body stays still.
You're still doing the work and you're still benefitting from the effort, even if you don't technically "do a pushup."
Focus on the effort you put in, not the results.
The Hidden Benefits Of A 30-Day Podcast Challenge
On the final day of NaPodPoMo, as I was editing my episode of Build A Big Podcast, I noticed pops in the audio that went beyond the "standard" plosives and other sounds that sometimes show up.
Then I noticed my voice was clipping at times.
Normally this stuff isn't a big deal. You get a bad recording, you do what you can to fix it, and you move on. Or you rerecord something and move on.
My concern wasn't this podcast episode, but that I'm currently in the middle of recording a MASSIVE audiobook project. I have a month of audio already recorded and edited – hours of finished audio. And the quality-level of the podcast linked above wouldn't be suitable.
What's the problem that caused this? I don't know. A bad cable or a bad interface maybe. But the good news is that it happened during NaPodPomo, which delayed me getting into the studio to work on the book.
The moral of the story – if you're going to make a mistake, it's better to do it during a 30-day challenge than something like an audiobook.
So go make some mistakes!