“How to Become the Center of Influence Through the Gift of Podcasting” with Cathy Heller of the Don’t Keep Your Day Job Podcast
As part of my series of interviews about “How to Become the Center of Influence Through Podcasting, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cathy Heller. As one of the most inspiring, authentic voices around, she is the host of the top ranking podcast Don’t Keep Your Day Job, which has been downloaded 7 million times. She is a coach for creative entrepreneurs and she’s helping people everywhere find a deeper sense of purpose and add their gifts to the world.
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Can you tell us the “backstory” about why or how you got started as a podcaster?
Shoutout to my friend Amy Loftus! Without her I wouldn’t be here. Back in 2016, she was in one of my songwriting courses and she told me, “You are so good at inspiring people to go pursue what they love, especially creative people. I think this message would be important to anyone with an artistic dream, not just musicians. Why don’t you start a podcast? I know someone who works in that industry who could probably give you some advice.”
I didn’t really know what a podcast was, but I knew it was a trendy word at the time. Just 10 days before that conversation, I had also given birth to my third daughter. I thought, “Oh gosh, do I really have the time and energy for a podcast?” (Not to mention I was already running my music licensing business, teaching online courses, and had two other daughters both under 5 years old at the time). But something inside of me said, “Why not? Let’s give it a shot and see where this goes.”
So I said yes. Amy introduced me to Maddy, who has sold ads for our show since the very beginning. Maddy connected me to my producers who helped me figure out what the show would look like. We started recording episodes in November 2016, launched in January 2017, and Apple Podcasts was so generous to feature us within the first couple weeks of our debut. We climbed the charts on Apple (#2 in Business and #18 in all podcasts on Apple!). It’s been such a magical chapter in my life.
Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?
So much! I’ve had the unbelievable fortune of speaking with incredibly accomplished artists, authors and entrepreneurs who I admire. I interviewed entrepreneur/blogger Seth Godin, You Are A Badass author Jen Sincero, The Office actress Jenna Fischer, Oprah’s life coach Martha Beck, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz — the list is never-ending. I was so nervous before interviewing them that I had to put down my coffee mug because my hands were shaking so much. There are times when I’ve cried before an interview because I get so overwhelmed and think, “Who am I to interview someone this successful?” I know this is just my inner self-doubt talking, and I’ve learned how to overcome it.
I’ve also built amazing relationships with my beautiful community and some of the guests who have become my biz besties. They’ve really been my biggest cheerleaders along this journey and they make me feel a million feet tall, even on my down days. I’m so blessed to have such a loving and supportive audience who accept me for who I am, imperfections and all.
One last unbelievable thing that’s happened from this podcast — I’m an author! Within the first week of launching the show, I got an email from a lit agent who said she heard the podcast and thought, “This has to be a book.” It’s been a wild 2 years of writing and rewriting the book Don’t Keep Your Day Job, but it’s finally coming out in November! I’m so excited to have this opportunity to throw my net out to an even wider audience and reach those who haven’t even heard of the podcast.
Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We had just released the first episode and the feedback was explosive. I was getting so many comments and questions from all these strangers who were resonating with my message and I thought, “I HAVE to address these in the next episode.” I wanted to make sure they felt seen and heard.
We didn’t have time to record in a studio, so I took my mic, locked myself in my closet, and hit record. As I began talking, the inner critic in my head crept up and said, “This better be perfect, or else you could lose that entire audience. Don’t screw it up.”
After about 30 minutes of word vomit, I thought, “No, that won’t do.” So I hit record again. I did that probably 8 times. Basically, I sat in my closet the entire day. I lost my voice (which has never happened to me as a singer-songwriter) and I was sick from the whole incident for the next few weeks. It’s a miracle we even had an episode to post. After that happened I told myself, “Okay, you can NEVER do that again. Stop overthinking it. Done is better than perfect. Just record, talk, and then get it out there.” It’s a story I share with my audience all the time to remind them that we don’t need to strive for perfection. Instead, we need to give ourselves the grace and permission to make the messy version and put it out there.
How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?
We launched in January 2017 so it’s been about 2.5 years. We’ve had about 200 episodes at this point and 7 million downloads!
It’s still crazy to think that I started this podcast with zero listeners. I’ve always had this passion for helping people see the greatest version of themselves. Through my own journey I’ve seen how much is possible when you take steps towards the thing that lights you up most. I didn’t know exactly how the podcast would find its wings. But I just believed so much in the Why.
I hope that whoever is reading this will find this inspiring. Knowing I started without a famous last name, an email list or a best selling book. But I had something to say and the courage to not be perfect. There is so much room for each of us to share our gifts with the world. You don’t have to be an expert or have a PhD. Words from the heart speak to the heart.
What are the main takeaways or lessons you want your listeners to walk away with?
I think the opposite of depression isn’t happiness — it’s purpose. I think most people walk around feeling this emptiness because we are so thirsty for more meaning in our lives. We desire to contribute and that’s such a beautiful thing. If you’ve always desired to write, paint, bake, teach or dance — you can! There is a reason you love doing this thing and it will lead you to the ways you can serve the world most.
You already have everything you need to make your dreams a reality. The thing people want most is to feel seen. You don’t need a million followers to have empathy for others. You don’t need to be perfect to give to someone else. Just show up and start contributing to people on your street, in your town and eventually all over the world. It’s about doing what you love and finding that thing you’re great at, that the world also craves. Don’t wait till you’re “ready”. You don’t need to be perfect. Everyone has imposter syndrome. No one feels ready. We have to have the courage to start wherever we are and make mediocre things. This leads to brilliant things.
We live in a time where there is an empathy deficit. Growing a successful business is about building an empathy empire. It’s about making other people feel understood and when we get that amazing things happen. When we keep making it about who we’re serving and what they need, we can create beautiful things that the world is craving and we can find that deep sense of purpose we’ve been seeking.
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Cathy Heller!
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1) Book Great Guests. We do lots of cold emails to get guests on our show. The one thing I’ve found most helpful is to make it conversational, personable and ask them something specific. I can’t stand writing formal, stiff emails. It’s better to write the way you would to a friend. I also keep it short and sweet, and I tell them there’s no pressure to respond. People have busy lives, and it’s important to understand that. I usually start with something like “When I’m not singing along to Frozen or making grilled cheese, I host a podcast and I’d love to have you on”.
2) Increase Listeners. To grow your listeners keep asking yourself “what is the pain point of my audience”. Give them the content they want. That starts with knowing who you’re talking to. I tell anyone who wants to start a business, whether it’s a podcast or a blog or a bakery — have a specific target audience in mind. Be really clear on their desires and their struggles, and figure out how you can fill those gaps. We think we have to appeal to everyone in order to grow our audience, but it’s really the opposite. When you know who you’re trying to serve, you can create the content that specifically speaks to your people and resonates with them. When you give them sincere value, they’ll tell a friend, who then tells their friend, and your audience grows like crazy.
3) Produce in a Professional Way. Showing up consistently is one of the most important things. Yes, you need to have decent audio — but ultimately, when you show that you’re serious about this and you treat it like a real profession, then people on the receiving end of it will take you seriously as a podcaster.
4) Encourage Engagement. A couple things I’ve done — we created a Facebook Group that’s now over 10,000 strong. I’m so fortunate to have the most good hearted audience who have helped me make this a safe space. I encourage them to post about what they’re making and creating. I always say, “Tell us about your latest blog post or the latest messy batch of cookies you baked. Let me know what’s your win of the week. Share your links!” I think most groups get spammers, but 99% of the time we have honest, genuine artists and entrepreneurs just asking for feedback on what they’re doing, or seeking advice on how their talents can add value to someone else’s life.
We also started doing an extra episode every week so we could celebrate our listeners’ wins. It’s amazing what some of them have accomplished since listening to the show. We have a cheesecake maker, Greg Franklin, who over the course of the podcast has left his day job (actually he got fired on National Cheesecake Day, which to me seems even more epic), opened up his own cheesecake shop, and his business is booming. It’s incredible.
5) Monetize. Our audience grew really quickly in the first couple weeks so early on we got sponsors. But ads definitely aren’t the only way to monetize a podcast. If you keep giving value through the podcast, you build your audience’s trust. You build credibility. They get to know, like and trust you. Then when you have something to sell like a product or a course or a live event or a Patreon page, they’ll say, “I’d love to support you!” I’ve been able to launch several successful online courses since starting my podcast, two live events, and a retreat just because I built this relationship with my audience by showing up and giving them free content through the podcast twice a week.
What makes your podcast binge-listenable? What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category? What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or the content itself?
Check out the full interview in Tracy Hazzard’s Authority Magazine article about Cathy Heller!