Although Laurence Bradford started her business Learn to Code with Me as a how-to blog, she knew that a “how to code” approach wouldn’t work as well for her podcast. 

So in today’s episode, Laurence explains why she took a slightly different approach to her podcast, where she interviews diverse guests to feature unique learn-to-code journeys. She also shares some really insightful tips to make sure you’re representing diverse guests on your show, and why it matters.

After that, we address a big question I often hear from new podcasters. “Should my podcast have seasons?” Laurence has run six seasons of her show since its launch in 2016, and she offers some great pros and cons on the approach.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • Why Laurence started Learn to Code With Me, and how her business has evolved since she first started her blog in 2016.
  • How Laurence finds guests for her podcast. She has a very in-depth research process to make sure she’s representing diverse guests. This is meaningful for her tech podcast, but the advice is invaluable for any topic or industry.
  • Why Laurence chose to do seasons for her podcast, and what some of the pros and cons turned out to be.
  • Why Laurence is changing her approach to sponsorship for next season. (Believe it or not, she’s actually hoping to work with fewer sponsors. Not more.)

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by a free AI tool called Otter.ai. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Melissa Guller 0:00
Laurence Bradford is the creator of Learn to Code With Me. And although she started her business as a how-to blog, she knew that wouldn't work as well for her podcast. So in today's episode, Laurence explains why she took a slightly different approach to her podcast, where she interviews diverse guests to feature unique learn to code journeys. She also shares some really insightful tips to make sure you're representing diverse guests on your show and why it matters.

Melissa Guller 0:31
After that, we address a big question I often hear from new podcasters: should my podcast have seasons? Laurence has run six seasons of her show since its launch in 2016, and she offers some great pros and cons on the approach.

Melissa Guller 0:48
Finally, we talk about sponsorship and why Laurence is changing her strategy for her upcoming season. Believe it or not, she's actually hoping to work with fewer sponsors. Not more. It's all coming up in today's episode of Wit & Wire.

Announcer 1:07
Welcome to Wit & Wire, the podcast that takes you behind the scenes with podcasters and industry experts to help you start in scale in binge worthy podcast of your own. Here's your host, Melissa Guller.

Melissa Guller 1:24
Hey, everyone, I'm Melissa. And I'm so excited to be here with today's guest, Laurence Bradford. Laurence is the creator of Learn to Code With Me, where she helps people learn how to code so they can get ahead in their careers and ultimately find more fulfillment in their lives. She's a self taught developer herself. And her work experience ranges from teaching English in Asia to building custom WordPress themes for small businesses, to joining Teachable as a founding member of their product team and now running her own business full time.

Melissa Guller 1:58
Laurence started Learn to Code With Me As a blog in 2014, as a way to document her own learn to code journey. She later started her podcast, also called Learn to Code With Me in early 2016. As a way to feature unique learn to code journeys. Laurence now gets over 20,000 downloads per episode, and it has over 2.8 million downloads in total, which is absolutely astounding. Let's say hello.

Melissa Guller 2:40
So, Laurence, welcome to the podcast!

Laurence Bradford
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to talk with you today.

Melissa Guller 2:46
Me too, because obviously we know each other because we worked together at Teachable but I've never really gotten to sit down and learn your start to finish story. So I'm excited to have you take us back to the beginning. How did you initially start Learn to Code With Me?

Laurence Bradford 2:59
So it started first as a blog, and I began it in 2014. I started the podcast, it aired in 2016. But I believe I began actually like recording and thinking about it and working on it in late 2015. And I started it like without getting into the whole long story, because I could probably talk about that for 30 minutes. I was learning how to code and I found it really difficult to stay motivated. And I started the blog to help hold myself accountable. And when I started the podcast Two years later, it was for a very different reason. Because since the beginning of the site, it evolved a lot like my goals and my plans with it.

And the reason why I started the podcast was I mean, there was probably a handful but I loved podcasts myself to this day. I always listened to audiobooks. I listened to podcasts all the time. I listened to things on YouTube, like different kinds of videos. I love like audio Learning, I guess you could say. And I had a feeling there probably other people that didn't really like to read long blog posts that I was writing, but they probably would not mind listening to an interview or something. So creating value for an audience also getting new audience members, because I thought there are people coming to my site now. But maybe if I was creating a podcast, I could get new folks that don't come to the blog, and they could get on my email list. And I can grow my audience that way. So yeah, I think those are like, the main reasons why.

Melissa Guller
And I know you've said this as well. But when you started in, like you said, early 2016, having a podcast about like, coding was a fairly new concept, right?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah. So don't get me wrong. There were other podcasts out that were about technology and coding and stuff like that, but none that were really geared towards beginners or if there was they were quite different than mine and maybe like one or two out there or something. There wasn't a lot of competition, I guess you could say.

So I saw it as a chance to fill that gap because I knew just from my website that a lot of people were interested in learning how to code and teaching themselves and learning technology skills. So it's I'm laughing because it's not the kind of thing you can really do a podcast on, like actually teaching how to code because you need to sort of like see it like you either have to read or like watch videos, or do exercises like you couldn't I think, just verbally explain that maybe, or I guess maybe it could be quite difficult. So it was always going to be like more conversational and conversations with people and their stories and their journey about how they got into tech or related topics. So I went with that and to this day, it's more or less like the same as it was back then.

Melissa Guller
I think that's a really important distinction because I bet for some people thinking about not maybe the big topic of their podcast, but what specifically do the episodes look like if you are trying to explain something that would be better off as a blog, post or even A course or something with writing or diagrams, then a podcast might not be the best way to do it because a lot of listeners are multitasking, or they would really need some kind of visual. But like you said, even with coding, there was an approach where it's more conversational and more about the people that made for a really great podcast topic.

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, exactly. Like there's a lot of coding tutorials. And I can't imagine trying to do something like that. That's very technical and step by step in audio only form. But exactly, as you said, I was focusing more so on the stories and the people's journeys.

Melissa Guller
Mm hmm. And so in those first few months, like what did things look like for you as a new podcaster?

Laurence Bradford
So I was very organized, believe it or not, I think part of the reason was I was really nervous about doing it. And I wanted to make sure like, I had things in place before I actually aired the first show that I felt confident that I could keep doing It I guess, like week after week, and I know you have this question, I think later, but I do it in seasons. And I've always done it in seasons. So when I first started the show, I was only going to do 20 episodes. I think that was my plan from the start. And have that be season one.

I didn't have any plans after that. I was just gonna take it one season at a time. So I was very organized. I did a lot of backlog interviews. So I perhaps had five or so I would guess, that I had recorded before the show even aired. And I did do a fairly coordinated, like launch a podcast launch and I have an article, I could send it to you then it's from 2016. So it's a little bit outdated. I don't know if the strategies and the things that it used to then would still be applicable today. And you know this better than me, but I think I launched with three episodes. So the first week I put out three shows, I know there's a strategy for that.

Then I had a contest, which again, I don't know if this is cool in 2020. But I had people leave a review on iTunes, take a screenshot of it and then send it to me. And then I gave them some kind of gift, like it was like an E book or something that I charged $10 for, and I gave it to them for free, if they like, showed proof that they left to review during that first week or two or whatever the timeframe was. And I believe there's a few other things I did. But I think that was like, the main thing that I did when I watched it was launching with a few episodes the first week and then that contest.

Melissa Guller
I think those are still two great strategies that do work today. But I think it's important that you mentioned like do those work for years later because podcasting has moved so quickly, especially in the last couple of years. So I think it's always good to question just because it worked in 2016 doesn't mean it works in 2020. And if we can find the post all included in the show notes, but if you guys don't see it, it means that it's been lost to the interwebs. So thinking back about that launch, The time like what did your business look like? Did you already have an email list? I know you did from your blog, but what did things look like for you?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, so I did have an email list. And the blog post does still exist because it was on medium. And I have seen it relatively recently. I may have the exact number in there. I would not be surprised if I did. So I can't recall the exact email list size. But if I had to guess I would probably say like 10,000, maybe 10,000 people, a decent sized list, I think for most people, yeah. Yeah, it was decent. It wasn't where it is today. But it was definitely more than like 1000 people, or 500, or whatever. But I was doing a lot of freelancing at the time. And I wasn't fully doing learn to code me full time. So it was kind of like a side thing that I had my blog, I would be making money from affiliate marketing.

And I think I did have one or two smaller products that I was making money from as well but it was definitely nothing. substantial in the first season of the podcast, I intentionally didn't try to get sponsors. But in the future, I would actively try to get podcast sponsors. And then beyond that email list sponsors, blog post sponsors. So that was something like my first foray with sponsorships ended up being podcasting, but it was something that I then continue doing in other ways in the future. But yeah, at that time, I don't really think it was a whole lot from the business just aside from the blog, and this was the next thing that I sort of added to the list.

Melissa Guller
And before we get more into sponsorship, because I know that's something that people are curious about. What in those early days would you say were some of your biggest challenges as a podcaster?

Laurence Bradford 10:42
One of the things I did I think I actually backlog too much. So what happened was, I would do all these interviews. I had a 20 week show one episode per week. And then I remember for like the last episode, the woman that I interviewed, it was, I don't know, two months or something. Before maybe the episode actually aired and it's about to go out, I go to her website and I realized that the company that she was running, which was a startup completely went under, like the website domain didn't even exist anymore.

So I had to pop back in and like rerecord like the intro and it was totally fixable. And I still use the interview because things she shared were still really useful and helpful. I thought also, I didn't have anything else like prepared that I could use really, it was the last episode for that season. I did have plans to do another season soon. But I sort of learned, okay, maybe I shouldn't backlog too much because especially in technology, people move jobs, people start businesses, close businesses, you know, things can really change in their life. So back logging is good, but maybe just to a certain point, not like two or three months in advance. So that was one thing that I realized.

The other thing that I discovered this is more so in hindsight was that when I create things, I can have this tendency to get really swept into it and this is still the case today. Like if I'm like what Working on a blog post or if I'm working on, let's just say if I was going to write a book or something right now, like I would get so caught up into it that I kind of like disregard other things and other kinds of common sense. I think I probably spent too much money like on audio editor, that was the main thing for that first season when I should have kept it more scrappy. And I'm also sure that I spent a lot of time like worrying about certain things that I really shouldn't have been spending so much time worrying on.

And then on the flip side, I'm sure there were things that I should have put more thought into. So the one thing for instance, is the guests I would have on so the first season I didn't put a lot of research into the guests, I've mostly stuck with people that I knew already or had a relationship with.

And I also didn't do a ton of guest prep in advance like, yeah, maybe it had like a list of questions, but I wouldn't think very deeply about it, and I would kind of just like start recording just sort of see what happened, you know, and I would always go off script, which is Fine, but I later learned that it's best if I have a theme for the episode so and to tell that guests in advance like, okay, Carly, you're going to come on the show, and we're going to talk about how to get started in cybersecurity. Here's the list of questions. Here's specific things I want to touch on and like making that clear off the bat and then sticking to that theme for the show, but I didn't really do that early on. So I would then after the episode was recorded, be like, oh, what should the title be of this what is like the theme of this and then it was almost like the opposite of what I should have been doing. So that was one thing I didn't do a good job either.

Also, there were things with like my show note formatting that I learned over time, like stuff with like SEO that Oh, I should be more strategic about the way headings are in my show notes, just small stuff like that. And there's still things that I'm learning and that I hope to do in the next season. One example is having transcripts in the show notes, so I've never done that before, but I know just With like SEO, but it would be really good to have the entire conversation in the actual show notes like not like a downloadable PDF, but like on the actual post. So that's something I want to do this next season. So definitely still learning and still trying new things. But yeah, that was some of the challenges and things I learned early on.

Melissa Guller
No, I think it's also great to hear especially because as podcasters there's so much that you can only learn when you do it. Like even if you have a lot of amazing advice in the beginning. Depending on your own format and your own style. You'll just learn so much in the first I feel like three to six months of podcasting, and it'll make you a better podcaster for it. And just to touch on a couple of the things that you mentioned, the transcripts is huge. I think a lot of people don't realize that. Obvious as this sounds Google can't yet hear the audio in your episode. But if you put the words on the page in the form of a transcript, then Google and search engines have so much more to work with and you said this also but putting it a PDF takes away all those good benefits. Google's only looking on your pages, not your downloads. So having that tip about having a transcript and actually putting it on the webpage, I think is huge.

Laurence Bradford 15:11
Yeah, I honestly have no idea why I didn't think to do that sooner. Don't get me wrong. I had thought about it before. But why never actually went on and did that. And to take it even further, I'm actually considering going back to older episodes. And for what it's worth, I have 120 because I've done six seasons in my life as a podcaster 20 episodes per season. So there's 120 total. I'm even considering going back to old ones are some of the old ones and adding transcripts back in because, and I haven't done this yet, but I do think it could really help get more traffic and exposure to some of those older episodes by adding retroactively the transcript back in.

Melissa Guller
Yeah, and I don't have the right article to quote for this, but I know that some podcasters have reported that as much as 10% of their new audience traffic comes in from people who are finding their transcripts, because that's what Google is finding on their website. So it's definitely a great tip. And then before we move into some other notes on the strategies you've used for your show, I already mentioned that you learned how to make better episode titles, which I think is a really interesting point. So do you maybe want to offer up some examples of what were you doing before versus what are you doing now?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, so if you go back and like we're on my website, or the podcast page and scroll back through every single episode ever put out you would see that every season I think we've done a little bit different of a format for the title. So sometimes we would have the guest name and the title at the end. There was one season where I don't think we put the guest name in the title at all. We just had like it was a very catchy kind of like a blog post title, but we still would have like, you know, season five, Episode Four or whatever it was. So there's been experimentation. I don't think that the name versus no name makes a huge Difference actually. But what I do think makes a difference is just having a catchy title like an appealing title. So not just like, why coating rocks with Carly, but like having it be more appealing, like 10 ways a beginner can get started. This is too long, but you know, in just 30 minutes a day with Carly, that's way too long, but something like that, but something that has like a benefit or is more punchy.

The other thing that we do and we did this the last two seasons, I'm not sure if we'll do this for this upcoming one because I actually think this took too much time than the value of God. But we would do a lot of keyword research like seo keyword research before even inviting guests on. So we would look at what shows we did already, like themes and topics we talked about and the guests we had on all that you would also look at what people want to learn about. So you know, we get like reader emails and reviews on iTunes and things like that. We would also So just think about what we haven't covered yet. And like interesting things to cover.

And then we would go to a tool, we go to h refs, and there's other ones like that out there, we would do keyword research, and we'd have maybe a list of like, I don't know, 70 ideas or something. And then we would narrow it down to maybe 25. And from that do 20 so we would have the topics first and then find the guest basically, which I did not do early on early on, I would have the guest and then do the topic, but we sort of flipped it where it was like topic guests, if that makes sense. But you know what, this is something I'm still trying to figure out I don't know why but podcast for me, like my blog post performs so much better in Google and like getting traffic to the site through search engines, then the podcast does. And there was a weird glitch that we had that I fixed a few months ago and it was some plugin updated.

And then it something has a custom post type on WordPress. This is like the very granular I don't want to overwhelm people, but basically it wasn't like indexing properly. We did fix that. However, I still haven't really seen like much of a difference, maybe adding the transcription will help. I actually do think that can make a really big difference. But there are a few that will do well, like out of 120. There's like five or so that are maybe in like the top 50 of all pages viewed on the site. But for the most part, it's blog posts that do really well.

And I don't know, maybe it's something that Google knows it's just a podcast, and they just like, rank it differently, or something. I don't know the answer to that. But hopefully, we'll figure it out in a way where we can get more traffic coming to the interviews, or at least a bit more doesn't need to be the same as the blog post, but a bit more, it'd be nice. So now I'm going to a completely different topic, but most of the listeners come from iTunes, Spotify, a podcast player, most aren't coming to us from Google. And that's the exact opposite for anything on the blog. Like 90% of people who come to the blog to read the blog posts are coming from Google. They're not coming from another source but with the podcast when people discover that there Coming from like a podcast player.

Melissa Guller 20:02
Hmm, I think that's important to mention. And it probably varies for different podcasters. But as you said, In the beginning, podcasts are a great way to reach a new audience. So by having a podcast, now you're reaching people in the players versus having a blog, which can reach people better via Google. And so it's nice to have both options. And it's not that everyone has to have both. It's just that different marketing channels will reach different people in different ways.

And before we keep talking about your growth, I do think that the concept you were talking about where you have the topic first, and that shapes the guest, and the episode versus the other way around, is so important, and not something that we've talked about before. And even if people don't maybe do the extensive keyword research that you did, although I'll make sure we have tools in the show notes, even just doing a bit of research or thinking about what topic you want to talk about and then finding a guest to fit that topic. For just inviting somebody on because they're cool. And, you know, you just will ask them anything and hope that there's a theme. I think that's a really great piece of advice.

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, we go far as well with the guests we reach out to so we have a whole spreadsheet just of potential guests. And then I look at things like if they're a man or a woman, how old they are, which we don't ever really know, usually, but we say over 40 yes or no, because it's really hard to find people to come on the show who are new, like beginners in technology that are over 40. So that's one of the criteria we look at. We also look at ethnicity we just look at are they white or non white? Again, that's kind of one we sort of guess at when we're when we're investigating who to invite on education level.

So like, I try to have a mixture of people who maybe have higher education, those who don't, I've had people on the show who never even finished high school. So I like to have diversity as far as that goes, and then there could be a few other factors that we look at. So we try to have like a well rounded show because That was something else. I remember the first season just without even trying, I ended up having Half Men and half women, it was 10 men, 10 women.

And I wasn't even intentional about that. And that was like a pleasant surprise. But it can be really easy with a technology podcast to have like a lot of white guys. There's like a lot of guys in general, or a lot of white people honestly, like a ton of white people. So I just have to be really intentional about having diversity as far as that goes. And sometimes we really need to like, even though there's like five people, we could reach out to that topic, we've reached out to the person first, who's more diverse, especially if I already have a few interviews with like a bunch of white people or something. So yeah, there's a lot that we factor in. But it wasn't that way from day one, for sure. And it was something that we added on over time.

Melissa Guller
Well, I love that you mentioned that because I think as podcasters and especially for people who are newer, it's easy to overlook the fact that you are creating a platform, and even if your audience is super small To start with, even speaking to 50 people or 100 people Still a huge number. If you imagine that many people sitting in front of you and giving somebody the opportunity to talk to even 100 people is a great opportunity. And so it really is on us as the hosts to make sure that we're representing diverse guests and not just you know, the first people who reach out to us or the first people who come across our network. So I love that you brought that up. And now that we've talked about the process of how you assess different guests, once you do have somebody, what do you talk about, like, what is your format of your show? And how do you get that conversation going?

Laurence Bradford 23:35
The format hasn't changed all that much, but it has because of how I find the theme upfront. So it's like first a theme, then the guest but even before we actually find the guest, we have an idea of what I want to ask the guests that comes on, but then I'll flesh it out more once we actually have the guest lined up because I'll look at their background, what they do for work, Where do they live? All those kinds of things, are they apparent are they not apparent when Did they get into tech how recently? And then I'll come up with questions based on that. But there are some interviews that I do that are more story based. So it's more so about the person's journey.

But there are others then where it's more about a topic. So a good example, I think, from the last season, or the one before that was I interviewed someone, I'm totally blanking on the name. But it was just about what kind of computer to buy, because that was something that I would get asked all the time, like, I'm new to coding, what kind of computer should I buy? So I found someone on YouTube who had a pretty large following who had a bunch of videos about that specifically, and I invited him on and we really didn't talk about his story that much. We mostly just talked about what kind of laptop to buy.

But on the flip side, there could be other folks that I have on the show where it's much more story based, like what were they doing, how did they get to where they are advice for others, but we come up with the questions in advance, we send them to the guests in advance and then they don't always read them, but usually they at least look at them and we try to encourage them too. And then when we're interviewing, like the day of I just do the interview, this could change in the future. But I'll do the intros the outros, and then the ad spots separately, not during the actual recording. So when I'm talking to the guests, it's just me talking to them.

Melissa Guller
I think that's great advice even in itself. Like I also record intros and outros separately. And that's what I recommend. And if that's new to people, that's a great little nugget to take from this episode. But I think it's great, too, that you mentioned that not every episode is exactly the same. Like the questions that you're asking are different based on the intention of the show and who the person is. And it doesn't have to all feel exactly the same. I feel like that's important to mention, like podcasts evolve, and even Episode to Episode, as long as it's the same person you're talking to. I think you can get away with a lot of little differences here and there.

Laurence Bradford
Yeah. And so in the past, I didn't even mention this yet, but there were some seasons that I would do themes, but here's the thing with for me with themes, like my podcast is already very niche. It's meant for people who are teaching themselves how to code later in life. So basically 22 years older, most of the people don't have computer science degrees. Most people are again, teaching themselves with free or cheap or like resources or going to a coding boot camp. So it's a pretty specific group of people listening to the show. If I had a broader show, I think season themes would be really, really helpful.

But I did experiment with that to the one season I remember I did something where it was all kind of about money. So I'm sorry, not just money, but like jobs, freelancing, different tech job, I think one of the episodes I had was about salary negotiation. The guy I interviewed, specifically worked with software developers when it came to salary negotiation. So that was like something I tried throughout the seasons, but even this last one, and then this upcoming one, as I think about it, again, it's just my topic is technology. She doesn't really make sense so much, I think for me to do the themes like that, but that could be another thing a person could think about. If they have Like a business podcast, maybe one season is about ads or I don't know, online advertising, then another one is about blogging or something like that. Yeah.

Melissa Guller
And I love to that you just mentioned like your topic is very niche and has a very niche listener in mind. yet you've had over a million downloads. And so for anybody who's afraid that having a very niche topic means that you can't have an audience. I think you're, you know, proof that in fact, that a lot of your listeners love your podcast even more, because it's exactly what they're looking for.

So to go back to seasons, this is something that a lot of my podcast students want to know is, you know, should I be using seasons in my show? And you talked about the option of should I have a theme or not, but in general, I'd love to know more about your strategy. So why did you decide to do seasons and what do you think are some of the pros and cons?

Laurence Bradford 27:48
Yeah, so early on it even to this day. The reason why I still do seasons is because I just don't like the thought of committing to a weekly show. And I don't know what my life is going to look like. In the future, you know, a year from now, a few years from now. And when I started the show, certainly I had no idea as like, what if I just really don't like podcasting? I don't want to do it again, what if it's just not something I enjoy. And I don't want to commit to like a weekly show, and I haven't even tested the waters yet. So it just felt like a really safe option for me to do also, I had listened to other shows that I liked back during that time that had followed a season format or similar. So I kind of was sort of inspired by that.

And I thought it was just a good call for me. So the pros, I think, with seasons, really not for the listeners. Uh, to be honest, I don't really think there's any advantage to seasons as far as the listeners go, but for the podcaster for me, it's like a natural way to have breaks in between seasons, so I don't have to just keep putting out an episode week after week or every other week after every other week. And then it allows me to be flexible. So if I want to take a longer break, which I'll do sometimes I can between seasons, or if I don't want to which, between season five and six, I took a very short break, I took like a four week break or a six week break, and I went right back into it. And that works too. So I like the flexibility offers.

Now as far as disadvantages. I think it's harder to build a consistent listener base. But I also think it probably depends on what you're podcasting about. So for me, a lot of the people that listen to my show or read my blog, and I know this because I still talk to a lot of them on social media years later. They are software engineers now like they have a job in tech, like there's one woman I talked to all the time on Instagram. It kind of blows me away, but she found my say, I guess very early like it could have been 2015. She's been in tech Now a couple years like she's been a software engineer, we still chat but she's not like actively listening to my show because she's not a beginner coder anymore. And that's really who it's geared towards. So for me, I think that also helps as far as this Seasons go.

But I think for other people like having, again, the consistent listener base, like putting out a weekly show is better. I also know as far as like download numbers go, your download numbers would be higher. Because if you had consistent listeners and putting out shows every week, it just like makes sense that more people would download them.

And then if you were doing sponsors, and you were filling the sponsor spots, it would also be a chance I guess, to make more money consistently and have like a reliable stream of revenue coming in that you could really measure like, Okay, if I do four episodes this month, that's whatever sponsorship dollars when I do it, and seasons is kind of, you know, I don't even know when I'm starting the next season. So it's, it's harder to financially it's not consistent.

Melissa Guller
Yeah, I think that's a good pros and cons list. And really what it comes down to is there's not necessarily a better or a worse choice. I think it'll come down to what you as the podcaster feel is right for you. And I know, just speaking only for myself the sanity of having a short break between seasons, I do think is really helpful. And I think as long as you don't go on a break for way too long, like months and months and months, then your downloads wouldn't be too affected.

It's just that when you do have a weekly show, you tend to kind of gradually build up and up and up over time. And if you do take a break, like sure your downloads maybe pause or separate a bit, but it's not like a threatening level, your podcast will be just fine. If you do seasons, just like obviously there on the show is doing just fine now too.

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Melissa Guller
So okay, we've talked about seasons. And I have to also ask about growth. We've mentioned that you have an insane 1 million plus downloads for your podcast, which is such a huge accomplishment. And so I'm curious to hear what are some of the biggest ways that you think you have been able to increase that download count over time or find new listeners?

Laurence Bradford 31:52
So right now and you probably know this so much better than me, Melissa? Like the different podcast players and how things kind of work within them when people search shows, but I have a ton of people who find the show. And for instance, I haven't published anything since October. That was like the end of October was when the last season I did ended. And well, I guess, depending on when this airs and how my own podcast plans go, I could be doing another season. By the time this comes out. I'm not 100% certain, but I still have people every month, I was just looking the other day actually, like 20,000 25,000 I think you can January was like 30,000 downloads that month, and I didn't put out any new content.

So it was just people find the show later in time downloading all the episodes listening to episodes going back re listening, you know, I'm not 100% sure, exactly, you know, the behaviors there. But I do know from people emailing me and telling me how they first found the show, there are folks that will just go to iTunes and just search learn to code podcasts or something and then they'll come across my show, which is called Learn to Code With Me and then they'll start listening to it. So it's almost like they're using it as a search engine to type in like learn coding or some other term like that. And then they'll find my show that way. And I mean, that's really minimal effort, I guess on my end, because again,

I don't know how all the algorithms and what causes my show to appear higher, maybe then others that are not out there. Or maybe they just chose to click and listen to mine or they're listening to a bunch, I don't know. But that's definitely like, as far as the podcast goes, like a big way that I keep getting listeners. I do have it on the website. My website is in desperate need of an update, but you can find it from there. Most people aren't listening to it on the website. They're listening to it in podcast players. So I don't think a lot of people are coming across it that way. today.

Oh and side note like we do share episodes on social media like Facebook and Twitter and all of that so people could perhaps find out about it that way, but I don't really think that many new people are to be honest, maybe other people like tweet about it or something they that new folks Are but most of the people following me probably already know, I have a podcast who are like seeing the tweets and all that.

Now, earlier on, when I first started the show, and early on my blog career in general, I would do a ton of guest posting. So I would write on different publications, big publications, small publications, tech publications, news publications, like whatever I was constantly guest posting. And that really helped me get a lot of new people to my site. And to this day, it's something that I never realized the impact it would have.

But like, there's articles that I wrote in 2015, or something that unfortunate, I guess that the publication will still update it. And they I guess, with the contract I signed with them, my name is still on it. So it still says where I was referred, it looks like it was just updated like two days ago, and it will rank really high for certain technology terms and people will find me through that. That's not podcast specific, but I would link out to the past. Cast in a lot of my guest posting that would do back when I was doing it frequently. So I think that's something that's just helped me in so many ways back then. And now, and I always tell people to try to do guest posting.

Melissa Guller
Well, I think that's important, too, that you mentioned, it's not just about the podcast, I think for a lot of us, we are doing a podcast, but there's probably a bigger website, whether it's maybe services that you have, or a blog, or just something else that we have going on. And anything that we can do to share our expertise in other places on the internet, is going to ultimately really help drive people back to us. Because if you think about just your own social media accounts, those are people who already know you. And so a way to of course, find more people is to go get yourself in front of new audiences. So I think guest posting on other sites is a really great strategy that people can do, no matter how big they are right now. And even if they're just launching a podcast.

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, and I really like writing. So that was something that worked well for me now. If you really don't like writing articles, there's definitely other ways you can collaborate with other people that are in your area, your space or what have you. I know I see people all the time do different kinds of Giveaways on Instagram. I'm sure there's ways you could do like video collaborations. I'm not like a video expert by any means. So I don't know what that looks like. But I'm sure there's ways there are ways to do that. And probably with any medium, you're comfortable, and there's a way that you could get in front of someone else's audience.

Melissa Guller
Mm hmm. Well said. And I know as well that we've touched on sponsorship, and I did want to spend a little bit of time talking about that. So I think that a lot of people have a an understandable misconception that sponsorship is the only way to earn money as a podcaster. But it's also not something you can necessarily do right in the beginning because people do expect you to have a certain download count to be a sponsor for your show. So at what point did you start having sponsors for your podcast?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah. So I Believe it was just the second season so the first season I didn't even try to get sponsors I just didn't want to worry about that. I didn't want to think about that. I also just want to see if I like to podcasting and just really provide value for people and like building a podcast listenership and then I would have to double check but I'm pretty sure it was a second if not the third it was it was definitely early though, that I began doing sponsorships and for it's like a trip down memory lane trying to remember exactly what we did. We could have had some inbound like we do have inbound sometimes where people like companies will email us usually though it's not for podcasts usually is for blog or email.

But they'll reach out and ask if we have any sponsorship options or if we could partner together collaborate together or some other language like that. But then a lot of the sponsorships you would get we would reach out to companies so we would reach out to coding boot camps or other learn to code platforms or other products services that We thought people in the audience could benefit from and it would be like a good audience product alignment. And we would also look at what company sponsored other shows that were similar to ours or somewhat similar to ours. So that would be like a whole little task in itself, we would go and just look at other tech podcasts and make a spreadsheet of okay here, all the companies that are sponsoring these podcasts are somewhat similar.

We'd also maybe look at like freelancing or business ones, because we sometimes touch upon topics that relate to that. And then we would try to find email addresses from people who worked there that seemed like they could handle the advertising budget, and then we would just cold outreach to them. So it was a mixture of a few things. It was a mixture of the cold outreach, which is probably like where most of the time was spent, there could be some inbound, or there are other times where it's like a company we've worked with before in some other capacity, and then we would I guess I would consider like a warm lead or something where we would reach out to them and see if they're interested in sponsoring the podcast?

Melissa Guller
I think you said two really important things. One is that you made sure you were finding people who are a really good fit for your audience. And the second is that you were looking and so smart to do research to see who had already sponsored a podcast. Because if you're pitching somebody who's never done that before, you have to really do a lot of work to educate them on why that is helpful for their business. But if somebody has already sponsored another podcast, they're already like over that hump. They're already sold on podcast sponsorship, hopefully. So it makes them a warmer lead already. So I think that's so smart. And I'm curious, are you comfortable sharing any of your numbers about either how many downloads you had per episode at the time or what sponsors were paying you to be on your show?

Laurence Bradford 39:47
Yeah, so for what it's worth, I did a podcasting course when I first started my podcast and I probably would have enrolled it in like 2015. And then was using it maybe for I don't know, like the several months. And they offered some types of sponsorships. And that's where like my pricing in like they gave calculations that they used for their own show. And that's what I just kind of plugged in played with my own. So it wasn't a lot of the stuff I did early on. And decisions actually still hold true today for early decisions. Were all because of this course that I did where they outlined everything. And then I just copied what they did, because I didn't even want to like have the decision fatigue to figure out like, what posts should I use? or How should I do this, I just followed exactly what they said. So that was really helpful for me to have all of that.

And honestly, we still use the same pricing models, like we really haven't updated with the blog with the email and stuff like that pricing, I'll tinker with a lot more. But the podcast pricing I really don't because I don't know it's just like the whole calculation. Like I just trust the person like the course I was in who gave that to me. And then the way that we do it is we promise a certain amount of downloads eight weeks I think it is in the numbers 10,500 and I believe that was always the number and it was always eight weeks out so there are episodes that will get way more than that eight weeks out but we just have like the minimum guaranteed number that we say like okay you know every episode we can guarantee this much this many weeks out and that's like the number that we use as part of that calculation and our pricing really hasn't changed but that's also because like a lot with the show hasn't really changed is kind of similar and I was saying this to you the other day through email but I really don't like going out and finding sponsors so as far as a sponsorship revenue goes I try to keep things just simple and what is if it's working don't wear that cost you know, if not broke don't fix it.

Laurence Bradford 41:45
This season I am thinking about changing things though, and that's mostly because of Coronavirus honestly because I just feel like the first thing I'll companies are doing are slashing their advertising budget. So I feel like To get people for the pricing I was charging before like, could be kind of difficult or take a lot of time. Like maybe it's possible just take a lot of time. So I'm switching things up this season I'm trying to we'll see if how it all plays out. But in the past, I would do two sponsors per episode. So each would get a 15 second pre roll, a 62nd mid roll, they would get a mention in the show notes page, and maybe like somewhere else or something I forget exactly. And there'd be two per episode.

The thing I'm changing is the number per episode. So now I'm just saying one per episode. And part of the reason for that was because I would do 20 episodes before and I would do packages of five so I could have like four different sponsors, I think even more than that per season. And it just gets a lot to like track and then I have to get the talking points from them. We write the scripts, they have to improve the scripts. There's been times where people then like why literally one time one of the companies just went cold. I don't know. And they paid too and they just disappeared like that the contact literally never emailed us back. We emailed them multiple times about it. And I don't know I honestly hope the guy was okay. Like, I have no idea to this day what happened to these people, but they did pay and then they just disappeared. But yeah, we'll have to chase people down. It can be like, kind of a thing in itself. So I just wanted to simplify things this season. I was like, Okay, if I'm going to be doing sponsors, I may not even do them honestly. But if I keep doing them, one per episode, and ideally I would find one sponsor for the whole season. This season. I'm doing less than 20 episodes and I think I'm only going to do eight like maybe eight to 10 and that would be it. I don't want to do 20 again, especially with like the Coronavirus and other stuff going on. It also 20s a lot first season I realized that 20 weeks of the year you know that's that's a fairly large chunk of the year so I am going to try it again. Do shorter seasons and see if I can just do one sponsor per episode.

Melissa Guller
Mm hmm. And kind of thinking forward before we start to wrap up shortly, what other things are you thinking about for your upcoming season that are maybe different from what you've done in the past?

Laurence Bradford
Yes. So I already mentioned adding full transcripts to episodes, that would be one, which really isn't that big of a change. The other thing is YouTube. So when I've done interviews in the past, it's always just been audio. I've never done video. And I've never, like I use YouTube personally, but not as a business. And I've been thinking even since the last season's like a year ago, I've been thinking about how using YouTube could be a really good way to get in front of even more people who maybe don't know about the brand yet, because folks will use YouTube as its own mini search engine. I know I do.

Like if I want to watch a video about something that I'm trying to learn. I'll just like search it in YouTube, like it's Google. So I've been thinking about That, and that is probably going to require some kind of process changes. Obviously, I couldn't use Zen caster, which is what we're using right now to record, which is what I used to record. So that's kind of a bummer. But that would be a fairly big change.

Oh, and the other thing that I may do, I'm not totally sold on this yet, but maybe swap out old ad spots. So like from a few years ago, if we fulfilled the download requirement, which we say we will, you know, eight weeks out, go back to them and re edit the audio to have new ad spots but not to other sponsors, but to like my own email list or like a lead magnet or something like that. So I think those are the things that there could be some other stuff I'm forgetting but oh, I mean, it's actually quite a lot so shortening that the number of episodes are changing how would you sponsors the transcripts, YouTube, and maybe swapping out all that spots.

Melissa Guller
We mentioned this before, but I think all of us podcasters we're always kind tweaking and thinking about how we can improve. And I think that that's part of the fun of all of it is that like you your podcast, what you did in season one is not, but season six is going to look like it keeps it. I think interesting. And podcasting is evolving so quickly right now in 2020, that I can only imagine what will continue to happen in the coming years too. And certainly, the way that YouTube and podcasting play together is one of the biggest questions, I think on a lot of podcasters minds right now. So I'll have to find a guest who can come join us on an upcoming episode of my podcast and I think that's something that a lot of people like me and like you really want to hear about.

Laurence Bradford 46:37
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I actually on my to do list this week, I want to research more people who are doing podcasts on YouTube because I know I've seen some, but they're quite different than my style. So I want to try to find a somewhat comparable like example to someone who's, who's doing it already.

Melissa Guller
Mm hmm. So before we do wrap, I always like to ask people for some advice. To our aspiring or our new podcasters, who are tuning in. So for anybody who is in that early phase, whether they're before the launch, or maybe they've just launched and their earliest episodes are just getting released, what advice would you share with those new podcasters?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, so I would say that I definitely think it's easier to launch a show. If you have some kind of existing audience. Having a pre existing email list for me was a huge help. When the show went out. I had people I could email about it being released, you know, and it was a relevant email list because there are people from my blog, which is learning to code with me, it's just the learn to code any podcast so it was, you know, similar theme.

The other thing I would say is to stand on the shoulders of giants. So, doing things like guest posting, getting interviewed on other podcasts in a similar space as yours or the same space as yours, doing collaborations with bigger brands and just basically doing whatever you can to get yourself in front of people with a similar audience as you, and building allies in your space. And, you know, early on, I was really intentional about this. Like, I think I used like a CRM or a spreadsheet. And I would track the number of reach outs I would do. And a lot of times, I just was reaching out to say, Hi, I just wanted to connect with this person. Like we had a similar website, we had similar audiences and just wanted to, you know, get to know them. And that was really it.

I probably should still be intentional about it today. But I don't put my focus on that as much. But early on, I was Yeah, again, very intentional about making contacts with people with similar sites and podcasts and courses as I had. So yeah, I think that would be good. Try to build up an audience if you can, and stand on the shoulders of giants. I love that advice. And when it comes to building allies, do you think that our listeners should be looking for people who are doing exactly what they're doing? Or is that too close? Send it's maybe too competitive or what's the right sweet spot of who to reach out to? Yeah, I think you just Can and that's totally fine if they're basically doing exactly what you're doing. But it's probably better to reach out to people that are serving a similar audience, but in a different way.

So I'm actually really lucky. And I sort of intentionally did this. I don't create, like coding courses, like I don't have, you know, build a website or learn HTML or learning CSS courses. Because I knew that there's already so many people that are teaching that out there that I should try to offer value in different ways. But that's actually it's great for me that I don't create courses like that. Because all the folks who do create courses like that, it's very easy for me to reach out to them and to, you know, build a connection with them. Because what I'm doing like we're serving the same audience, but we're doing different things. And I'm trying to think of a comparable example in a different industry, but I'm sure like there's some people who maybe just do coaching or consulting and like the services and they don't sell products, and they maybe they don't want to sell products, but connecting with someone who exclusively sells products in the same space to the same audience, that could be like a good way like they're Yes, same audience, but different services or slightly different, like value proposition.

Melissa Guller
Yeah, I think that makes a ton of sense. And I think it's a great note to end on to that as a podcaster. Or for you, someone with the blog, the email list, you're really building a true audience of people. And the bigger your own audience gets, the more other people will want to partner with you. And so I think that's part of what's really exciting about being a podcaster is that you're building this tribe of people, and you get to be a trusted person, literally in their ear.

And I think it's been so great hearing more about your podcast and how it's grown over your six seasons. And so, to wrap it up, if people want to learn more, where can they find you on the internet?

Laurence Bradford
Yeah, the best place is probably just my website, which is learntocodewith.me. If you want to look at the podcast, you can just search Learn to Code With Me. You know, any podcasts And it should appear. And yes, that's the best way.

Melissa Guller
Perfect. Well thank you again Laurence for joining. It's been such a pleasure learning more about your podcast and we will make sure to include links to everything in the show notes so that people can check out your site and learn more.

Laurence Bradford
Awesome thank you again for having me on.

Melissa Guller 51:17
Thank you so much for joining us this week! To learn more about Laurence, Learn To Code With Me, our free podcasting resources, and everything mentioned in today’s episode, check out the show notes at witandwire.com/2.

Before you go, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can receive new episodes right when they’re released. You can either subscribe right now in the app you’re using to listen to this podcast, or you can sign up for email alerts at witandwire.com/subscribe. I’ve got full instructions on how to subscribe on that page as well.

Lastly, I do have a quick favor to ask before we go. If you’re enjoying the podcast, I hope you’ll let me know! I love reading through your reviews in Apple Podcasts, and if you have a minute to spare, I’d love to read yours, too. Reviews let Apple know that great listeners like you enjoy our show, and that helps us expand our reach in search results. So it really does make a difference.

Thank you again for joining me, Melissa Guller, in this episode of Wit & Wire. I’ll see you next time, podcasters.

Today’s Guest: Laurence Bradford

Laurence is the creator of Learn to Code With Me, where she helps people learn how to code so they can get ahead in their careers and ultimately find more fulfillment in their lives.

She’s a self-taught developer herself, and her work experience ranges from teaching English in Asia to building custom word press themes for small businesses, to joining Teachable as a founding member of their product team, and now running her own business full-time.

Laurence started Learn to Code With Me as a blog in 2014 as a way to document her own learn-to-code journey. She later started her podcast – also called Learn to Code With Me – in early 2016, as a way to feature unique learn-to-code journeys. 

Podcast Profile: Learn to Code With Me

“The Learn to Code With Me podcast, created by Laurence Bradford, is for aspiring techies and self-taught coders looking to transition into the tech industry. Want actionable insights on how you can get paid for your coding skills? Then you’re in the right place!”

By the numbers (as of April 2020, when this episode was released): 

  • Podcast launch: April 2016
  • Episodes (to date): 120
  • All-Time downloads: 2.8 million
  • Downloads per episode: 20,000+

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Hey! I'm Melissa, the founder of Wit & Wire. My podcasts have reached thousands of listeners and hit six-figure downloads, and I also hit the charts as the #2 Career Podcast in America for Everything is Teachable.

It’s my passion for teaching that brought me to start a podcast in the first place, and I founded Wit & Wire to help more passionate, diverse creators like you expand their impact and income through podcasting.