Step behind the scenes of the School of Moxie podcast with host Mary Williams as she unravels the tapestry of creativity, analogies, and business insights that shape this groundbreaking series. Discover the podcast's unique approach, diving deep into Season One of the HBO original series 'The Last of Us,' wielding spoilers as a tool for comprehensive discussions.
Dive into the entrepreneurial realm with Mary's intertwined coaching and media background, offering a holistic perspective on marketing, business development, and finding one's natural voice. Explore logistical intricacies, from travel to studio setups, revealing the meticulous planning behind each episode's production. Gain insights into the interplay of creativity, systematization, and the quest for bougie excellence. Join Mary on this odyssey through entrepreneurship, creativity, and the relentless pursuit of impactful storytelling.
Links to resources, transcript, show notes, and show information are found on the podcast homepage.
Mary is the CEO and founder of Sensible Woo. A librarian by trade, who established herself in the entertainment industry as the digital archivist for a major animation production studio, she has consulted for not only entertainment companies, but also marketing agencies, tech start-ups, and non-profit fundraising organizations. For the last eight years, she’s been a business coach championing the focus on systems and data management as a solid foundation for sustainable businesses that scale. You can travel with Mary as she records guests in studios through her weekly emails, YouTube, Instagram, and Threads.
Show CreditsSupport the show
I’m Mary Williams, your host and the founder of Sensible Woo.
You can find this show wherever you listen to podcasts and all of the links to resources, guest information, and anything else we might reference in an episode are in the show notes.
We appreciate your support by subscribing and submitting a 5 star review. It helps other listeners find and share this content alongside you, our wonderful listeners.
Until next week, be sensible, be woo, and most of all, be you. 🤗
[00:00:00] Welcome to the School of Moxie podcast brought to you by Sensible Woo. This is the podcast where we break the mold around business podcast conversations. We make it fun around here by using television, movies, and entertainment as a jumping off point for conversations about how we navigate the world as individuals.
I'm your host, Mary Williams, and I've been an online creator since 2010. I've seen a lot of trends come and go over the years. But one thing that has persisted is a struggle among entrepreneurs to connect more authentically with their audiences. As a business systems process and operations coach, I've seen how much my clients and subscribers have benefited from learning how to incorporate their fun sides.
So we're going to demonstrate this for you here on this podcast through analogous thinking. Not only that, but we're using media and entertainment as the lens through which we reflect on our own desires and strengths. Fiction is the vehicle that gives us words to articulate our value systems. And tells people who we are.
I find that a lot of my
[00:01:00] audience, and probably yours as well, struggle to find words for their problems until they start thinking about how to use analogies. Analogies help us build bridges between something we can't describe into a new area that we are in the process of developing. As humans, we are a languaged species, which means we find context and meaning in our lives through the ability to put our feelings into words.
This podcast is going to help you normalize this process and see how it's done in real time as my guests talk through their own experiences in relation to the episodes they've been assigned for this show. Our first season of this podcast is centered on the first season of the HBO original series The Last of Us, based on the video game of the same name.
Consider this your official spoiler alert. On this podcast, my guests are going to jump right into the conversation, and we're going to spill all the tea on the story and the plot. So if you enjoy being surprised, I encourage you to watch the episode first before listening to our discussion. Before we get into this week's episode,
[00:02:00] have I told you about the weekly readings that I create for entrepreneurs just like you each and every week?
I am an Akashic Records and Tarot reader, and I've been giving clients intuitive guidance coaching for just about 20 years now. That's a long time. I know that most readers out there don't focus on your business needs. So that's where I come in readings with me are only about your business development, and it helps you feel more aligned with your intuitive messages so that you can incorporate those gut feelings and inner knowings into your business data for better results.
Click the link in the show notes and subscribe to my weekly email updates where you can get a free reading sent to your inbox every single week. If you want more, you can subscribe to the weekly extended readings, which are just 9 per month and help you get focused on your business energy every week.
No more Sunday scaries. You've got this better in hand than you know, and I'll help you see it. Now let's get watching and talking.
Hey everyone, Mary here. Hopefully by now you know my voice but it still feels a little weird not to say “hi” every time I start a solo episode. Today I’m doing some production notes on my choices for how this podcast came together. We’re going to cover some high points from creative choices to logistics to technology, so if you’re one of the people who has been messaging me since the season one premiere week… your episode has finally arrived!
When it comes to the creative part of production, we need to rewind the clock back to the summer of 2020. The world was in quarantine and I was sitting in my home office trying to juggle the messaging problem I had in my business. I needed to market my workshops to solopreneurs who were having lots of oh shit moments when the world went officially remote. So many of the coaches I had in my pipeline called themselves online entrepreneurs but when the real push came to shove, they weren’t able to take Zoom calls because it was clear they didn’t actually work from a home office. They had poor data speeds, laptops with fucking awful cameras, even worse backgrounds because they weren’t prepared to work professionally online, and they clearly didn’t know their way around Zoom which was a staple for online business owners since well before the pandemic broke out. Their lack of usable headphones was the least of their worries.
You might be cringing hearing this… it might sting. It might have been you. And during that time I saw you… I REALLY saw you. For years I had been doing what we call “educating my audience” but it really felt like endless convincing for contingencies that finally arrived in March of 2020. And then boom, just like that, I had a bunch of people embarrassed to say they needed help but pride was a luxury they literally could not afford.
I was working on improving my messaging about workshops to help this sudden explosion in my audience while also trying to cheer them up a bit because there were a lot of exhausted people on my list who were feeling pretty run down in all the ways – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
To this day, I don’t remember exactly how I came to it, but I was writing a email newsletter and wrote an analogy using High School Musical as the theme. My point was that my audience at that time, specifically, needed to remember what grade they were in. I had a lot of folks comparing themselves to much larger celebrity entrepreneurs who had teams of employees working for them and my solopreneurs were feeling kind of desperate like they had truly screwed up somewhere along the way.
What I wanted them to see was that the teams of employees was like being in graduate school… whereas this audience, they needed to finish high school first. Enter stage right, baby Zac Efron and his cute little basketball musical numbers. I hesitated sending this newsletter and my business coach said, “Just friggin’ do it.” So I clicked “send” on the call.
Lo and behold, I got a response. Actually I got a pretty great response. My open and click rates were higher than they’d ever been and I had people hitting ‘reply’ to comment on the email they had received. So, I thought, how about if I do it again. So the next week I wrote another analogy. And then I did it again. And again. And again. And I did this repeatedly for almost three years until I just couldn’t write any more analogies. I was over it. That creative gas tank had been burned up.
I let my weekly newsletter evolve into what it is today, which is built for highlighting a YouTube video so I can grow my content base and SEO on the world’s second best search engine and also… to bring Tarot-Akashic readings to my list each and every week. Which I still do just over a year later. My current newsletter format is built for media, especially video content, and to highlight sellable offers whether it’s my own or something I’m promoting for a JV partner. It’s also built for clicks, which is a metric I care about way more these days than open rates, especially after Apple changed its privacy settings for consumers. I knew I needed another measurement of engagement separate from email open rates.
But now my story is getting very operational and we are here today in this episode to talk about production. So let me circle back to the production of this podcast. You’ve heard the backstory. How does this possibly relate to the podcast, you ask? I’m so glad you asked!
Creatively speaking, we really can’t afford for things like podcasts to be pure passion projects. Not that people don’t do that because I’ve met a lot this year who are living their best lives with their most favorite hobby and I fucking love these people. If my entrepreneurial audience had half the passion that my hobby people have, I probably wouldn’t be making this special episode right now.
Testing ideas is like your power move in business and especially for businesses that want to launch a podcast. Remember those three years I told you about? The three years where I sent a newsletter almost weekly to my audience? And each week there was a movie or television show analogy in that newsletter? Well… that consistency is what gave me the proof-of-concept and the data that I could translate this into a podcast and gain some traction without having to start at level zero.
Also, the words “almost three years” is because I definitely missed a couple weeks in there due to illness every now and then and there was a month where I didn’t send newsletters to take a break. But other than that… almost three years, y’all. That’s a lot of words. And it’s a lot of content.
I think if you’re going to pursue something creatively, you have to run yourself and your business through some basic tests. One of those tests is consistency, which can come in any variety of time-based equations. I am definitely a weekly kind of gal… I like the immediacy of weekly content and given the noise of the content world, I feel like weekly is the standard pacing and rhythm that our audiences can accept. Even if they’re not consuming every little thing each week, they’re definitely comforted by the consistency of your presence arriving in their inbox or in their RSS feed like clockwork. I mean, more or less… we are human at the end of the day and I’ve been on the back end of production with teams where emails go out late, podcasts get published last minute, or the YouTube video of the week just can’t make it’s goal date. Whatever. We’ll all live. But as you build a bank of consistency over time… or should I say consistency-ish… It creates layers of confidence between you and your audience. And you simply don’t get that confidence with them or with yourself as the creator if you cannot abide by your own creative scheduling.
One of the other tests, which maybe should come first, is this question: Does your audience give not just one, but two, shits about anything you have to say or do? This one is hard on the ego because sometimes no matter how much we love something, if they don’t love it back, we need to change what we’re doing. I think this is when we fall down the slippery slope asking about how to become more… in air quotes… authentic. But it’s not authenticity that you’re seeking… you’re seeking popularity. Let’s call a spade a spade.
We’ve talked about celebrity status and popularity and marketing on this season. If a show is boring, do you keep watching it? Probably not. So if your business marketing plan is boring as fuck… why would you get mad at your followers for tuning you out?
There is such a thing as charisma and energy in all forms of content, even the written variety. There’s a reason we love certain authors – they have a voice that we love and it translates to the page. You have to ask yourself if you’ve found your natural voice in your business yet. And if you haven’t, the honest to goddess truth is that you have to log the hours. You need to send more emails. You need to write more blog posts. You need to go live on Instagram more. You need to film more YouTube videos. You need to record yourself at the mic for more podcast episodes. There simply is no way around it.
And you’re going to bomb. You’re going to fall flat on your face a whole lot of times and it’s going to feel really shitty sometimes. Truthfully, most of the time you’re the only one noticing! Until you have a massive following and brand where people really pay attention, no one is really noticing your fuck ups in the early stages of the content slog. And your super fans? They will love you through those shitty ass moments and that is why they are called super fans. We love our super fans! They will be your die-hards nearly forever. I still have people who follow and consume my content from my days as a sewing blogger. I have no idea if some of these people are small business owners, but I can tell you that they warm my heart because I am definitely not talking about crafting and sewing these days. As much as we all love Pedro Pascal, I’m quite sure that The Last of Us is as far away from a maker blog as you can get.
Do I feel like I bombed this season? Fucking hell yes. Also, insert the face palm emoji… like, a lot. In fact, let’s talk about the words “like”... and “you know’... and “ummmm”... and… OMG if I could go back and change my voice in so many ways on so many episodes this season. But this is also part of the creative process and evolution of any body of content. My sound designer for this podcast is Chris Martin and I was a guest on his podcast just recently. We’re going to hop on the mic here for season 1 before we’re done so that he and I can tell you stories from the production room, which I think you’re really going to love. But on Chris’s podcast, I said that I think we are each always our harshest critic and I know that I am mine. For every person who told me this season a bit of unsolicited feedback or personal opinion on what they would have done differently, I always smile and nod and say thanks for your opinion. From an energetic perspective, they are trying to compensate for something that I cannot give to them, which is the double edged sword of joy and pain from publishing creative content. I hold space for them to express themselves but I never pick up their baggage. Those are bags that only they are meant to carry. But I will tell you that internally my dialogue says, “Oh please… anything you say I’ve already told myself and it’s been way more critical than you’ll ever be able to pass along in this moment in the hopes of making yourself feel better for lack of getting in the ring.”
Now, creatively, I can hang on to this and let it fester. If I do nothing with it, that is when it becomes baggage of the worst kind. So creatively, my job is… to create more. And as I create more, in this case it will be season 2 of this podcast, I will take all of my inner critic’s notes and I’ll address them. On a recorded mic. I’ll probably say “like” and “you know” a fuck ton less. But I’ll never remove the sound of my humanity. If it’s a battle of words that can travel from my brain to my lips to the hot microphone, and the choice is between a carefully crafted news anchor voice vs. a slightly sloppy sentence peppered with a couple of likes and you knows but makes my guest feel safe in that moment or makes my listener feel seen and heard in that moment… I choose the likes and you knows. The newscaster voice can die an unceremonious death.
Creativity is messy and I like it that way. Our world demands more humanity and less of the overly polished personas. Just know that I am rooting you on for however you sound or look like or write like. If it feels like YOU then you’re doing it right.
Ok, let’s move on to logistics. This was both fun and painful at the same time. Because of my creative vision and, as we’ve determined, also the audience tested material… I knew it was worth it to level up my game. I’m going to talk about the technical aspects of this in the next section, but before we get into things like renting professional studios, I want to talk about travel and meeting with my guests face-to-face across a physical table, in the flesh.
Before we get into travel, I think a logistic that doesn’t get enough air time among business podcasters is something that we wrap up into strategy or marketing. But I see it as a logistic, and that thing is working with a variety of experience levels in your guest line up. The range of experience level among guests turned out to be quite the logistic that I didn’t expect or, honestly, fully plan for.
I truly wanted to invite people I knew and had some kind of rapport with for season 1. My podcast concept was not really the kind of thing you offer to people you don’t know very well… but I’ll tell you that after season 1, I have plenty of people asking me who is going to be on the season 2 guest line up and what show should they start watching now. So I knew I was inviting in a wide range of everything from podcast virgins to hosts of their own shows.
Compensating for guest experience turned out to be a really big logistic. I spent a lot of extra time and energy doing side coaching, which is a process where you end up doing informal coaching to people in everything from dealing with their nerves to preparing without over preparing.
One of the best tips I have for managing guests and their very human internal growth moment is the bread and butter of my business and that is… systems. As a host, you create an incredible amount of spaciousness for yourself as well as your guests when you have consistent communications, disgustingly clear communication, and you don’t make any assumptions. I mean none. Zero. Zilch. If you’re thinking in your head, “I wonder if they’d know to go through that door.” That thought means you need to add it to your communications. If you have to think the same thought more than once, then it needs to become a template or an automation or something that allows you to stop recreating the wheel again and again.
There are a number of studies coming out these days about how we, as humans, need in person interactions in a way that is sometimes taken for granted. I knew, from my coaching experience, and also from running community events for bigger coaching businesses, that way too many people are not properly set up for a high quality podcast recording from a remote location. Their internet data speeds aren’t consistent, they have bad audio quality, and… most importantly, even if they can see me on a screen, because I’m not there in person, the very human feeling of support and immediacy is totally lacking. A video screen just doesn’t cut it.
So from a logistics point of view, I knew that I needed to record in person because I had a guest line up ranging from spotty internet connection with audio that sounds like a tin can on normal calls we’ve had together all the way to someone with professional voice over home studio equipment.
Now add in the long term vision I had for the podcast, which is to not only monetize my podcast from day one… which we did and I’m so proud of this for season 1! But also the vision that I’d like to position this podcast to be picked up by a network or at least be of the quality to attract really big sponsors in the future. That meant that season 1 had to sound just as good as season 10 someday in the future. You can only get this through professional set-ups, which only two, kinda sorta three, people had at their disposal. Out of 12 guests, that’s definitely a sign to double down on professional studios.
Which meant travel. And I think in the logistics category of questions that I’ve been fielding, this is probably the sexiest one with the most attention. Now, I’m not made of money and the last time I checked, money did not grow on trees for me either. I also did not win any of the recent billion dollar jackpots in the national lotteries so I was forced to be a smart CEO and plan this with some degree of intention.
This means when I sent out my pitches to the season 1 guests, I focused on clusters so I could batch record and I gave myself bonus points for recording in locations where something else was already booked to happen, so travel to that location was already happening. I first doubled down on people in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Vancouver, Seattle. The next cluster of guests was in Los Angeles. I also recorded a cluster in Denver while at Podcast Movement and another cluster on the French Riviera in Nice… which sounds SUPER sexy. And honestly, it really was. But it was also divine providence because I got to celebrate my joint birthday with Stephanie who is a very old friend that I’ve been wanting to collaborate with for a while and then another guest, Beth, magically happened to be scheduled for a visit at the same time. I mean, what are the odds? When the Universe lines that up for you, you book it. The final recording location was in Richmond, Virginia with Erica and this worked out beautifully because she and I are mentors inside of Racheal Cook’s community called The CEO Collective. We were due to be on site for a quarterly members retreat, so as soon as I flew in, we hopped right into a studio and recorded at night, all before starting multiple days of coaching and masterminding with our CEO mentees.
Was it exhausting? Ummm… yeah. Would I do it again? Also, yes… But because money still doesn’t grow on trees and I still haven’t won a billion dollar jackpot, it means that season 2 will be concentrated in two batches. One in Vancouver, Washington and one in Los Angeles. When guests are invited into the season, if they cannot make the recording dates, then they’ll be sidelined for a future season.
You might be computing some of this in your head at this point and if you’re on the same wavelength, then this next bit about logistics is going to confirm a few things. Rather than record episodes in a linear fashion, which is what I think most people would do, I approached this like I knew from my days in the entertainment industry… and I recorded episodes out of order. You know, most movies and television shows are filmed out of order. They film according to their location or according to scenes with certain actor lineups so that they can batch the recordings as efficiently as possible. If you have people sitting around waiting for weeks or months with nothing to do, it’s a waste of time and resources. So they’ll film it out of order and then piece it together in the editing process.
Does this feel kind of weird? Hell to the yes. But do I mind this? Absolutely not. I will definitely be doing it again. But! This is where being the hostess with the mostess in her systems comes into play. It means that you have to script out your season. That doesn’t mean that you and your guests are reading from a script. But it does mean that you can’t just show up and shoot the shit. You have to think about your main themes and the through lines and how you’ll draw those dots together between episodes. Your guest gets the script before recording and as the host, you keep everyone on topic and on time.
What all of this does is it changes your timeline… You end up with a pre-production period when you’re preparing all of these logistics, including your scripts. You then shift into the actual production which is the recording sessions, and then you shift into post-production which is the editing process and in the case of podcasting, you handle your marketing.
But one of the cool things about the logistics for The School of Moxie Podcast is that because of the travel, I was able to document my activities for about 3-4 months and even with my little niche audience and my small following, I had a lot of buzz building up which grew my followers and subscribers, which helped with the premiere week. Another plug I have for being thoughtful about your logistics is that it enables you to prepare for a proper premiere week. We launched out the gate with five full episodes back-to-back from a Monday to a Friday and that boosted our metrics so quickly that we landed well into the top 50% of podcasts in week one alone.
But now we come our third and final major pillar of this episode and that’s the technical side. It definitely overlaps with the logistics and that’s because part of the decision making process for this all involved the tech. You heard me talk about how I already knew the disparity among my guests with their home office technology. I didn’t want one guest to have professional studio quality equipment and final results, whereas another would end up sounding like they were in a tin can during the recording.
I knew that by booking professional studios, I would maintain more consistency in the finished product. Now, this did not go according to plan… and you’ll get to hear Chris and me have some good giggles about this in our upcoming episode. Not all studios are created equal. And there will be inherent differences in studio sound no matter what. But on the whole, I can safely say that season 1 has the quality I would expect to hear from most major podcast studios and it’s been one of the top compliments I’ve received this season, especially from other podcasters, which means the world to me.
Something that I found interesting in my own mental process is that even with my technical background and comfort producing media from my home office regularly, for some reason the audio aspect of this podcast had my nerves in a jumble. I knew early on that I needed an editor. Not because I’m not capable of editing my work… but because I needed someone who can do it better. So, when we’re talking about money not growing on trees, we have to make serious creative and fiscal decisions ahead of time. This is when systematic thinking as a CEO is going to save your ass.
How much money do you have as a runway and in what ways are you going to spend it? I knew that I had created a runway for myself that could handle the travel, the studio fees, the software overhead, and… for a proper sound editor. But when it came to other things like graphic design, I ended up throwing something together in Canva because I know enough from all my years in business that I can update that logo anytime I want in the future. People are not choosing their podcasts based on logos, let me tell you! Some of these celebrities with podcasts these days have some truly shitty podcast art and to them I say THANK YOU for helping me feel so much better about mine.
I also had expected to have some new administrative help and I planned far enough ahead to give the person some test projects… which failed. It was enough data to know that I needed to move forward and by this time funds had been re-allocated and I had created a system and standard operating procedures to pump out show notes and sound bites weekly. So for season one, I decided to just systematically pump out content because I know I’m capable and I got it down to an efficient science. So much so, that I’m able to hand off the process for season 2 in a way that leaves me feeling more confident and that’s a good thing. But sometimes you have to choose where your dollars are going to go and in this case, it made more sense to have more dollars going to professional raw audio followed by professional sound editing. If I had siphoned off funds to admin support on this project, it would have taken away some freedom in the production phase this season.
I think the biggest thing that surprised me in the course of production was a vision and goal that I never saw coming… and honestly, I’m a little afraid to say it out loud on this mic because then it means that I’ll have actualized the pressure to make this thing happen.
It was through a combination of not finding a suitable studio to rent in the metro Portland area, plus experiencing studios owned by other people in various cities, that gave me the inspiration to found a professional studio in Vancouver, Washington that meets & exceeds the needs of creators, is priced commensurate with the wider market both nationally and globally, provides the proper technical and creative support, and, perhaps the most important for me personally, meets my very high standards of bougie excellence.
At the time of this recording I’ve been well under way in my research phase and my next step is to make appointments with various sources for financial quotes so I can complete my itemized cost projections. I’ve already talked with a few financial people to know more about my financing options… and also discovered that as a woman I’ve been pitched more on taking out large sums of debt rather than seeking an equity partner. It’s lit a fire under my ass because it’s shown me how my vision is minimized when I wonder if my male-identifying counterparts would get the same answers. Based on what my female financial education spaces would attest, I’ve come face-to-face with the bias that is inherent and rampant in the world of venture capital.
So, that’s an episodic conclusion I’m going to have to bring you in what I hope is the not-too-distant future.
From my coaching perspective, as well as my media production experience, I didn’t see before how much my past and current worlds were primed to collide and combine into one. I didn’t realize that all my years in movie production had given me a set of knowledge and abilities that other people don’t have. I thought I was being systematic (and I was) but really I was tapping into a production skill set that was earned through years of grinding away in corporate America at major brands like Disney Animation, Guthy-Renker (also known as the fathers of the infomercials), and the years of pouding the keys on my laptop as a blogger while immersing myself in early influencer culture when I lived in Los Angeles.
I see the creative gaps in our creator marketplace. I see the struggle with my entrepreneurial clients who want to find their voice but don’t know how to do it or where to start. I see the confusion from my audience, that even if they’re highly skilled, are at an extreme disadvantage when it comes to the learning curves of launching their own content on different platforms.
For me, I know that the bigger vision of having a network of studios that are easily accessible and bookable, production support in all stages of the production pipeline, and access to inspiration and motivation through creator retreats and events with special guests is the future of my business and yours as well.
Hang with me here and I’ll keep breaking down these lessons as we wrap up season 1. We still have a lot more to digest together and I’ll tell you more about season 2 before the end of the year!
[00:30:00] This has been the official School of Moxie podcast with your host, Mary Williams. The show is written and produced by Mary Williams, and the episode was recorded in Vancouver, Washington at the Sensible Woo home office.
Chris Martin from Chris Martin studios is our editor and the sound engineer for This episode, additional Production and Marketing support is provided by the AK Collective, founded by Amber Kinney. I'm Mary Williams, your host and the founder of Sensible Woo. You can watch the HBO original series, the last of us on max.com.
As a librarian, I will always encourage you to check out the companion book, bittersweet by Susan Kane at your local library. You can find this show wherever you listen to podcasts and all of the links to resources, guest information, and anything [00:31:00] else we might reference in an episode. Art in the Show Notes.
We appreciate your support by subscribing and submitting a five star review. It helps other listeners find and share this content alongside you, our wonderful listeners. Like and follow Sensible Woo on YouTube, Instagram, and don't forget to subscribe to email updates at sensiblewoo. com, which includes a weekly tarot reading delivered right to your inbox.
Until next week, be sensible, be Woo, and most of all, be you.