It’s hard work starting a podcast. It’s even harder to go from no listeners to build a successful show with an audience of thousands. Jen Smith and Jill Sirianni from The Frugal Friends Podcast joined Andy recently to discuss how their podcast came to be, what it’s like to have a co-host, and how they were able to grow their podcast to 600,000 downloads in just two years.
How They Got Their Start
For Jen and Jill, podcasting wasn’t even an idea in their head. Jill’s audio engineer husband, Eric, wanted to get into podcast production and suggested the two women join forces to start one. Both women were interested in frugality but came from entirely different backgrounds. Jen was already in the personal finance space with her blog, Modern Frugality, and Jill was actively pursuing a frugal lifestyle.
Starting a personal finance podcast was never a desire for either of them, but a chance conversation sparked their interest and an idea. While they didn’t live near each other, they often traveled to see each other. It was on one of those trips that Eric suggested they start a podcast.
Jen recalls responding, “I don’t think so, but if I did, it’d be called Frugal Friends.”
They immediately cleared the furniture, grabbed supplies, and started to brainstorm ideas. They spent the day conversing and started recording the following day. This was in January 2018. The first episode of The Frugal Friends Podcast was released that April.
Their show defies most experts, too, who say that no one listens to your first episode or watches your first video. Jen and Jill say that for two years, their very first episode, titled “Frugality 101,” is consistently their most-listened-to episode.
Working as Co-Hosts on a Podcast
There weren’t any formal conversations as to what roles each of them would take as they put together podcast episodes. Jill said that things just naturally fell into place.
With Jen’s background in personal finance and blogging, she works on show ideas and creates outlines for the show. Eric gets his wish and handles editing and music. Jill works more on the backend, adding show notes and social media duties.
After two years of working together, they are still very much friends.
Coming up with Ideas for Podcast Episodes
Jen recalls that when they started, their goal was to focus on what their listeners wanted to hear. Since they didn’t have an audience yet, she relied on Google to tell her what answers people were searching for in terms of frugality and personal finance. They planned 100% with SEO in mind. It was all about what people, in general, wanted to hear.
Jen says they searched “how to save money on…” on google and went from there. If you look back at their first ten episodes, each episode was one of the top results to that search query.
Now that they have a larger audience, they choose topics based on what their listeners want and need to hear. Everything they do is based on what’s most helpful to people. It drives every show they record.
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Choosing a Format
As an avid personal finance podcast listener, Jen had some ideas on a show format for Frugal Friends. The idea was to keep the show simple and rely on the fact that they were two hosts, with very different backgrounds, talking about the same topic. Everything stems around advice that listeners would get if they googled the topic, but with their own unique perspectives added into the mix.
They even found a way to add some fun into their programming with their “Bill of the Week” segment.
How to Grow Your Podcast Through Community
It took time to develop a following and a community of listeners. At first, the only people listening to the show and part of the group were friends and family.
Eventually, they started to see more people listening to the show and downloading episodes.
Jill recalls celebrating when they first noticed someone subscribing to their show that wasn’t a close friend or relative. Soon, they would see listeners from around the world tuning into their show. For them, seeing impact outside of their immediate circle was a bigger indicator of progress than numbers.
One of their earliest decisions was to pair their show with a Facebook community group, which they started the same day as their podcast. Jen was a longtime listener of Stacking Benjamins and a member of their “Basement” Facebook group so she was inspired to follow their lead.
Jill says that the number one reason for their growth is the ability to create their podcast community. She thinks people feel comfortable talking about money in the group, and nobody is intimidated. They created a space where people don’t have to know all of the popular personal finance lingo to learn about frugality. People can share tips, talk about their failures, and barriers to being frugal without any hint of judgment.
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The Dynamic of Having Two Hosts
Similar to their community, there’s another, smaller level of community between Jen and Jill as co-hosts. Jens says people enjoy the dynamic they have with each other.
Niching Down Their Show
Although she was part of the personal finance community, when thinking about The Frugal Friends Podcast, Jen tried to put herself in the shoes of someone on the outside of that bubble, who was just trying to save money.
They decided to be a gateway through this initial step into the personal finance community. With that, their frugality podcast episodes don’t venture into level 201 topics, like investing and real estate.
Jen says they don’t expect their audience to stay with them forever. They hope that people learn, grow, and move on. The show is for people in a particular season of their life. They want to be a reliable source of content for this audience specifically.
Jen says she’s interested in more advanced financial topics, and she does write content about those topics. But she says what lights her up is being a good steward of her resources. Frugality is more than money; it’s about time, our planet, and our resources too. She views the frugality niche as a much more broad topic than most people realize.
Why It’s Okay to Not Make Money in Year One
Starting a podcast requires long term thinking. Most shows won’t make any money in the first year. For podcasts with co-hosts, it’s important to find a way to build something mutually beneficial. It involves respecting your partner’s time, especially if they have another career.
Jen says this is true when you start making money from your show, too. Recording podcast episodes is a sacrifice of time and could also be a financial sacrifice, so you have to make sure that it’s worth that sacrifice monetarily.
You want to find a co-host you enjoy spending time with and create a format that is conducive to making money, so it’s worth continuing. Jen says that if the show didn’t make money by this point, she’s not sure they would still be doing the show.
Impact on Their Audience
While 600,000 downloads in two years is a big number, the real impact comes from getting feedback on Facebook and reading reviews, especially from their younger followers. Jill says there are young women in their twenties who view them almost like big sisters. They’ve received feedback that because of their show, women are inspired to make better decisions, get out of debt, and follow their dreams.
Jill says that “Giving freedom and permission, and equipping some of these people at the beginning of their financial journey is so amazing.”
Advice for Podcasters Who Are Just Getting Started
New podcasters will face numerous challenges as they start, but Jill says there’s one thing she wished she would have known when they launched their show.
She says it’s important for podcasters to understand that they will have haters. People won’t like your content and make it a point to let you know. He recalls being angry the first time they received negative feedback for their show.
At first, she thought, “I didn’t ask for this.”
The reality is that you are putting yourself out in the public eye. Creating content opens you up to criticism. It’s something you have to learn to navigate.
Jill also talks about the challenges that women podcasters face that might be different from their male counterparts. She says women get attacked for their content, but also for how you sound and look too. It’s tough for women, at times, to establish themselves as authority figures.
Advice for Podcasters Who Want to Grow Their Podcast
Jen says there are two ways that you can grow your podcast following right now.
1. Learn from YouTube
Recently Jen and Jill started putting their show on YouTube. In researching how to be successful on that platform, Jen realized that a popular YouTube growth strategy is super relevant to the world of podcasting.
She says when starting, you want to show Google’s algorithm that you’re an authority figure on a specific niche topic. Once you become well known for that particular topic, then you can expand out to other topics.
Podcasters should figure out what their main niche topic is going to be and exhaust the topic from every possible angle. Become a resource people turn to for advice on this topic.
Related Interview: Grow Affiliates and Sponsorships on YouTube – with Joseph Hogue
2. Start a Facebook Community Group
The Frugal Friends Podcast Facebook group is over 2,000 members at this point. Jen says that it’s a huge vehicle for their growth. Many people come across their group through searches on Facebook without knowing their podcast exists.
One of the questions they ask when people join the group is, “have you subscribed to The Frugal Friends Podcast?”. It’s not a requirement, but most of the time, people go ahead and subscribe right then and there.
Jen and Jill have found that you need new listeners to grow, but you also need to keep your old listeners coming back. You can keep everyone engaged by having a community like this.
Another suggestion, if you don’t think you have the time to run a Facebook group, is to find another podcast similar to yours and partner together to run a Facebook group together. It’s beneficial to both podcasts and also creates another dynamic that people will get behind.
What are you doing to grow your podcast downloads?
Please let us know in the comments below.