How To: Listen To Yourself

HOW TO.jpg

Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer Meng, founder of LA-based jewelry line Ready-Made. This week, she’s back to share with us her top tips on listening to yourself, even if goes against what everyone around you is promoting. Read on for her helpful advice!

1. Notice the early signs
You know that feeling of looking at your to-do list, only to scroll down to your monster task, the one you’ve been avoiding for a while, that has made it through to a third re-write of your to-do list because you’re avoiding it so much? Well, that might be one way your gut is talking to you. Jennifer says, “When you find yourself procrastinating a lot, like when I was applying to law school, when [I had] to write a personal essay, I really couldn’t write it. I felt like I was being really dishonest. That’s a major indicator that something’s up.” So, before judging yourself for not checking something off your list, take a moment to think about why you’re dreading it.

2. Take the time you need.
It’s so easy these days to feel like everyone around you is finding success immediately, even the kids that never helped out in class projects. Meanwhile, you’re in line at Chipotle deciding whether you can afford the guac. It’s at those moments when you feel you must double down and turn your ten-year plan into a five month one that Jennifer suggests otherwise: “People say ‘Hurry up and develop your career,’ but that’s so not true. You have plenty of time. It’s ok to wait a year or two years to figure out what you want. If you really feel uncertain, what’s wrong with waiting? That’s something you have to give yourself permission to do.”

3. Prepare as best you can for people’s reactions.
Once you’ve made the tough but honest choice that your gut was suggesting this whole time, you have to tell people about it. Jennifer explains that “It’s really hard. When I told everyone that I was going to start a jewelry business, no one took me seriously. My parents were very upset. They were like, “What’s wrong with being a lawyer?” It might be hard, and reactions might not be as gentle as you’d hope, but keep your eye on the long-term outcome.

4. But don’t forget you’re in charge of the narrative
Jennifer goes on to give encouraging advice. As difficult as it might be, you have some control over how you communicate your choice, so exert your power through tactful thought. Jennifer says, “A lot of the work is on you. When you tell people about these big moves you’re going to make, how are you going to tell people? And that really sucks, because why should [you] even be considering how [you] talk to people about these transitions? But if you start the conversation with ‘I’ve put thought into this. I know this is how I feel, and I’m going to go with it, I just need you to support me,’ people will back off a little bit, even if they’re strongly opposed to it.” In other words, now that you’ve heard and followed your gut, stand up for it!

Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Jennifer! Readers, after you’ve taken the time to check in with yourself, come back next week for an interview with a doctor who runs her own practice.

How To: Start A Podcast


Last week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Philo. She’s a Londoner living in New York and her day job is working as the social and content manager at Britbox. But on the side, she also hosts her own podcast, When I Grow Up. We’re big fans of the podcast ourselves, so for her how-to, we wanted to ask all about the nitty gritty behind launching it. If you’ve ever thought about starting your own podcast, check out Katie’s 10 steps below!

1. Have an idea. “I think the first part is really just the idea, the motivation to commit to making something. You don’t need it to be 100% set in stone and if that idea starts to change as you get going that’s ok. But you’ve got to have an idea that, at its core, you’re fully behind.”

2. Choose a name. “I think everyone gets really tripped up coming up with a name. My best advice is do a big brainstorm and put everything down on a page. Then give yourself a few weeks to ruminate on this list. Make it snappy and memorable. You should be able to read it and get a general gist of the idea of the podcast.”

3. If it’s a guest-based podcast, start reaching out. “I have three lists on the go at any given time: ‘Dream List’ (unlikely, but a girl’s gotta dream),  ‘Wishful Thinking List’ ( (people who are slightly more accessible but still ambitious), and then a ‘Hopeful List’ (people I know personally or through friends). Then you have to start emailing. Always try and go directly where you can. If you can’t find an email address, try Twitter or Instagram. My biggest advice is do your research on the guest. Don’t just send an impersonal email. Be thoughtful and take the time to articulate why this would be of interest to them.”

4. Get your equipment sorted out. “I use the Yeti USB Mic, and I also use a pop shield, which gives the sound a little bit more depth. I use a Skype audio recorder and I always tell the person on the other end to put in headphones with a mic. Then [for]in-person [interviews], I have a Zoomrecorder.  You don’t really need expensive equipment though. You could even record straight onto your phone or GarageBand. Never let equipment stop you from getting started, it doesn’t need to cost you a thing.”

5. Design your artwork. “You want it to sell the podcast and also give a feel for what it’s about. I think having a simple, distinctive color palette is a good idea, not over-complicating it. When audiences see your cover on mobile,  the smallest it will be is the size of a postage stamp. So you need to consider: Is the text legible? Does it stand out? I commissioned an illustrator to make my artwork, but don’t be afraid to make it yourself.”

6. Choose a format. “There are a few things to think about here: do you want it to be really kind of clear format where you have the same questions or parts every time or is it just free flowing conversation? Have a think about how you want it to play out and be consistent.  Do lots of research. If you’re prepared, you will feel less nervous.”

7. After recording, edit. “Once you’ve recorded,, the next step is editing the audio. I use Adobe Audition, but there are loads of free tools like Audacity online. Your decided format will determine the level of editing required. For example, if your podcast is a long-form interview, you might only need a bit of tweaking. If you’ve never edited before, take your time and use online tutorials. The Internet is your friend when it comes to learning this stuff. You’ll get faster over time, trust me.”

8. Choose a title and description. “Make sure your episode title is clear and punchy. Think of it like a headline. Does it reflect the episode well? Will someone want to click on it? A good description is like a film synopsis explaining what audiences can expect and gives them a reason to listen. From an SEO perspective, make sure you include key words, search terms and people.

9. Distribute it. “In terms of distribution, there are lots of different platforms to host your podcast.  I use Audioboom. I upload my audio directly and the platform makes it easy to syndicate to the places people get their podcasts such as Stitcher, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. There are lots of other podcast hosts, including Podbean, Buzzsprout and Soundcloud. Do you research and figure out which will work best for you. Remember, there are requirements for audio, such as file type and volume levels. I’d recommend checking out the FAQs on iTunes Connect as it has some easy to follow explainers.  Whichever platform you chose will have listening stats. Keep an eye on them as you’ll be able to see which episodes particularly engaged audiences.

10. Keep going and have fun! “Be open to feedback and take it on board. When you’re doing everything on a project, it’s easy to miss areas you can improve on. Never feel pressured to stick to an unrealistic release schedule and find a format that works for you. Don’t worry about the listener numbers at the beginning. The most important thing is that you enjoy yourself and have fun with it.”

Thank you for the great advice, Katie! We love your podcast, and appreciate all these tips. Readers, when you’re done getting started on Step #1, come back next week for an interview with a woman who is great with money.

How To: Expand Your Venture

Last week we spoke to Babs Szabo, and it’s an understatement to say we were incredibly impressed by her uncanny ability to capitalize on the momentum gathered from Emo Nite to then co-found her own creative agency, Ride or Cry. This week we wanted to learn from the master herself, so we asked her to teach us. Read on to learn how to expand a venture.

1.     Listen to your people.
When you find people with whom your project (an event, a company, a website) is resonating, make sure to stay in touch with them. They might be the ones that help you find places to expand. As Babs notes, “I think with an event you have to listen to what your audience is saying. Obviously, there’s a lot of negative things that are not constructive, but in the beginning, when we did Emo Nite in LA, we saw a lot of people saying, ‘Come to San Francisco! Come to San Diego!’ It was because of that that we started touring [Emo Nite]. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t even have thought of it. So, listening to your audience is really, really important.”

2.     Step out of the safe zone.
Babs says a key part is “Not being afraid to take risks. That’s what really sets you apart from other people. If you’re just going to do it the way other people have been doing it for years, then it’s not going to stand out, and no one’s going to want to be a part of that.” That’s not to say it won’t be scary, but in the eternal words of Chrisley’s son from the evergreen reality show Chrisley Knows Best, “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit.”

3.     Remember to be a good person.
We’ve all experienced working with someone inconsiderate, and the stress and frustration that came with that, be it at an actual job or even a school project. But hopefully, we’ve also all lived through the opposite—that wonderful feeling you get when you feel respected and listened to by your superiors. That’s why we’re so happy Babs included niceness as a cornerstone of her expansion philosophy: “I think that no matter what you’re doing, it’s really important to be genuine and nice to the people you’re working with and the people that you meet, because that’s the only important thing in any venture.”

Thank you so much Babs! Once you have the foundation of your hard work to build upon, we’re confident that Babs’ tips will help you extend the reach of your success. Good luck to you all! See you next week : )
(Photo credit: Cade Werner)