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Adam Clark (Podcast Royale)

Our guest today is Adam Clark, the founder of Podcast Royale, a done-for-you podcast production and marketing company. Previously, Adam has worked for Apple and spent his earlier career as part of the WordPress community freelancing.

Aaron: [00:07] Hey, this is Aaron.

Micah: [00:09] And this is Micah and you are listening to the WP SquareOne podcast. With us today is Adam Clark, the founder of Podcast Royale. If you’ve ever heard of Battle Royale, this is not that.

Aaron: [00:21] Damn. That’s not good.

Micah: [00:23] He helps to take businesses to the next level with their podcasts and offers a done-for-you solution. Before we get started though, Adam, I would love if we could kind of back up and talk about your first day with WordPress. What did that look like?

Adam: [00:39] Yeah. Well, first of all, I had a lot of trouble getting handles, social media stuff, because of Battle Royale, so it’s surprising. They took all the Royale… I was going for a Pulp Fiction reference, which some people get and some people don’t. But still, yeah, that game…

Aaron: [00:55] The Burger? The Burger thing?

Adam: [00:56] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Micah: [00:57] Yeah. Okay.

Adam: [00:58] And so…

Micah: [00:59] You get a big Mac or whatever. So, yeah.

Adam: [01:00] Yeah well, and my initial copywriting for the landing page was all filled with Pulp Fiction references and stuff and I don’t know if I’ll end up using that or not, but anyway, it was difficult to get the domains and social handles and whatnot. But anyway, man, first day with WordPress! Back in the day I was an ExpressionEngine guy, probably around 2008 timeframe, and I bought in, like all in, to the ExpressionEngine community and it was a much bigger… Well, I don’t know what it is now. It seems like it isn’t much anymore, but I haven’t been involved in it in so long, so it could be.

[01:39] But at the time there was definitely WordPress. This was before 3.0. This this was before custom post types and all that kind of stuff. And ExpressionEngine gave you the ability to do some of those things. It’s so funny because in 2008 I was thinking, “Okay, it’s too late to get started in WordPress. It’s like there are too many themes. Anything I do is just not going to be noticed. There’s going to be no way to cut through all the noise in the WordPress community.” If only I had known but… And I felt like ExpressionEngine, it was a smaller pond and I could be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and so that’s what I was doing.

[02:18] And then man, I don’t know exactly when, probably 2010, ’11, somewhere in there, I gave up and accepted that WordPress was the best thing out there. And then I just kind of went all in on WordPress and that’s been my career up until the last couple of years. So my first day in WordPress though, I don’t really remember that, but I think what eventually won me over was the custom post types and the ability to do some of that kind of stuff more easily than you could before. And the fact that it was just everywhere. It was just clearly the market winner. And so that’s what I went with.

Micah: [03:03] Cool. Yeah. I remember the first time I was using WordPress. I had been doing PHP a little bit and opened up WordPress and looked at it and was like, “I don’t know. Why would I use this when I could write my own thing?” So I put it down and didn’t come back to it for a little while. But yeah, it’s always interesting to hear everybody’s story.

Aaron: [03:22] So I guess I was playing around with all of the different CMSs and actually didn’t land on WordPress as the one I wanted to use. I caved a little bit once my business partner kind of convinced me that that’s a good path to take. But I was also dealing with… I wasn’t dealing with ExpressionEngine, but it was … What was the underlying system that they switched to?

Micah: [03:50] Oh, I think that was…

Aaron: [03:51] CodeIgniter. I liked the MVC concept and I wound up building my personal site on CodeIgniter and it ran for a couple of years. Then I converted it to WordPress just like lots of people have. But I mean, it was a good platform back then. I have no idea where they are now.

Adam: [04:10] Yeah, I loved CMSs and I loved building that kind of stuff. And I realized later on in my career that that’s because I’m more interested in systems and processes than the actual thing I’m making. I’m more interested in making things that help people make things rather than actually make something, if that makes any sense. And early on I created a whole custom WordPress admin theme, which was a lot harder to do eight years ago than it is now because I wanted it to all be custom for my company and everything. It was a huge pain and it didn’t even work half the time. But you know you’re a developer when you’ll spend two hours writing a script to automate something that would take five minutes to do if you actually just did it. And so that’s how I spent most of my time.

Micah: [05:00] Nice. So once you got into WordPress, you said you’ve made a career out of it. What does that career path look like? Obviously you’ve ended up creating a company. Tell us kind of how you went from here to there.

Adam: [05:12] Yeah. So I’ve been self-employed doing some sort of entrepreneurial-type stuff since about that time. I had been doing stuff before then, but I didn’t really think that being self-employed was a realistic option until around that point. But I’d been messing around with the web since the mid-‘90s and when we got our first internet connection at home and with my dad’s computers when I was a kid in the ‘80s and stuff like that. But I went to school for journalism. I was doing that and I realized that, once our second daughter was born, this was never going to cut it financially and it was time to change things up. So I thought about doing web design and development. I knew that that could lead to self-employment. So I got a job at an agency in Atlanta, spent a year there as a designer and that’s when I kind of realized that I was definitely more of a front-end developer.

[06:10] And so, yeah, I went out on my own and the first couple of years, it was a pretty twisty journey at first. I thought I needed to present this big company, this face of this big company and I was using the royal ‘we’ everywhere and kind of obfuscating the fact that it was just me. Tried to make it feel like this big agency and then tried to actually hire people and go down that road and realized I did not want to do that. I just liked doing things myself. And so then I kind of found my rhythm in freelancing and I did that all the way up until probably summer of 2015—along with other things. I was always doing other things, launching this thing or that thing, a WordPress theme or whatever. But what paid the bills was always front-end development and WordPress-focused front-end development.

[07:06] I got into podcasting, all kinds of other stuff. And that brought me up to a couple of years ago. Back in 2015, I got an offer from Apple and shut everything down and took that. And yeah, that’s kind of my… Well, I’m not doing that anymore. I quit that a couple of years ago and now I focus almost entirely on my new podcast production company. But I’m still doing WordPress stuff. I still do it just to mess around with it because I enjoy it. But I’m not right now taking on development projects except for just things that I want to do for friends or stuff like that. It’s not what’s paying the bills anymore, I should say.

Micah: [07:46] Like a true entrepreneur, you’d never do just one thing, you always do many things.

Adam: [07:51] Yeah. Or you think about a lot of things and not do any of them if you’re me. So…

Micah: [07:57] Yeah, that too. It just depends on what mode you’re in at the time, right?

Adam: [08:01] Yeah.

Micah: [08:03] So tell us a little bit more about the Podcast Royale. So tell us more about who you help and what all you can help with.

Adam: [08:11] Yeah, so fell in love with podcasting and I remember wanting to start a podcast back in 2005 when I was working at a newspaper in LA and podcasting was super new at that point and never really did it. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t really know how to put a website together or any of the technologies or anything at that point. But probably it was 2012 when I was thinking, “I should start my own podcast.” And as soon as I did at the beginning of 2013, I really fell in love with it. I think it scratched a little bit of that journalism itch, which I missed doing that ever since I quit. The only reason I quit was just because small-town newspapers were never going to cut it money-wise.

[08:58] And so podcasting, it kind of tapped into that a little bit. There’s also a sort of techy, nerdy side to it with all the gear and audio production and everything, which I enjoyed. Yeah, so I started podcasting and honestly The Gently Mad’s probably one of the biggest or maybe most well-known things that I’ve ever done. And that went great. And eventually launched a podcast network with a couple of friends. And in 2014 I decided, “Okay, I’m going to stop doing web work, all that. I’m going to live full-time off of The Gently Mad.” I was going to relaunch the show, just start over, give it a kind of a reboot and create my podcasting course, which is an online course. It’s still out there. But at that time too everybody was launching info products and I felt like something I needed to do and I wanted to do.

[09:59] So January 1, 2015, that was all I was doing, was the show and the course. And that went well. I mean, it worked. I was able to make a full-time income from the show and everything. But I was doing three episodes a week and these are multi-hour episodes. And I just burned out really hard about four or five, six months later. And so that’s when the offer from Apple came and it was just one of those… My wife was seven months pregnant and all of these things. And I was so burned out and I thought, “Okay, I’m going to do this.”

[10:40] So I quit all that, to my shame. I spent years feeling super guilty about quitting. But I quit it all, moved to California, took the job with Apple. Huge mistake. Actually, wasn’t a mistake. I don’t know that I didn’t do it, but I have self-employment kind of in my blood. And I kind of took it thinking, “Let’s see if employment is as bad as I remember it being.” And it was. So I only lasted there about two years and I quit.

[11:13] That seems to be a theme here. I’m quitting a lot of things. And so I quit Apple and then it was like, “What’s next? What am I going to do? I’m almost forty. I don’t want to just go back to freelancing. I want something that I feel like I’m getting somewhere.” Freelancing never felt like I was… You do it for three years and you’re still basically where you are when you started. You might charge more, you might make more money, but still when you stop working, the money stops coming in and so it’s like “What am I going to do?”

[11:42] And so it was definitely around building a company that could scale… Or launching something that could scale beyond me. And my wife really encouraged me just to do the thing that I wanted to do, which was podcasting. But I was super nervous to get back into it because I felt like I had quit and that’s the one thing you don’t do as an entrepreneur is quit. And in all reality, no one cared. But in my mind it was a big deal. And so I finally just decided, “Okay, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do the thing that I’ve been thinking about for four years and not really done.” So yeah, earlier this year, 2018, spring, I launched Podcast Royale, which is a podcast production and marketing company. And let’s see. We’re about five months in or so, and it’s been going well.

[12:28] We focus on businesses who want to use podcasting as part of their marketing strategy and we kind of take all the guesswork and leg work and the difficulty of producing a podcast, because it is difficult. There are a lot of steps. And we kind of take all that off their plate so businesses can just focus on creating great content and then we do everything else, literally everything else. And so it’s been going really well. I started day one with a team and a plan in place and of course it’s changed drastically since I started because I haven’t ever built a business that was more than just me, but still the main goal of building something that could grow beyond me is still working.

Aaron: [13:12] Can you give me an example? So me being a podcaster that just started a podcast with a guy named Micah, what could you do? Right now for us, I have someone that’s transcribing it. We have someone that’s editing the audio and stuff like that. Can you walk us through what you could do for us?

Adam: [13:31] Yeah. That’s all the kind of stuff we do. A mini tagline that I’ve used on the website is, “You record, we do everything else.” And so most of our clients tend to have custom needs. So far we haven’t had any clients who fall into one particular package even though we do have predefined plans with certain services in them. I should mention before too that it’s a highly-productized service. So it’s driven completely by processes and systems. So even though at its heart we’re still an agency and we’re doing client-service work, it’s very process-driven.

[14:07] So it’s run like a SaaS or any sort of product that would have recurring revenue. So a client signs up and then they’re automatically billed through Stripe every month for whatever package of services they signed up for. And at its core, it’s podcast production. So there’s audio editing and show notes writing and social media creation, videos and assets and stuff for social media publishing and just all that kind of stuff. And then there are a bunch of extra things that we do too. Like you mentioned, transcriptions, YouTube stuff, like creating a YouTube version of the show, and we even do guest research and recruitment.

[15:00] And then we have this whole strategy side, which is something I really wanted to focus on. There are a lot of podcast production companies out there and there are a lot of audio engineers out there. But I also wanted to really focus on strategy because I know that a lot of businesses, it’s not just the, “How do we do the show? What do we record into and how do we get it into iTunes?” or whatever. But bigger than that is, “How do we grow an audience? How is this podcast going to do what marketing is supposed to do, which is grow our audience, get us more leads, more clients, raise awareness of our business or brand or whatever?” So we have kind of a whole package, if you will, of add-ons to any of our service plans that involve ongoing strategy consulting, stuff like that. You might call it coaching maybe. I mean, it’s not exactly what a business coach would do, but I would just say it’s like marketing strategy, but specifically focused on podcasting.

Aaron: [16:07] I mean it sounds like the whole concept of being product-driven. For scalability, it has to be treated as a product. So that makes sense. Can I step back real quick about Apple? What did you do at Apple?

Adam: [16:21] I was on one of their front-end teams. So when I was hired I knew that I was going to be working on apple.com. I didn’t realize that there were hundreds of people, maybe thousands of people, that work on apple.com everyday, all day, and that’s all they do. It was definitely bigger than I expected. So everything is broken down into teams, smaller teams. Everything is very siloed as well. So design is its own thing, front-end is its own thing, back-end is its own thing. They keep everything very separate or at least they did when I was there.

[16:59] And so you’d have little teams of two to six front-end developers and I led one of those teams and we just worked on apple.com. I don’t know exactly how much… I signed a whole stack of NDAs so no idea what I’m allowed to actually say or not. But yeah, just apple.com. It’s a much bigger site than I ever knew because I only used it to basically look at the new products every year when they came out. But it’s such a big site and those big product launch pages that get pushed live every year at WWC or whatever, those take a lot of time and a lot of effort.

Aaron: [17:43] Okay. That makes sense. I wasn’t sure if you were more of a designer or a developer role there.

Adam: [17:51] Yeah, it was definitely development. Like I said, everything is very, very siloed and separate. So designers don’t code, developers don’t design. And for me it was front-end. And even front-end is very separated from back-end. We might touch a little bit of JavaScript, a little bit of things like that, but it was mostly HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Aaron: [18:18] So within your business—and Micah, feel free to tell me to shut up because I’m asking lots of questions—do you miss the dev side a lot? Or is it just something…? Because I kind of am in the same boat where I’m not doing as much dev as my business has grown.

Adam: [18:37] Yeah. Well, see the thing is I haven’t really stopped doing it. I mean, my entire life pretty much revolves around the internet, so I’m still building things. I’m still doing WordPress stuff and front-end development and learning, all that kind of stuff. But it’s not my day-to-day bread and butter that pays the bills anymore. And so I’m still taking on front-end work, but I’m only doing it if it’s just something I really want to do or it’s a friend or something; it’s definitely not out of necessity.

[19:10] So I don’t miss it at this point because I’m still doing it. And I think I would always do that even if I was financially set, which is the goal at some point. Even if I was just completely… Financial independence achieved, I would still be doing podcast-related stuff, writing-related stuff, front-end dev and WordPress and design-related stuff because I just enjoy doing that.

Micah: [19:40] So you mentioned that one of your things you enjoy is the process and strategy-type work. And I’ve kind of been in the same boat where I’ve always… I had a business before I got into WordPress and I didn’t particularly like the work, but I love the workflow, I guess you could say, the processes and that kind of thing. So tell us a little bit about maybe some of the things you’ve learned about processes, maybe some automation tools or things that you found helpful.

Adam: [20:11] Yeah. I mean, there are different levels of automation. Obviously Podcast Royale’s highly automated and the whole thing is built on systems and processes. But even if you’re just a solo freelancer, there’s still a lot of things that you can automate and I think that’s one of the things I never did as a freelancer, even though I did treat it as a business. I was very hardcore about having contracts and proposals and it wasn’t as… I wasn’t just winging it as much as I did when I first started freelancing. There are things that I didn’t do that are big parts of running an actual business. Like having processes for things like onboarding and how you’re going to onboard and where you’re going to… How you’re going to generate leads and how you’re going to do certain kinds of work and how you’re going to deliver that kind of work.

[21:09] And since Podcast Royale started with a team… Since I went in day one knowing I’m not going to do any of the actual production work myself because if I do that, I’m going to end up creating just another freelance job for myself. And so I went… I started with a team, so I had to have all these processes or else it just falls apart. And I’ve definitely experienced some of that where my processes weren’t that great or whatever and I had to rework them and figure them out.

[21:40] And so that’s… I’m still kind of in the middle of that. But stuff like legion and onboarding, I never knew where any of my clients came from when I was doing front-end development. It was all referral based from day-one. And that’s great, but the problem is you’re just at the complete mercy of the email. If I don’t get an email for a work proposal, whatever, I don’t make any money. And so I didn’t have any idea where or how that happened. People just, over a period of years, continued to email me and want to work with me.

[22:21] So that’s something that’s very different here is that I’m having to… Like I said, my job now is mainly client acquisition, basically sales and team-building. So two things that I really didn’t do a whole lot of in my entire career are now basically my entire job. And so it’s been a struggle for sure. But at the same time it’s like, “Man, why did I wait so long to do this?” Recurring revenue is amazing. Just every month it just shows up. It’s crazy. Being out of that sort of feast or famine, no money one month, 20 grand the next month just because either you have more work than you can possibly do or there’s zero work. Being out of that is really, really great. I don’t know if that answered your question or not.

Micah: [23:14] Yeah, absolutely. I was listening to somebody since you brought up onboarding who had an interesting perspective, particularly on the how to onboard a new hire. And they were saying that you should always have the junior-most person, so your last hire, onboard your new hire. I thought that was interesting and the explanation was because the junior-most person had to do the most learning most recently and they’re going to remember all the things and be able to explain it better to somebody because they remember what it was like.

Adam: [23:45] Yeah. That’s interesting. Yeah.

Micah: [23:46] And so you could always have somebody else follow up after that with more details or whatever if something got skipped. But I thought it was interesting because it’s definitely more affordable because your newest hire’s probably not the highest paid. So…

Adam: [24:01] Yeah, definitely. It is all of these… That’s the thing, all these processes all the… The way the whole business runs, I didn’t expect it to change… Well, change isn’t the right word. I guess I felt like going into it, “Okay, I’ve got my processes. I’m good.” But I just didn’t realize… This being the first time I’ve ever done this, I didn’t realize how much those things would morph and change once I got into it. I had my idea of who my ideal client was and that has changed somewhat and the first three or four months of this business, it’s just been a lot of learning.

[24:32] That’s why I still only have a landing page. I don’t even have the full site up yet because there’s things I’m trying to get really dialed in before doing that, before sort of opening… Well, what I hope is opening the floodgates in terms of clients and really putting a lot of effort into our own marketing because I don’t want to… I don’t want it to all fall apart under the weight of more clients, which if the processes aren’t really dialed in and your team isn’t really dialed in, then that’s what happens and you end up just having to do it yourself to make up that difference. And that’s a really difficult place to be in. Like I said, I was trying to start something from day one that could scale beyond me and eventually, someday, run without me. So it’s just a completely different way of working than I ever have before.

Micah: [25:23] Somebody was asking me something about scaling the other day and I was trying to explain it. There’re scaling processes, but then if you don’t have processes, all you’re scaling is chaos.

Adam: [25:34] Totally. Yeah.

Micah: [25:37] So sounds like… Yeah, it sounds like you’re on the right path and got all the processes and making sure those are in order and that they can support the growth, which I think is where a lot of people mess up, right? They try to grow too fast and then realize they didn’t have the infrastructure to handle it.

Adam: [25:52] Yeah, totally. And knowing that the processes are going to change and can change is a big deal too because… I mean, that’s another reason it’s taken me this long to do something like this is because I have always wanted to… I have a hard time starting without having a clear picture of where it’s going to end up, which basically means I just don’t ever start anything because you never know. And a lot of times you just have to get going and get moving in order to get some sort of momentum and that momentum is what feeds you figuring out those other pieces. And so I had my list of processes and things, but they’ve completely changed obviously since the beginning. And actually going through the process with multiple clients and seeing how this works and how that works and, “Oh hey, we actually need a QA process. Didn’t even think of that one.” And having to hire for that and create that. I mean it’s a constantly evolving thing.

Aaron: [26:53] Yeah. Our processes… So I don’t know if you know, but I co-own an agency and yeah, the processes are always morphing. And as our company has grown, it’s weird, our processes have changed without me knowing, which is kind of weird and cool at the same time. It’s kind of like people on my team saw a need to change the way things were working and they made that call. But I thought that was kind of cool. I mean, we’re small, we’re just seven people, seven full-time, but I mean the growth is something that we’re trying to be prepared for in the future.

Adam: [27:32] Well, seven full-timers, I wouldn’t consider that small. That’s a decent size team, especially being full-time. And your job just completely changes. You go from being an implementer to a manager. And that was one reason why… That was something I was afraid of. I didn’t want to be a manager. And it turns out that it’s not just one or the other. They’re not mutually exclusive. You can still do things you enjoy and management doesn’t have to suck either.

[28:03] But it just all depends on those processes. And I keep coming back to that, but if that whole thing is really solid then when you lose clients, when you get new clients, when you have to let people go, when you bring on new people, all these different things that happen, they can either go, like you were saying, Micah, smoothly or can just be chaos. And those processes really, for me anyway, they’ve made the difference in whether it’s chaos or it actually feels like it’s manageable.

Micah: [28:39] I guess I should probably ask the question, the most important one. If you were to start back at square one, what would you have done differently?

Adam: [28:49] Man! Well, I always asked that question on the Gently Mad too and it’s a lot harder to answer than it is to ask. What would I do differently? It’s so weird because I think one of my biggest fears is regret. I don’t want to wake up one day when I’m seventy and feel like I wasted it, I didn’t do what I wanted to do or I didn’t figure it out in time, whatever. I don’t know. I have this weird… Yeah, regret is a big thing that I want to avoid.

[29:24] And at the same time though, I don’t think any of these experiences are wasted because the biggest question that I think everyone has to answer about themselves is what is it that you really want? What is it that you really, truly want? And you can’t answer that question, I think, when you’re twenty-one. You can’t answer that question in a day. It takes just a certain amount of time and a certain amount of experiences before you can start to figure that out because you have to try things and figure out, “Well, I don’t want that,” in order to figure out what it is that you do want.

[30:02] So if I was starting over and how would I do things differently? Part of me would say, well I’d do things exactly the way I did them because I needed to go through those experiences. But also just logically, there are things I would do differently. I would start sooner. I wouldn’t be so afraid of failure that it kept me from launching things and doing things. I’ve spent a lot of my life just thinking, coming up with ideas and I have ideas all the time for new things and I never do anything about them because, I guess maybe being… Like I said, fear of failure or just it feels too big. I can’t possibly know all the variables and I have to know all the variables before I can start anything. So I would change that for sure. I would just try more things and be willing to just try things without having to have all the answers and see what happens. And it not having to be this perfect thing because I feel like that’s kept me from launching stuff, which has kept me from learning stuff. So that’s a big one.

[31:13] And I feel like I might’ve started the podcasting business earlier, but at the same time, one of the reasons I started it this year was because I feel like we’re finally at a point where I’m not having to sell businesses so much anymore on the idea that they should be podcasting. Well, at least a lot of the circles that I’m in, they understand that. They understand that podcasting is a great form of marketing and they should be doing it, but now the question’s how and that’s where I come in. Whereas three years ago I was having to spend as much time talking to people about why they should be podcasting in the first place and then, once they were sold on that, then sell them on why they should use me to do that. So at the same time as maybe I could’ve started this earlier, I don’t know, it feels like it’s the right time.

[32:05] But yeah, it’s a complicated question for me. But I think the change of… Things I would do differently aren’t so much in the practical day-in-day-out things, it’s more mental stuff, more stuff around getting over my fears and shipping stuff and starting things and sticking with things and stuff like that that I feel like might have… I could have arrived here maybe sooner if I had done some of those things differently.

Aaron: [32:37] I get it though. When you’re talking about trying to convince people that you should be podcasting, it reminds me of fifteen years ago, a one-man shop, why would I need a website? No one’s going to find us through the web. It’s that type of transition. Websites are a given now and so podcasting is kind of moving into that type of… I mean, it’s a good marketing tool. That’s probably why I’m here doing a podcast right now. But I feel…

Adam: [33:10] Well, it’s fine material. It’s fun.

Aaron: [33:12] Yeah, it is. Once I figure out what I’m doing. No, I’m just kidding. Once we’re using your services, then it’s just going to be so much better, right?

Adam: [33:21] Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Aaron: [33:23] All right. Well, thank you for spending the time with us. And look, I’m dead serious, I want to reach out to you afterwards because I think we probably could use your services for this podcast itself.

Adam: [33:37] Yeah. Anytime, man. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.

Aaron: [33:40] Alright.

Micah: [33:41] We need to make sure people know how to get ahold of him. On Twitter, you can go to avclark. Also avclark.com website. For the podcast stuff, you can go to podcastroyale.net. And if you want to actually listen to podcasts, you can go to the gentlymad.com.

Adam: [33:57] Yeah, I have websites and social handles all over the place, so probably avclark is the best one because you can pretty much get the everything from there, but those are the main ones.

Aaron : [34:12] Awesome. Cool. Thank you.

Interview with Adam Clark of Podcast Royale

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