How to Have a Successful Podcast – Hint; It’s Not What You Think!

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Everyone wants to see success with their podcast, but what most people fail to realise is that ‘success’ looks very different to all of us. This is why I wanted to dive into and break down this topic for this post.

And if you’re thinking of bowing out already, don’t. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to tell you what you expect to hear.

What is success?

The reason why I don’t think you’re going to hear what you expect is that, in my view at least, before you can decide whether or not you’ve got a successful podcast, you’ve got to take it back to what is it that you define as success.

This is a really, really important thing to do because, for some people, success is going to be getting in the charts.

It could be that the podcast is working really, really well as part of their marketing sales funnel.

It could be that you are just able to share your message, and it could be that you are such an introvert or you’re so worried about speaking that success to you is turning up to create another episode.

Success to you could be that there are 20 people in your niche and 10 of them all listen to your podcast. You’ve captured like half of your global audience, for example.

You’ve got to consider; what is it that you define as success.

Getting caught in the metrics could be harming your success

So often we are caught up in these metrics and these numbers, and you kind of think to yourself that unless I have 10,000 downloads per episode, your podcast isn’t successful.

But that’s not necessarily true because you could have thousands and thousands and thousands of downloads per episode, but you are maybe not making any money from your podcast.

And if the whole point of your podcast is to make money from it, it doesn’t matter how many thousands of downloads you’ve got per episode, if you’re not making money, then your podcast is unsuccessful at achieving the goal that you set for it.

Equally, you could have maybe only 20 downloads per episode, but, if 15 of those people who downloaded that episode go on to buy from you, surely that is more successful than 2,000 people listening to your episode and none of them buying from you. 

A surprising fact for you!

As a little aside, around half of all podcasts will only get a maximum of 29 downloads within the first seven days of that particular episode coming out.

Just bear that in mind if you’re beating yourself up thinking; “Oh my gosh, I’m not getting all the downloads that I want. I’m not getting these thousands of downloads on average”. 

Just under 50% of podcasts will only get 29 downloads per episode in their first seven days of releasing that episode; so if you fall into that category, don’t worry.

It doesn’t mean that you’ve ‘failed.’

It means that if you’re measuring downloads as a key metric then you’ve got a starting point from which to create an action plan to reach higher download numbers.

Aligned podcast goals

Your goal for your podcast might not even be to make money.

It could be that you’re showing up and you are telling your story.

It could be that you’re showing up to your particular audience and you are just turning up to have fun, and you are building a community.

Well, in that case, success is gonna look very, very different to you because your success might be that your Instagram DMs are full of people saying that they found your advice really, really useful.

It could be that your TikTok is growing and you are building a community over there. It could be that your podcast is generating any kind of community on Circle, on Twitter, or whatever it is that you use for social media.

Action point

Before you go any further I want you to grab a pen and paper and I really want you to consider to yourself what is it that I define as success as far as your podcast goes.

And I want you to really be honest with yourself.

If it’s about making money, that is absolutely fine.

But quite often we can be a bit funny about talking about money and sometimes people can feel quite selfish or feel like it’s a bit crude to talk about the fact that, ‘yes, I actually wanna make money from this.’

There’s nothing wrong with that, particularly if it’s a bit part of your business marketing strategy or part of your business sales.

But what I want you to do is just be really, really honest with yourself.

What is it that you define as success for your podcast? Is it around the number of downloads? Is it about the number of subscribers? Is it about the amount of sales that you make from your podcast? Is it about the community? What is it that makes your podcast successful in your mind?

Because once you’ve got that clear, once you’ve decided what success is, that’s when you can look at your action plan and your strategy going forward.

Creating a goal

Once you know how you are defining success, you can turn that into a goal.

You’re saying, ‘Right, I want to make X amount of downloads,’ or ‘I want to do X amount of sales through my podcast.’ Whatever it is, write it down and then you can then strategise how you’re going to achieve what you have defined as success.

Examples of defining success in podcasting

I’m now going to give you two examples of measuring success.

The first is with my other podcast, The Confident CEO Podcast.

To me, this podcast is all about download numbers. You’ll see me over on my Instagram talking quite a lot about hitting the charts for The Confident CEO Podcast and the download numbers quite a bit.

The premise of The Confident CEO Podcast is to give space and conversation to the topics that I don’t feel are getting enough coverage in the female entrepreneurial space. Therefore, to have high download numbers and to get into the charts demonstrates that the conversation is being shared with as many people as possible.

My second podcast, The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Podcasting has a very different way of being measured as successful.

This show is part of my marketing and sales funnel for my business. Therefore, success is not measured in download numbers, but instead in how listeners convert to being email subscribers, students to my courses and Masterclasses, or becoming coaching clients.


In conclusion, it can be so easy to get caught up in the thought of having a ‘successful podcast.’ But before you see the download numbers of Amy Porterfield and immediately decide that your podcast is dead in the water, consider if how another podcast defines its success is the right definition for your podcast.

Yes, high download numbers and lots of subscribers is nice. But, these numbers don’t mean everything.

One final example before I go:

I was chatting to a friend recently who told me about a fisherman who listens to a knitting podcast. I can’t vouch for the fisherman, nor the podcast. But I’m guessing that the podcaster doesn’t get caught up in download numbers and metrics unnecessarily.


Because knitting podcasts are likely quite niche; but as they have an engaged audience, they could see that as success and that’s fine with them.

The point is; find your own definition of a ‘successful podcast,’ and roll with that. Action plan the hell out of it and celebrate hitting each goal that you set for you and your podcast (no matter how small it is) whilst on your own journey to hosting a successful podcast.

Picture of Verity Sangan

Verity Sangan

Hey there! I'm Verity, Registered Nurse turned Podcast Host, Launch Strategist, and Coach. I love all things podcasting and am passionate about getting more women find their voice through podcasts. Host: The Lazy Girl's Guide to Podcasting & The Confident CEO Podcast

About Me

Verity Sangan

Hi! I’m Verity; host of The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Podcasting. I’m a mum of 2, a Harry Potter nerd, Star Wars geek, and spend my days lecturing in health and social care, or talking about podcasting. Read more >>

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