Juice Festival blog’s Ryan Watson caught up with me over lunch to chat all things creative, and why I make 99% Perspiration. (You can read part 1 of the interview here, where we talked about questions, interview skills and preparation.)
We chatted about networking skills, building up confidence, creative opportunities, and about the inspiration behind making 99% Perspiration.
Could you tell me about some of the challenges in building up the audience for 99% Perspiration?
Podcasts do take a lot of work, a lot of time to build up – you’ve just got to keep going at it really. I haven’t increased numbers as much as I’d originally hoped for, but I’ve increased numbers a fair bit since I began. We’re into the thousands now, it’s taken a long time.
It’s interesting that you say numbers have not gone up as much as you’d hoped by now…
Yeah, I was hoping to have conquered the world by now. (Jay laughs.)
Weren’t we all?
I know, right? There are ways that you can enhance your numbers. For me, from a few episodes in, a bit part of the 99% Perspiration podcast has been supported by a Facebook networking group, where creative people can communicate and network with each other.
My intention with that Facebook network was to foster this environment where artists and creative types of all different backgrounds can help each other, ask questions, and showcase and promote their stuff. So for me now, between Season 1 and 2 of 99% Perspiration, that Facebook group has become the central part of it – it’s alive and strong even without the podcast, and there are still a lot of people who are talking to creatives from around the world. Of course, they’re mostly in the North East of the UK (where I’m living) – I’d say like 70% in the North East 30% everywhere else – but there are people there from America, Brazil, Asia, Australia…
Well to be fair, getting a few people from different countries seems pretty amazing to me. That’s quite some reach.
Exactly! I just want to continue to foster this environment because I think it’s so important that emerging creatives have a network of people. It’s the best way to get real answers from other people who might be a year ahead of you, might be a month ahead of you, might be ten years ahead of you… But it might help you get to where they are, or to a similar position. I think it’s so important that you don’t just sit in your own bubble and go “I want to make this” – go out and make it! And don’t be afraid to ask for advice, ask questions – because, who knows, it could become bigger and better because you just asked one person one question.
So how did you go about getting people to listen to the show in the first place?
(Jay laughs.) Of course, it started from the close knit circle of friends and colleagues that I have. So I started actually on the first four episodes which were on Mixcloud; they only received about 30 to 50 listeners per episode. I mean, that’s okay. My intention from the beginning had been to get it on to iTunes – you have to have made four episodes of your podcast to get it listed on iTunes. So I wanted to make the first four 99% Perspiration podcasts, and then by week five it was listed! I was over the moon at that point.
At the moment, my goal is to hold a real-world 99% Perspiration event in a couple month’s time – I want to hold an event where creatives can network and connect with each other. I’m doing that kind of activity with a different group that I’m part of called ArtWorks-U, I organise their creative network meet-up for artists. But I want to do that for 99% Perspiration under my own banner. So that’s my next goal, and one that, when the time comes, I’m going to give my all!
What kind of benefits do the other creative things you’re a part of bring to making the podcast? Does it help with getting guests and things?
Of course there are benefits to it. I think if you work in a creative place like a University, especially in a media building, then you’ll be surrounded by people who have similar creative aspirations. Not only that, but guests who come to University to talk about things that they’re doing. So for instance when people from BBC production companies (such as Short Cuts producer Eleanor McDowall) came to the University and people from different media organisations came to the University, I would grab an interview with them – you could call it lazy, but they’re here on my doorstep, so it’s all about taking advantage of what’s around you.
Yeah, I don’t think that’s lazy. I think it’s something I could do more of but I get shy. It’s a skill I really need to learn. It’s another reason I’m trying to do these interviews, it’s something I’ve not always been confident doing so I’m trying to learn that skill.
Exactly! Ryan you’re so right. When I started 99% Perspiration, I didn’t have the job at the University. I had a temporary job, and I was in no way secure. So I thought, “I need to get myself in front of as many creative people as possible”. Interviewing people is a great way of getting in front them, and really engaging. And in terms of building up confidence it’s a wonderful way to go about it.
On the subject of confidence, can I ask about networking? So say you went to a conference or a networking event what would your approach be? How do you network?
It’s going to be different for everyone, but I find it so difficult to go to a networking event if I’m with someone. I find it really exciting to go into a networking event as a blank slate I suppose, and not be attached to anyone. So I don’t go “Oooh, I’m a bit nervous can my friend come with me”, because I really feed off the energy of meeting new and exciting people.
But then again, it’s been a while since I’ve been to a local networking event where I didn’t know at least a few people in the room. For instance, the first What Next Sunderland? that I went to recently was incredible – filled with around 70 people across various cultural and arts roles in Sunderland – and I knew half the room. That comes from being an active networker, getting out there and meeting people.
The way that I do it, I’m quite eccentric at times and…. Have you ever seen Parks and Recreation?
I love Parks and Recreation!
I try and think like Chris Traeger. My partner and I just had a marathon of the first few seasons of Parks and Recreation because he’s never seen it before, and I’ve been trying to get him to watch it for so long, and he finally said “Go on then, we’ll sit down and watch it, it might be okay”. Of course, he loved it. But over the past few days, I’ve started talking a bit more like Chris Traeger.
(Chris Traeger impression:) ‘I admire him. SO much. And I think. That. Talking like him. Literally. Helps me find confidence.’
And also, the way that he says someone’s first name and surname is incredible.
Ann Perkins. Ryan Watson. I do that with people that I meet, with students I teach – and it’s really useful. Not just as a device for remembering people’s names, but also helping you feel on a similar level to another person. That one small thing sends some really positive messages; it says “I’ve got time for you.”
That’s it for part 2. A huge thank you to Jay Sykes for talking to me. I’m Ryan Watson, writer for the Juice Festival blog – come check out our stuff.
Jay again, hey Creatives! Make sure you check out the Juice Festival blog in return; it may be centred around a festival in the North East of England, but it’s full of content that’s useful for emerging creative types, from around the world & around the year.
And, as always,
Stay productive, stay awesome!
Executive Producer, 99% Perspiration