Ray Blakney Of Live Lingua: “You need to learn how to talk less and listen more”

1) You need to learn how to talk less and listen more. 2) Patience. It takes time for a podcast to take off. 3) How to network. This is how you will find the best guests. 4) Outsource some of the work (like audio editing) as soon as you can afford to and focus on being the host. 5) […]

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1) You need to learn how to talk less and listen more.

2) Patience. It takes time for a podcast to take off.

3) How to network. This is how you will find the best guests.

4) Outsource some of the work (like audio editing) as soon as you can afford to and focus on being the host.

5) Research your guests and prepare questions. Most hosts just wing it, and not very many can pull that off.

As part of my series of interviews about “5 things you need to know to create a very successful podcast”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Blakney.

Ray Blakney is the CEO and co-founder of Live Lingua, a renowned online language learning platform. Live Lingua offers a unique and immersive approach to mastering a new language, as it pairs users who want to learn Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and more with their own hand-picked, certified, native-speaking tutor for online teaching sessions. An award-winning, Filipino-American entrepreneur, speaker, and podcaster, Ray builds and helps others build 6- and 7-figure businesses on a bootstrap budget using SEO. www.livelingua.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of your “personal backstory? What is your background and what eventually brought you to this particular career path?

“While it seems normal to me, I have been told that my backstory is anything but. I was born in the Philippines to a Filipina mother and an American father (but my American father grew up in Rhodesia). At the age of one, we moved to Turkey, where I spent most of the next 15 years of my life. At 15, I got sent to a boarding school in the US (since the US school in Turkey did not have the last two years of high school). I completed high school and went to university in the US, where I graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineering. After college, I spent about five years working in Silicon Valley and for Fortune 500 companies as a software engineer. When I turned 26, I had a quarter-life crisis where I saw myself sitting in a cubicle and writing code for the next 40 years. It was not the life I wanted to live. Within a few days of this epiphany, I had applied to join the US Peace Corps as a volunteer. Within three months, I had quit my almost-6-figure job, sold my condo and all my worldly possessions, and was on a plane to Mexico where I would help indigenous communities in the south of the country.

While in Mexico, I met my wife and after I completed my two years in the Peace Corps, we decided to try our hand at a business together. Our first business was a chain of language schools in Mexico, which we sold in 2012. As part of our language schools, we had online classes — which we started offering in 2009 to help our business survive during the Mexican Swine flu crisis — and we kept that portion of the business.

The online portion grew into what is today LiveLingua.com. We are one of the largest online language schools in the world, and the only one in the top five that has not received any venture funding.

In 2019, we decided to launch a podcast to go with the business and reach a new audience. We decided to make the podcast about Spanish, which is still to this day our most in-demand language. It is a daily, bite-size show with episodes of three to five minutes long, called ‘Learn Spanish with Live Lingua’. We have gotten over 250,000 downloads in the first eight months.”

Can you share a story about the most interesting thing that has happened to you since you started podcasting?

“The most interesting thing that has happened to me since I started podcasting actually happened when I started appearing on other people’s shows as a guest to promote my own. I have been on about 150 shows and after a while, I found I was getting the same questions over and over again. This was not actually a bad thing, as it leads to me having a chance to practice the answers. At first, they were very scattered, but after a while, they became very polished as I repeated them over and over again. The interesting thing I found was that as I did that, I was actually discovering more about who I was as a person. I had not expected that.”

Can you share a story about the biggest or funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaways you learned from that?

“The ‘Learn Spanish with Live Lingua’ podcast was my third attempt at podcasting. The first two shows I tried to make bomb. The biggest mistake I made when starting was believing that sales hype that podcasting was easy, and that all you needed to start one was a mic and an internet connection.

Doing a good show, finding guests, editing the show, and building an audience is a ton of work.”

How long have you been podcasting and how many shows have you aired?

This latest podcast has been running for about eight months, and we have launched over 200 episodes.”

What are the main takeaways, lessons or messages that you want your listeners to walk away with after listening to your show?

“The ‘Learn Spanish with Live Lingua’ podcast is a full Spanish learning course, built around real-world conversations, that is taught in short, 3–5-minute daily episodes. By the time you finish each unit in the show (units are about 10–20 episodes), you should be able to have simple Spanish conversations about new topics.”

In your opinion what makes your podcast binge-listenable?

“A bingeable podcast is one that grabs the listeners’ attention and either entertains or gives advice that can be immediately useful to the listener.”

What do you think makes your podcast unique from the others in your category?

“Our podcast’s daily release and the short, 3–5 minute episodes are unique in the Spanish learning category.”

What do you think is special about you as a host, your guests, or your content?

“This is a solo show with no guests. It’s just me and some native Spanish speakers for the Spanish parts. The special thing about the show is the bite-size nature and how each episode teaches you something you can use right away in Spanish conversations.”

Doing something on a consistent basis is not easy. Podcasting every work-day, or even every week can be monotonous. What would you recommend to others about how to maintain discipline and consistency? What would you recommend to others about how to avoid burnout?

For me, the trick is batching. I rent a house on a lake with almost no internet for one week every six months. During that week, I plan and record six months’ worth of podcast episodes. This keeps me from getting burned out, as I batch the work in a place where I can go out and just relax in nature after each day of recording.”

What resources do you get your inspiration for materials from?

The show was initially based on the public domain US Foreign Service Spanish course. We updated the material and have added to it.”

Ok fantastic. Let’s now shift to the main questions of our discussion. Is there someone in the podcasting world who you think is a great model for how to run a really fantastic podcast?

Pat Flynn! He has built not only a great podcast but also an amazing business by being friendly and personable while helping thousands of people improve their lives.”

What are the ingredients that make that podcast so successful? If you could break that down into a blueprint, what would that blueprint look like?

The blueprint is actually very simple to make a successful podcast; look for the intersection of what you are interested in and what others are interested in. To do this, you can use a simple tool like Google Keyword Tools. Just put in your general podcast ideas and see how many people a month search for them on Google.

If nobody looks for something on Google, chances are they are also not looking for it in Spotify or iTunes.

When you find an idea that has a lot of interest, make sure the market is not over-saturated with shows on the topic.

If you pass all those tests, then you may have found a successful topic for a podcast.”

You are a very successful podcaster yourself. Can you share with our readers the five things you need to know to create an extremely successful podcast? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

1) You need to learn how to talk less and listen more.

2) Patience. It takes time for a podcast to take off.

3) How to network. This is how you will find the best guests.

4) Outsource some of the work (like audio editing) as soon as you can afford to and focus on being the host.

5) Research your guests and prepare questions. Most hosts just wing it, and not very many can pull that off.

Can you share some insight from your experience about the best ways to:

1) book great guests;

“Start with your network and then ask for recommendations on other guests. Rinse, lather, and repeat. Keep doing this and you can slowly move up the ladder of guests and start booking really heavy hitters.”

2) increase listeners;

“Appear on other people’s shows. I use a tool called PodcastHawk.com to find other podcasts in my niche, or in other niches that are related to mine, and pitch to be a guest on them. I have now been a guest on over 150 shows.”

3) produce it in a professional way;

If you are just starting and have no budget, I recommend Audacity (a free audio-editing tool). This will take care of 90% of what you need. Don’t get caught up on making it perfect. Most of us are not NPR and won’t be able to produce shows at that level. Keep in your mistakes, as it makes it all more authentic.”

4) encourage engagement; and

“If you have an interview podcast, ask for the audience to send in questions to ask your guest. This can create great engagement and also save you work in preparing for your interviews.”

5) the best way to monetize it? (Please share a story or example for each, if you can.)

“The best way to monetize a podcast is to have a business or product tied to the show. Don’t try to monetize the podcast itself, as that rarely works. If you get to 50,000 downloads an episode, you may be able to charge $1000 US for an ad spot. However, if you instead were selling a $1000 course and sold that to 1% of your audience, you would make $50,000 US per episode.

For me and the ‘Learn Spanish with Live Lingua’ podcast, I sell the Spanish tutoring we offer at our website, LiveLingua.com.”

For someone looking to start their own podcast, which equipment would you recommend that they start with?

“The best equipment to use changes each year, so look online for the latest reviews. I have a Berringer XM8500 mic, which was just under $100 US. I can’t imagine ever spending more than that, since the quality of mics at this range are great. Don’t use your built-in computer mic or AirPod mics, but also don’t waste money on more expensive ones.”

Ok. We are almost done. 🙂 Because of your position and work, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

“Free co-working spaces for aspiring entrepreneurs in developing and 3rd world countries. There are many aspiring entrepreneurs around the world that have the potential to build a successful online business. I am not necessarily talking about the next Facebook or Amazon, as that is not a reasonable bar for most people. Successful in many parts of the world would be a business that brings in $500 — $1000 US of profit each month.

This may not sound like a lot to somebody in a developed country, but in many parts of the world, including the Philippines where I was born, that would take you from poverty to middle-upper class. These free co-working spaces would operate a social enterprise, not a charity. They would offer workspaces, Internet access, computers, and even seminars and training to aspiring entrepreneurs, all free of charge.

The way money would be brought in, so the co-working spaces can continue operating, would be that they would gain a share in each company started by people who work in the co-working space. If done right, this global network of free co-working spaces could own shares in hundreds if not thousands of micro online businesses, which then would allow them to continue to operate for free to help each subsequent generation start an online business and take themselves out of poverty.”

How can our readers follow you online?

“You can find me at LiveLingua.com and at the below social media channels:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LiveLingua/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LiveLingua/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/LiveLingua/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raymondblakney

Thank you so much for sharing your time and your excellent insights! We wish you continued success.

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