How to Hit 1 Million Podcast Downloads The Unconventional Way

Posted on / by Natalie Sisson / in Business Tools / 10 comments
Suitcase Entrepreneur podcast reaches 1 million downloads

I checked my Libsyn stats yesterday and kept refreshing the screen until I saw that magic metric tick over – ONE MILLION downloads of my Suitcase Entrepreneur Podcast!


This seems like a milestone worth celebrating to me, yet unlike how so many other podcasters have reached this outcome, my path seems far less ‘glamorous’.

And that’s what I like most about it.

How to start a podcast with no plan

I started my podcast in 2011 on May 16th. I actually had to look that date up as I couldn’t remember!

My first guest was the lovely Colleen Wainwright from Communicatrix and the interview (from my side at least) was pretty mediocre. You can check it out here.

Episode 4, I convinced Laura Roeder to talk about The Art of Not Doing Everything Yourself.

From there, I was off and running. And all while using this logo which was me transitioning from WomanzWorld to the Suitcase The old podcast logoEntrepreneur…oh dear!

Unlike so many podcasters these days who’ve taken to podcasting as one of the hottest trends (even though it’s been around for over a decade), I didn’t have a game plan.

I was simply trying out a new medium that I figured I’d like.

Up until that point, I’d be blogging a ton and doing YouTube videos. But podcasting felt like a good fit for my curiosity to interview others and also do it on the move without having to have a fancy set up required to capture decent videos.

What I loved about podcasting is that I just needed my laptop, Skype, and Pamela (for PCs which I had back then) to record – until I switched to Call Recorder for Skype on my MAC.

These days I love my Samson GoMic but that’s still the same equipment I use for my podcast.

Why I missed the iTunes New and Noteworthy Boat

Back then I didn’t know that if you wanted to make the ‘New and Noteworthy’ list on iTunes, that

  • you’d record several great podcast episodes in advance
  • release them all at once and then;
  • hit up your entire community, plus friends and family to leave a rating and review so you’d climb to the top of the ranks quickly and get found.

Plus many other tactics like making your listing description on iTunes keyword rich, your SEO tags spot on, and your podcast artwork eye-catching and professional.

Nope. I missed the boat on all of that. I just did the slow and steady approach.

Continuing to not have a plan worked

I released an interview once a….. MONTH. Yep you heard me right, I was truly feeling this podcasting thing out.

I did that for about the first year from memory. I completely missed a month too when I didn’t plan in advance while cycling down Africa and going offline for 2 months.

Looking at my archives, I also did that in December 2011 and a few other times – you know I fitted the podcast in around my travel lifestyle of course!

Then I picked up speed and made it twice a month. Yep. Real fancy move.

I also produced this book as a freebie optin which was super popular.How to Build a Podcast that Matters

A few of my fave podcast interviews were:

Steve Kamb sharing his nerd fitness tips – man, how he’s grown since then and his community has exploded too.

The lovely Ashley Ambirge  all about F-Bombs and building a sassy brand with personality.

The Psychology of Online Marketing and Kicking Ass With Derek Halpern

Amy Porterfield talking about How to Use Social Media and Mindset to Grow Your Business.

And the one and only Pat Flynn to talk about how he makes $50K a month from blogging, niche sites and being nice.

Shifting gears to weekly podcasts

I believe it was the end of  2013 (see how unplanned this all was) that I shifted to once a week. I am actually unsure – perhaps some of my diehard podcast fans who’ve listened to every episode could let me know???

But that’s definitely when I started to see some shifts in downloads and I’d be regularly hitting around 5,000 per month.

I got more subscribers after releasing my book of the same name that hit the bestseller list on Amazon.

And somewhere in there I did hit the New and Noteworthy list…. apparently even after 2 years, you can get noticed.

Since then I’ve gone on to hit regular ‘Popular in Business’ rankings on iTunes which I never notice, I only do when someone tags me in a Facebook post showing their podcast there and I see mine beside them.

It’s true I could be much more strategic and tactical about my podcast and in 2015 I did indeed make moves to change it up a gear for a few reasons:

  • I love podcasting – I enjoy it and it works for my natural talents – I like to talk a lot and I like to interview all types of people, treat it like a casual conversation, and bring out the best in them so they can share their stories far and wide
  • It’s a fantastic community building tool – I love my Freedomists who listen in every week and then meet me in person to tell me how much they enjoy the show – and that I sound exactly like I do on my podcast. Their engagement and feedback makes my day.
  • It’s a fantastic business marketing tool  – I’ve indirectly traced more revenue thanks to listeners telling me that they signed up to a program or a retreat or a mastermind because of hearing me talk about it on my podcast. I’ve also increased my list thanks to people who opted in to get my podcast bonus guides.
  • It’s an excellent way to engage with and partner with sponsors – I’ve been fortunate to have a host of amazing sponsors over the years like 99Designs, Hostgator, Upwork, Skross and more. Some I approached, others approached me and it’s been a brilliant source of revenue to not only fund the costs of running a podcast but as a revenue stream all in itself.

How I changed up my podcast game plan

I changed it up by going to twice a week – one 30 minute interview with an awesome guest every Monday, which by the way I’ve consistently done and never missed for almost 4 years now.

I also introduced a weekly Fresh in Fifteen episode each Thursday where I’d share a mindset, business or lifestyle tip in 15 minutes or less.

I also introduced podcast bonus download books when I hired Jeremy Montoya to do them and the show notes. People are still downloading them to this day.

You can find them in each episode and also right here on the Podcast Bonus Downloads page.

These PDFs essentially encapsulate the best of the best nuggets of wisdom in each podcast interview.

I stopped doing them as I switched over things and hired new team members and started focusing on my sales funnel.

I also felt, that while I got more engagement for me and great feedback, they were an investment that wasn’t necessarily sustainable for the return of opt-ins.

I wasn’t sure people valued them enough so I decided to stop them for now. But they’re pretty awesome all the same.

The Defining Moment – Seth Godin on my show!

While I still want to talk to Tony Robbins and Richard Branson, I think I was most thrilled and honoured to interview Seth Godin (and nervous).

It’s one of the few interviews I actually prepared for!

(Typically I don’t. It’s just roll into it and take it from there – it’s my style and it works).

His interview has had over 300 shares on Facebook and to date 83 comments and counting.

Listen in to:

Facing Your Fear of Freedom and Accepting Tension with Seth Godin  

(In reality, getting big name guests on your show is possible if you have the right approach.)

I did have the bonus card up my sleeve that I’d met him in person a year earlier…..that was also a defining moment.

But, it’s surprising how many people will come on your show if you ask genuinely.

Since then, I’ve absolutely loved interviews with people on their journey, not those who’ve, by all accounts, ‘made it’ already.


Because those people give the most honest, transparent accounts of what it’s really like in the trenches when you’re building a business, creating your ideal lifestyle, hustling and not getting it right all the time.

They’re REAL. Interviews are raw. And often they provide a TON of value as they’re willing to share and give all they know so others can learn too.

They’re humble. They don’t have all the answers and they’re grateful to share their story.

Where to next for the Suitcase Entrepreneur Podcast?

If I’m really honest, when I wrote out my Editorial Content Calendar for the rest of the year, my plan was to stop podcasting at Episode 300 which will hit in December, when I figured I’d reach 1 Million Downloads.

I didn’t expect to hit that milestone now and am honoured that over 30,000 people download my podcast each month. And NO I’m not going to stop now – don’t you worry!

I’ve definitely had times where I’ve watched, amazed and somewhat disheartened as a new podcast reaches this milestone in a year or two.

But then I realize my podcast is just ONE part of many tools I focus on in my business to help people create freedom in business and adventure in life.

I never had a plan, I had no ambitions to become a No #1 podcast, I had no desire for instant gratification. I simply wanted to explore and enjoy this medium for story telling, learning, growth and communication.

I still enjoy it. I have fun with it. I get to interview all sorts of incredible people. And it’s a habit I’ve stuck with and grown from. For that alone, I have a lot to thank podcasting for.

To every single one of my listeners who may not read this post, I’ll make sure to do an audio version and release that …and thank you, from the bottom of your heart, for not getting sick and tired of hearing my Kiwi accent, week in and week out.

For those of you who’ve told me you’ve listened to every single episode, or 20 in a row on a long road trip, I don’t know how you did it! But I’m grateful.

If you’ve not listened in yet, do yourself a favor and download or subscribe to my podcast:

Do it here on iTunes. Feel free to leave a review too!

Get it here on Stitcher.

Find all podcast posts here at

In the comments below let me know which episode, to date, has been your favorite and why!