Are you interested in what goes on behind the scenes of a podcast founder? What goes on that we don’t see and what it has taken to get there? Harper Spero of the podcast Made Visible lets us in to share the highs and lows of her story.
Harper Spero is a business coach and consultant who specializes in working with individuals who want to live, work, and earn on their own terms. As someone who has managed an invisible illness for her entire life, she works with clients to find work-life balance, prioritize self-care, and discover the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship. In 2018 she launched the podcast Made Visible to help people with invisible illnesses (and those who care for them) feel more seen and heard.
Tell us a bit about your podcast, what can we expect to hear if we download an episode?
Made Visible is a one-of-a-kind platform that brings to light real, raw, and significant stories from people experiencing or close to those with a range of often overlooked invisible illnesses, from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to bipolar disorder. These people look perfectly healthy on the outside but are grappling with chronic conditions that make “normal” life anything but – and through Made Visible, are raising awareness for these hidden health challenges.
The goal of Made Visible is to help people living with invisible illnesses feel less alone as they strive to create a “normal” life. It also aims to create a new awareness of how friends, family, and others can be sensitive and supportive to people who live with invisible illnesses — especially when most people have no idea what’s appropriate or helpful, and don’t know where to turn for answers.
Made Visible shares stories of people who are their own health advocates and will do whatever it takes to get more answers and more clarity on their conditions. These stories are motivating and help listeners learn about new routes to consider for their own health, whether they have an invisible illness or not.
How did the idea for a podcast come about?
From a really young age, I was showing signs of more ear infections, colds and skin issues than your average kid. They only worsened over time. My mom took me to every doctor in NYC as well as every holistic practitioner, healer and nutritionist trying to find me relief and some answers. Finally, when I was 10 years old, I went to an immunologist who diagnosed me with Hyper IgE/Job Syndrome, but because it was so rare, she didn’t have many answers or solutions for me. For many years I dealt with the symptoms as they arose – pneumonia, skin infections and flare-ups – but nothing that majorly prevented me from living my regular life. I didn’t want to be defined by my health so I hid it from everyone. I didn’t let it rule my life.
Then while running the digital department at a beauty PR firm in 2011, I was walking down the street and couldn’t get two blocks without feeling like I was going to collapse and would be completely out of breath. I then went to a specialist who found a cyst the size of a golf ball in my right lung. She told me I had to have surgery to remove the cyst immediately.
As I underwent surgery on March 5, 2012 – I recognized I could no longer hide my health or ignore it. I started sharing my story with friends and family, through my writing. I recognized that the majority of the content that existed about invisible illnesses was depressing and didn’t feel inspirational, motivating or relatable. In July 2018 I launched Made Visible to help individuals living with or affected by invisible illness share their stories.
How do you select your guests?
When I first launched, I had a list of people I personally knew or was connected to in some way that I chose to be on the show. I’ve been really fortunate that since day one, I’ve had many, many people contact me to be a guest on the show or recommend someone they know.
I am constantly on the hunt for unique health conditions and/or approaches to managing invisible illness, compelling storytellers as well as diverse guests.
Unfortunately/fortunately, there’s no shortage of people with invisible illness in the world.
Why are you compelled to share their stories?
We never truly know what another person is going through unless we ask, listen, and do our best to understand. Talking about my invisible illness is something I’ve only done in the past few years, but it has been extremely freeing.
It’s helped my friends and family learn how to support me better.
I want the same for others who are silently struggling. I want us all to be more aware of how little we know about what others are experiencing, physically or psychologically — unless we ask.
How can you make podcasts worth their investment and time when wanting to launch your own?
This is totally based on the person and their goals. There are people who are looking to do this the most scrappy way possible by buying a $100 microphone, recording in their bathroom or closet and handling all the logistics, editing, design etc. on their own. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (unless of course, the sound quality is terrible)!
Because I have my own business, I outsource a lot which costs money but is worth it to me. I don’t have the time to do it all, nor am I an expert editor or graphic designer. To me, it’s worth it if you enjoy the content and the process, and it aligns with your goals and mission.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own podcast?
I had lots of questions as I prepared to launch my podcast, so I created “The Newbie’s Guide to Podcasting,” featuring the information I wish I had known before I started a podcast.
This manual is a must-have for any new podcasters. It features tips and tricks on topics from essential podcasting equipment to best practices for episode release frequency and ideal episode length.
I created this guide for people like me, who like to problem solve on their own and aren’t going to spend months researching – people who want their questions answered so they can dive right into the fun part. I’ve also included advice for newbies that other podcasters have shared with me.
Are there any podcasts you particularly like at the moment?
I am absolutely obsessed with Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd. I love how honest he is and how much he gets his celebrity guests sharing in ways that I haven’t heard elsewhere.
Don’t forget the HBC Podcast is dropping on September 2nd 2019! Be the first to know and stay up to date on social!