How to Build a Podcast With 1 Million Downloads – In 26 Bullet Points

Jay Clouse runs Creative Elements, one of the top podcasts for creators.

He recently crossed 1 million downloads for his show.

It is a big milestone for any podcaster.

I recently happened to interact with Jay Clouse where he spilled the beans on how he did that.

I wrote this post to share with you how he did it, in 26 bullet points, where I’ll share the following about his journey to 1M+

  • Backstory
  • Journey to 1M+
  • Process
  • Productivity
  • Growth
  • Outreach


Jay got his start in the tech product space. He then went on to build Unreal Collective, a community of creators. Unreal was acquired by Patflynn’s SPI.

Around the same time, he launched upside, the first podcast dedicated to startups outside of silicon valley. He used his upside experience to launch Creative Elements and grow it successfully.

Here is what his Creative Elements journey so far has been like:

* Mar 24, 2020 [Launched]

* Mar 10, 2022 [Reached 1 million downloads]

Now let’s check out how what all he did on the way to 1 million listens.


1/ Jay hosted 218 episodes. Found Michael Sacca of having success with his pod and reached out to him.

2/ This led him to Jeff Umbro of Podglomerate. It didn’t work out for but they kept in touch and collaborated on Creative Elements later.

3/ Being featured in podcast listening apps has been the most significant lever for the growth of Creative Elements.

As per Jay organic growth on Apple Podcasts and Spotify is important. It means your product (podcast) is good, and people listen and share it.

4/ He tried paid listings and continues to experiment. One such recent experiment cost him $1/listen, which is not a great ROI for him.

5/ He isn’t a big believer in paid listings yet because he is not sure about the quality of listeners that it gets you.

6/ Plans to try out newsletter listings.

THE JOURNEY TO 1 MILLION — monetization

7/ Downloads are important because he monetizes his show through ads.

Creative Elements has featured sponsors like Shopify, Betterhelp, Blinkist, Canva, Grammarly, Savvycal, Podia, Wix, and more.

THE JOURNEY TO 1 MILLION — how to acquire and prime listeners

8/ Do guest swaps.

9/ Newsletter placemats – gain newsletter subscribers and turn them into listeners over time.

10/ Learn more about the newsletter subscribers during onboarding. When they share their interests, point them to relevant podcast episodes. 

For example, if someone says they are interested in TikTok, Jay can point them to episodes where he discusses TikTok with his guests.

11/ His current audience acquisition funnel looks like this:

#Tweet100 (his community project) ? Email ? Podcast


12/ Jay invests about 9-10 hours on each episode. 2 hours on planning, 4-5 hours on edits, and 2 hours on promotion. However, he feels he should spend more time on promotion/distribution.

13/ Currently, to promote, he’ll send an email to his subs and publish a thread like this and embed the podcast episode in one of the tweets.


14/ He schedules non-meeting days and blocks creative hours on those days.

15/ He schedules creative time for writing and podcast editing several times a week.

GROWTH / IMPORTANCE OF MINDSET — For Audience/Podcast Growth

16/ Choose to do what I can sustainability do over time.

Even if your TikTok video goes viral and nets you 20k subscribers overnight, you still have to win their trust over time.

17/ Biggest audience growth opportunities of current times for most creators: Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube

18/ If you are in a full-time job, you may have to make sacrifices. For example, either wake up an hour earlier, sleep an hour later, or work on weekends.


19/ Jay’s North Star ? How do I make it easy for them to say yes to.

20/ Pitch email should not be very long. Anyone should be able to read with one scroll of their thumb on their phone. Have social proof and credibility baked in?

21/ When a prospective guest says yes, they get an auto-invite with info on important points/logistics. He uses SavvyCal for this.

22/ When securing guests, pay for access. Buy their course if they have one.

23/ Use five minutes at the show’s beginning for rapport building.

24/ When reaching out to potential guests, it helps to be likable and go without any expectations. But people still say no, and that’s okay.


25/ PodpageHQ (Podcast Website), Savvycal (scheduling), NotionHQ (notes, databases), TextExpander (text snippets)


26/ Jay said he is not an expert on the Twitter algorithm but has observed quote retweets are the most valuable, followed by retweets, and likes are way down. Replies are also helpful and are above likes.


  • Jay’s sister Emily Clouse lovingly made the amazing Creative Elements art we see.
  • One can use Prowly for journo relationships
  • Short casts are a great way to give someone an insightful podcast summary
  • Jay’s Tweet100 project is a big success. Check out this video to see how he built the #Tweet100 leaderboard:

You can check out Creative Elements here.

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