So you want to start a podcast. Great!
Or you are curious. That’s good, too.
So, how do you make a podcast?
If you want to start your own podcast, in seven minutes I quickly discuss four topics, and expand on them in this written recap. These experiences are drawn from starting up my own podcast, Studiomouth, which I started in February 2015. This is simply a start, but if you are truly interested in a podcast, consider this a big picture overview.
These show notes go beyond the episode, so I would recommend that you keep reading.
One helpful part of podcasting is that the cost is not prohibitive (see my discussion of Equipment and Costs below), and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do this for the rest of your life. For better or worse, there are plenty of people who tried it for a few months and decided it wasn’t for them.
Of course, if you want to make an impact, you have to have a reasonable commitment. If you think releasing ten episodes over three months and then stopping will suddenly double your business or get you thousands of subscribers, that is not realistic. I have already published twenty-five episodes of Studiomouth and feel like there is so much more I can accomplish.
There are already thousands of podcasts out there covering a wide range of topics. However, there is still plenty of room for a podcast with a different point of view and passion, and yours might be the next great podcast!
Three questions to ask yourself:
- What do you have a passion for?
- Is podcasting an appropriate way to share your passion?
- What would be your dream outcome for this podcast?
Let’s use an example. Say you have a passion for Italian food. What would your passion be focused on – cooking, eating, visiting Italy, or something else? You are building your niche, and be careful not to make it too narrow or too broad. You don’t want your Italian food niche to be so narrow that Italian food fans don’t connect with your passion, and you don’t want it to be so wide that you spread yourself too thin. You’re only one person.
Next, is a podcast the way to go? Maybe a written blog, a social media presence, or a video series may work better for your passion and your talents. Listen to podcasts and think if that fits your personality.
And what format would you use? A monologue or commentary? Get a co-host to share the duties? Interview guests?
Finally, what is your dream outcome? It’s great to go for big goals, although getting rich quick or becoming an instant millionaire may be shooting too high. As I mentioned before, your downside and risks are time and money spent, and it doesn’t have to cost too much.
Commitment – How to Stay Committed When You Want to Start Your Own Podcast
In a way, commitment is also the biggest cost – your time. For Studiomouth, which is a once-a-week hour-long interview podcast, I probably spend 8 to 10 hours a week. That can take up and interfere with an entire weekend with the family. There are ways you can save time through automation or delegation. But even with that, unless you have a team behind you, you are going to spend several hours weekly. If you have personal or work commitments, it can definitely become a juggling act and something gets sacrificed.
I would compare my commitment with Studiomouth to getting a dog or cat, raising a child (sort of), learning a musical instrument, or learning a language. You not only need to commit, but it has to be a little work every day. Once you stop thinking about and working on your podcast, it’s tough to get back on. There are too many other commitments and priorities that will get in the way – if you let them.
So what does the commitment look like:
- Find and schedule guests – even if you have a successful yield of 10%, which means for every ten people you ask, one agrees – this can take one to two hours a week. And after agreement, scheduling can be even more time-consuming, going back and forth with dates, times, and reschedule requests. You can try to automate this with ScheduleOnce, TimeTrade, and similar platforms. These will save you time. Note that you will occasionally get complaints that a scheduling website is very impersonal. The thought is he or she is your guest. For the most part though, folks don’t mind it.
- Pre-recording preparations
- Make sure your recording space is relatively noise-free. This includes turning off your phone, your computer’s volume, and muffling your keyboard!!!
- Sound check. Are the volumes good, any echoes or feedback, or microphones scratching against clothing or hair?
- Warm up your voice. Have a bottle of water, and maybe some apple slices if you suffer from “mouth noise.”
- Have an outline, prepared notes, or questions.
- Record – whether or not this is an interview show or more of a monologue/commentary format, this is not simply press “Record” and you’re on.
- Practice, prepare, and rehearse. Visualize or vocalize how you want the episode to go. Improvising doesn’t always work.
- Make sure you don’t have too many pauses (awkward), too many vocal ticks, including um’s, ah’s, and even weird laughter (tolerable to very awkward), and good pacing (sensible). Finally, energy and enthusiasm!
- There will be times it’s simply not a good day for you, your co-host, or your guest to get into a groove. In those cases, make the most of it, and learn from the experience. Who knows, your listeners may actually enjoy the episode you thought didn’t measure up.
- If the technology doesn’t work, like Skype freezing, or your computer shutting down, be prepared to lose some hair (or blood).
- As they say, the show must go on, but having a distraction-free recording session may be harder than you imagine.
- Produce (intro, outro, music, edit) – this can take a few minutes if you don’t edit, or hours if you do. I prefer a finished product so I spend the time to edit. It’s amazing how noises, vocal ticks, interruptions, and technology delays can add up. For every hour of content, it can be four to five hours of editing. No joke. If you want to sound like “This American Life” or “Radiolab,” you’ve got to put the time into production.
- Show notes – this is the written recap that some podcasters post on their website. Some people absolutely HATE writing show notes. But it is important. Since some folks will Google your show to find you for the first time, having a written product out there that is clear, understandable, and attractive will gain you listeners. If you really don’t want to be bothered, you can find folks like Lara Loest, who writes show notes for some of the most popular podcasts.
- Publish – now that you have a finished episode in the can, you can now publish it! Format it as a .MP3 file using your audio editing software. If you start with another format, like .WAV or .MP4, make sure to convert it to .MP3, which is by far the most commonly used audio format.
- You publish through a podcast-hosting website. Further below I briefly discuss podcast-hosting platforms such as Libsyn, Blubrry, and Soundcloud.
- You want to add some ID3 tags using some inexpensive software like ID3 Editor, which adds a logo and some liner notes to the MP3 file so that if someone is listening to your episode on the right kind of player, your logo and liner notes actually appear on their player.
- Spread the word! Depending on how you want to let the world know – Facebook, Twitter, email, yell on a crowded street corner, or the new app Clammr – you need to make an impact. You’re basically now a copywriter and a salesperson, creating a buzz and an enthusiastic community behind each episode you spent all that time on.
- Celebrate, rinse, and repeat – enjoy the fruits of your labor, but the next thing you need to do is plan your next episode. Back to work.
This is not a definitive list. There are plenty of ways to record a podcast. In general, the three recording devices you can choose from are:
- A dedicated digital recorder
- A laptop computer
- A smartphone or tablet
I love the Zoom H6 (a dedicated digital recorder) so I orient everything for Studiomouth around that device. Plenty of folks use their laptop computer as their digital recorder. In that case you are connecting a microphone directly or indirectly into the computer through the USB adapter, like with an inexpensive mixer. And some folks are starting to use their iPhone and iPad with apps like Bossjock.
Here’s my own equipment list for Studiomouth, I list retail prices, but some of these items can be found on eBay for less:
- Zoom H6 digital recorder, $400 retail
- Laptop or desktop computer – no need to buy the latest and greatest. I have a HP Pavilion laptop that my wife and I bought from Costco six years ago and it works fine for Adobe Audition, which is probably the most memory-intensive podcasting software you need on your computer. I also have an Apple iMac about seven years old, and it also works great. Do not waste money on a new computer unless you need one for your other business and personal needs.
- Rode Podcaster USB microphone, $200 retail. I use a USB mic to plug directly into my computer for Skype interviews, since you need a Wi-fi connection for Skype.
- GLS Audio ES-57 microphone, $35 retail, and I have two for interviews. It’s a copy of the Shure SM-57.
- Sennheiser E-845-S microphone, $150 retail. I use this to record my intro and outro, I like the way my voice sounds on it. It’s a little too sensitive for interviews, picks up a ton of noise.
- Panasonic RP-HT21 Lightweight Headphones, $6 retail
- Sony MDR-7506 Headphones, $85 retail. These are considered industry standards. The only issue is they get heavy after long use, and I wear eyeglasses, so I get uncomfortable quickly. I use the Panasonic headphones for longer sessions, even though the quality is simply okay.
- Hosa Cable CMP 103 cable, $5 retail. For Skype / Google Hangout / GoToMeeting video conference interviews. I plug the ⅛” adapter into the headphone jack of the Rode Podcaster microphone, then the ¼” adapter into one of the mic jacks in the Zoom H6.
- GLS Audio XLR cables, various lengths, various prices. To connect a microphone to the Zoom H6. Buy three foot cables if you sit next to your guest. Buy ten foot cables for more flexibility, although the ten foot always end up looking like way too much cable. I’d rather have more cable than less.
- Amazon Basics USB 2.0 cable – A-male to Mini-B. For the Zoom H6. If you don’t want to go through a pile of AA batteries, purchase this cable, you’ll be glad you did and it’s cheaper than the one Zoom would like you to purchase.
- Anker USB Travel Wall Charger, various models. For the Zoom H6, along with item #10. You probably have a bunch of these lying around your house from other smartphones and tablets. If you don’t, Anker is a solid brand and not too expensive.
How much does it cost to start a podcast? Here are my costs after hardware for Studiomouth. Hardware costs initially are fixed, unless you lose or break an item, which does happen. I’m paying roughly $2,000 annually for everything else in my first year, then it will go down the following year since Podcasters’ Paradise (when I signed up) was lifetime membership after the first year.
- Libsyn, $30 monthly for 600 Mb or $360 annually. Your costs will vary depending on the amount of memory you require.
- Libsyn stands for Liberated Syndication, and along with Blubrry, are considered two of the top podcast-hosting sites. After you set up an account, from there you can feed your podcast into iTunes, Stitcher, and many other podcast platforms. Apple’s iTunes is by far the most important platform you need to be on. Podcast hosting is separate from web hosting. Web-hosting companies in general don’t allow the potentially high number of downloads your podcast will generate.
- Soundcloud Unlimited, $15 monthly, or $135 annually (discounted)
- Soundcloud is like Youtube for audio. They have a great player, and some podcasts get thousands of listeners on Soundcloud, while other podcasts have never published on Soundcloud. I personally love the ease of using Soundcloud, but it is an additional cost.
- Adobe Audition, $19.99 monthly, or $239.88 annually
- Adobe Audition is an excellent audio workstation, or editing and mixing software. You can find free software like Audacity to edit your podcast, but there are so many great features that Adobe Audition makes easy, like Ripple Delete and Noise Reduction. For me, it’s worth the cost.
- Dropbox, $9.99 monthly, or $99 annually (discounted)
- Dropbox is cloud file storage and management. I don’t need Dropbox for the storage, I have enough at home. I need it for the sharing of files with my guests. There are so many cloud storage options out there, but I like Dropbox because it is easy to use, easy to share, and they also do a great job with storing photos and videos from my iPhone, so that’s an extra feature that helps me stick with them.
- Podcasters’ Paradise, $97 monthly (paid over 12 months for lifetime membership), or $1,164 annually. As of July 2015, it has since moved up to $1,297 annually (15 payments of $99).
- Podcasters’ Paradise is not required, but it really helped me to connect to a community that is positive, supportive, and knowledgeable. I discuss more about Podcasters’ Paradise below.
This adds up to $2,063.76 annually. Since I get lifetime membership to Podcasters’ Paradise, that expense will drop and overall costs decrease to $899.76 annually. I can also save money on Soundcloud and Dropbox by paying per year instead of per month.
- You may already be paying for web-hosting for your website. I use Bluehost for web-hosting and for the domain name of studiomouth.com, so I probably pay about $160 annually for that. Most folks use WordPress, a popular blogging platform, as the website platform.
- Branding, which would include a name and a logo. You can do it yourself for very little, to hiring experts at hundreds of dollars per hour (in the U.S.). Don’t discount this part if you hire someone. Find experts who specialize in podcasting and/or social media and see their work. The costs could pay for themselves quickly, and even help you define your niche more clearly.
Now do you want to start your own podcast?
Is your head buzzing? Excited, fearful, pumped up, and full of butterflies at the prospect of actually creating your own podcast? Okay! You’ll find that many of the most successful podcasters had no idea where a podcast would lead them.
Here are two of my favorite resources, you will run into plenty of others in your journey.
- Cliff Ravenscraft, also known as the Podcast Answer Man. Cliff started out with a podcast about the television show “Lost” many years ago, and over time has hosted a number of podcasts. The main advantages of learning from Cliff are his huge knowledge base and the resources he provides. He teaches a month-long coaching class, “Podcasting A to Z,” where he commits a large amount of time to you and other clients to get your podcast up and running.
- John Lee Dumas. John hosts a very successful podcast, “Entrepreneur on Fire,” and along with his partner, Kate Erickson, has a members-only group called Podcasters’ Paradise, which I subscribe to. It includes online training, a terrific private Facebook group, and amazing webinars. While Cliff is more hands-on in his training, John has taken an approach that is more scalable and automated. You won’t spend a lot of time with John and Kate, but through the online training and community he has built, it is a tremendous top-notch resource for anyone – whether you are podcasting or thinking about podcasting.