I’ve been podcasting for three-and-a-half years now and it’s been quite a journey. What began as a goof (an answer to the so-called Mommy Blogger movement) has evolved and turned into a major part of my identity and brand. For the first year, I didn’t take it very seriously out of ignorance. Looking around, I saw professionals that I thought I couldn’t compete with and a lot of amateurs that were starting shows only to abandon them shortly after. I didn’t aspire to much at that time. Had I known and understood a few things, I would be in a much different place than I am now.
Here are seven of those things.
It requires passion
Thousands of podcasts have faded away over the years. Even a cursory glance at the iTunes directory will show a great many shows that just stopped posting new episodes. No farewell episodes, no tearful goodbyes, no high-fives on the way out the door. The shows just sort of… stopped. Some call this phenomenon podfade.
What makes a podcast producer or host give up on a show? Lack of audience? That can be fixed. Ran out of things to say? Chart a new direction. Podcasters that I’ve spoken with almost universally say the same thing: I let the show die because I just didn’t want to do it anymore. The passion went out of it.
If you’re not starting with a passion for the show or the medium, you are better off not starting at all and putting your energies into something you really enjoy.
It’s not always fun
There are days… oh, there are days… when the last thing you want to do is fire up the microphone and start talking. Even if you still have the passion for the medium and your show, there are times when
recording is a chore. Sometimes, skipping a scheduled record date is feasible. Sometimes, you need to put on your happy voice and just push through it.
You’ll be explaining it to everyone
“Nice to meet you. What do you do?”
“I’m a podcaster.”
It can be difficult for some of us to remember that not everyone is online as much as we are and that not everyone knows what a podcast is. Though it is gaining in popularity, if all your Uncle John or Aunt Betty knows about the internet is Facebook and email, you’re going to have to explain the concept of podcasting. After a couple of hours at your family reunion, you’ll wish you were a blogger.
Walking around NMX, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know what a podcast is. Take to the streets of Anytown, USA, though, and it isn’t that difficult.
My go-to explanation is, “I’m an internet broadcaster, similar to what you’ve probably heard on talk radio.”
Pro-level recording isn’t that hard—or expensive
A thirty-dollar USB headset and a quiet room will get you 80% of the way to pro sound in this medium. Learn how to use your editing software properly and you can improve it pretty dramatically. If you want to take it even further though, it isn’t hard to do and you don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars (though you certainly can if you like).
While I would never counsel someone who is just beginning to spend a thousand dollars on audio equipment, I do wish I had known at the outset that a fantastic home studio could be built for under a thousand dollars. I would have done it sooner.
The real financial burden comes when you get into video, especially live video. Cameras, lights, props and set design all cost money that make my $300 Heil PR-40 microphone look cheap. It’s possible to do video inexpensively, but pro-level video will cost ya.
You can be yourself
Audiences don’t expect perfection. Spending an hour or two editing out every “um” and “ah” was the norm when I was getting started. I was convinced that people would tune out if I didn’t! After months—dozens of hours—doing that, I gave up. I just accepted that I would never have as large an audience as I could have; the editing was just killing me. A funny thing happened though. My audience grew. Oh, I won’t suggest that it grew because I stopped editing my verbal crutches, but clearly, they were not hurting the show.
Having said that, being yourself does not mean never improving. Those verbal crutches should be eliminated, but from your speech, not from your recording.
It requires patience
You are not likely to have a hit show immediately, especially if you’re just getting started in the medium. Podcasting has a lot in common with other forms of broadcasting, including blogging. It can take months or even years for a blog to build an audience of thousands. Podcasting is no
different. Just a few years ago the competition for listeners was manageable. Recently, with more and more professionals, comedians, and networks getting into podcasting, it’s getting tougher. Amateurs and aspiring pros can still rise to the top, but patience (along with hard work, creativity and skill) is vital.
The potential for wasted time is enormous
With so many “solutions” available, it can be incredibly hard to know how to get started with podcasting. If you’re anything like me, and I know I am, you will be tempted to try out every piece of software looking for perfection. In my first year of podcasting I tried everything. Never mind
that I was using a Mac, which ships with GarageBand, an excellent tool for beginners. I had to try other programs! The end result was dozens of hours wasted—hours that I could have spent making my content better or promoting my show.
Hardware is no different. Some podcasters will spend many hours (and a lot of money) trying out new microphones or headphones. Unless your show is about trying new equipment and reporting on it, this can be a huge drain.
If you have found something that works (and it’s easy to find what works), I recommend sticking to it. Your audience doesn’t care what recording software you’re using. The audience cares about what you have to say.
What do you think?
Are you a podcaster? I’d like to know what you would add to a list like this. Let me know in the comments! Not a podcaster? Now is the best time to start a show of your own! Are you intimidated? Do lists like this help? I’d love to know what you think as well.
Thanks for reading!