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TWENTY LESSONS LEARNED FROM STARTING OUR PODCAST

We’ve done 20 episodes of our podcast. Here’s what we’ve learned.

My podcast rig: a mic and a MacBook Pro running Descript.

It’s been three months and 20 episodes since we started the Go Be More Podcast. It seems like a good time for a check-in.

When we started this podcast, Jon and I both thought it would have some potential. I have been an avid podcast listener for about a decade. Podcasts have largely replaced music for me and are a staple of my dishes, laundry, and yard work routines.

Jon approached it from a different direction. He had a lot of experience speaking and felt the podcast would be a great opportunity to connect with people and share ideas. Which makes sense. He’s a natural speaker and connector.

Our only question was “what kind?” Should it be an interview show, a topical show, current events-based or formally produced?

We talked about it off and on but when the coronavirus hit, it felt like we needed to get it done. So we reached out to Joe Fier at the Hustle and Flowchart Podcast (our guest on this episode) and asked how to get going. Now that we’re 20 episodes in, we want to revisit what we did, what’s working, what isn’t working, and most importantly, what we’ve learned. (This is also the topic of our latest episode.)

I’ve loosely grouped the lessons into two sections: Planning and Doing. I’ll come back to Marketing in another post.

PLANNING LESSONS

You want to start a podcast. What are your first steps? Below are some of the key lessons we learned as we went from “we want to” to “we’re live!”

#1 KNOW YOUR GOALS

You must know what you want to achieve and why you’re doing it. Even if that doesn’t solve the problem of knowing how to do it.

We have an apparel brand and a mission to inspire people to chase their dreams. We want the apparel to be a reminder of our customers’ goals and we want the podcast to be a resource to provide them inspiration and practical tips. We did alright here, even if we haven’t executed perfectly.

#2 DO SOME HOMEWORK, BUT NOT TOO MUCH

It makes a world of difference to get some professional guidance. We joined some free seminars hosted by Doug Sandler at Turnkey Podcast. He advised us on some of the initial decisions we needed to make, including which microphones, hosting service, audio editors, and scheduling apps they use. It was really helpful to have a basic map to guide us on getting started.

The key question here is: how much do you want to do alone, and how much do you want help with? Because…

#3 GETTING HELP HELPS

Turnkey Podcast offers a full-service podcast package in which they will do the editing for you and they offer a DIY course to just walk you through getting started. Podcast Launch School is another program that offers a comprehensive course as well. (We have not done their programs and we get no affiliate revenue from either, but we have benefited from their webinars). There are probably a hundred others. If you have money to spend, there are experts who will help you.

We ultimately chose to go it alone, mostly because I personally wanted to learn how to do it. I expect we’ll hand off more of this work to someone in the near future.

#4 CONSIDER WHAT YOU DO/DON’T WANT TO DO

Some tasks are inevitable. If you want to do a podcast, you’re going to have to talk into a microphone. But other tasks aren’t. You don’t have to do audio editing, or scheduling, or design your podcast logo/artwork.

Are you doing this to get a message out or are you interested in developing new skills along the way? Have an idea where you’re willing and interested to spend your time. I wanted to do editing at least for a while. Jon was happy to do scheduling and networking. We’re happy to share the load this way.

#5 HAVE A BUDGET

Maybe this should be higher up but you need to have an idea how much you are willing to spend. The reason I put it at #5 is you kind of need to do a little homework to figure out how much services cost and what parts of doing a podcast you are interested in.

Once you know your budget, compare to the other tasks on this list and see how they align. Getting professional help is expensive, but so is learning how to do everything yourself if you are busy and have a well-paying job.

#6 THINK ABOUT YOUR FORMAT (AT A HIGH LEVEL)

What kind of show do you want to do. Is it a solo show? A conversation between you and a friend? A series of interviews? Does it have music and fast cuts and high production value? Is it story-telling or analysis or practical tips?

Don’t be too stressed about this as the show will morph over time to become what it is meant to be. But if you want to do interviews, you need to have a different plan than if you just want to share your personal thoughts.

#7 GO SIMPLE ON THE EQUIPMENT

You’re just getting started. You don’t need to buy a bunch of high-end equipment. You can get a good enough mic for less than $100. You can get a very good one for less than $200. You can edit your audio for free (with a learning curve).

Jon uses a Zoom lapel mic that he already had for his speaking engagements. I bought a Roycel mic set for about $70 (but the brand might only be available in Japan, where I live). If your podcast takes off, you can upgrade.

#8 DON’T STRESS CHOOSING A HOSTING SERVICE

This is a competitive space and I will not be able to provide you a run-down of who to choose. We went with Simplecast because it was recommended in a webinar and it is simple to use. It costs $15/month for each podcast. Some people host directly in Spotify, and there are a number of other services out there. This is a fast-evolving space but to be honest, I don’t think any of them will be a bad choice.

#9 GET YOUR PODCAST ARTWORK

Podcast artwork.png

You need to have a logo or some kind of artwork to be displayed in a podcast player. We have a designer on our team so we asked her to do it. You may want to use a tool like Canva or hire someone to make your logo.

Here’s the thing: you can change it! We used our initial artwork for 8 episodes and then went with a much simpler minimalist design. I see podcasts with very large audiences that are changing their logo/artwork, so don’t feel you need to be tied to whatever you first use. Just get something done so you can get to podcasting.

#10 HAVE A LAUNCH PLAN

This is an area that we didn’t put enough thought into. We put our energy into our format, our equipment, our artwork. We didn’t put a lot of thought into our launch plan. As a result, we surely had fewer listeners than we would have if we’d been more organized.

If you work with a professional they will ensure you have a good plan. If you go it alone, you should at least ensure that all of your close friends and contacts know you are launching the podcast, what day it is coming out, and you should get as many people as possible to rate and review you in your first week or so.

#11 DO SOME PRACTICE RUNS – REALLY!

We did three or four practice runs. In reality, they were attempts at a first episode that I kept messing up because I wasn’t comfortable yet. It’s perfectly ok to record your podcast a number of times before anybody hears it. The episodes might be crap, in which case you can throw them out. Or they might be good, in which case you can either go live with a few episodes or you can publish them a little later.

You will not regret doing practice runs. It takes some time to get comfortable.

DOING LESSONS

You’ve got your equipment, your format, your artwork, your hosting service. It’s time to podcast! Here’s what you need to know.

#12 IT’S NOT NATURAL TO SPEAK IN A MICROPHONE

This may not apply to you, but it definitely applied to me. I felt so weird in the beginning. I was very self-conscious of my voice, my pace, my volume. When I read from a script it sounded stilted and unnatural. When I didn’t read from a script I kept pausing and “ummming” and doubting myself.

It took me a few episodes to get used to it. Jon was much smoother and more comfortable as he is much more practiced at giving interviews and public speaking. But even he has identified areas for improvement.

#13 FINDING A RHYTHM TAKES TIME

The other part that relates to this is finding that natural rhythm with your co-host. Jon and I have lots of conversations so it was easier for us, but we still feel like our podcasts can lose some balance. It might be different if we were in the same room but we’re doing it over Zoom, so it can be harder.

A lot of this comes with time and practice. I can already tell we’re so much more comfortable and connected now than when we started. Another reason to do some practice runs!

#14 ZOOM MAKES IT EASY, WHEN IT WORKS

We record all of our podcasts in Zoom. For the most part it works. But occasionally it lags and we lose someone’s voice for a bit. It’s frustrating. Still, I recommend it for ease of use. It is easy for us to record as a host and easy for our guests to join. Just make sure you have…

#15 BACK-UP RECORDINGS

You will want to record your podcast on your computer and not just via Zoom. Not only will the quality be better, it will save you if Zoom has a problem. (I would say 1/3 of our podcasts have at least one weird Zoom glitch where we lose 5 seconds of audio.)

I record in Audacity and have recorded directly into Descript as well. I just learned that the word for both sides parties recording locally is called “double-ending,” so make sure you “double-end” record your podcasts, both for higher quality and to ensure you don’t lose anything.

#16 MAKE SURE YOU RECORD THE RIGHT MICROPHONE (AND RECORD IN THE RIGHT PLACE)

Twice I have accidentally recorded my MacBook Pro’s “system microphone” and not my nice “podcast microphone.” I’ve been lucky that either my Zoom recording or my backup was recording the right one. But be careful! If you record your laptop’s microphone the audio is terrible. No amount of editing will save it.

On a related note: record in a good place. We record in our closets because there is less echo and we can block out external noise better. If you want to record in a big room, make sure the equipment you have can support that.

#17 EDITING FOLLOWS THE 80/20 RULE

You’ll want to do some editing. Long pauses, repeating the same words, drawn out “ummmms,” and verbal ticks (“you know, like”) are things we don’t always notice in real conversation, but they can be really apparent in a podcast.

But you don’t have to overdo it. You still want everything to sound natural, and “ums” and “you knows” are how we speak. If you eliminate the most egregious stutters and pauses, it will make your podcast much easier to listen to. I was definitely doing too much in the beginning.

#18 USE DESCRIPT TO EDIT YOUR PODCAST

I started with Audacity, which was good for me as it is free and I learned some of the basics of audio editing. I played around with noise reduction, normalization, reverb and amplification. I recorded our intros and outros in Audacity and got comfortable recognizing the sound patterns of our speech.

Having said that, I now use Descript. Descript is…amazing. It takes your audio and automatically transcribes it. Then it allows you to edit the audio by simply editing the text in the composition. It has a bunch of other features that also make life easy, like volume normalization at export, which automates tasks that frankly should be automated. I probably use about 20% of what Descript offers but it’s all I need for now. (If nothing else, watch their video below. It’s fantastic.)

#19 RECORDING TIME IS ABOUT 1/4 OF TOTAL TIME

Editing takes 2x recording time, and all I typically do is remove the unnecessary “ums” and “uhs”. But listening to the episode again and stopping to clean up portions does take time. Then there’s writing show notes, keywords/tags, blog articles, social media posts, artwork, and communication with your team and/or the guest.

I’ve got our 1-hour episodes down to about a 4-hour process. I write the show notes while I edit the episode (which makes editing slower but makes the show notes better). I use the show notes and my intro to make the blog post. I re-use material as much as possible in multiple formats.

And still it takes about 4x the total recording time. I’m sure I could cut back on this in some ways, and I’m continuously testing and tweaking. I’m also sure this won’t be my process in another 20 episodes. But if you’re getting started, I think a 4x multiplier on your time is probably a minimum, and we could easily be doing more.

#20A INTERVIEWING ADDS EVEN MORE TIME

Scheduling guests. Getting headshots for marketing. Doing research. Preparing questions. Editing a third voice. It all takes a lot of time.

#20B INTERVIEWING TAKES PRACTICE

Interviews can go in all different directions and keeping your conversation on course isn’t always easy. Nor is it easy to segue from what a guest is talking about to your next topic. I think we’re doing ok in this area but that is not because it’s easy. We prepare a lot ourselves and make an effort to prepare our guests for the types of questions we want to discuss. Which takes time…

#20C INTERVIEWS HAVE STRATEGIC VALUE

Yet for all the extra stress that interviews create, they have extra value for two reasons. First, for your listeners they provide a new voice, a new perspective, a new way of thinking. Bouncing your ideas off of each other and exploring them will make your podcast more interesting.

Second, a guest with a following and a willingness to promote their appearance on your show can also have value to growing your brand. Even if you don’t plan to have interviews be a central part of your show, you should consider how to have an occasional guest if it makes sense strategically.

Photo by  Juhasz Imre  from  Pexels

SUMMARY: YOU’RE PROBABLY STRESSING THE WRONG THINGS

I was worried that I wouldn’t be good at doing the podcast, that the content wouldn’t be good enough, and that we wouldn’t gain an audience. In reality, the lack of initial audience allowed me to work through my fears and everyone who did listen has been super supportive.

As Jon likes to say, “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” (Or something like that!)

If you have an idea for a podcast that you think will add value to the world, make it. It won’t be perfect in the beginning, but you’ve got time. If you have a strong enough why, you’ll figure out the how.


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BRYAN GREEN

Bryan Green is the co-founder, Editor, and COO of Go Be More. He is really enjoying doing the podcast, and already has ideas for others in the works. Podcasting is addicting! You can give him feedback at bryan◎gobemore.co or on our Facebook page.

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