By Krista Bo
There are over 750,000 podcasts and 51% of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast before. This is up from 44% in 2018! It’s a great time to be a podcast consumer – but what if you want to make your own?
Those stats might make you wonder, “Who cares what I have to say?” But the truth is, the numbers are on your side. With Spotify, Pandora and many other companies acquiring new podcasts, what you should wonder is, “How can I take advantage of this opportunity?”
What makes a great podcast? How do you start? I learned by doing: I’m the co-host and producer of the Experience A Day In The Life podcast. My boyfriend, Mat, and I started it for both practical and personal reasons. We both love meeting new people, learning new things and creating valuable, inspirational content. What we kept noticing around us was how unhappy and indifferent some people were with their jobs. We wanted to work on something on the side of our full-time jobs, creating content to help people make better career decisions. We share stories about “A Day In The Life” of different jobs and what it took to get there. I also wanted to build upon my producing skills. So, naturally, our podcast was born!
Your story, your motive and how you stand out will ground you for decisions you’ll make for your podcast. Here are some tips to navigate the formative stage of your podcast from a person who’s worked out all the kinks.
Pick your genre & hone in on how you can make it unique
The most popular podcasting app in the game right now is Apple Podcasts/iTunes. The genres are News, Comedy, Sports, History, True Crime, Society & Crime, Arts, Business, Education, Fiction, Government, Health & Fitness, Kids & Family, Leisure, Music, Religion & Spirituality, Science, Technology, and TV & Film. When publishing your podcast to these platforms, you can choose at least one and up to three categories to identify your podcast with.
Before you start anything it’s imperative you answer these two questions:
- What do you want to share with the world and why?
- How are you going to stand out from the rest of podcasts that are, or could be, like yours?
We know “A Day In The Life” isn’t a novel concept, but our content stands out because in our ADITL (A Day In The Life) episodes, we get into the nitty-gritty details of a person’s day on the job. It’s a literal hour-by-hour account of the day guided with narration to truly get a glimpse. This is something we didn’t see anyone else do successfully.
Just because someone’s done a sports or dating or comedy podcast before, it doesn’t mean their podcast has the same flow, energy, topics or format as yours.
Pick your editorial format
Depending on your budget, your desired work-life balance and your podcast’s overall message you want to share, your editorial format — the way you want the final product of your episodes to sound — will vary. This part is very important starting out because to build an audience, you need consistency.
According to Mark Leonard on Medium, here are some popular formats of podcasts out there for inspiration (check out the link for examples):
- One-on-one interview: A format where a host (or hosts) talk to a new guest each episode about a specific topic within their podcast’s niche. Less editing is required, but more pre-interview prep is necessary.
- Solo commentary: A format where the host talks about a certain topic solo. The key is to make sure you keep the conversation moving without making it sound like you’re reading off a piece of paper. Tone is important here!
- Panel (guest interview or conversation): A format a lot like an interview-style podcast, but more microphones and more schedules to coordinate with. However, more perspectives are heard.
- Nonfiction narrative storytelling: This format is exactly what it sounds like, telling a true story. This requires a good storyline to hook people in, a ton of production time to move the story along, and the participants of the story to interview/feature to move the story along.
- Fictional storytelling: Again, this format is exactly what it sounds like and very similar to nonfiction narrative story-telling, but fictional. Think an audio book!
- Hybrid: A format that takes inspiration from some or all of the formats mentioned above that moves your message and story along.
For example, Mat and I chose the panel format for recording the interview itself and created our own format for the final product where we married the nonfiction narrative storytelling to the panel conversation. In other words, Mat and I narrate what the person featured is doing/ why they’re doing it at that time, and we use the panel discussion audio to elaborate.
You can listen for yourself! Listen to us interview SDS Founder and Chief Networking Officer Emily Merrell.
Decide if you want to do the podcast solo or with a co-host(s)
Mat and I decided to do this together because we both bring different perspectives to the table that benefits our podcast. I’d describe both of us as creative, but I’m the production and content creation side of things and he’s the business development, technology and operations side. We both come together to interview our guests, but we focus on our strengths to create kickass content. We both spend time researching and booking guests — two is better than one on that front.
I’ll create interview questions and research for the interview, script the episodes, edit, publish and create social media content for each episode. He comes up with best practices and processes to help the machine run smoothly from guest recruiting, scheduling and communication, as well as web design and marketing. We complement each other very well and because we live together, it allows us to dabble into each other’s work and learn from one another.
Just like any relationship, there are sometimes disagreements between us about best practices, but because our romantic relationship is pretty solid, we’re great at communicating our opinions and getting on the same page with a strategy. I’ve actually learned to not take constructive criticism to heart as much as I used to, which has changed how I conduct and react in a professional setting. When he’s not on his game, I pick up the slack. When he sees I’m struggling to ask a question in an interview to a guest, he swoops in to save the vibe. We feed off each other and I couldn’t imagine doing this without him.
Think about what you want out of your podcast and if you alone could reach the caliber you want it to reach. That could mean hiring freelancers to record, edit and/or market your podcast or finding a co-host to shoot the sh*t with, or creating an “advisory board” to help you collect your thoughts and improve your content.
Get Your Technology & Podcast Branding/Messaging In Order
This part was and still is really hard for me to grasp, especially in terms of audio editing and engineering. Gain, dB, multi-track, oh-my! Most importantly, make sure everything is in place when it’s time to record to ensure less headaches in post-production.
- Quality microphones: The investment is worth it and you should have one for each person speaking on your show.
- Quality room environment: The less noise and WiFi interference the better. Also, the smaller the room, the better.
- Quality editing software to record and edit your podcast recording: Audacity is free. Adobe Audition and Pro Tools have a monthly fee. I’ve found that Adobe Audition is more for beginners to intermediates, whereas ProTools is more advanced.
After months of struggle, frustration and anxiety over audio engineering, we decided to invest in a studio membership. I can only speak to New York City, but the one I cannot recommend enough for budget-conscious podcasters like myself is Gotham Podcast Studio.
If that’s not in your budget and you’re doing your podcast solo, there’s so many DIY-studios hacks you can make in the comfort of your own home for optimal sound. If you’re not alone, all you need is a mixer, mics for each person and a quality room to record in.
And last but not least, pay attention to the cover art and show description. This is the picture potential listeners will see when looking for podcasts to listen to and the description will determine if they press play. I find these so important. Even though podcasts are audible, if you don’t take the time and effort to sum up and present your show in a way that’s visually appealing and interesting, odds are, your show will be skipped.
On the left is the cover art Mat and I designed ourselves (*cringe*) & on the right is our cover art that we paid a graphic designer to help us out with. Our brand colors are dark purple, sky blue and yellow-ish orange. We thought the orange would make our show pop and the sun design represents the start of a day with our logo of a clock on the bottom left.
Not all shows need a logo or graphic design, but even if you’re considering using a photo, make sure it represents what you and your show stands for. In the description, be sure to include your “who, what, where, when and why” about your podcast!
Record your Episode
You’ve thought your topic through, you’ve briefed everyone involved, you’ve got the technology you need and now it’s time to hit record. Here are some tips I have from experience on how to ensure a seamless recording
- Record :30s-1:00 long worth of room noise meaning when you first hit record, do NOT speak, move, breathe or make any noises at all. This is *essential* to post-production editing to take out the distracting ambient noise of a room. If someone breathes into a mic and you capture it and apply the noise reduction effect with that breathe in there, it distorts the audio.
- Be sure your mic is comfortably positioned so you don’t have to worry about messing with it and it captures your voice the clearest possible.
- Turn any phones, air-conditioners, fans, or basically anything with a power or WiFi signal off. It messes with the interference of the mics.
- Once you hit record, don’t be afraid to take charge of the conversation as the podcast host. Ask for re-dos, take the time to gather your thoughts and interrupt when you sense a topic getting off track. You’ve got an agenda and you/your guests’ time is valuable.
- Be sure to record soundchecks and play back what you hear so you can adjust as needed before you officially press record.
- Export the audio files as .wav or .mp4 files. Those are the files that are most compatible with all types of editing software.
Prioritize your time
We’re in the era of the side hustle. We started our podcast with the intent to monetize and pursue “A Day In The Life” content full time. But, in order to pay for the studio, softwares, virtual assistant and interview transcriber, we need money! So we both work full-time in jobs we both thoroughly enjoy and pair well with our venture at xADITL Media.
I have the luxury of a flexible work schedule that gives me Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off so I can work on the podcast and articles all day. I come home from work and try my best to make progress on my side hustle after a long day—Netflix is actually my best friend and worst enemy. But one thing I was told by mentors is the importance of time management. I turn on my iPhone’s personal hotspot and work on the podcast on the bus on my way to work. I spend lunch breaks at my job working on my podcast. I make time on the weekends to get stuff done, and that takes sacrifice — happy hours missed, birthday brunches skipped, TV binges avoided and social media scrolling limited.
I’m NOT perfect at this by any means, but a side hustle like a podcast is worth exploring if it means you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t jeopardize your way of earning income and you’re sharing what makes you special with the world.
Don’t put too much pressure on having everything 100% in order for the launch of your podcast! Sometimes you don’t know how to make something better if you don’t bomb at it first. This blog post is aimed to help you get the non-negotiable foundations that can be built upon as your podcast and audience grows. Just start!
If you or anyone you know wants to share what a day in their life is like in any capacity, email Krista at email@example.com, DM her on Instagram @kristaboxo, or check out what it takes to share your ADITL (A Day In The Life) here. You can find the Experience A Day In The Life podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher.