I’ve been a podcaster since the fall of 2013. My show, Hit the Mic with The Stacey Harris, has done over 250 episodes, plus I recently launched a second show called Your Biz BFF with my co-host, Brandy Lawson. Despite being a longtime podcaster, the thing that continues to frustrate me most actually has very little to do with actually creating, editing, or even marketing my shows.
It has everything to do with the fact that people resist launching a podcast because they believe some common myths. Myths about how a show “must” run, or what gear you “must” have.
Meanwhile, there are amazing stories and messages that could be shared, but aren’t. And they’re held back because of fear and overwhelm. I’m here today to knock that out. (Now read that again with LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out playing in your head.)
Here, I’m taking on some of the most popular myths around launching a podcast — starting with the worst one first.
Myth #1: You need to buy a ton of gear when launching a podcast…
I think one of the most common fears around starting a podcast is all the gear you “have” to buy, as well as the idea that you “need” to build a podcasting studio or area of your office that’s just for podcasting.
That’s 100% not true.
A few basics are needed, sure, but you can do a totally pro sounding podcast for under $100 (and yes, I’m including your monthly podcast hosting in that number). To prove it, I’ll show you exactly what you need to get started:
First: You’ll need a microphone. I suggest buying one of three mics when you get started. (There are hundreds you can choose from.) These are the ones I recommend to start off with, though:
1. Samson Meteor Mic ($69.99): This is the microphone I’ve used for 2+ years and 250+ episodes. This year, I will likely upgrade it but that’s because I’m a bit of a geek and I want something new and fun to play with. I get compliments on the sound quality all the time and it’s an amazing price.
2. Blue Snowball Mic ($49): This one is a really popular choice with podcasters, especially those starting out. It’s got solid sound quality and again is a really great price point. Also, it comes in super fun colors. (Okay, so that’s not super relevant, but it’s still awesome.)
3. Blue Yeti Mic ($110): If you want to invest a bit higher, check out the Yeti. It breaks into the three-digit price range, but it’s got really great quality. Again, not necessary but a really popular choice (because it’s great).
The fantastic thing about all three of these mics is they’ll plug directly into your computer via USB. That means you don’t need to to get any kind of sound board or external equipment to get started, whether you’re recording alone or hosting guests via Skype. There is no need to manage different mics through a board.
Instead, grab one of the ones I mentioned, plug in, and get going.
Once you’ve got your mic, all you need is recording software (GarageBand and Audacity are both free), and hosting — which is where your episodes actually live and how they get to places like iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play Podcasts. The big reason for uploading them to an external host rather than directly to your site (which is a very bad idea) is that having them on your site will cause a major slow down over time. For hosting I recommend Libsyn. It’s where I host both of my podcasts and I love it. It’s a fantastic service with great customer service if you ever run into issues.
Seriously? That’s all you “must have” to launch a show.
Now that you have everything you need for launching a podcast, let’s talk format. There is a lot of talk that to be successful you need to do an hour-long show with a guest, and you have to release episodes multiple times per week. This is 100% false. I’m not saying these shows aren’t successful. Some of my favorite shows follow formats like this.
What I am saying is that it’s not the only way to go. You can do interviews, solo episodes, short episodes, long episodes, weekly, daily, monthly, even a seasonal format where you release 8-15 episodes then take a break and come back later.
There’s no one way to format your show, and guess what? As you go along your podcasting journey, the format you pick might change. In the course of Hit the Mic with The Stacey Harris the only thing that’s stayed the same is two episodes per week. We’ve done guests, solo shows, shorter shows, longer shows — you name it. You know what worked best? The shows I had the most fun doing.
Focus on who your listener is. Think about how you like to consume content. Think about how much time it really takes to provide the value in each episode you want to provide. In looking at those factors, you’ll find your format.
Myth #3: If I don’t have guests, no one will listen…
So first, remember: You can choose whatever format you want. Next, realize that your guests will likely not do a ton to promote your show. Some guests are great about tweeting and sharing; others never mention it to anyone. Relying on guests alone to help get the word out is setting yourself up for some major disappointment.
Instead focus on marketing you control — the stuff you do. Here are some ideas:
Tap your network and tell them about the show. Remember: It’s not a build-it-and-they-will-come set up. First, drop personal notes to your network and influencers you’re connected with via email or on calls. Ask them to listen and share. Make it easy for them to share with some pre-crafted tweets.
Email your existing list and tell them about this new content you have. They have already decided they love you enough to share their email address, invite them to check out the show.
Make sure you have approximately eight weeks of content ready to roll before you launch so you can spend the bulk of that time promoting your show and not creating content.
A pro tip: You want to maximize that “New and Noteworthy” time on iTunes, and that’s tough to do if you’re playing content creation catch up.
Speaking of New and Noteworthy, remember that although we don’t know exactly how it’s measured (thank you, Apple!), the best way to get highlighted there is get downloads (meaning people download your episodes) and reviews/ratings. So, make the ask. Encourage people to leave reviews and have enough episodes to start (at least two or three) so that they have more than just your first episode to download.
I also encourage folks to have all of the content for that first eight weeks recorded and scheduled before you go live. That way you can spend time spreading the word and not trying to keep up with content creation.
Forget the myths + just start
Podcasting doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of cash, or following someone else’s formula. Take the time spent resisting putting your voice out there, and launch your podcast, instead!
When it comes to creating content, our minds often go straight to one thing: a blog. But little known to most people is that podcasting has been around for over a decade — and it could be just the thing you need in your solo biz to mix your content up, showcase your expertise, and grow your community. Today, we’re talking with a group of both long-time and newbie podcasters to learn about their podcasting process, the biggest benefits they’ve seen, their favorite tools, and more.
Laura: After five years of blogging, I needed a break from writing, but wanted a medium to communicate with my audience. I’d been listening to podcasts while I was working, so I thought, “Why not audio?” The Say Yes Podcast is a lifestyle, bite-size show. I have guests from all walks of life chatting about their moments when they said yes to a bigger life.
Ashley + Abbigail: One night last fall, I (Ashley) was listening to a podcast with a rather famous guest and realized I couldn’t relate to a single thing they were saying about how they had achieved their goals. Maybe that person had enough money and resources to devote huge chunks of time to their creative projects and business, but I sure couldn’t! I knew Abbigail was a fellow podcast lover, so we put our heads together to start Chasing Creative, a podcast for regular people overcoming challenges to make creativity happen in their everyday.
Danielle + Jen: Danielle and I dreamt up She Percolates after many coffee, donut, and dinner dates where we always ended up chatting about what we were doing with our lives and how we felt like our success did not compare to everyone else’s. We quickly realized we should not have this mindset about what makes us successful, and if we felt this way we were pretty certain many other women did too. Now, on our weekly podcast, we chat with ladies from around the world about what success means to them.
Carrie: My co-host Cait and I wanted to start our podcast, Budgets and Cents, back in the summer of 2015 as a way of proving to listeners that if you change your money you can change your life, and we do that through sharing our personal stories. But it wasn’t until January of 2016 that we actually launched the podcast. (Finally!)
Stacey: I became a big fan of podcasts in 2005 and have been listening to all kinds ever since. It wasn’t until a friend asked me why I hadn’t launched a podcast in 2013 that it occurred to me, I should! I hated writing blog posts, and I love talking. So, in the fall of 2013 I launched Hit the Mic with The Stacey Harris, a podcast all about social media, online marketing, and building a brand online.
Jennifer: My podcast is called Creating Your Own Path (CYOP) and it’s a weekly interview series featuring inspiring individuals and change-makers in various creative industries. I launched the show for several reasons, but the main driving force was my curiosity about the careers of others. At the time, I felt really unsure of my own creative path and knew that I was likely not alone in feeling that way. (It turns out, I wasn’t.)
What benefits or opportunities have you seen from podcasting?
Laura: I have been able to connect with a larger audience who I share similar interests with, and audio brings a new sense of intimacy to that relationship. I also love connecting with the guests, and have expanded my network to new people in various industries. Finally, my guests have been able to book clients thanks to being featured on my show.
Ashley + Abbigail: The best part about podcasting is connecting with other people — especially women — who are making creativity an intentional part of their lives. Learning from their successes (and failures) and finding that we are not alone in this journey has been an amazing benefit of the journey so far.
Danielle + Jen: We absolutely love that we get to connect with so many women — both our guests and our listeners. It is an honor to be able to share a different woman’s story each week. We know we are achieving success for the show when we get an email that says, “Thank you for having so and so on the show, their story resonated with me and was exactly what I needed to hear.”
Carrie: I actually signed on several new business coaching clients who found my website through the podcast. We’ve also chatted with numerous listeners on Twitter about how our show is a must-listen for their morning work commutes.
Stacey: I’ve seen added credibility, because I’m using a medium that is more aligned with how I best provide value. It’s amazing being in someone’s ear and sharing with them what they need to hear. I’ve also been really amazed by the attention it’s brought to my speaking career. When event planners have a chance to actually hear you speak, it’s a lot easier to make a call on hiring you.
Jennifer: Creating something like this has given me the courage to reach out to those whose work I’ve admired for a long time and ask the questions I’ve always wanted to ask. On a larger level, the biggest opportunity is the ability to reach people who really need to hear the stories, tips and wisdom that the show brings to the table. The CYOP community has shown me the value in bringing a lot of different voices, opinions and experiences out into the open and the power those stories really have.
From a career perspective, I started the show before I knew what I was doing. I was essentially making a decision to put myself out there and mess up in public. And I did (do) mess up — a lot! That said, I think by going through this process in a public way, people have started to notice. I get to do fun interviews like this one, I’ve been approached for really great speaking opportunities (which freaks me out, but hey—we all have to face our fears at some point, right?) and I’ve been able to collaborate with other content creators in interesting ways.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve encountered while podcasting?
Laura: I think post-production is the biggest challenge. I still handle the editing of the show and it’s a time consuming process.
Ashley + Abbigail: The biggest challenge has been going into each interview completely unsure of what kind of audio you will get from your guest. When it is your own blog and business, you are 100% in control, but when you are relying on someone else to capture high-quality audio for you, it can be a gamble.
Carrie: Cait and I thought that doing a podcast together would be really challenging but it’s been quite a smooth experience. I think a couple challenges that arose were creating a consistent schedule in the beginning and sending out the newsletters regularly. It’s tough to manage a partnership venture on top of our separate blogs and communities.
Stacey: My biggest challenge is always around my editorial calendar. I go between having a million ideas and zero. It’s helped that now when I have a million ideas, I lay them out in an actual plan.
Jennifer: The biggest challenges I’ve encountered have to do with production of the show. I graduated with a degree in English literature so the tech side of podcasting was incredibly intimidating to me. Luckily, we have an amazing tool called the internet. How-to videos have saved the day on more than one occasion!
Another challenge for me has been time management. Podcasting takes a lot of time! I’ve been doing all of the booking, production and editing myself and a lot of the time I’m doing that work in between the hours I dedicate to my actual job. I’m finally transitioning to a place where I might be able to outsource some of the production of my show.
If you could give one piece of advice to potential or new podcasters, what would it be?
Laura: The process of putting together a podcast is time consuming. I would encourage you to batch the process to save time and energy. Schedule the recordings one day; schedule post production another day.
Ashley + Abbigail: Don’t let fear hold you back — just jump in and get started! You could drive yourself crazy researching the technical side of audio or spending hundreds of dollars on top-of-the-line equipment…or you could create a simple setup that works for you and learn as you go. You could be afraid to reach out to potential guests because they might say no…or you could hit “send” on that email and be pleasantly surprised when they say yes! Not everything in podcasting will go your way, but you’ll never get anywhere if you let fear keep you from trying.
Danielle + Jen:Just start. You can’t get better if you don’t start. You can’t get a bigger audience if you don’t start. You can’t get more confident behind the mic if you don’t start.
Cait: Have fun with it! It is an extra project and will take up at least a few hours of your week, so you should decide early on if you’re enjoying it or not. I think one of the reasons Carrie and I are enjoying ours is because it feels like minimal effort. We hit record, have a conversation and share it with the world. My second piece of advice would be to not stress too much about the editing process! I spent so much time editing the first few episodes, then realized the umm’s and ahhh’s are worth keeping — it’s how we talk and makes the conversation flow more naturally!
Stacey: Get started. I still hate my first 100 shows, no joke. In another 100 episodes I’ll likely hate my first 200 episodes. I will learn from the experience of doing. No one gets better by just wanting to be better. It takes practice.
Jennifer: Make sure you have something to say. It’s really important to understand why you want your idea to be presented via audio. I don’t recommend starting a show because you want to monetize it (though, if you play your cards right, that might be an awesome bonus) and I really advise against starting a show simply because everyone is starting a show. Just like blogging, podcasting is not a requirement — even though it’s trendy right now. As I mentioned above, podcasting takes a lot of time and effort, so try to think about its purpose in your business mix. I see a lot of people jump into it and then quit after a handful of episodes.
What are the top tools, sites, or pieces of equipment that have been valuable to you as a podcaster?
Ashley + Abbigail: 1) GarageBand: Makes editing audio simple. It’s free for Mac users, and there are lots of free resources out there to help you learn how to compile and process audio files. 2) Asana: This project management tool keeps all of our tasks for each episode organized and in one place. We know we’re never letting something important slip through the cracks. 3) Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone: There are a ton of options out there for microphones, but not all of them are affordable for a new podcaster. At $59, this one comes with a stand and all the cords and cables you’ll need — plus it delivers great audio.
Danielle + Jen: 1) Auphonic: Helps to level out the volume. 2) Trello: Keeps our team organized for each episode, with details like date to go live, photos to share on social media, etc. 3) Podcasters’ Paradise gave us all the tools and info we needed to get our podcast running.
Cait: 1) Decent microphones! You don’t need to get anything super expensive. Mine was less than $100. 2) I edit the podcasts with Audacity, which is free. 3) We upload/store all our episodes on Libsyn (which syncs with iTunes) and SoundCloud (for non-Apple listeners).
Jennifer: 1) YouTube has been a lifesaver because really smart people are kind enough to post helpful how-to videos! 2) Get acquainted with Skype and ecamm Call Recorder (if you’re a Mac person), which make recording remote interviews fairly painless. 3) If you really want to go deep into podcasting, head over to Pat Flynn’s podcasting tutorial. It’s comprehensive, easy to follow, and full of helpful information.
There you have it: tips from the podcast pros! Your turn: What questions do you have, or what tips can you share? Leave them in the comments, below.
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