So you want to start a podcast, eh?
Great! But before you go charging off a well-intentioned cliff with your guests and a decent microphone, let’s discuss your options when it comes to actual production.
It Ain’t That Easy, Son
While podcasts may look and feel ~*effortless*~, there is a lot of work that goes into that 30-45 minute mp3! The average goal ratio of minutes spent in production to content is 4:1. This means that for a 30-minute podcast, you are aiming for 2.5 hours of work total (2 hours of production, 30 minutes of content). And that is if everything goes smoothly.
(Hint: Nothing ever goes smoothly.)
A more realistic, all-inclusive ratio is 6:1 for a high-quality, polished product. This includes time from the initial content idea all the way through to the final, published podcast. If you are new to podcasting, I would bump that ratio up to 8:1.
From scheduling to recording to editing to creative writing, podcasts are a multi-layered vehicle of audio, technology, and composition magic. It’s fair to say that no single person is likely to possess all of those skills. That being said, you want your podcast to be a success, right? Luckily, there are ways to navigate around these gaps in proficiency so you can launch that podcast of your dreams straight to the stars!
Would you say you have a good ear? Have you used an audio editing program? What about uploaded a tagged file to iTunes? Would you consider yourself a talented and compelling writer? Do you have several hours to coordinate schedules several months into the future?
Pull up a chair and let’s chat about the different parts of a podcast so you can decide for yourself where it might be wise to hand it off to somebody else.
Remember Cinderella? More importantly, remember the cute yet hapless furry butterball known as Gus Gus? There’s a scene where he’s trying to pick up as much corn as possible only to have them suddenly fly out from his chubby little arms and all he’s left with is one, sad little kernel.
This is scheduling in a nutshell (or should I say, corn husk?)—and why it gets its own dedicated section in this post.
You think you’ll just book some time for you and your famous friends to chat but something comes up, somebody gets sick, the dog has to go to a playdate, it’s sunny outside and nobody wants to be in a studio, etc. etc. etc.…
Next thing you know it’s just you and your judgy cat staring at each other from across a desk and let me tell you, that cat is a terrible interview subject.
I have personally spent the better part of a week trading emails and voicemails trying to schedule one meeting between two very busy people. While there are a variety of online tools to help reduce the migraine-inducing madness of scheduling (Doodle, When is Good, Calendly are a few we like), there is still a level of manual labor involved.
If you have the patience of a saint, the ability to hang by your phone/email for a week, and enjoy the challenge of fitting moving/ill-formed pieces together, then I’d say keep this task for yourself (because I don’t want it). Otherwise, I’d highly suggest outsourcing scheduling to a virtual assistant (VA) whose literal job is to do the tasks you don’t have the time or patience to do.
It’s more affordable than you think and will give you back actual hours of your life.
The best podcasts are ones where the host and guest are fully engaged in the subject at hand or the free-form, conversational dialogue. Nobody is distracted and the flow is natural and engaging.
However, to ensure quality audio (an absolute must for a successful podcast), there is a lot of work that needs to happen during the actual recording. This is absolutely necessary to ensure a usable product and takes a master multi-tasker.
You aren’t interviewing a zombie. It’s a human being, and they like to wiggle and gesticulate and move around. Sometimes they get excited and talk loudly or mutter. Or somebody unintentionally whacks the mic and on the recording (and not always in your headphone) it knocks out their words for a second.
There are entire professions dedicated to monitoring and managing the audio of a live recording. They are called sound engineers and they get paid a lot of money because they are true magicians.
If you are uncertain of your capacity to direct and engage in a conversation while monitoring the levels of individual tracks, looking for glitches, and noting spots to edit, then this is an area where you should definitely consider outsourcing the work.
Because this is not something that can be 100% automated, there are only a couple non-human tools I would recommend.
Zencastr does a nice job of producing high-quality audio and offers a way to take notes during the recording of where an edit needs to be made plus the ability to mix independent audio tracks into a single file afterward. The podcasts I produce are recorded with Zencastr, and I can attest to its reliability and quality. Two other options out there which I have not used but come recommended are cast and ringr.
While these tools take the mixing off your hands, it still requires that you monitor the audio and take notes as it is happening. If you want to be truly in the moment during your recording, this is where a podcasting VA comes into play.
Yes! That’s right. VAs do more than administrative scheduling. You can find VAs that specialize in podcasting (such as moi) who can book your interviews AND/OR work as your sound engineer (from pre- to post-production). Talk about one-stop-shopping that is, again, surprisingly affordable and attainable.
You have successfully recorded your interview! Congratulations! Now to post it online…
No. Actually now comes the most time-consuming part of any podcast: post-production. Post-production of a successful podcast requires the following:
- Audio editing prowess and tools
- A good ear
- Ability to listen while taking notes for future blog post
- Be an objective listener that can take away the thrust of the subject (which may not be what the interviewer originally intended)
- Creative writing chops
- Image creation skills
- Marketing know-how
- Web design and management
There is a slew of tools you can use for DIY audio post-production, either alone or in combination with others. My personal recipe is Garage Band, Audacity, Levelator, Photoshop, iTunes, Canva, Dropbox, and sometimes, Adobe Audition for audio and imagery. I regularly use all of them (with the exception of Audition) at some point in the process. The order and times at which I employ which tool will remain my own secret recipe but you get the gist: there’s a lot of stuff to figure out and manage when it comes to assembling the audio.
Not to mention establishing a regular intro/outro (DIY: combination of you, a script, Zencastr, and royalty-free or purchased music, Outsource: Audiobag, Music Radio Creative, Voice123), tagging the mp3 with the appropriate info so the file is correct, uploading it to a hosting platform (such as Libsyn or Podbean), and creating imagery for the file and your marketing/show notes.
Once the audio is ready, it’s time for show notes. I have gone over those in detail before so I won’t spend time on it here. I will say it requires strategy and creativity to compose show notes that are short, compelling, and engaging. There is not automation that can take care of this aspect of podcasting. It’s either you or a freelance writer or podcasting virtual assistant.
This is the fun part of a podcast that everybody wants to do: keep an eye out on what’s next, listen to other podcasts to see what people are talking about, and dream big about future guests and direction. I’m happy to suggest that this is something you should never outsource. This is where YOU, and only you, come into play!
Somebody like a podcasting VA can certainly support you by researching guests that align with your vision. But the meat and potatoes deep thinking gets to come from you and, thankfully, that’s the most fun part of this whole process.
So, Do You Fly Solo or Hire a VA?
Break down the entire process of producing a podcast, and find what you are good at. Do those parts only, and do them 110%. Outsource the rest through automation (where possible) or a podcasting VA that can handle the mess while you take the rest.
It’s worth its weight in gold when it comes to savings in time, effort, and headache. Wouldn’t you say?