Everything I Know About Podcasting
One of my favourite things to do is plug in my headphones and walk for miles with a podcast for company. And, they are the perfect company. An educational, funny or compelling nugget that nestles perfectly into your morning commute or soothes your busy brain at night. Apparently, there are now over 630,000 podcasts in existence, amounting to 18.5 million episodes. You could listen to a podcast every day and hardly brush the surface.
Having been fortunate enough to work at the BBC for almost five years, I’ve worked in the radio stations that produce some of my favourite shows. I even worked on the actual BBC podcasting team. I was surrounded by podcasts all day, crafting editorial briefs and positioning new releases to Apple. And while I’ve always had a soft spot for radio and had whimsical dreams of broadcasting myself, I never in a million years thought I could do it.
I vividly remember getting into an argument with my brother for this very reason. I was visiting him in Vietnam, where he was living at the time. We had just got off a boat to explore the Cu Chi Tunnels. He pressed me on why I kept talking about making a podcast and don’t just get started. Of course, I blew up and stormed off, artfully avoiding him throughout the rest of the tour. Of course, deep down, I knew he was right. I didn’t need to wait for permission, I just needed to get started.
Three months later, I made a New Year’s Resolution to start a podcast. Like all Resolutions, this was left untouched and resolutely unresolved all year. It lingered in the back of my mind gathering cobwebs. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I decided to stop talking and start doing. There’s something about the city that swallows you up and makes you feel small and anonymous. I bought the mics. I rustled up a name. I booked a guest. When I Grow Up was born. Over 15,000 plays later, here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
1. It will never be perfect.
It simply won’t. You have to get rid of the idea of perfection, or you’ll never start. One week I set-up my Zoom Recorder wrong and bypassed the mics, resulting in endless muffles and rustles. Another week, I recorded two separate tracks, resulting in four voices in the room instead of two. If you’ve never done this before, you’re inevitably going to fuck it up. But that’s ok. It’s all about the learning process… I mean, it would be pretty boring if you were perfect from the off.
2. Life will get in the way
If this isn’t your day job, you’ll let it slide. Life will get in the way. You might have had ambitions to release one per week, but the moment it becomes a chore, you shouldn’t be doing it. I decided that if I skip a few weeks because I got busy, it’s fine. It doesn’t undo all the work you’ve done in getting started. At the moment, I’m on a bit of a hiatus, but I’ve made 14 episodes and that’s better than nothing, right?
3. Drink up every bit of feedback you can
Feedback is so useful. If you’re doing this solo, then you’re probably acting as Guest Booker, Researcher, Producer, Host, Editor and Marketer. As such, you’re wearing multiple hats with no Executive Producer giving you editorial feedback. So when you get it, it can be tough when it’s your baby. But seriously, pay attention. I was editing episodes too much and gutting them of natural pauses… I learned a really important lesson from one guest when I edited the interview so much that it lost its natural candor. I re-edited the entire thing and left in every ‘um’ and breathy pause. It was painful leaving in the parts that made my toes curl with embarrassment, but the end result was so much more real.
4. It will change and evolve and that’s OK
It’ll change and evolve as you learn. The format, name, style… everything. I’ve embraced the idea that this podcast might be something very different in a few months, or years. Or, it might cease to exist by then. Either way, you’ve got to feel your way through. As with everything, it’s the journey that matters.
5. Self-promotion is tough, but it has to be done
I hated posting on social media. While I’ve worked in it for the past few years, I have such an uneasy relationship with it. I hate representing only a portion of my reality because I know how dishonest it is. I had to relinquish all fear and unease and just post away. While my podcast and posts are a literal microscopic speck on the Internet, it’s one of the best tools you have to get it out there and raise awareness.
6. It will open up unexpected conversations with colleagues and friends
One of the things I’ve loved most about doing this podcast is how it’s prompted some people who I haven’t heard from in years to get in touch and tell me they enjoyed listening. People are bloody nice and will only ever support you for putting yourself out there. We all know how terrifying it can be.
7. Having one listener feels like an achievement and honour, combined
When you’re recording a podcast in your bedroom, you never really imagine that anyone else will ever listen to it. So, it’s pretty mindblowing when you see people have, indeed, been listening. And if they’re on the other side of the world, that’s even more mindblowing. It’s so humbling that people allow you into such a personal space (i.e. their ears) and for that, I’m grateful always.
8. Hearing that one person actually found value in it, is reason enough to keep going
So you aren’t in the iTunes chart? Why bother? My motivation comes from knowing that if one person enjoyed one episode, I’ve done enough. I’ve had a few messages telling me that a particular episode really helped them or gave them a new perspective on their current situation. If you’re doing it for the numbers and glory, quit now.
9. You’ll become more purposeful in the way you use language
I never realised how often I used filler words such as ‘y’know’ and ‘kind of’. It’s so frustrating listening to yourself fill silence and gaps with these verbal tics. Once you hear yourself, you can’t un-hear it and I guarantee you’ll become more aware in future recordings, but in daily conversations too.
10. You’ll feel braver than you did before
I’m a very private person and don’t like putting myself out there at all. At University, I was the one who sat and listened but never spoke up. If the idea of putting yourself out there scares the shit out of you, then it’s all the more reason to do it, for that little extra dusting of confidence in your day-to-day life.
Radio King Ira Glass has the best advice for any creative struggling to get started, which I carry with me always: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple of years, you make stuff, it’s just not that good… It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
If you have any questions about podcasting, I’d be more than happy to answer them.