7 Tips to Aspiring Podcasters After A 300% Funded Kickstarter
Note: An earlier version of this post originally appeared on reddit.com/r/podcasting
As our podcast’s Kickstarter enters its final few hours, I wanted to reach out to the podcasting world and particularly the r/podcasting community to say a very gracious thank you. This post is my attempt to give something back to the community, in the form of some encouragement and advice to aspiring podcasters.
1. Don’t give up on your idea
Our podcast began as a vague idea when a college friend of mine came to visit me in Hong Kong in early 2015. It wasn’t until more than a year later that we began to actually flesh out the concept and talk about it more seriously. I reached out (as did he) to the reddit community a number of times during pre-production for advice on recording, equipment, initial setup, hosting, etc.
I’d been listening to podcasts for years, and had always dreamed of hosting my own, but never thought it would happen. It’s one of the simplest mediums after blogging to get set up in, and the community is excellent, which leads me to my next point.
2. Reach out for help and listen to the feedback
On August 1st, 2016 we released our first episode. When I look back at it now, I cringe. However, it was a realisation of the concept, and it was a huge thrill to see the name of my podcast appear in the iTunes listings.
There were many things that could have been better about that episode, and about a few of our early episodes, but at the end of the day delivering the product is a step you need to take. If you spend forever polishing and honing your concept you may never end up actually releasing a product. Just get it done, get it out there and work on making it better from that point.
3. Consider your value as a podcast
This was perhaps the most crucial and agonising part of our initial setup. I continually searched for podcasts that were doing the same thing or similar things to ours. Thankfully, I found very few. That led me to realise that there was a gap in the market for what we were producing, and that always helps when you’re starting out. Looking at the vast number of podcasts out there, it’s tempting to think that your idea will never stand out. Here’s where I’d like to share my rules (pilfered from another podcaster, David Chen) of making things for the internet. You need to be one of the following;
Thankfully in our case we fulfilled the first criteria, but that isn’t always the case. If you can’t be the first one doing what you’re doing, try to do things differently. Offer a different type of value to your listener. If you’re doing a movie podcast or a video game review show, you’re entering a very crowded market. Look at the competition and ask how you can do things differently or better than them. Focus on that, and you’re on the right track.
4. Don’t expect it to take off right away
Our download figures, even today, aren’t huge. I’m not expecting to be the next ‘99% Invisible’ or ‘Stuff You Should Know’, certainly not overnight. Focus on your small community, listen to them and trying to improve episode by episode. As Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines put it in a recent episode of the ‘How I Built This’ podcast, “Think small and act small, and we’ll get bigger. Think big and act big, and we’ll get smaller.”
5. Podcasting is easy. Marketing is hard.
This is one area where a lot of podcasts fall down. Having worked in media for a number of years, I’ve realised that good content is only half the battle. Marketing your podcast is tough, and the space is only getting more crowded, but there are ways to do it.
For example, our podcast focuses on a different geographical area each episode, so I make a point of finding the relevant local subreddit and posting a link to the episode. We also try to stay active on social media, and not just be a firehose for links to new episodes.
Build a community around your podcast. Post links, images and videos of the kinds of things that would relate to your listeners. Engage your community and you might be surprised at the amount of people that are willing to respond.
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to niche mediums. We arranged to have an article published in our university alumni magazine, and have been in touch with local papers too. It’s hard to track how many listeners those efforts may have brought in, but everyone who’s even heard of your podcast is a vector for spreading the word.
6. You don’t need professional equipment to start
There are plenty of podcasters who start out and drop a wad of cash on pro mics, software and soundproofing, but you truly don’t need to spend big to start out. Sound quality is important, and will give your podcast a definite edge, but you don’t need to spend thousands to get it.
We started out with the podcasters favourite, the Yeti Blue Mic (costing roughly US$100 each), plus pillows and blankets stacked around our respective recording areas to dampen echoes. But please, please buy a pop shield. Trust me on that one.
Similarly for software, you can get by on very little, or even nothing. For our podcast, I had to invest in some software to capture Skype calls, as we record in separate locations, but for many people that won’t be an issue. You can use totally free editing software such as Audacity for editing, and many podcasters swear by it, preferring it even to paid software.
7. Podcasting isn’t a ladder, but it can be a door
There are very few people who can make a successful full-time career out of podcasting (aside from one of my favourite podcasting duos at BaldMove), but many people do it anyway. For most, it’s simply a passion project or a hobby, but it can also help to advance your career in unexpected ways. I’ve been approached about a number of opportunities as a result of podcasting, but you shouldn’t start out expecting to make a career out of it.
What you should expect is to make connections, learn new skills and broaden your portfolio as a result of podcasting. Employers are always impressed when you can demonstrate the drive and ambition to build something outside of your regular 9–5, and you never know, the next hiring manager you meet may also be a podcast junkie.
As for my own podcast, we’re still working towards improving and getting better, but exceeding the (admittedly modest) goal that we set ourselves on Kickstarter felt like clear validation of our project so far. I want others to share that feeling, so if this post could be of small help to anyone starting out in the community, I figure it’ll have been worth it. Thanks again to the r/podcasting community for all of the help, feedback and encouragement, and best of luck!
TR;DR — Just do it. If you have a good idea and put your best work into producing and marketing your product, the results will come.