10 Podcasting Lessons Seasoned Podcasters Wish They'd Known

Dec 16, 2020 11 Min Read
The first installment of a two-part series on podcasting tips from industry veterans.

If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, you no doubt want to make sure that you start off on the right foot. Of course, mistakes are inevitable and serve as meaningful learning opportunities. As the old saying goes, 'experience is the best teacher'.

But experiences don’t necessarily have to be first-hand to be instructive. You can save yourself a lot of time by learning from other people’s decisions. Let’s dive into 10 lessons that some experienced podcasters wish they had known when they were just starting out!

General lessons in podcasting

This section contains general advice from podcasters about getting started and running your show. These tips can serve as helpful reminders no matter what your podcast is about or how long it has been running. 

Lesson 1: Start with a clear vision

“So many people head into podcasting without actually knowing what their objective is. I think once you realise your true motivation for doing it, that will inform multiple other things. Figure out the title for the podcast… Make it short and catchy so people can remember it. Jason—my podcast host—and I spent many meetings trying to figure out what the ideal title would be for the show and then dealt with things like graphics and what visuals we wanted to use. We decided on a once a week, around half-an-hour show doing audio and video. We had long conversations about what we actually wanted to accomplish with our show. Once you have the nuts and bolts down, go for it!”

~ Kathy from the Fire and Ice Podcast

How to Implement Kathy’s Advice

Know the direction you want to head in so that you can prepare for it. It’s true that podcasts evolve and take shape over time. Start with a clear idea of what you want your podcast to be, as well as the audience you want to reach. 

As Kathy from the Fire and Earth Podcast mentioned, knowing your motivation and objectives will help you stay focused and make decisions that work in harmony together. Having clear goals will help you set your priorities, choose your battles, and keep going!

Remember that no decision has to stand forever. At the end of the day, it’s still your podcast. If realise that creating hour-long episodes are no longer working for you, then it’s within your right to change your show’s format. Just be sure to inform your fans about why a new decision or change is being made.

Lesson 2: Aim for 'your best', not 'perfection'

“So many people have this idea in their head that they need everything to be perfect.This causes them to rethink everything over and over again. Just take that first step, get your voice and show out there. Not everything will be perfect, you will falter, you might even fail, but keep going. Ifyou really want to podcast, you will find a way. I was guilty of this same thing, when I first started. I sat on a movie review podcast idea for almost a year before I thought it was good enough. In that time a lot of my innovative ideas had been done by people braver than I. That is the real failure, the failure to launch.

~ Michael from Hush Hush Society Conspiracy Hour

“Don’t let perfection get in the way of production. The reality is your first podcast or radio show will not be perfect. In fact, it’ll probably be far from your vision of the 'ideal' show, if you have one. Listeners who like what you’re making will be forgiving. And they may even give you tips on what they’d like to hear (or have you fix)... With producing a podcast or radio show, there’s a lot to think about — along with simply bringing YOU and your personality, your voice, to the table. So go on now, start creating those first 10+ episodes because the next 10, 20 — or 200+ like in my case— will be so much better once you get there.”

~ Cuscino from Future/Sound Radio

How to implement Michael’s and Cuscino’s Advice

It’s true that you shouldn’t start a podcast until you’re ready. But if you get hung up on tiny details, you might end up not starting your podcast at all! And that’s why experienced podcasters emphasise focusing on doing what your best is for now. 

Think of it as being similar to learning how to drive for the very first time. When you start out, you feel as though you are constantly second-guessing your every move. All you can do is put forth your best effort and continue practicing. 

Over time, you will begin to feel more comfortable and confident as you gain more experience. And you’ll notice that you spend less time worried about insignificant details. As your skills and experience increase, the ceiling (or limit) for your 'best' in podcasting naturally goes up. 

It is understandable that you care very much about ensuring your first few episodes are the best. But always remember that your output will continue to get better with practice. And that’s why—as Cuscino from Future/Sound Radio said—you should never let your search for perfection stop your podcast production! 

Lesson 3: Everything takes longer than you think

“Doing things properly takes time. Or to be more specific: everything will take longer than you think it will. Even if you think it will take a long time, it will take longer! One of the reasons for this is that for any podcast to be successful it has to be a collaborative effort; there will be times when you have to wait for others to do what you want them to do. This is not a bad thing. Always remember that working with others will lead to you creating something far greater than you could ever achieve alone. Just factor that extra time into your pre-launch schedule. Think of it in terms of those Home Renovation TV shows. The most successful projects are those where people give themselves plenty of time to get all the work done before they move in. Compare that with the stress and calamity of those who move straight in and have to live in chaos as the work goes on around them.

~ Dave from Anything 4U

How to implement Dave’s advice

No one is exempted from unexpected delays or setbacks. It’s just how the world works sometimes! It helps to bear this in mind when you’re suddenly faced with the need to make changes to your plans.

It can feel like a hassle when a potential interview guest isn’t responding to your emails as quickly as they could. Or when the transcriber you hired to create transcripts for your episodes is taking longer than usual to send you the final output. Or even when it seems that your podcast hosting platform’s tech support is taking quite some time to resolve an issue you believe should be relatively simple for them to handle. 

All of these situations may cause you to feel frustrated or discouraged about podcasting. However, as Dave—from Anything 4U—reminds us, it’s important for podcasters to take their time instead of rushing or half-baking things.

Keep your Deadlines

However, deadlines still need to be met and tasks still need to be completed. Otherwise, your podcast won’t be able to continue for very long. 

So aim to account for delays and setbacks whenever you create your own schedule and set deadlines. A great way to ensure your podcast runs as smoothly as possible is by giving yourself and the people around you a deadline 'allowance' of at least 1-3 days. 

For example, if you believe that a deadline for a task is Friday, 13th November, mark your calendar with a soft deadline on Wednesday, 11th November. Then motivate your team—and yourself—to treat 11th November as the actual deadline for the task. This way, even if you end up missing the deadline by a day or two, it’s not the end of the world! 

And of course, your potential podcast guests, editors, transcribers, etc. would definitely appreciate you giving them a heads-up of upcoming events/deadlines as early as possible. By doing so, you will significantly reduce the chances of delays occurring.

Lesson 4: Become a fan of other podcasts first

Listen to as many podcasts as possible. One of my biggest lessons is that I failed to explore what was out there in the world of podcasting. I realise now that it’s incredibly crucial to listen to other podcasts not just for inspiration, but to understand the benchmark in terms of quality and the different formats you can play with.

~ Shasidharan from Leaderonomics FM

How to Implement Shasidharan’s Advice

When you genuinely enjoy other podcasts, you get the chance to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Of course, no other podcast is exactly the same as yours. However, you can still get a good feel of how certain formats, ad placements, and episode lengths are perceived by the average listener.

There’s no need to restrict yourself to podcasts that are within your niche. Branch out and find shows you can enjoy in your free time. Why not go the extra mile and leave them a sincere, constructive review? Becoming a fan yourself is key to understanding how you can better accommodate and engage your own fans. 

Not to mention, you yourself know the satisfaction and encouragement that come from seeing a constructive review. You can make another podcaster’s day and let them know that their efforts are not going unnoticed!

Lesson 5: Manage your resources strategically

“Only spend what you can afford. And don’t go into podcasting if you expect to make a living in the first few years. Don’t stress! Podcasting should be enjoyable not stressful.”

~ Oz from The Oddball Aussie Podcast

“Podcasting is a fun hobby with an amazing community and you don’t need tocommit to too much at a time, otherwise you may get burnt out, and no one wants that!”

~ Talysa from The Shit Show: A Half-Assed True Crime Podcast

How to Implement Oz’s and Talysa’s Advice

Whether you’re investing time, energy, money, or anything else, take care to not overburden yourself. Podcasting can be a rewarding experience if you pace yourself appropriately. And podcasting can only be sustainable if you manage your resources strategically. 

For example, some podcasters are able to buy high-end microphones and editing software right off the bat. But those same decisions might not be practical for other podcasters. So don’t compare yourself or feel pressured to copy other successful podcasters’ investments. 

Focus on your own podcast and what your circumstances allow you to do for it. There’s no need to feel pressured to constantly upgrade your equipment or software. Yes, it’s key that podcasters constantly do their best to grow and improve. But if by trying to do so you end up burning out, is that really an improvement? The best kind of growth is sustainable!

Lesson 6: Play to your strengths so that you can be as natural as possible

“Talk about what you know about: Podcasting is an intimate art. Your listeners will spend hours throughout their workdays listening to you. They'll pick up on whether or not you know what you're talking about. This [is] advice that I got from one of my listeners: It doesn't have to be great. Podcasts that flow off the cuff with lots of riffing, or podcasts where you can tell the host is having fun, those are the best. So don't get caught up if you mess up or have some kinks. Post episodes consistently and you'll get better… Have fun with it, and so will your listeners!”

~ Dan from Peanut Butter Tiger

“Don’t try to be the next (insert name here). Why do you want to be someone you are not? That person is already taken.”

~ Nikky from 'In Bed with Nikky'

How to Implement Dan’s and Nikky’s Advice

When you’re comfortable with the subject matter and the format of your show, you’ll feel less self-conscious. This means you’ll be better able to focus on entertaining and opening up to your audience rather than on yourself. 

As Dan—from Peanut Butter Tiger—pointed out, your audience primarily tunes in for you rather than necessarily the information you can provide them with.

For example, there are countless movie review podcasts available right now. One might ask, 'How are all of these podcasts able to have their own sets of listeners? Why don’t listeners just go read movie reviews online? It would probably be faster for them to do so.”

But you see, that’s a brilliant example of how each podcast host brings something to the table. Perhaps some of those movie review podcasts are upbeat and fast-paced. And they may be more centered around the host giving his/her personal opinion and cracking some jokes. 

Other podcast hosts may take a more technical approach to movie reviews, preferring to meticulously delve into all of the details of a movie’s narrative and production—again, this is something that would appeal to certain audiences. 

So we see that the host’s personality and unique perspective shape the podcast’s 'mood' and direction. This means that the podcast isn’t simply just about 'movie reviews', it’s about 'movie reviews from this host’s perspective'.

Reposted with permission on Leaderonomics.com

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Hannah Roa is a podcasting-world correspondent and writer at Paudium. She combines her love of podcasts with the collective know-how of the podcasters in Paudiums community to craft informative, relevant, and reader-friendly articles.

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