Updated: Feb 25, 2021
Well, it’s official. I am now a podcaster.
The first season of the That’s Aloud podcast, which I’m calling “Messed-Up Memoirs,” is now available on iTunes, and will soon be on Spotify and Google Podcasts as well. It’s a delightful romp through some of the most trying, but ultimately uplifting, experiences from my school years and beyond. Think David Sedaris meets Brene Brown.
Oh man. Now I want those two to actually meet. And start a podcast together. But I digress.
Podcasting has been a dream of mine ever since I learned the word, which was probably around the time I became hopelessly addicted to Serial and realized, much to my elation, that radio drama is far from dead.
And as it turns out, the actual process of starting a podcast was much simpler than I would have imagined. So I thought I share the steps with y’all so you can follow suit and glory in public embarrassment along with me!
Step One: Buy some decent equipment
This is where I got hung up. For about ten years.
I had this idea that good-enough equipment was waaaaay out of my price range. Not so! There are now many affordable microphone options on the market that will give you podcast-quality sound. I went with a Blue Yeti, and I absolutely love it.
Step Two: Create a relatively soundproof space
This makes a huge difference in terms of sound quality.
Here’s an example of a recording made before sound-proofing:
And here’s a recording post-soundproofing: https://soundcloud.com/adrienne-moxie-maciain/how-to-land-your-dream-job
Pretty remarkable contrast, no?
It’s also much easier than it sounds. All you need is a relatively small space that can be closed off to outside sounds, and some noise-dampening materials for the walls. If you have a walk-in closet, that’s actually ideal since it’s already the perfect size, and is pre-lined with sound-dampening clothing.
But even if your closets aren’t recording-ready, there’s no need to buy a bunch of expensive acoustic foam or soundproofing blankets. I created my own DIY recording studio by tacking up an old foam mattress topper on the wall, and piling couch cushions and thick blankets on the top shelf of the closet of my kids’ playroom.
FYI, though, egg crates don't do a darn thing. They may have that nifty wavy pattern you've seen on acoustic foam, but they aren't thick enough to make any real impact.
Step Three: Pick a Topic
Your topic should be something you’re passionate about, something you can easily talk about for long stretches. But it should also be something you think will provide real value to others: education, inspiration, entertainment… or hopefully all three!
I chose a storytelling podcast because, duh, I love telling stories. But also because I love listening to other peoples’ stories. My favorite podcasts are Snap Judgment and The Moth Radio Hour, because the stories they present are as powerful as they are entertaining. I love listening to the myriad creative and inspiring ways other people have dealt with all the weird shit that life has thrown at them.
I’m hoping that my podcast will inspire others the way those podcasts have inspired me to start telling my own truth, no matter how strange or scary or unsolicited. If just one of you out there listens to a story of mine and thinks “Well shit, if she can tell THAT story to a bunch of strangers, I guess I can tell some of mine,” then I will have succeeded in my mission.
Step Four: Pick a Format
Once you’ve decided on a topic, you’ll need to decide on a format. Will this be a solocast, where you talk directly to the audience? Will you have a cohort (or two or three) with whom you have a dialogue? Or will it be an interview format in which you chat with a rotating roster of guests?
You don’t have to be entirely consistent, of course, but it’s a good idea to pick a formula and then choose to deviate from it as needed.
Logistically, a solocast is obviously the simplest, since you don’t need to coordinate with anyone else’s schedule, and so on. But in terms of coming up with fresh material, it’s definitely the most challenging.
The beauty of a duocast is that two people playing off of each other, especially if they have good chemistry and are both clever conversationalists as well as knowledgeable about the topic at hand, will easily come up with plenty of listen-worthy material. In fact, the most difficult part of the duocast is the editing process after the fact. So much material, so little air-time.
The interview format is ideal for topics you’re passionate about, but not necessarily an expert in. By bringing in a variety of experts, you can explore a topic in much more depth than you could do alone, and the new voices bring in a welcome freshness and novelty.
If you want to accompany your podcast with a written blog, there are two ways to do it. You can record first and then transcribe, or you can write and then record. The traditional recommendation is to record first, working from a loose outline or notes so that your voice sounds natural and improvised.
Step Five: Record and upload
Once you’ve got at least one episode recorded, you'll probably need to do a bit of editing. I recommend Audacity, as it's free and user-friendly.
I use a lot of music for emotional effect. If you want to go that route, you'll need to get music that you have permission to use. Some great places to find royalty-free music are the YouTube music library and the Free Music Archive.
Once it's edited, you can upload it to a podcast hosting site. There are plenty of options, but I'm gonna save you some time and just say go with Anchor. It's free, it's insanely user-friendly, and it automatically distributes your podcast to all the places folks find podcasts. I started on SoundCloud but migrated when I learned how simple it was to import a podcast onto Anchor, and am absolutely delighted with the result.
It's also a good idea to record and intro and outro that you'll use for each episode. On Anchor, you can pull them from your library and add them to each new episode so you don't have to re-upload them every time.
The intro is a short message welcoming listeners and contextualizing for them what your podcast is all about. That helps frame up what they're about to hear so your core message doesn't get lost in the details of the episode.
The outro is a brief call to action thanking them for listening and then humbly requesting they subscribe, rate, and review your podcast, and perhaps even check out your website or whatever it is you'd like to promote.
Both should have music that sets the emotional tone and is in line with your brand.
Step Six: Submit your podcast for listing
To submit your podcast for listing on iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc., you will need an image (called your “artwork”) that is a 3000 x 3000 pixel JPEG or PNG file with 72 dpi in the RGB color space. It should be something that looks appealing even when shrunk down to a small thumbnail size.
Even if you plan to let Anchor distribute your podcast for you, you should test your podcast feed to make sure it’s working properly. Via iTunes, choose File > Subscribe to Podcast, enter your RSS feed URL in the text box, then click OK. If you can successfully download and play the episode, then your podcast is working and ready for submission. If not, you’ll need to use a third party feed validation service such as http://podba.se/validate/ to troubleshoot it.
Once it’s been approved, you’ll be able to share the links and let folks know where to find your new creation.
Let me know how it goes, and please share your podcast links in the comments!