Since I launched my poetry podcast in January, 2020, I have received about 3 messages and a couple more random asks about how I started my podcast, usually from people who are willing to do the same thing. Recently, I posted a poll on Instagram, and it turned out more people are interested in knowing what steps to take to starting their own podcasts. So, consider this post an amateur, honest, but detailed one. I will let you in on everything I know, and I trust it will be a great starting point.
FIRST OFF, what’s your why?
I like the common saying, “when the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable.” For anything to be successful, there has to be a genuine why. Why do you want to start a podcast? I decided I wanted to share my poems outside of live performances and Instagram posts. My first option was a YouTube channel, but my content creation joys do not exactly extend to creating videos consistently. I wanted something I could do right off the bat, something I could do without being forced, and something that could put me in the moment, the same way a live performance would. Yes, I like being in front of the lens to take pictures and what not, but recording and editing videos are things I’m not big on (for now). So, podcasting was a better outlet. I could “hide” my face, stay behind the mic, and just flow.
Now, I could not find any spoken word podcasts. There were a couple poetry podcasts, but it was hard to find something which looked like what I had in mind. I like samples, so I was not excited about this. However, because I had a why, it was easy to find podcasts with similar styles – storytelling, poetry, literature etc. and things were pretty much defined from the beginning.
You get the gist now…you need to have a reason for starting a podcast. It will also help you on days when you don’t feel like recording anything (more about that later).
Decide on Your Style
Every podcast is different. There are similar podcasts, but they are not the same. Why? The hosts are different. A podcast can be fiction, live storytelling, narrative, chat cast, solo hosted, interview etc. Some will include more than one format. You want to decide on your style as early as possible. Mine is currently a blend of narrative, solo host, and interview. In the same vein, it’s important to decide on the frequency. I started as a biweekly podcast and then moved to daily episodes. This may change over time, but for now, that’s the working schedule, and it helps me plan my episodes.
Choosing a Hosting Service
Once you know why you’re starting a podcast and how you want this podcast to function, the next important thing is to make those ideas come to life. This is why a hosting service exists. Podcasts do not just make it to platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, or Google Podcasts randomly. They go through a process. The beginning of that process is a hosting service. This is where you manage your audience and podcast files. Some of the popular names include Anchor, Buzzsprout (which I currently use), Libsyn, PodBean etc.
I tested the waters with Anchor for a few weeks before I decided to use Buzzsprout. Anchor is easy to use, and it is free. A great perk is that you can record from your phone; it’s designed to make recording convenient from your phone. If you choose to do this, I’ll advice against the in-built phone microphone – you do not want to rely on the quality of such sounds. With Anchor, you can also record with people in different locations (considering the lockdown, this is a great perk added since it became owned by Spotify). You can create an artwork for your podcast from the library of free images (note that anyone else can use the same image you have used too), and listeners can leave you a voice message as feedback. You also get access to some audio files in terms of background music and transitions which you can use for your show. On the contrary, this was the dealbreaker for me. Because I had a spoken word podcast in mind, I wanted to have as much control over my music choices as possible. Anchor did not give me that control. Also, without much of your consent, Anchor can play ads on your show. I did not want any of that. I also wanted an original artwork, so I used my AdobeSpark app to create something I liked.
Buzzsprout was my second option. I explored Libsyn a bit, but I eventually settled with Buzzsprout. Unlike Anchor, you do not get a lot of features for free on Buzzsprout. However, I felt in control of my content, and that was necessary for me. For the first 90 days, you have access to their free plan. If you choose to continue, then there are paid plans where you get 3 hours of upload time for $12/month. If the total minutes for your episodes will exceed 3 hours, then this may be a dealbreaker for you. When I kicked off with monthly payments for Buzzsprout, I got a $20 Amazon gift card because I was referred by someone else, and I immediately invested that in a small but functional mic which is what I still use for recording my episodes. If you choose to use my Buzzsprout referral link, you also get a $20 Amazon gift card, and it is totally up to you to decide how to use it.
Some other perks include easy listings on major podcast directories. Once I uploaded my first audio files into Buzzsprout, I was allowed to submit to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castbox…you name it! I just had to wait to be approved by these platforms and then I shared the word with everyone. Buzzsprout also offers a website where listeners can find all of your episodes and choose to either listen on the website (find mine here) or be redirected to their favorite podcast platform. You also get an audio player embed code to help you publicize on other websites, like I have it here. This is not an ad or sponsored post, but I genuinely appreciate the flexibility and easiness that comes with Buzzsprout.
I do not have so much of a first-hand experience with the other hosting services, but you can find out more about them here.
Choosing a Recording Software
Most podcasters choose one of these three: Audacity, GarageBand, or ProTools. If you already own a Mac or an iPhone, GarageBand is right up your alley. I also have the Audacity app, but I happened to pick up pace with GarageBand. Both options are free but Audacity is limited in terms of audio formats such as AAC or M4A. Do your research, and as much as you can, always test the waters until you find what works for you.
Recording and Editing on GarageBand
The first thing I do when I open the app is to change Input device to “External Microphone” and Output to “MacBook Air Speakers.” This allows me record by using my mic and also hear a playback of my recording through my laptop’s speakers. If you have connected a different speaker or output device such as headphones or AirPods, you can use that too. Make sure you place the volume of your laptop/phone at a desired level. You cannot increase the volume while the mic is plugged.
Next Step is to select “Audio” and then “Create.” It will usually highlight “1234” and the button next to it in purple (as seen in the second screenshot). Deactivate those buttons (as I have – the color becomes grey). For podcasting, you will hardly need any beats going off while you record, so I choose “Time” (as seen in the third screenshot). This also helps you keep track of the time while you record.
If you choose to fine-tune your sound a bit, GarageBand offers some voice options. I usually go for “Natural Vocal” – it adds a better effect to the poem, and I like the overall output. Remember, test the waters and experiment away! Learn to play with your work.
If you already have a downloaded song, you add it by clicking the music icon on the top right corner. You can then go ahead to place it where you want. I use AudioBlocks for background music. With a subscription, you get licensed to use and keep downloaded music without having to worry about copyright infringement. If you are not creating a spoken word podcast, you may choose not to include music throughout the show. It’s all preference.
Above all, be sure to create an intro and outro for your podcast. As I type this, I am certain my outro and intro are not where I want them to be, but they work for now. You can’t skip this step. What do you want people to know about your podcast as soon as they tune in? Make it count and make it consistent.
Creating Content for Your Podcast
*Let’s insert a love-hate reaction here*
This is the creme de la crème of your podcast. Nothing works if there are no episodes to publish. After three months of podcasting, content creation became a different ball game. There were days I totally did not feel like creating, writing, or recording. Top that with the struggle to find a quiet space especially during a lockdown. It is usually noisy, except at midnights. On some days, I gave in to the pressure of not creating. On most days, I picked myself up again. But in all honestly, automation is your ticket to producing episodes consistently.
Since I started recording multiple episodes ahead of time and scheduling them on Buzzsprout, it has been easier to produce content. My best advice? Plan, record and schedule ahead of time! There has to be a method to the madness. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Any Other Business
Get in on the publicity. Spread the word. It’s your work. Be proud of it. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done. In the process, feel free to make changes and embrace improvements. Your listeners will understand and appreciate your on-the-job upgrades, and everything will be just fine! Also, it’s important to connect with like minds as you go on, and put your ears to the ground for the latest happenings in your industry and in the podcast industry at large. Own it!
You might think, “Where does $20 come in?” If you have a phone or laptop, get that $20 mic for a start and forget about the rest. You’ll need to do more work if you are on a budget and cannot outsource, but it’s what it is. It’s always better to start and grow rather than wait and waste.
Ready to get started with podcasting? Following this link lets Buzzsprout know I sent you, and like I stated earlier, it gets you a $20 Amazon gift card if you sign up for a paid plan.
Do you think I missed out on anything? Leave a question in the comment section here, and I’ll reply quickly. Thank you so much for reading. Take some time to listen to my podcast HERE if you will! I’ll appreciate it.
With Overflowing Love,