10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Starting My First Podcast

  1. A quiet room and a microphone aren’t the only things you’ll need.
    Sure, it’s enough to get a basic recording, but it’s not how the greatest and most notable names in podcasting get the sound that they do. Early on in Omitted, I didn’t apply much backend editing, and looking back on those episodes, it shows.
    Learning how equalization and noise reduction work have done me a world of good and taken my podcast from sound quality that’s listenable to sound quality that’s actually impressive. 
  2. Voice acting takes practice.
    If you’re going to sit there and read a script without any critical thought toward your delivery, it’s going to be obvious to listeners that you’re reading a script without any critical thought toward your delivery. Learning the pace and timing of compelling speech, when to emphasize words or syllables, or when to increase or decrease your speaking volume, takes practice and requires an objective and critical listen of your work. 
  3. Listening back on your early work is going to be painful later on.
    When you’ve really started to apply the things you learn, listening back on your early work (before you knew those things) is going to be an awkward experience. You’re going to want to turn off the episode and pretend it never happened. But don’t do that. Keep listening and take notes. What have you changed about your style or delivery? What could you still stand to work on?
    (Case in point)
  4. Your friends and family probably aren’t going to listen.
    This was a hard one, but the fact of the matter is, most of your friends and family aren’t going to listen. Sure, they might start out doing so, but it’s highly unlikely that everyone in your life is going to listen to every episode you produce. If someone doesn’t already listen to podcasts, you can’t make them. The best you can do is create content they might be interested in hearing. 
  5. Target people who already listen to podcasts.
    This should be obvious, but for me, it wasn’t. When I started a Titanic podcast in season one, I thought anyone interested in Titanic would surely be willing to listen. But this goes back to my last point: If someone doesn’t already listen to podcasts, convincing them to do so is often an exercise in futility. Instead, target your marketing toward people who already listen. 
  6. It’s going to be a lot more work than you expected.
    This is something I learned as I got deeper into my project–after I’d put in the critical thought to make something I could actually be proud of. It’s easy to make a podcast, but it’s not easy to make it right. Be willing to give up a lot of your free time, and even more of your mental time, if you’re going to make something worth sticking with. 
  7. You’re not going to change the world or inspire the next Great Awakening through your podcast.
    Everyone thinks they have what it takes to make a huge impact on the world, but honestly, people very rarely do.
    I have a theme through Omitted that I feel is worth teaching, but I can’t expect it to change the world. If the best I can do is encourage one more person to recognize names like Eliza Hocking or Matilda Kaliko Faufata, then so be it. The work was worth it. But unless the entire planet collectively listens to my show and learns the lessons that history has taught us, I’m a small fish in a very large pond. 
  8. If you’re in it for download numbers, then niche matters.
    History podcasts aren’t sexy. They don’t have the following that genres like true crime or business bring. Expecting a huge audience for a niche that’s not as popular is foolish. But stick with it because the hot genres might change. 
  9. There’s no real metric for success.
    This is actually a great thing about podcasting. “Success” as a concept means something different to everyone and that’s okay. It’s how it should be. When I started, I thought that success meant being on a network or having sponsors, but just the fact that ~300 people now download my episodes within the first few hours is enough for me. I’m not talking about popular celebrities or well-known figures that are likely to garner download numbers based on name recognition alone. Doing so would actually be antithetical to the entire point of my show, so the fact that 300 people take time out of their Monday to set out to listen to the obscure story I want to tell? That’s pretty damn cool. 
  10. Having a supportive network will make all the difference.
    Like I’ve already said, podcasting isn’t easy. It’s hard to do it right. In the early days, after the initial high has worn off, it’s easy to get burnt out. But making friends and connecting with people who are passionate about the subjects you’re talking about, or just about podcasts and podcasting in general, keeps it fun and engaging. Groups like Podcasts We Listen To are a beautiful way to keep your enthusiasm level high.

I’m sure there are more things I wish someone had told me, and maybe in the future I’ll make another list. For now, these are the things that stand out in my mind. They’re lessons I learned through experience, but I’ll share them to save someone else a bit of trouble.

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