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word from the wise: how to start a podcast

by Jasmine Wallis

Honor Eastly describes herself as a “professional feeler of feelings”. She’s also an artist, musician, writer, and podcaster extraordinaire. With two audio series under her belt, it’s pretty clear this creator knows her stuff. Honor is the producer (or should we say pod-ucer?) of Being Honest With My Ex, as well as her own show, Starving Artist (which debuted at number one on iTunes Arts) in which Honor interviews creative folk about how they carve out a living. We asked her all about getting started in the world of podcasting.

podcasting 1

Podcasts have blown up recently. Why do you reckon this is? A few years ago Apple changed their operating system so that the podcasting app was built in. This meant that millions of people had immediate access to podcasts overnight! There are now over 300,000 podcasts. Also podcasting is a low-cost input (but high time-input task), so it’s a fairly accessible medium.

Why did you decide podcasting was the next step for you as an artist? I’d already studied sound engineering, so I had accidentally prepared myself for my future career as a podcaster. I just used the equipment and skills I already had around me, which meant it was pretty easy to (proactively) fall into. I’d tried lots of different mediums, projects, and somewhat ridiculous ideas (once I brought my bed to a performance art festival and spent eight hours trying to fall in love with strangers). Podcasting was just another thing that I was giving a go, but it definitely stuck on me.

What do you think audiences get from podcasts that they can’t get from other forms of media? There’s a unique kind of intimacy that comes from podcasts that’s hard to get elsewhere. I think that having someone speaking directly in your ears, without your visual faculties engaged, means that you can suspend judgment, and this suspension of judgment is what makes podcasts often feel [much] more intimate than other media. These days, a lot of people use podcasts as a way of feeling connected to other people. I’ve received emails from widows who listen to podcasts to make their house “feel full”, or people who are chronically ill who want a way to socialise when they physically can’t. I think that’s a pretty special thing, to be with people when they can’t be with people.

What are some things to consider before making a podcast? Check out other podcasts and take note of what you like. In any aspect of what I do – production, marketing, speaking – I use myself as a barometer, checking in with what I respond to, what I click on, what makes me laugh, and then I reverse-engineer it to see how I could include that in what I do.

Is there anything you recommend keeping in mind when deciding on a topic to talk about? In my work I’m always trying to make something that I can’t see or find already. I made Starving Artist because I wanted to make the resource that I wanted. I wanted to hear something that wasn't all sunshine and daisies, but told the real story of what creative lives look like on the other side of the Instagram feed. If you’re looking for something but can’t find it, chances are other people are [looking], too. So have a look at what’s out there already. Where would your idea fit? Is that filling a gap?

Can you take us through how you produce an episode of a podcast step-by-step? I always start with an interview subject. I follow a lot of creatives, and have a long list of people I’d like to interview. I’ll then pitch the interviewee (learning to write good email pitches is such a necessary skill!) and set up a pre-interview. The pre-interview is all about getting information about what we could talk about. I try to follow my nose in interviews, and so I’m always trying to be attuned to what I’m really curious about, and then will dig in on that.

I’ll then usually go to the interviewee’s house, record the interview, and send the raw audio to my editor. I spend some time writing the script for the intro and outro, record those, edit them, and upload the final episode to my podcast host, Omny.

Then there’s a bit of work in transcribing (I use a web program called Trint), picking great quotes, making social media graphics, scheduling posts, and writing email updates. As with any endeavor, there’s always more you can do, so you really have to choose how much you want to do!

Equipment-wise, what do you think a beginner needs to get started? The first (and simplest) option would be to start recording on your phone. Using a cheap and immediate approach will give you a good insight as to whether it's something you want to keep doing pretty quickly. A step up would be going one of two ways:

1. Buying a portable recorder (I have the Zoom H4n) and recording straight into that.
2. Buying a USB microphone. These microphones are better for podcasting than normal mics, as they plug straight into your computer.

In terms of editing software, I use Logic Pro, which is a paid program, but there are many free ones out there that a lot of professional podcasters use.

I think the easiest way to get some hands-on skills in working with audio is at your local community radio station, or by doing a workshop. They often do radio training, and it’s a good way to learn some of the basic elements. Otherwise, Google is your friend, and YouTube is filled with people explaining how to do just about everything!

What are some of the tougher parts about creating a podcast? Making podcasts can be kind of a lonely endeavor. You spend a lot of time by yourself, knee-deep in audio. It’s why I found the recent live shows for Being Honest With My Ex so nourishing. It was amazing to meet the people who had been listening to the show for the past two years and realise that there are all these cool humans on the other side, laughing and crying along with us.

Like YouTube video, podcasts are also really hard to monetise, and I think that’s not something people totally realise yet. To make a financially sustainable podcast you need a REALLY BIG audience. How big really depends on how much production goes into your show (but big!).

Any other tips you’d like to share? Follow what you’re genuinely interested in – that enthusiasm will come through in the recording. Also: don’t worry if you hate the sound of your own voice, you’ll get used to it.

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