May 11, 2021 (Updated )
It’s impossible to deny the appeal of podcasts. We listen to them while cooking, cleaning, commuting and generally living life on the go. Whatever your interests, there’s a podcast for that. So it’s only natural to have a listen and think “I could do that”. If that’s you and you’ve been contemplating starting your own podcast, we have some tips from experts in the game.
Vic Sanusi, who co-runs award-winning podcast Black Gals Livin’ with her good fried Jasmine, focuses on pop culture, mental health, race, being Black women, and just banter between friends on their podcast. In 2019, they won Podcaster of the Year at the Brown Sugar Awards. They’ve also collaborated with Spotify, Adidas, Make-Up Revolution, and featured celebrities on their podcast. So they certainly know what they’re doing.
On how to get a podcast idea, co-host Vic tells us: “I always [ask] people ‘what is something you’re really passionate about, something that really excites you?’ Then [I say], look at, at the market, look at the fields you’re after.
“You can do anything at all, any idea, honestly, nothing is too niche. It’s impossible for it to be too niche. Because there’s so much you can explore, if you’ve run out of topics, you can always look at the news. And what we used to do is have Google Alerts for for our niches. If you really want to do something, definitely do it, your audience will find you, especially when you promote it right.”
What Do You Need To Start A Podcast?
So, you’ve got your idea, what next? To launch your podcast, you’ll need a few different pieces equipment – although Vic stresses it doesn’t have to be costly. Vic uses a USB Zoom mic at the moment but prior to the pandemic was recording in a studio which she paid from £25 an hour (although this cost can vary), and a laptop to edit.
“So for editing software, we use Audacity,” explains Vic. “I studied journalism at uni, and we were taught how to use Audacity. It’s so easy to use, it’s literally a copy and paste job, you highlight things you don’t want, delete etc. There’s other software that makes it much easier if you don’t want to use Audacity. You can use GarageBand, Logic Pro, and Power Sound Editor.
“You can do anything at all, any idea. Honestly, nothing is too niche. It’s impossible to be too niche.”
“If you’re scared of editing, you can use Zencastr. It’s really easy to sync it up. I’d recommend having headphones because you want to be able to hear the person speak straight into your ears. If you have a loud laptop like mine, and it sounds like an aeroplane taking off, I would recommend you get an extension cable. So you can have your laptop away from you while you’re sat down with the mic.”
Francesca Specter, the host of Alonement, also gives her vote for Audacity and stresses that editing is absolutely a skill that anyone can use. “Audacity is brilliant but most importantly, it’s free. It’s an open source software and anyone can get it. And actually, it is quite easy to use. But, like most things, you can master it after a few hours on YouTube.
“Audacity is brilliant, but most importantly, it’s free. It’s an open source software and anyone can get it. And, actually, it’s quite easy to use.”
“For those who are editing their own podcasts, I would edit the episode straight after. Because I’ve learned that if you don’t, you go away, you forget about it, and you have to listen to it and come back to that conversation again and again. And that will expand the time if you don’t edit it straight away. So that’s a rule that I now have for myself that I’d recommend to anyone who’s doing their own.” Francesca also advises listening back to your edit while you’re on the move – to try and recreate the experience someone listening might have.
Cara McGoogan, the host of The Telegraph’s Bed of Lies podcast, also advises you to think beyond the typical inverted pyramid structure for news – even if your podcast is an investigation or piece of journalism. “Pretty quickly we realised that actually, the the thrust of a narrative series is the cliffhangers and the tension and wanting to find out where the story is going. Those little thread are the things that you really need to carry listeners through to the next episode. That was definitely a big learning curve.”
How To Grow And Expand Your Podcast
To get your podcast out there, Vic recommends putting it on Soundcloud and making an RSS feed to distribute it to Apple, Spotify, and Acast. She continues: “What I would recommend is before you buy your equipment, use the recording memo on your phone, upload that onto Audacity and start playing around with it. And then you can have a feel of ‘can I actually do this? Or should I invest in it editor?’ You can definitely find one on Fiverr.”
She also suggests listening to as many podcasts as you can to get a feel for what’s out there and how it’s done. For theme music, look to copyright free archives such as Bensound or YouTube’s own library. Once you’ve recorded it, share snippets on social media – and don’t be afraid to keep promoting your work. Promoting what’s coming up and what you have done are both vital to reminding people to listen in.
For Lorraine Candy, who now hosts Postcards from Midlife, it’s vital to plan ahead with your episodes. Typically, podcasts will plan out a series at a time, but it can also be worth thinking further ahead. “We just tried to keep to the topics which we think our audience would [stay] interested in. Podcasts have got such a long tail.
“If you’re starting a podcast now, think, what will your listeners in a year’s time thing? Will they still want to listen?”
“We’ll have thousands of listeners in the weeks that we don’t produce one which, was a real surprise to me that our very early episodes are some of our most listened. So you need to be relevant to the moment, you need to still keep your storyline quite general, make sure the subjects are relevant to the demographic you’re aiming for. If you’re starting a podcast now, think what will your listeners in a years time think? Will they still want to listen?”
But, most crucially, the key thing to starting a podcast is just getting up and doing it. “Don’t let your fears cripple you into not wanting to do what you’re wanting to do, because it will literally be on your mind for such a long time. You just have to push for it. There’s never gonna be a right time,” says Lorraine.
Francesca echoes the sentiment, saying: “Starting a podcast is not easy. You’ve got to have great quality, good sound system, you’ve got to get a good interactive producer. And you’ve got to get great guests, you’ve got to do good research, you’ve got to have a proper script. It’s not just finding people and interviewing them. So you have to bear that in mind. And then you play that against how much money you’re going to make commercially around the podcast. But, you know, it’s a slow build.”
How Do People Make Money From Podcasts?
When it comes to monetising a podcast, there are lots of different options, from brand collaborations to adverts managed by the podcast provider you use. However, if you’re thinking about getting in brand collaborations or sponsors, it’s worth remembering that a lot of the time this is on you to approach brands – don’t expect them to come to you, especially at the beginning.
Talking about a collaboration with Makeup Revolution, a brand Vic says the pair do genuinely love (something which is also important to consider), it was Black Gals Livin’ that made the first move. “I emailed them, and I was like ‘hey, I think this would be a great fit. We’d love to promote this on a podcast,'” explains Vic. To move things forward, Vic put together a simple media pack on Canva, listing what the podcast was about, the guests they’d had on, listenership, social media presence and awards. “Anything to try and sell yourself,” she explains.
“You need to make sure that quality is good. There are no awkward silences, it’s just good audio, good conversation, and it’s different.”
“We still don’t really know if we’re undercharging ourselves, and this is just using influencer marketing knowledge but I feel like £250 to about £500 is kind of reasonable per episode. But of course, if a massive brand is going to come up, such as Netflix, ask for more money.”
Even if you struggle to land more traditional advertising, podcasting can still provide plenty of other opportunities. For Francesca, she stresses that while the market has become “ever more saturated, there are still opportunities to earn”.
“For me, podcasting was something which managed to indirectly lead to another income stream – securing a book deal, which was the one that I wanted in the first place. From having a podcast, I was able to say that I have the wealth of interviews, and I have a wealth of content, and I have the platform to feed back into that, showing that I became an authority on the subject. So sometimes, it’s about taking a broader view of monetising that is quite useful.
“It is just keeping at it sometimes in terms of reaching a listenership base, especially now that podcasting is so competitive. Aim to reach that listenership base where you can gain a sponsor. Now, I am getting ads fed into my podcast whereas I wasn’t before. I am not sure whether it would be worth doing ads from very, very early on because I don’t know if those adverts would necessarily make any money when you’ve got about 10 listeners (which we all start with), but it’s definitely something that I would look into sooner rather than later had if I had my time again.”
To close, Vic has some final few thoughts on what makes a podcast great. “To stand out, just make sure that you’re actually pushing it onto as many eyes as possible. You’re constantly promoting it across all social media platforms, you’ll reach out to journalists and be like, ‘hey, this is my podcast, this is what we do. If you do a roundup on top podcast, please include us.’
“You need to make sure that quality is good. There’s no awkward silences, it’s just good audio, good conversation, and it’s different. It’s not a copy of a podcast that already exists. And when you’re doing your podcast, please keep telling people to subscribe.”
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