Mistakes aren’t inherently bad. In figuring out the stuff that doesn’t work very well, you’ll often be led to the solution, the optimal path, or the best option for your own specific situation.
This blog has been guest written by our friends over at The Podcast Host.
The problem is, it can take a lot of time and resources. Too much trial and error can lead to costly mistakes, as well as frustrations enough to make you quit your show altogether.
There’s an old saying about how the wise person learns from the mistakes of others. Podcasting has been around for a few years now, and there have been plenty of mistakes made along the way. With that in mind, what are some of the most common missteps taken by new and aspiring podcasters? What can you learn from them, to help smooth the road for your own journey?
1. Expecting Overnight Success
Many new podcasters will publish their first episode, then immediately start comparing themselves to someone like Joe Rogan. If you go into podcasting knowing that, for the first few months at least, nobody is going to care about your show, it’s a big weight off your shoulders.
This lets you stop ruminating about how your show is a complete failure, freeing up time for the tasks that’ll make sure it isn’t one. All you should be asking yourself in these early days is, “what content best serves my target audience?” and, “how can I bring it to them on a consistent basis?”.
2. Trying to Cover a Wide Topic
The more things you talk about, the more people are going to be interested in listening, right? You’ve got your movies section which brings in all the film fans, your sports segment, the bit about travel, and then a tasty serving of some cooking chat at the end. The problem with this is that the audiences who’re all interested in this stuff already listen to podcasts dedicated entirely to them. And, they’re doing a better job of them than you are.
Unlearn everything you ever saw on televised variety or magazine shows, and choose the topic you want to podcast about. Don’t stop there, though: go even narrower. It’s not enough to do a general gardening or fitness podcast. If you want to have an impact, add a second layer to your show. Are you the gardening podcast for people living in urban areas, with only a window box and a 1 metre squared plot to work with? Or are you a fitness podcast for full-time carers?
You might ask, “but doesn’t this limit my audience?” I’d argue that there’s nothing limited about the dedicated audiences that grow around these niche shows, though.
3. Doing Interviews by Default
I was surprised the first time I heard the question, “is it possible to do a podcast without doing interviews?” But, I’ve heard it a lot more since then.
An interview podcast, done well, can be great for the podcaster and the listeners. There’s a fresh perspective each week from an expert or authority in your field. If those folks go on to share the episode out with their own followers, you can continue to pick up new listeners.
But, aspiring and new podcasters can miss out on a big opportunity if they just start doing interviews without a second thought. One downside of the interview show is that the guest is the expert. Depending on your big goals and motivations, you might prefer to position yourself as the authority instead. For example, if you sell coaching services or courses on your topic, why not talk directly to the listener instead of bringing on other experts? This doesn’t mean you should never do interviews. Throwing in the odd conversation that adds value will enhance your show. Just don’t go down the “every episode is an interview” route by default.
4. Learning by Trial & Error
We tend to romanticise someone plugging away at something, making loads of mistakes along the way, but gradually learning important lessons and figuring it all out. There’s definitely a place for just getting on with it, alongside a healthy caution for over-planning. But, you can avoid so many costly and time-consuming mistakes with a bit of learning or training.
It’s not just about making fewer errors, too. It’s about setting yourself up for success. Working towards an internationally recognised podcasting qualification via RSL Awards is an excellent option for new and aspiring podcasters who want to make the best use of their time and energy. Or, you might opt for using The Podcast Host’s step-by-step ‘how to start a podcast’ guide, as a framework for your planning and organisation. Whatever route you choose, just be wary of the “I’ll figure it all out on the fly” approach. A new podcast is only ever one big costly mistake away from being an abandoned podcast.
5. Spending Too Much Time on the Tech
There’s an unlimited number of ways to record, edit, and publish a podcast. From the mic and gear that you buy, to the software you use, and the hosting provider you upload it all to, there are loads of variables. Aspiring new podcasters can get bogged down here. But, you don’t need to spend a fortune or become an audio engineer to make a great sounding podcast. USB mics these days can go toe-to-toe with many studio setups, and you can be set up and ready to go for less than £100. ‘Podcast Maker’ tools like Alitu make editing and production easier than navigating your typical social media website. Technology is a means to an end in podcasting: the bulk of your focus should be on creating engaging and compelling content that your listeners will love. Get the tools you need to do that, and you’ll barely even need to notice them going forward.
6. Running on the Weekly Treadmill
Similar to when we talked about interview shows, having to release a new episode every week is another assumption made by many new and aspiring podcasters. Putting out weekly episodes can be a powerful thing as you build yourself into your listener’s habits and routine. But, it isn’t the only way. If you have other major commitments in your life, be they job, family, or something else important, then it might not be realistic to expect to get an episode out every 7 days. If you have a bash anyway, become overwhelmed, then quit, your target audience has missed out on a show that could’ve been life-changing for them. So, what’s the alternative?
Instead of running on the treadmill of weekly releases, you might try organising your podcast episodes into ‘seasons’. These are blocks of around 6-12 episodes, and will usually focus on a subtopic within your overall podcast topic. So, now our urban gardener show might build a season around edible plants you can grow in a window box. Or our full-time carer fitness show might kick off with a season on exercises you can do at home without the need for any equipment.
Theming and organising your episodes this way creates a good listener experience. Plus, this makes your show accessible to brand new listeners who’ve just discovered you. They can even be repurposed and sold as self-contained products further down the line. Most importantly though, they let you as the creator produce bodies of work, then take a step back to focus on your other commitments in life. Then, you can come back refreshed, to tackle the next one. If your show is unsustainable, it won’t last long. But, with a seasons approach, it doesn’t have to be.
Podcasting has changed a lot from the “figure it all out yourself” medium it was 15 years ago. Most podcasters start out because they want to get their message out there, not because they want to immerse themselves in technology. These 6 common mistakes are easily avoided, and will help free up time to focus on the stuff that really moves the needle. So, whether you choose to utilise a podcast maker tool like Alitu, or embark on a podcasting qualification to help you learn the ropes, you’ll reduce the chances of frustrating or costly mistakes. Your podcast will only fail if you quit, so put these things in place to ensure that doesn’t happen!