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Podcasts have had a profound impact on my life. It is such a powerful educational medium. In fact, I would argue that adopting the behavior of taking a 30-minute walk while listening to an educational podcast could change your life.
During the year-and-a-half I worked delivering pizzas, I listened to Choose FI, The Financial Independence Podcast, Afford Anything, Journey to Launch, FIRE Drill, Radical Personal Finance and many others every week. Not only was I earning money delivering pizzas but I was picking up crazy amounts of financial knowledge at the same time!
I was absolutely terrified to start the Countdown to FI Podcast. I had been considering it for two years, and the idea would keep popping into my mind every time I listened to other personal finance podcasts. The learning curve is steep, and I spent many months researching all aspects of podcasting before pulling the trigger.
Here is what Mrs. CTF and I have learned in our first couple months of podcasting.
1. It Takes a Lot of Time
We had no idea how much time it can take to put together a show before we started podcasting. Between writing the script, recording and editing the audio, and posting on the host you can easily spend between 5-10 hours a week. Many podcasters outsource the editing of their shows, and we can see why—it is incredibly time consuming! Here is our breakdown of typical time spent each week on the podcast:
- Long-term planning, finding guests, and mapping out topics and release dates: 1-2 hours
- Individual episode planning, script writing: 1-3 hours
- Recording the show: 1-2 hours
- Editing the audio: 2-4 hours
- Writing the episode description and uploading to Libsyn: 1 hour
Although it may seem simple, putting together a podcast can be very time intensive!
2. You’ll Feel Like You Want to Quit
Mrs. CTF and I both work full-time jobs and have 2 young kids which can make fitting in the podcast a real challenge some weeks. I’ll be honest, I considered quitting the podcast many times these first few months. With how much work is involved, you can easily feel like you are wasting your time. When you are first starting out, you may only have a few people actually listening to your show, and you’ll have no idea if what you are putting out is worthwhile. Perhaps this is why most podcasters quit after publishing just a few shows. You must fight discouragement with productivity and just focus on creating the best content you can.
Anytime you start something new, you may experience the imposter syndrome. Essentially the imposter syndrome is when you have feelings of inadequacy and feeling like you don’t deserve or belong. It can be easy to feel this way in our culture. All you see online are people who are kicking so much ass, how could you possibly compare? Here is a great article on dealing with this issue.
3. It Is Easy to Become Obsessed with the Numbers
I remember when Countdown to FI first launched I would login to Libsyn multiple times per day to see if the number of downloads was going up. It would be so discouraging when days would go by without any new downloads! You have limited control over the number of downloads, so you should focus on what you can control: producing quality content. At the end of the day, you must be okay with producing the show for many other reasons than pure popularity if you are going to keep at it for the long haul.
4. Nothing is as Exciting as Your First E-mail
I’ll never forget getting our first e-mail from a listener. She explained how much she loved the podcast and how much she was inspired by our story. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to hear that even one person was getting value from the work we were putting into the show every week. One of the biggest motivations for starting Countdown to FI was to give back to the community and help people have an easier time than we did. I know how grateful I am to all of the podcasters who produce shows with so much life-changing information!
5. Recording the First Episode is the Worst
I think Mrs. CTF and I recorded the first show 3 times. I wasn’t about to record a fourth time, so we had to eventually just publish it. It was a rough. Mostly, I think because it was hard getting used to just talking in the air and pretending that someone was listening. You are communicating yet getting no instant feedback on what you are saying like you would in a normal conversation. You can’t be a perfectionist when it comes to producing a podcast, and you should realize you won’t be able to produce a perfect show (nor should you try). Funny thing is I am way more critical of Countdown to FI than other shows I listen to. I’m sure I hear every imperfection in the audio while the listeners don’t even notice (tell me if I’m wrong!).
6. Don’t Stress over the Equipment & Keep Costs Low
You could spend hours and hours reading microphone reviews and spend hundreds of dollars, but you shouldn’t. We bought the Blue Snowball iCE for cheap and it has worked just fine. It might make sense to upgrade your equipment once you get well established and have a large following, but initially a cheap microphone will work great!
Podcast Cover Art
Since Mr. and Mrs. CTF aren’t graphic designers, we decided to outsource the cover art design to Fiverr. You can easily find someone willing to design the artwork for between $5-25. We paid $10, and it was worth every penny because, again, we are not artistic.
We use Audacity for recording and editing audio, which is a free open-source program you can download. Skype is free and works great for conducting interviews with guests who live all over the world, but it doesn’t record just out of the box. You have to get other software to allow you to record the Skype call. We are still testing out a few different programs and haven’t found one yet that we like enough to recommend. Suggestions are welcome!
Having a quality host matters! We use Libsyn like many other podcasters. They have been around the longest and have a simple platform which works great. Cost is $15 a month (as of 2018) which allows for enough upload space for a weekly hour-long show. This is by far the costliest part of starting a podcast but well worth the money.
You need a website for your podcast that looks good and where listeners can go to see more. We set up countdowntofi.com originally intending to be just a personal finance blog. We signed up for the domain through Bluehost and couldn’t be happier with the service. We pay $60 for a year of hosting. They are currently running a special for $3.95 a month through our affiliate link. Either way it’s a great investment.
Any laptop or desktop will work great if you can download Audacity and have a USB plugin for the microphone. Also, it should be able to run Skype well if you are planning on having guest interviews. We plug the microphone into the USB port on our laptop, open Audacity, and are ready to roll. That is literally all you need to start a podcast! Time spent planning quality content is much better than freaking out over the perfect equipment. All told we spent less than $100 to get the show up and running.
7. Podcasting is a Great Way to Connect
One huge benefit of hosting a podcast is you can interview like-minded people you look up to. It was so cool to interview The Millionaire Educator and have a discussion with someone you have been following for years! Nothing is more fun to me than talking about personal finance and having a podcast is a great way to do that with people from all over the world. We keep a spreadsheet of guests we want to invite on the show and are constantly adding to it.
8. Temper Your Expectations
I thought we would publish the first 3 shows and the subscribers would come in hot and heavy. The reality is extreme patience is required to build a following of folks who are listening to your show. While there is much less competition in the podcast space than blogging, it still can be very hard for people to find your podcast. We also don’t get stressed about iTunes rankings or reviews because we don’t have any control over that (Mr. and Mrs. CTF have differing views on whether a listener should review a podcast they listen to. Mrs. CTF had no idea you could even rate a podcast.). You shouldn’t start a podcast primarily for making money, getting famous, or going viral. For us it is about sharing ideas with folks who can get value and being a part of a community.
9. It Takes a While to Get Used to Hearing Yourself
A lot of people hate hearing the sound of their own voice. Think back to anytime you’ve had to listen to your own voicemail message. *shudder* Mrs. CTF and I are no exception! Recording isn’t so much the issue as is the editing portion. It does get easier each episode to hear my own voice, and I am slowly getting used to it.
10. It Will Help Fine-Tune Your Communication Skills
One unexpected benefit from hosting a podcast is you learn your flaws as a speaker. I never knew I used so many filler words before editing audio for the show or that I murmured certain words. Mrs. CTF didn’t realize how often she let her voice fade out at the end of a point she was making. While these things make us cringe when we edit, it does give us the insight to be more aware and correct these speaking flaws.
Mrs. CTF is very introverted, and I think she has benefited the most from the podcast. She says the ability to edit out pauses while she gathers her thoughts and being able to restate what she said more concisely makes her sound smarter. What it also does is give her confidence in public speaking. Talking to a room of people is now peanuts compared to talking to the world. In fact, her bosses pointed out that her presentation skills markedly improved this last month. She gives full credit to recording the podcast (though she keeps that secret from her bosses).
We will be sure to learn many more lessons on podcasting in the months and years to come but we couldn’t be more excited to embark on the journey!
What do you think fellow podcasters? What would you add to the list?