Monday, February 26, 2018

What We've Learned: A Beginner's Guide to Podcasting

If you are both a writer and someone who likes listening to podcasts while commuting, on lunch break, or while puttering around the house; (yes to all of the above for me) you are in luck. Marginally Podcast is another great one to add to your listening list. If you haven't found them already, head on over to eavesdrop on their great conversations about writing, work, and friendship.
& stay tuned here for their guest post which contains some great advice on what they've learned while podcasting in case you have been considering the journey yourself.

We call Marginally a podcast about writing, work and friendship. While we love the writing podcasts that we subscribe and listen to, there wasn’t anything out there speaking to the biggest challenge in our lives -- balancing writing and a day job. That is a reality for most writers, especially when they’re just starting out, and we wanted to change the end-game discussion of quitting it all to write and talk about keeping that day job.

So we started Marginally six months ago, and we have had a great time doing it. We’ve become better friends, we’ve become better writers, and we have built a community of people who talk to us about this issue.

We hoped the podcast would help us grow and stretch as writers and as friends, and it has -- more than we ever expected. We’ve always found inspiration from knowing we’re not the only ones with our same challenges, and it turns out, we’re not alone in that, either! Talking to others who are learning alongside us has been the most gratifying thing about this project.

So today we’re sharing our biggest lessons learned from jumping into something new and exciting without waiting until we were ready – five lessons that are big and philosophical and can be turned into metaphors for writing and life, and three practical ones specifically about podcasting.

5 Big Things We’ve Learned:

1 Persistence and commitment
Putting out a weekly podcast requires some organization, even if you’re not super-obsessive about it. You need to plan what you’re going to talk about, and you need to have a schedule for when you’ll do it. We have an added difficulty of a big time zone gap (between 5 and 11 hours, depending on our guests and where Olivia is each week). The main thing we’ve learned is to commit to this project – and to each other. And we’ve learned that you just keep doing it. Some episodes come out better than others, and that’s okay.

2 working on something, then putting it away and moving on
Similarly, in many ways, having this podcast has taught us about working on something, getting it as good as you can in the time available, releasing it to the world, and then moving on to the next episode.

We don’t have time to be perfectionists about every small detail, even if we’re committed to the quality of sound and discussion. A podcast (just like writing) isn’t meant to be perfect; it’s about connecting with your community and your audience.

3 The benefit of having a writing partner
Because we talk about writing every week, sometimes a few times a week, it has meant that we keep each other motivated to finish our projects, and we check in with each other.

It’s a kind of super-supportive writing accountability partner, mixed with a very close friend. We don’t even share our work with each other -- though it’s important to share with someone, it’s easier when we share with other writers, to share with those we have less of an emotional connection with.

It’s really worked for us, and it’s kept us more committed to our writing. That said, not every writing partner is equal. This is a great fit for a writing partnership because we are similar enough to understand each other but different enough – and with different enough projects – to not compete.

4 It feels really good to experiment 
Maybe it’s a theme in this post, but having a podcast was always an experiment for us. Besides listening to a lot of podcasts, we didn’t have any professional skills that lent themselves to this project. And that’s why it felt so exhilarating to do it. That, and our monthly writing prompts , have kept us experimenting in our writing as well. You can fail. This is just an experiment. It takes so much pressure off. It brings back fun 

5 Measurable goals aren’t always the best goals
Just because you give yourself permission to fail doesn’t mean you have to do it. In fact, you can change your mindset about your creative projects by making your goal something that you can’t fail at.

We didn’t say we wanted to have the #1 podcast in writing, and we don’t measure ourselves by how many listeners or clicks we get. We don’t control those things, not really – and we have enough anxiety in our lives. We just want to put our ideas out, to fill a void we saw in the online writing world, and to find some people who felt the same way that we did. We can’t fail at that, and so we haven’t.


Practical things: 

1 Get some tools (but you don’t need a lot)
Podcasting is so popular because the financial barriers to entry are so low. Here are the main tools of our trade:

- mics – This is probably the most important, as you’d imagine – the microphone in your laptop is usually not good enough quality to record. We both use the Samson Q2U, which is under $100; Olivia once forgot her microphone while on the road so she got the Blue Snowball iCE, and it also had great sound and was cheaper. And lots of people swear by the microphones built-in to smartphones. Whatever you do, test your mic before recording. Every single time. We won’t tell you how many times (and how recently) we’ve realized we didn’t have the right one turned on, or selected, and that leaves you with bad audio or none at all.

- Audacity – we edit using this free programme, and there’s no real reason to pay for any other software. You just need some time to google what you’re trying to do (edit out background noise, for example, or change the volume levels), but it’s pretty straightforward. 

- Canva – we use this free image software to make our quotes for Instagram and other social media. It has paid and free options; we usually use the free ones.

- file-sharing -- we don’t live on the same continent, let alone the same city. So we need a place to put all our stuff so we can both work on it. We opted for Dropbox Pro, which has a price tag, because we both already use it for other purposes. If you don’t, Google Drive is another option, and may work better if you’re collaborating more synchronously (because of our time zone gap, we’re usually not working on the same file at the same time).

2 Edit your sound a little (but again, not a lot)
We have a casual podcast, so we do light edits, but don’t go crazy. We chose not to script, but instead work from a rough outline. This makes our conversations less smooth, but more serendipitous.

We try to edit out the pauses and ums that can interrupt a listener’s enjoyment, as well as background noise, but we don’t need every sentence to be perfect. We also record our own tracks separately and combine them in Audacity, so the quality is the best. There are a billion guides out there to using Audacity, but here’s the one we used ,and it’s about as technical as we get.

3 Decide what your goal is – and agree this explicitly if you’re in a podcast partnership
For us, we had a lot of discussions initially about what we were trying to do. We wrote our four points of our mission statement , but we also talked about practical things: do you want to make money from this, or are you doing this for fun? Do we want to focus on numbers of listeners? How will we know if we are doing a good job? These questions are so important for avoiding misunderstanding if you’re podcasting with someone else, and they’re also critical for determining all your outreach strategies: will you have a blog? How will you use social media? Who’s going to do what? We tend to pick up whatever tasks we have time for each week, but others may want a more formal division of labor.


Our biggest worry when we started this podcast was that it would take away from our writing, but it’s turned out to be the best thing we’ve done. It pushes us to experiment, to be honest, and to embrace our creative identities. When we’re less afraid, we’re freer to try. Now if we can just remember to test our mics before recording. 
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Meghan and Olivia are the writers and podcasters behind Marginally Podcast. You can learn more about them here

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