How to Start a Podcast

Recently, I was guest on a podcast called Mess to Success, hosted by the awesome JordanKCreative.

One of the questions Jordan asked Nic (my co-host on Wtf is happening) and I was: “What tips do you have for somebody who wants to start a podcast?”

It’s a question I get a lot. “How do I start?” “Where do I start?” “Is it expensive?” “Is it difficult to edit?”

My answer is always the same, but no one ever believes me: It’s extremely easy to start a podcast.

So here’s the proof on just how easy it is.

Planned or Unplanned

Now, in my opinion, there are two main (and broad) types of podcasts. Those that have planned episodes, and those that don’t. As somebody who has a podcast in each category, I feel like I can nominate myself as an authority on this topic. 😉

Whether you fall in to the planned or unplanned category is more than likely dependant on what your podcast is actually about. If you’re here reading this, you probably already have a bit of an idea on what you want to talk about. My advice, cliche as it is, is make it something that you’re passionate about.

Podcasting can be a lot of work, and it’s almost always a lot of time, so if you’re not genuinely enthusiastic about your topic, you’re likely to run out of the will to podcast before you make any real headway with your audience.

Now, using my own podcasts as examples, here is the (very simple) difference between a planned and unplanned podcast:

  • An unplanned podcast is one where, while the host/s will go in knowing what they’re going to talk about that day, it’s unscripted and largely happening on the fly. There’s probably no outline, and likely no research done. WTF Is Happening is an unplanned podcast. Nic and I take note of pop culture news and events that happened during the week. Literally just on our phone – a recent example of a note I took is just “Rust set”. Then we sit down to record and discuss our opinions on those things. The above “Rust set” note prompted a ten minute discussion on the dangers of filming on location, and how film crew members are taken care of on set. Because the both of us have pre-existing knowledge on pop culture, we always have something to say. If the topic is complex, the person who brings the topic will also always be able to explain it to some degree.

  • A planned podcast is one where the host/s have either got a set script or more detailed notes, and/or something that has to be researched. This doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about: for example, I have a degree in International Relations. I know the theory, and I know what I’m talking about. I could easily pick a topic. However, I would almost always have to read up on said topic, to make sure I’m being appropriately detailed and informative. Harness Creation: The Podcast is a planned podcast. I have one single topic for an episode, and I have to plan what I’m going to say. Usually, I write the blog post out first, because then it’s all already organised in a concise way. With the knowledge I have on a topic, I can plan something out pretty much down to the last word. Most hosts won’t write a full script, but I have a tendency to babble. I don’t usually have to do research, but that’s not always the case.

Most types of podcasts are going to fall into the planned category. Unless you’re an expert in your topic – and you can make your podcast structured and concise on the fly – then, in order for your podcast to be informative, it will be planned.

The First Episode

Your first episode is going to be the hardest! It’s when there’s the most to consider, when you have to make the most decisions, and when you’re the most unsure.

But, now you have your topic. You know whether you need to plan your episode, and if you do need to, then maybe you’ve already done so.

So where to next?

You need equipment, you need something to edit with, and you need somewhere to upload.

Equipment

Now, I’m the type of person that likes to try before I buy.

Particularly when it comes to hobbies. I’m too much of a gutless flip-flopper to properly invest in a hobby, especially before I know whether I like it (and how quickly I can become proficient …)

There are two ways to get around this.

1) Go to a small studio like Harness Creation for a one to two hour session and record your podcast. If you find a studio that’s reasonably priced, it’s a no brainer to go there.

(A handy tip – unless you have absolutely no skill on a computer, you don’t need an editor, or a producer. You should be able to just go in a do it yourself, which, in most cases, will give you a cheaper hourly rate.

Later on, if you’re getting serious about podcasting, if it’s for your business and you don’t at all feel confident editing yourself, or if you find you simply don’t have the time to worry about it, then you can consider bringing in an editor and/or producer).

2) Buy cheap equipment to test. If the podcast studios around you are really expensive, or you don’t have any, it’s certainly the way to go.

The biggest drawback here is that if you like podcasting, if you decide you want to be serious about it, the best way to do so is to have great equipment . . . which likely means better than you originally bought. Of course, at this point, you can simply find that studio close to you and go there, or you can invest in the good stuff – though this means that you’ve doubled up on equipment.

The equipment here at Harness Creation is about as good as it gets – all up it’s worth about 2000AUD. You definitely do not need to go that far – a Yeti mic will do – but there really is a difference between a $50 set up and $2000 set up. For a medium that is purely audio, you should definitely aim to invest in the best you can get.

To be fair though, a lot of the cost of my set up came from the RodeCaster – and while a mixer is great (and allows you to use a mic with an XLR cable, which is what is typically going to get you to best audio quality) it’s not necessary. A Yeti mic is a USB mic, and has amazing quality.

Don’t take that the wrong way, though – if money is a significant hurdle, then do whatever you need to do. If that’s a $40 Kmart USB mic, then that’s what it is. Podcasting on that is better than not podcasting at all.

Editing

So now you’ve recorded, and it’s time to edit.

If you’ve used a USB mic, you’ll likely have had to record straight into an app like Audacity or GarageBand. If you’ve gone to a studio, or you’ve bought and are using a mixer (like the RodeCaster), then you’ll have a file that is likely to be a MP3.

Your recording will either be one single file, where all the inputs/microphones are all on the same track, or there will be different tracks, so all the inputs/microphones are seperate. I can talk about this more in depth another time, but for now, you really only need the single track.

If you feel confident in your skills, by all means, have different tracks. It allows you to edit all the inputs separately, which is mostly useful if you have one host who’s really loud and one who’s really quiet.

Either way, now you have your file/s.

The most important thing is this: you do NOT need to invest in editing software. You just don’t.

Audacity (a free recording app you can download from the internet) or GarageBand (a standard Apple app which is also free) will do fine.

You can change your levels, you can cut long silences out, you can move audio around if you need, and you can easily add your standard intro and outro. All you need to know how to do is splice the track, which is all the effort it takes to press a button on your keyboard.

Export your edited file and ta-da. That’s it.

(Another handy tip – try not to edit too much. It’s a big time suck. No one really cares if you stumble over a word – you don’t need to do multiple takes. If it makes you feel more comfortable, then by all means, go for it. But it’s not necessary, and certainly not the be all end all. It will be time consuming enough just to get rid of the long silences – which I do recommend doing – you don’t need to add more to your pile).

Uploading

When you have your final edited and exported MP3, it will be time to upload.

Of course, yet again, there are many choices here on how to do it. My recommendations are this: if you need a free host, use Anchor. If you have the money to spare, then use Acast.

And, trust me, Anchor is perfectly adequate. You don’t need to use Acast, even if you do have the money. Acast does have a free subscription, which you can also use if you’d like. I use Anchor, mostly because it’s what I’m familiar with.

If you have a producer, of if you’re part of a network, they will likely have a preferred host. It might even be a requirement. Don’t shy away from that – they’ll know what works best for them. And, ultimately, it’s really easy to switch.

Uploading is extremely easy. They’ll give you the instructions when you sign up. You pretty much just put in your podcast’s name, upload the file, fill out the episode info, and away you go. Anchor is owned by Spotify, so your episodes automatically upload there. You can easily add any podcast listening app, so that your episodes will automatically upload in those locations every time (definitely add Apple Podcasts, at least). The how-to is just one Google away (though I can detail it more clearly another time).

The only other thing you need to upload your first episode is cover art, which you can design for free on something like Canva.

And that is it. Your first episode is live, perhaps in a matter of hours.

Jumping Over the Hurdle

So, you’re clear on the technicalities of it. You know your topic, you probably have an idea of what equipment you’ll use, but you’re not feeling confident. You’re just not sure it’s for you.

Well, my question to you is: how are you ever going to know, without doing it?

When Nic and I were asked for tips on starting a podcast by Jordan, Nic said something he found really useful was reading through other people’s experiences online. See what software they used for editing, how they uploaded, what equipment they got . . . and he’s right. Having that reassurance is useful. Really, you wouldn’t be here, reading this blog, if it weren’t.

But, ultimately, at some point you need to stop researching and just do it. Honestly, you don’t even need to use the episode you record. Put together something shoddy! Half-ass your plan, just get into a studio, or buy a $10 microphone, and do it.

Being in front of that mic will give you a better indication on whether you like it than research ever will. You have to take that first step – it will probably be more fun than you think it will.

Final Thoughts

So did I convince you? Do you believe me now, that podcasting is easy?

It doesn’t even have to be expensive, really. You don’t need to pay to host it. And you certainly don’t need to pay for the information you’re sharing – that’s already there.

All you really need to invest in is the equipment, and again, finding a local studio like Harness Creation is a great way to start.

If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, send me email at maddie@harnesscreation.com.au, or a DM on Instagram @harnesscreation.

Good luck to everyone on their podcasting journey!

Building the Studio: Concept to Creation

I’ve talked before on the website about what led me to open Harness Creation. What happened in my personal life that led to the decision.

That’s important, of course, because there’d be no studio without it. But there’s a lot that goes in the middle of ‘I want to do this’ to an opening day or launch – and a lot of highs and lows.

So let’s run through it, shall we?

This is in no way business advice, just my retelling of what I went through.

You can also listen to this story in podcast form! Listen on Apple, or on Spotify.

I’ll start at the beginning: the idea for the studio wasn’t mine.

Well, not entirely. In mid to late 2020, my best friend and I started a podcast. It was his idea, and honestly I hadn’t ever actually listened to a podcast. I was working, studying, and had a YouTube channel, and that combined with the fact that I didn’t know anything about podcasts meant that my friend, Nic, was really the brains behind that whole operation.

He had a vision, to create a weekly pop culture catch up podcast. He and I have a great relationship, talk nonsense to each other all the time, have opinions we have no right having – and both have a bit of pop culture knowledge. Nic’s knowledge is extremely broad – he knows something about everything. I often have not heard or seen or watched something that is considered a culture staple – for example, I didn’t watch Star Wars until my last year of High School. But I have deep knowledge of certain things, because of my writing and my degree, and so it seemed like a perfect combination.

All of that is to say: Nic and I knew we wanted our podcast to be good, but I had no idea how to go about that.

Nic is the one that found a small podcast studio here in Brisbane. It was cheap, only $25/hr, cheaper if we booked a package, so we did. Booked a twelve week package, and so in we went, every week for twelve weeks.

Cover of the podcast I co-host

Nic and I immediately knew the studio was a great idea. It was fun, and gave us amazing audio. The equipment was easy to use. We were getting the sound of a professional podcast for less than $25 a week (because we were splitting the costs).

Of course, because that studio existed (and we were both still in uni), we just agreed it was a great idea and that was that.

Until the studio moved. I don’t know why the owner made the decision, though I have my suspicions. Our first experience at the new location wasn’t . . . great. That wasn’t the owners fault, not at all. But the new premises was shared with other tenants, and Nic and I were uncomfortable with recording there.

Truthfully, as soon as our twelve weeks were up, we didn’t have the intention of going back. Shortly after, the studio closed down.

We started recording at Nic’s house – he bought some USB mics for us – and I graduated uni.

That was about the time I decided the studio really was, in fact an amazing idea. And my thought was: why stop at a podcasting space? I was looking for somewhere to film my YouTube videos – I was so desperate for the space and privacy I even looked at renting office space.

So I decided the studio should cater to other types of content creators. A more in depth explanation of my decision can be found here.

looking for real estate

Of course, making the decision is one thing. Making it happen is another. I spent quite a while looking at real estate, on and off. The market was – and still is – pretty crazy, so it was hard to find something I could afford, especially with a concept that doesn’t really exist. Landlords would have had trouble leasing to me even if there weren’t a pandemic.

I remember at this time I was also trying to find a name for the business and oh. my. god. What a nightmare! It sounds like its fun, trying to come up with a name – but trust me, about twelve hours in all you can think is, “I don’t even care, I’ll take any name I can get.”

This issue isn’t ideas. It’s trying to find something that’s not already registered, that has an available domain name, and, ideally, available social media handles.

It is not an easy feat my friends.

Mum came up with Harness Creation about a week in, and when I saw everything was still available I bought the business and domain names pretty much immediately.

Cue me sitting on my ass for another six months.

Finding real estate is hard. Everything was either too expensive, too far out of the inner city, or they didn’t want to lease to young woman with a start up with no comparable businesses in the region.

Mum and dad were the ones that stumbled across the space I eventually took. The sign had just gone up that day, and they were on Latrobe Terrace for a coffee. They called me, I came up to have a look, and we all knew it was a perfect space.

Front of the studio

The owner is very kind. She ran her business out of a different unit in the block when she was my age, and she was very willing to give me a chance. So I signed the lease within about a week of seeing the space.

And, wow, does that moment change your life. I very suddenly had a massive commitment – two years. I won’t go in to details, but let’s just say that getting out of a commercial lease is nothing like getting out of a residential lease. I’m here for the next two years, pretty much unless I go bankrupt.

Eep!

Building

So with that hanging over me, I went into overdrive. I say “I”, but it was very much not just me. My dad is a builder, my mum is a business consultant, and my brother is both extremely handy and wasn’t working at the time. I had arguably the very best team I could possibly have asked for, who worked and helped me just because they love and support me.

So, we were in building the space for the next six or so weeks. It took way longer than I expected, honestly. The inside of the building is just less than 20 square metres – absolutely tiny. And I needed to fit in two rooms (a podcast studio, and a filming studio), as well as an area where I could work and greet people.

Th podcast room had to fit four people, and the filming studio needed to be able to get a full body shot. It’s like a giant puzzle, trying to figure out how to get all of that in here. But guess what? We – or, well, mum and dad – did it. The two rooms are oddly shaped, kind of like trapezoids, and the filming room is slightly longer. It just squeezes a full body shot.

A success! Dad built all the internal walls, weird angles and double-sized walls and all. Yeah, double sized. We squeezed 140mm thick pieces of foam inside them. A normal wall is about 80mm thick.

Double sized walls

Outside, we gurneyed the pavers, and figured out how to section the courtyard. There was a garden shed and a cubby that were already there, but we had to line the inside of the cubby. We did that with old fence palings, because we could do it free.

We found a great garage sale, where we got this awesome old ladder, amongst other things. It’s being used to hang flowers and lights. Something awesome we also came across was free wooden shipping crates. They’ve been fixed up, waterproofed on a budget (which pretty much just means not waterproofed, but close enough), painted, then propped.

A lot of the ideas for the sets came from Pinterest. I picked the sets based on one thing: it needed to be cute, funky, but most importantly, they needed to be things you can’t easily replicate at home. Why would somebody pay for a set they can get for free?

That doesn’t necessarily have to mean they can’t exist at home. Everyone has a bath, right? But does everyone have a free-standing, clawfoot outdoor bath? With flowers and tea lights as set dressings? Probably not.

Building was fun. Incredibly stressful, too, don’t get me wrong. It was long hours, every day of the week (not that that’s changed now), and physical labour is always its own type of exhausting. And of course, I can’t tell you the amount of times it rained late at night or early in the morning and I had to rush up to get all the wood in courtyard away.

But ultimately, I enjoyed the process.

Website building

While all that was going on, I was also trying to get the website up and running.

Now, I’m not technologically inclined. I’m fairly logical, and I can research pretty well (that degree did come in handy!) so I wouldn’t say I’m terrible with it. YouTube is a wonderful thing.

But also . . . I don’t actually know what I’m doing, like most other people. So setting up a whole website by myself? Oof. OOF. The learning curve was MASSIVE. I didn’t even know where to start.

I’d already bought a domain name, which needs to be hosted (usually where you buy it from). Then you have to choose your website builder, and where you’ll host the website (not the same thing as where you host the domain). I bought my domain from VentraIP (as it’s servers are located here in Australia), I used WordPress as my builder, and it’s hosted on SiteGround.

I make it sound so easy, but those decisions took weeks. And often I didn’t even know what was coming next. I didn’t know websites needed to be hosted, or that that was different to the where the domain was hosted. So every time I completed a step and went to move on to another, I learnt about a whole new process I needed to go through. It was exhausting.

Then I had to actually get to building. I chose my theme on WordPress – a decision that was based entirely on the fact that it looked cool – then I started to move things around. Pretty quickly I realised I also needed an e-commerce platform, so I just went the easy route and chose WooCommerce because it’s WordPress’ recommendation, built specifically for WordPress sites.

I integrated it, and then – another roadblock! ANOTHER platform was needed so that I could actually take bookings. I chose Amelia, pretty much entirely because it was a cheap, one-off payment, and had the best reviews for its section of the market.

At this point, it would be fair to assume I was done. But nope. Then I found out that WooCommerce does not actually take payments in Australia. So I needed another plugin so I could actually have a payment portal. I went with Square, because it seemed like the option that was going to make it easiest for me to have an integrated online and in-store system.

Now, I’m making it seem like this process was maybe a day or two, with some roadblocks here or there.

It most certainly was not. This was months of planning and research and work. I started this before I’d signed the lease. But with the lease signed, I was under a lot of pressure to actually get it finished. And without the technical knowhow, it wasn’t easy. There are a lot of moving parts, most of which you have to do manually with WordPress. Managing your DNS (I still don’t even really know what that means), integrating portals, installing a bucketload of plugins.

Honestly, I had so much trouble with getting Square to work with my site that I ended up dropping $500AUD on getting a freelancer to fix it for me. She did a wonderful job, and even helped me fix a couple other things. The amount of stress she relieved was worth the money.

But I went this manual route because I didn’t want to drop the huge of amount of money it costs to have an easy website builder like SquareSpace. Honestly, with the amount of time, tears, and money I spent on doing it this way, I have to wonder whether I made the right choice.

Finally, we were getting close to finishing building. I was almost done with the website. So then it was marketing time!

Marketing and tiktok

I already had all my handles, and I’d posted one or two things on Instagram – where I was comfortable. At that point, I’d posted a couple TikTok’s on my personal account, but nothing fancy. I was still getting used to it.

But we were almost finished in the Podcast Studio. I remember, on this specific day, I wasn’t really doing anything. Dad was outside, I was in putting some cushions in the room. I was bored, so I sat down for a few minutes and opened TikTok. I made a little montage of some building videos I’d taken, posted it, and voila. 30 thousand views.

So I posted a painting one. 60 thousand views.

Now, TikTok is the Wild West in my opinion. The algorithm is . . . nebulous. I’ve had one other video perform very well, much more recently, but then I’ve had others that I worked on for hours and they’ve only gotten a couple hundred views.

Still, just those few successful videos were enough to kickstart the business. Obviously there’s still a long way to go, because I’m not exactly in the business of regular customers. And a high turnover rate means an extremely large amount of people need to be reached.

It was very encouraging to get such a positive reaction, even if it was still a couple weeks from opening. Of course, having good momentum means nothing if there’s nowhere for people to go, but I suppose that’s a conversation for another day.

I did a staggered opening, because the Podcast Studio was finished first. I opened the Filming Studio next, then Photography sets last.

The night I got my first booking, I was alone. My family had gone on a little post-building vacation.

I don’t really know what it was, but I started crying happy tears which then just morphed into a complete breakdown. Like . . . complete breakdown. The woes of overworking yourself, ladies and gentlemen! Anyway, I managed to pull myself off the ground so I could go home and get some sleep, and that was pretty much the beginning of the emotional rollercoaster that is sales.

A lot happened even between then and the launch. There was a COVID lockdown about two days before the launch. I had a really great speaker for the event, but because I had to postpone it, my speaker couldn’t make the new date which was devastating. Then a lot of people couldn’t show up for the new date, which was also disappointing.

And marketing and sales doesn’t stop. I took a little break from selling the studio, because I was selling tickets to an event I was having, and sales dived. I can’t believe how quickly it happened, and how much work it takes to claw it back. Momentum is key, I’ve recently learned.

THE FUTURE

There are a million little things that happened between when I had the idea for this business, and when I launched. A million things that have happened since then, too.

It will obviously continue to be that way. An opportunity to expand came up only last week, and while I might not have been ready for it, it was too good to pass up. But that’s really what I’ve gotten myself into – not being ready, or thinking I’m not able to do something, and then doing it anyway.

Yeah, it takes a lot of money, time, and support to go from concept to creation. That was very true in my case, because I needed so much capital and building to start.

But that was only the beginning. And who knows what the end will be – but I look forward to finding out.