Welcome Side Hustlers. If you're checking out this article because of the interview, I did on the Side Hustle Nation show, I have broken down my gear list by budget and expected use case.
With 31 million Youtube channels vs. 1 million podcasts, in the year 2020, the relative competition of podcasting to YouTube and the significantly decreased cost of production makes podcasting a compelling place to start.
The ChooseFI Podcast Network has launched three podcasts.
Each podcast uses a slightly different setup, depending on the host's needs and expected use.
I decided to start a podcast in the fall of 2016. My first question was: “How do I start a podcast?”
That question has led to literally thousands of other questions. The most important of those questions I am including in this article to help you cut through the noise.
But in summary
This simple setup will get you great audio 7/10 quality. With great off-axis noise rejection it's a great solution for one person setup and remote interviews.
Note: For the last three years, my favorite budget mic was the ATR-2100 They discontinued this Mic and replaced it with the ATR 2100X. The only difference is the upgrade to USB C and the increase in price to $99. if you are working on a newer Macbook and only have USB C/Thunderbolt connections, then I would consider it
Limitations: This works great for one person but doesn't scale well. Two individuals could share the Mic, but it's going to be a gimmicky and not a great long term solution.
Total Cost: $300-400
Note: Once you start using more than one microphone, you will find that computers struggle with multiple USB audio inputs, this is where a Digital Audio Interface becomes useful.
A Digital Audio Interface will allow you to use two Microphones via an XLR connection and have your computer see it as a single USB connection. Also, the drivers for your Digital Audio Interface drastically reduce electronic interference, which ensures that your audio recording doesn't pick up any weird hums or grounding issues.
Note: This setup requires a computer to record
The setup above is my ideal setup. It grows with you. It allows you to record on the road, at conferences, etc. without the need for a computer,
it can take up to 4 microphones and level each recording on multiple tracks.
The Budget for all of this can be between 300 to $400 for a two-person setup, scales up from there.
The setup above will work for up to 4 people on multi-track. It can record on the road without a computer. If needed, an attachment can be purchased to expand to up to 6 microphones.
The ATR 2100 is one of the most flexible & versatile budget Microphones on the market. But here's the full list of microphones I have tested and why I prefer one over another for various situations.
The Samson Q2U is virtually identical to the original ATR 2100(now discontinued) for $30 less. I legitimately think it's created by the same factory and rebranded at a discount for Samson
This microphone shines for singing/vocals and for video podcasts where your head is moving considerably, and mic technique is not at the forefront.
I'm not as big of a fan of it for podcasting when you're trying to tightly control the quality of your audio tracks and for preventing mic bleed. It is also the most gain hungry microphone that I have encountered. While you can get it to the gain you need using the preamps in your digital audio interface ( Focusrite Scarlett, Zoom, etc.), you will have to turn the gain up so high that you will hear here unpleasant hum in the background. You will likely need to add a cloudlifter or fethead to use it with your Digital Audio Interface (ugh), adding another 100- $200 onto your budget. Once you get it to the right volume, it is very susceptible to mic bleed. The Mic-bleed was the reason we stopped using it in the studio.
When you have two people in the same room, it complicates things considerably, and you have to take into consideration mic bleed. When your microphone picks up the voice of your cohost, it will sound echo-ey and unflattering, especially after you go through the mastering process. Some of this can be cleaned up in the editing process, but in a perfect world you limit as much as possible
If Mic Bleed is your Biggest concern The Heil PR-40 is probably one of the best microphones I've tested for off access rejection along with the ATR 2100. But it requires consistently proper mic technique. The Heil PR-40 microphone is a poor choice for a video podcast because as soon as you move your head away from the Mic, the audio quality falls off. It also takes a fair amount of gain though not nearly as much as the Shure SM7B.
That brings me to my current favorite Microphone the RE320
You can get a refurbished RE320 for somewhere between $225 renewed to $299 new. It sounds great. It has a, just a very natural, perfect EQ. Minimal gain is needed, and it has a low noise threshold. In my opinion its the best mid-tier microphone for the money. Off Access Rejection is decent although not as extreme as the Heil PR-40 but good enough.
These are all great microphones, and depending on the use case, one might have a benefit over another. one cool tip is to go to a local guitar center and try all of them to see which one makes your voice sound the best.
Audio Gain (Volume)
ALWAYS wear headphones when recording. This is rule #1 of podcasting. This will allow you to monitor your audio volume and that of your guest. By monitoring your audio at all times, you ensure that you are maintaining proper distance from the microphone and that your audio is being captured.
I would highly recommend that you request your remote guests to wear headphones to prevent mic bleed from ruining your recording audio with unwanted echo. If you are interviewing guests in person, They may not need headphones.
While it's fine to start out with whatever headphones you already own. I would caution you to avoid wireless headphones and headphones with microphones as you might complicate the drivers on your computer and the last thing you want is to keep having to adjust settings or reconnecting
If/when you edit a podcast it's important to listen with a neutral pair of studio headphones to ensure that you hear what your listener will hear and not a headphone enhanced version of the sound. Here are my three recommendations below.
My personal favorite is the MDR7506. and having spent many 1000's of hours behind a microphone this one has become a trusted friend
My personal favorite is the Sony MDR7506. and having spent many 1000's of hours behind a microphone this one has become a trusted friend
You've got your recording software in place. You're ready to record picking a recording location. But now you realize that the acoustics in your room is the worst. Here are some tips that can improve your recording quality.
Echo and reverb.
Before you spend money, upgrading your microphone or equipment focuses on your room treatment.
That's why you find a lot of podcasters are recording from their closets. They're onto something.
Record in a room with a carpet if possible. The fabric on walls furniture clothing on hangers will help dampen that reverb.
here is an acoustic blanket that did a remarkable job reducing the reverb in my first podcast room on hardwood floors
I have one of them hanging by the door even now
A carpeted room full of furniture and clothing will provide better acoustics than your garage or empty basement. If you can hear the echo in your headphones, then your audience will be able to as well
If you are recording in Person you can skip this section but if you are interacting with guest here are the most popular options on the market
I find the zoom compression worse than Skype. But the video feature Is very robust.
Zencastr is a browser based recording software. It records on multitrack which is fantastic. you can share a link with your guest and they dont need to download any software. It has developed a reputation for something called the Zencastr Drift, where you'd have these two separate tracks, but they would get out of sync with each other. This can be cleaned up via Multitrack editing but it can happen
It records locally as well as to the cloud and has a patented process to avoid the drift issue. this ensures you get the best audio. It is still in startup phase and it can require some trouble shooting but I expect it to continue to grow in popularity and continue to be a more streamlined experience with additional development
Why don't I use Squadcast or Zencastr for ChooseFI?
There are free options for recording with guest as well and some are very good
Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype all have a free option. and while zoom and google meet compress the audio too much for me to be comfortable using them there are work arounds
We use Skype for ChooseFI
I will discuss why in the webinar next week, if your interested you can find the Registration on the sidebar
If you are the host your audio quality needs to always be at 7/10 or better.
same for your cohost, but if you have a guest or a voicemail, you still want good quality audio but the bar can be lower for them without it dragging your show down. Clearly if the audio is garbage you can't and shouldn't use it, but your guest audio does not need to be as good as yours. Your audience isn't expecting that
Here are the 2 best FREE options available
Audacity is a fantastic free, open-source audio editor, although it takes a little getting used too. It's got most of the features that you would want.
Steve Stewart offers training as well as Audacity to Podcast
The Adobe suite is a subscription service
Audition starts at $20 a month and $80 for the full suite
I purchased a subscription to the Adobe suite early on because I wanted to also work with Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects.
An Audition subscription is expensive when compared with some of the other alternatives. I find the multi-track editor & noise reduction tool incredibly useful as part of my process. But as much as I love Audition, if I weren't interested in the full suite (Photoshop, AfterEffects, Premiere, & Audition) I would probably be working on Audacity or Reaper
There are actually 3 types of edits, and they have different purposes.
This is the most critical type of edit. This could be giving your guest an orientation or discussing the goals for the episode.
There are so many filler words and after you get better at cutting out umm… your subconcious will quickly find new Verbal Tics to insert instead.
I still struggle giving a tight question. Sometimes I will spend 10-20 seconds trying to work the question into something usable. if you can cut through that noise in post and leave the most important parts of the question you dramatically improve the listener experience.
This last type of edit is what separates a good editor from a great one.
When you are editing your podcast yourself you have to decide how much time you want to put in each episode. You could spend six to 10 hours per episode, making it “perfect”. But your going to burn out quickly and so I try to keep my editing within a 1:3 ratio. so a 1 hour podcast will take me up to 2-3 hours to produce end to end. Ideally it would be less than that but that is a reasonable average to expect
Exporting your Podcast
Once you finish editing your podcast you will save a final copy, a master.
Most Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) will record in WAV (uncompressed)
Recording as a WAV file gives you the ability to make small adjustments to EQ and clean sound quality up. When you mixdown your final podcast, you will want a smaller file that doesn't take as much time to upload or download.
For a Podcast, I recommend that you export to MP3 96 kbps mono. That's what we use for all of our podcasts. Following these guidelines will reduce your file size on a 1-hour podcast from over 1 Gbs to 50 Mbs, which diminishes your hosting cost and saves your listeners time and bandwidth.
Do everybody a favor and save as an MP3 at 96 Kbs and Mono.
These are important considerations and I'm going cover them in detail in the free Live Event, as well as answer any questions you may have.
Register by clicking on the button below!
So don't overthink this – you can always update it down the road.
Intro Voiceover and Music
Extro Voiceover and Music
Listen to several podcast that you find interesting and see what approach they took. Come up with a short script for your intro.
Then record your voiceover or find a freelancer to do the voiceover for you
I found our voiceover artist on Fivvr
You can pick out a song your self for free from Garageband or Youtube Studio. or you could get a more unique song from Audio jungle or Epidemic Sound for a small fee.
then you can mix them down yourself in your audio Editor or pay a freelancer to mix it for you
Your Podcast Cover Art is going to be a Variation of the same process
Identify the look or feel you like and then create your version of it you can attempt to do it yourself using a free tool like CANVA or you could find a designer to do it for you
But what I would do is just. Listen to a couple that is maybe, you know, podcasts that you like to get a feel for what you appreciate about an intro. And maybe think about a shorter intro. One thing is, is, you know, no one wants to listen to a two-minute intro. So try to keep your intro, you know, sub 50 seconds.
Maybe between 20 to 40 seconds, and you just want to create the theme, create the experience. Some people can just start talking right away, but listen to a few podcasts and see what resonates with you. Once you have it, just come up with what script you want. And what I did is I just took that script on Fiverr, and I got someone to do an excellent voiceover read.
And then you got to find some music. Now you can't just get any music. So when you're picking your song out, maybe go to something like an audio jungle. And you can find a song there that you can license for a few dollars and
You can also get access to all the garage band music for free. It's a few understood that. YouTube has a bunch of songs on the YouTube platform that you can access for free as well. Something to keep in mind.
Podcast Cover Art
You can have this commissioned by someone on Fiver, 99 design, 48-hour logo. You could create your own using Canva or Snappa. Or go to Upwork and find a freelancer to do it for you.
You can update it or change it at any time. We've changed our cover art several times over the years
How to Create Podcast Cover Art
There are several free and paid tools out there for creating your podcast Cover Art.
48 Hour Logo
Getting 1% Better
Every week you are presented with the opportunity to get 1% better. I try to identify at least one process improvement that I could make at the end of each recording session. Over the years, those small improvements have made an incredible difference.
Leveling your Audio
Customizing your Effect Rack
Creating a Session Template
1% better on audio usually starts with getting your speakers on a multi-track editor.
I have been a guest on multiple shows, and when I heard the audio after release, the recording levels were all over the map. Practically for your listener, that means they have to adjust the volume up and down constantly. because the person talking is either way too quiet or loud
I had to go through that myself, and my bar changed over time. I also got better, but those are the things to keep in mind. Now multi-track was a 1% better thing for us. One thing you notice if you're editing is that if the Mic is too low on one host or the other, do something to get the mic level back in line so that you have to do less editing next time.
Marking your recording as you go
Some software will give you the ability to Mark the tracks when you know that something's going to be offline. So if you're the host and you have the bandwidth, can you mark the recording- this makes your editors life much easier.
Podcast Meta Data
Think through your title, author tag description.
So that's great. But with podcasts, you don't have that option. You have to build your platform from the ground up. I highly recommend you create a blog/website to go with your podcast. Here is our epic how to start a blog article
Those are my general thoughts, and this is what we did. But let me know if this was helpful.
Picking Your Podcast Host.
I use Libsyn.
Very reasonable prices. Anchor, I believe, is a free one. There are some other Buzzsprout blueberry.
Once you get hosted on these platforms, they make it easy to submit to the essential directories that your listeners use. But when you do provide, you're going to want to be sh your bare minimum, want to show up on iTunes, and then Spotify Most of the Android podcast players are scraping from the apple feed, but you can also submit to Google podcast as well as Google play.
Where to List Your Podcast
How to Get People to Listen
Now, you've got this podcast and, but nobody knows it exists. Start by telling friends and family but don't be surprised by a lack of engagement. It took me months to get my mom to listen. and a year before any of my friends checked it out. you should still start there. Ask them to listen and leave you a rating and review. At this point, we are trying to find our first 5-10 listeners.
We can expand out from there. Put it on your social media, join relevant Facebook groups.
Many Facebook groups (Ours included) will have some sort of opportunity for self-promotion, hop on to Reddit and Quora, and answer questions point to your podcast when appropriate.
I highly recommend you start a website to act as a home base for your podcast traffic. This is crucial on so many levels.
Advertising, connection, Monetization, If you're in a particular niche, you can advertise for it if you want to make sure you have one of the things I did, as soon as you're committing to a podcast, go ahead and lockdown, try and lock down a website.
We have a great article here on how to start a blog. I do think that you should have this is one of the great things with Podcasting. Like, unlike YouTube, you're not given a choice. You know, YouTube is, you're just, you're adding value to YouTube platform, and YouTube is critical. You are providing the opportunity for mass exposure, the possibility of it.
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Link to Monetization Article