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Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a podcast? What the steps are? This week, I’m going to walk you through my process, step by step.

I’m going to give you a better understanding of what it takes to make a podcast, take some of the mystery and scariness out of podcasting, and give you actionable steps to follow to make your own podcast.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins:

  • Post-production seems to be the most difficult and time consuming part of podcasting. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest to outsource. Consider hiring an editor or assistant to take care of it for you.
  • If you don’t have much free time to invest in your podcast, keep it simple. Share something valuable in 3-10 minutes.
  • Mind mapping is a great creative exercise that helps me capture all the things I want to talk about related to my topic.
  • Create presets and templates for your tracks and use them every week.
  • Be ruthless about editing both before and after recording.
  • Creating an email newsletter for every episode can be time consuming, but it’s important if you want to build an list of people that you can sell to later down the road.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your older content on Twitter. Grab a takeaway from the episode and post it with a link to the episode.

Show Notes

  • 1:44 In this episode I’m going to walk you through my entire podcasting process, but I want to start with a question from a Community member.
  • 1:48 Emily Carlton asked: How long did your entire process take when you first started, and how long does it take now? In what areas have you become more efficient to save time?
  • 2:16 When I first started, each episode was taking me around 4-5 hours, but it felt like forever. It feels like it takes less time now, but not by much. The time it takes to produce a podcast depends on the format and how much work you want to put into it to make it awesome. If you’re ok with your show being a little rough, if you don’t want to make great show notes, then you could probably record and publish a short show in an hour or two.
  • 3:29 A few things that saved me a lot of time was learning how to edit quickly in Logic Pro X, how to save plugin settings as defaults, and how to create channel strip and project templates.

The Three Parts of Podcasting: Preperation, Recording, and Post-Production

  • 4:09 My podcasting process can be broken down into three parts; Preparation, Recording, and Post Production.
  • 4:43  Preparation includes things like researching what people are interested in learning about, coming up with topics, researching those topics, and writing an outline for the episode.
  • 4:54 Recording is making sure your audio gear is setup, connected and ready to go, then hitting record and doing the show (and live streaming if that’s a thing you do).
  • 5:28 Post-production is editing the audio file (or files, if you have guests or co-hosts), bouncing it out to an MP3 file, tagging the file, writing show notes, uploading those things to the website for publishing, creating the email newsetter, then promoting the episode on social media.

What’s the Most Time Consuming Part of Podcasting?

  • 7:02 Robert Guzzo asked: Can you estimate the percentage of time & effort you devote to each: preparation, recording, post-production & publishing? I’m asking more for an estimate on which parts of the process take the most time–does prep take up the majority of the overall effort for an effort, or is post-production the biggest slice of the pie?
  • 7:30 You can either do the bulk of the work up front or later in post-production. For example, when I’m doing solo shows, I write out almost the entire show before I record it. Then I don’t have as much work on the editing or the show note writing section.
  • 8:25 If I’m doing an interview, I have an basic outline but I don’t know what’s going to be said, so I write the show notes afterwards. It’s very time consuming but that’s just how it goes.
  • 9:08 As I told Robert in the chat before the show, it depends on when you want to do the work. If you do more work up front, the post-production work of writing show notes will require less time.

Pre-Production

  • 9:35 There are three main parts to pre-production:
    1. Choosing a topic for the episode
    2. Mindmapping (brainstorming)
    3. Writing the outline
1. Choosing a Topic
  • 10:33 Choosing a topic involves a lot of research. When searching for topics for my show, I’m asking myself:
    • What questions have people been asking?
    • What do I wish I knew when I started?
    • What haven’t I taught about yet?
    • What are the basics?
    • What are common mistakes that people make?
  • 11:11 If you find yourself getting stuck when trying to think of topics to talk about on your show, check out this free PDF from Sean McCabe; 62 Topic Ideas So You Never Run Out of Things to Write About.
  • 11:47 Daniela asked: How much writing do you do in preparation for a podcast episode?
  • 12:06 I like to write out between 800 and 3000 words for my episodes. That takes me between 20 and 45 minutes to read out loud. You don’t have to do long episodes, though. Short shows can be just as valuable, and many people even prefer short podcasts. Longer shows take more time and effort, so plan accordingly.

If you don’t have much free time to invest in your podcast, keep it simple. Share something valuable in 3-10 minutes.

2. Mind Mapping
  • 13:00 Alex Kelerman asked: What goes into writing an outline for your podcast? Do you just use bullets for the main ideas and develop things live, or do you go in depth?
  • 13:19 I like to create the structure of my outline in a mindmapping app called Mindnode ($29). I start off with the main topic in the middle and add any sub-topics (the main points I want to discuss). Then I go one level deeper and write out my basic talking points (bullet items). You can view an example of what that looks like here.

Mind mapping is a great creative exercise that helps me capture all the things I want to talk about related to my topic.

  • 14:10 I talked more about this process in episode 17: Using Great Outlines to Keep Your Listener’s Attention.
  • 14:19 While I’m mind mapping, I’m also doing research online to see what other people have written about the topic, just to make sure I don’t miss or forget anything. It often sparks new ideas or uncovers gold nuggets that I can then bring into the show.
3. Writing the Outline
  • 14:59 Once I’m happy with my mind map outline, I export the text into a writing app called Typed. I like Typed, but there are many great writing apps including IA Writer, Ulysses, NVAlt, and Sublime Text. Since I do all my writing in Markdown, I like these apps because they play nice with Markdown, but you could write in any text editor.
  • 15:44 So I export the text from Mindnode and put it into a new text document in Typed, then I start writing. I start with the intro; how I’m going to introduce the episode to my audience. Then I move on to filling in details related to my main points. I dedicate an hour or two (sometimes more) every week to writing, but I often spread it out into 3-4 different writing sessions.

Show Time (Recording)

  • 16:45 I stream live every Monday, so I review my show notes about an hour before showtime. I’ll often jump in the seanwes Community chatroom to see if anyone has any questions that I can answer in the show.
  • 17:16 You can do this yourself; jump on Twitter or Slack and ask your audience if they have any thoughts or questions related to your topic. This can spark some great conversations and give you more things to talk about during your show; it also gives your audience a sense of participation.
  • 17:46 After reviewing the show notes, I start preparing for recording. I turn off any streaming services (Dropbox, Backblaze, Google Drive) that might be hogging bandwidth. I make sure all my gear is ready to go, then do a test recording to make sure everything is working as it should be. I turn notifications off and silence my iPhone, then I hit record (very important) and start the show.
  • 18:52 After I’m done recording, I hit stop and save the file (very important).

Post Production

  • 20:04 There are five sections to my post-production workflow:
    1. Editing and mixing
    2. Writing show notes
    3. Bouncing, tagging and uploading the MP3
    4. Creating the featured image for the show notes page
    5. Admin work (creating the post in WordPress, uploading the show notes, creating and sending the Mailchimp email newsletter)

Post production seems to be the most difficult and time consuming part of podcasting. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest to outsource. Consider hiring an editor or assistant to take care of it for you.

1. Editing
  • 21:12 I open up my Logic project and I apply presets that I’ve made for the tracks. In most cases, I already have plugins setup and configured for vocal tracks. These presets are called Channel Strip Settings.

Create presets and templates for your tracks and use them every week.

  • 21:34 I adjust EQ and compression if needed, add the intro and outro music, then edit the show. Editing includes removing umms and other filler words and cleaning up any long pauses or mistakes. I used to do an editing pass before starting to write the show notes, but lately I’ve been editing while writing show notes. I found that it saves me a little bit of time.

Be ruthless about editing both before and after recording.

2. Writing Show Notes
  • 23:15 I open the text document that I used for my outline, and start working to turn my outline into something that looks more like a blog post. I add TimeJump links to the beginning of each paragraph so that people can go to the time in the audio player that corresponds with that section of the show notes. Update: I no longer add TimeJump links, but I’m still using Markdown. I wrote more about my new process for creating show notes here.
  • 24:33 As I’m listening and writing show notes, if I notice any additional things in the recording that need to be edited, I’ll take care of it.
3. Bouncing the File
  • 24:44 After editing and show notes are done, I bounce (export) the audio to an MP3 file. I export the audio file in stereo at 128kbps.
  • 25:04 I tag the MP3 file with the proper metadata using an app called Tagr. Tagr costs $10 but it’s faster than using iTunes to add the neccessary information to your MP3. I’ve also got a cool text shortcut that uses Keyboard Maestro to automatically fill in the information, but I’ll have to do a screencast on that later.
  • 25:37 Afer tagging, I upload the MP3 file to our hosting server (We use a custom solution at seanwes, but I recommend Simplecast for podcast hosting).
4. Creating the Featured Image
  • 26:02 I create a featured image for the episode using Sketch (you could use also use Photoshop or Pixelmator. My featured images are 1600x800px, just a simple colored background with a little texture, and the type is our brand font, Le Monde Courier. I export the image as a JPG, then use an app called ImageOptim to reduce the size of the file (so it loads faster).
5. Creating a New Post in WordPress
  • 26:58 In our WordPress site (seanwes.com is a WordPress site), we have an option to create a new post for each of the podcasts on the network. Sean was nice enough to create a template post that I can clone every week. I just fill in the title, upload the featured image, then I copy the HTML show notes from Typed and paste them into body of the post.
  • 27:29 I proof-read the post, fix any formatting, spelling, or grammar errors, and add target blank tags to links.
6. Mailchimp Email Newsletter
  • 28:40 I use Mailchimp to send emails for every episode to my email list. If you haven’t started an email newsletter for your podcast yet, I highly recommend it. If you need convincing, check out seanwes 159: Getting Started With Email Marketing.
  • 29:06 For my email newsletters, I upload the featured image, copy the description from the beginning of my show notes, then add the takeaways and highlights. I close each newsletter with a personal note about the episode.

Creating an email newsletter for every episode can be time consuming, but it’s important if you want to build an email list of people that you can sell to later down the road.

7. Wrapping Up
  • 30:34 After I finish the email newsletter, I’m almost done. This is when I start celebrating because I know I’m getting close to the finish line!
  • 30:41 I double check everything, look over my process list to make sure I didn’t forget to do anything. I schedule the blog post and email newsletter, and then I’m done!
  • 31:01 After the episode goes live, I post a link on Twitter. I try to give the audience a taste of what I’m going to talk about in the episode, and I also include the featured image.

Don’t be afraid to share your older content on Twitter. Grab a takeaway from the episode and post it with a link to the episode.

Q&A

  • 38:42 Robert Guzzo and Aneeqah Naeem asked: Do you have any tips for streamlining the podcasting process to make it more efficent?
  • 38:57 I was thinking about this, and I can’t remember ever eliminating any steps from my process. If anything, I’ve added more steps since joining the seanwes network.
  • 39:52 There are a few apps I use that save me time. Text Expander is great, it allows you to type a couple keys and then some replacement text gets dropped in. So for example, instead of having to write out http://thepodcastdude.com, I can just hit ‘tpd, and Text Expander will turn that into the URL. If you aren’t using Text Expander yet, you should be.
  • 40:54 Another great time saver has been using templates in Logic. I have templates for projects, templates for channel strips, and I’ve even customized the default settings for my commonly used plugins. I talked more about time saving tips in episode 15, so go check that out if you haven’t yet.
  • 41:25 I’ve found that the more you do something, the easier it gets. The first dozen podcast episodes are hard because the process is new. Once you become familiar with it, you don’t have to think about it and it becomes muscle memory.
  • 42:04 If you are pressed for time, make your show shorter. I was listening to an audiobook last week called Pitch Anything. In this book, author Oren Klaff describes how most people’s attention span only lasts around 20 minutes before needing to be “reset”. There’s no reason why you couldn’t make a show shorter than 20 minutes. Like I always say, just make it valuable.