Shout out to my girl Anna Resnick. This conversation started over email. We covered most of the technical aspects that Anna wanted to know about my podcast set up and how to publish content. The stuff I wrote about having the confidence to invest in yourself, was a separate train of thought to that conversation. So is the question I posed about Why podcast? And the thoughts about transcripting, editing AI and SEO. Plus, another guest asked me how to podcast, so I thought this is too good a conversation NOT to share.
This is not a word for word transcript of the podcast episode. (Phew). I recorded that as a non-scripted episode and wrote a tighter summary of what I said for this page. The chapter markers in the episode do match each section of what I explain below.
Some of the products I mention are affiliates. I will tell you which are, most of the recommendations are not - I genuinely want to see more creative people have the confidence to get themselves out there. Any products I recommend I will also link to.
These are the topics I cover:
People who don’t invest in their purpose 😞
Sound quality all the way
Avoid cheesy at all costs
A memorable name
Great, recognisable artwork (Psst - don’t show a mic)
And of course great guests
Hosting a podcast
Mic set up
Serious game changers for your podcasting life
Transcribing an episode, why bother?
SEO for your podcast
This is a personal observation I’ve noticed in my age group and in the locations I’ve spent time in. This obviously might not be representative of where you are or who you’ve hung out with. My hope is, it’s not. The problem I’ve spotted is unfortunately women are less likely to invest hard earned cash or extra time into their purpose (that might not be their day job). Not every woman - but sadly there is a gender skew in that direction. It could well be something to do with visibility and other people’s expectations and definitions of success and failure. If other people haven’t pioneered something, those definitions are often pretty narrow. My big tip - if someone is critiquing your’s or anyone else’s success with a creative venture - you’ve got to look at what they’ve produced in their own life. If I can’t see much evidence of what they’ve taken risks on or put themselves out there publicly, I have to turn down the volume on their commentary. It just doesn’t hold weight full stop. I think because women tend to have more intricately woven emotional and social lives with each other (which of course has many wonderful benefits!) it can have the inverse effect too… Limiting beliefs and projected anxiety can travel faster amongst women. Essentially be wise with who you share your creative dreams with. They matter!
What do I mean by ‘investing?’ I’m referring to: subscriptions (Adobe CC, Webflow, Squadcast, Buzzsprout, Descript); short, skills based courses (not a pottery class on a Thursday night); and mentorship (I paid an acting trainer to help me level up my public speaking). There is someone to help with a multitude of challenges or even fears you need to get over to make a creative dream happen. When we think of investing, we often can have a short term mindset around the rewards we get back. Sadly, we’re pretty hard wired to want results quickly. Even in our mainstream schooling there’s a lack of education on developing assets and skills that hold a long term result and value. We want to be sprinters way more than marathon runners. I can assure you now you’ll never regret investing in a long term creative project that’s meaningful and something you’re truly proud of.
Most creative day jobs service someone else’s vision. I know there’s plenty of scope in a career to work for someone else’s vision - so many benefits and a ton you can hone and learn. But in 15 years of working as a freelance designer, my sole regret was not building something for myself sooner. The ‘something’ I mean - any digital assets with a meaningful story and group of people I can serve with my creativity. I am early on in my podcasting journey and I’m 43. Also, if you’re reading this and 40+, can we stop with the narrative that I’m too late to make a difference now? You’re really not! Even though I think for myself, I wish I’d started earlier, I know for a fact I didn’t have a meaningful story to tell before hitting 40. It just didn’t contain the substance of what I needed to tell and build. I can see for a fact, my creative output now Vs even 3 years ago, is richer, deeper and holds some serious weight behind it. And I’ve got plenty of time ahead of me to build a content led business. Be encouraged by that!
Podcasting is a beautiful, long form medium. I found it suited my personality type really well. That was after a lot of experimenting and research on other platforms. Namely Instagram, Clubhouse, Tik Tok and even LinkedIn. I realised quickly I was going nowhere fast with short form (less than 60 second) videos. And man, was there some serious workload behind making multiple videos per week. And even after all that heavy lifting of recording + editing, the results I got back were too low to feel motivated to keep going. My main medium used to be Instagram - is it something like 5% of your audience sees your content? If that’s under a thousand followers, you’re connecting with 50 people. Did I think it was worth all that workload to keep going? Nope. You’ve got to go with what creatively energises you. The reality of growing an Instagram account? You’ll be buried in video footage on your phone. For some people, that excites them. Eeek. Not me.
I’m an INFP. I lurrrrve people and connection. I don’t need breadth. I need depth. A podcast audience is seriously loyal. They’re investing 30+ minutes each time they connect with you. Can you think of any other platform that engages for that length of time with someone? That’s rare and kind of magical. Because the time investment is way higher that other places, their commitment to your channel follows quite easily. If they’ve given you 30 minutes more than once, it’s likely they’re in for the longer term ride. They like YOU. Also I can draw out a conversation that doesn’t rely on someone being immediately entertaining, speaking in soundbites or spreading my ideas for topics too thinly. I find podcasting energises me and doesn’t feel like a grind or hard work. That crucial if I’m going to go the distance with it.
Also I’m a UI geek. That’s tech speak for someone who designs websites or anything on screen. So my website is my creative outlet. I thoroughly enjoy building it and creating an engaging visual experience on it. Translating each guest’s episode into a page on my website is creatively energising again. It’s the depth thing that I’m keen on here. I want each guest to have a great experience on my podcast. It’s a form of great customer service that I’m mindful of. The guest needs to feel empowered that their story has been celebrated and put out in a positive way. The guest page is something beyond a Spotify link that’s shareable. It’s well designed, has great screenshots of them and some quotable content on there. As well as the episode itself embedded into the page - another means of discovering them if they’re Googled.
Also, this is obvious, but as the creative lead here (yep that’s you!) err on the side of being generous. Build a reputation for being generous. I don’t have cash in the bank to pay every guest. I haven’t got a large audience (yet) as marketing leverage. But I have created a shop. Every guest gets a beautiful Risoprint from me. I’d be making those drawings about courage, regardless of having a podcast. Sending that as a gift in the post to each guest is a memorable thank you. It’s another way I might be recommended to other future guests.
Being a content creator is your paper trail for your creative journey. I keep the phrase ‘Catch me if you can…’ in my mind. I actively want something my naysayers can see as a bundle of high quality, creative work. PS It has to be published. In your head doesn’t count.
Think about which medium can you happily commit years of work to? It’s got to fire you up, so that each time you open it, you’re excited. If you’re groaning early on that’s a big indicator you’ve not found your medium.
What separates the pros from the amateurs? Sound quality is up there. I’m not talking about expensive or fancy equipment. I got my setup started under $200. My mic was less than $100. But the built-in laptop or phone mic isn’t going to cut it. I get into the details of mic recommendations below. Trust me I did a lot of research and I’ve whittled it down to just two: a great laptop mic for remote recording and a really good lapel mic for anything in person or on a phone. The brilliant news? The initial outlay to level up your sound starts at £40 + a hosting account that’s free for the first 2 hrs. So the risk is super low! £40!
Podcasting, I believe, is the most intimate space you can access. You’re literally in someone’s headspace.
So, my question is: why wouldn’t you invest in the best recording equipment you can afford?
Once you dive into the world of podcasting, my guess is - you’ll end up with both a home studio mic and lapel mic. Of all the episodes so far I’ve only done one face to face. That unfortunately is a popular episode with the worst sound quality. The room was way too echoey and I used a mic I wasn’t used to. That tells me in spite of sound quality, an audience will stick with you if the message is valuable. That particular episode is powerful. And it was a healthy learning curve in how I should be in control of my recording environment. There’s too many variables if I go in person each time I want to record. Even if that’s in my own place. I don’t get two audio tracks I can do (basic!) mixing with. Even when the guest records their part without a studio quality mic, I can make little tweaks to level up the sound quality.
Investing in your own mic will give you a bit more confidence to record solo episodes. I promise you now - you’ll be thankful for having solo episodes as an option. I’m sure you’re already familiar with the mantra: consistency is key. That’s applicable to any content creation. People are at home with familiar. Knowing a new episode will drop on a given day at the same time is a great help to your audience. I schedule and try to be about 4 - 6 weeks ahead with new episodes on a Saturday at 7am GMT. I chose Saturdays because I’m anticipating when most people are scrolling on their phones. My thought is: lazily in bed first thing, when my audience have time and might be looking for something to do. I make a video the day before talking about that episode so I can post on Instagram first thing on Saturday morning - and that feels more like I’m talking to people in real time. (I haven’t been brave enough to do an Instagram live on Saturday morning, but I should do!)
Solo episodes buy you more time and take the pressure off finding a new guest every single week. Over 50 people a year is a lot of interview time. Solo episodes can also break away from the conventional format. People like 30 - 60 minutes of interview time. I’ve made solo episodes on a variety of topics that have run to over an hour and others for two minutes. They can be (should be) fun! It’s a creative medium to play and mess around with.
This might be an obvious point. Disappointingly I’ve heard a lot of cheesy in the podcasting space. There can be a fear I reckon of podcasters not wanting to stand out. Trust me… you really do want to stand out. It’s another thing that separates the pros from the amateurs. What are the two cheesy traps? Stock jingle music and clichéd artwork. Oh yeh. We’ll get to the artwork shortly. But please promise me you won’t use jingle music in your soundtrack? I’m talking about the intro and outro segments that are the bread to your podcast filling. Leftfield and least expected is the best approach to an intro / outro. You need something that ‘anchors’ your audience. They need to be aware of where they’ve landed, especially if your episode plays in their pocket on a phone. I tell my audience at the start they’ve arrived at Call On Courage. I had a lot of fun scouring the internet for retro ringtones. I want people to feel an immediate sense of comfort and nostalgia when they play Call On Courage. I’m chatting to people about overcoming fear, hurdles and anything else that gets thrown in the way of making a creative dream reality. The whole thing is highly emotive. Sound is emotive full stop. If you get lazy with a stock jingle that hasn’t been uniquely matched or crafted towards your subject, the disconnect is straightaway obvious.
You don’t need to spend $$s on your intro. It’s better to record something unique that fits. I think there’s a lot of interesting ASMR you could record on your phone. Eg. If you have a food related podcast, you could record a whole bunch of sound clips and splice them together. Food bubbling, crunchy textures, pulling food apart, opening a fizzy beer. When you start to think about what metaphors your podcast represents - that’s when you can find interesting sounds and imagery that are akin to a clever design strategy rather than a lazy, quick download.
I’m dead serious - definitely don’t show a mic. I’d hazard a guess to say there’s probably tens of thousands of amateur podcasts with a mic in the artwork. What are the visual clichés of podcasting? Avoid them. I’ve been fortunate as I’ve been a designer for years - so coming up with something illustrated for my own podcast was enjoyable. What you see now is an iteration. The first several ideas were terrible. Then I added an extra service on my website: Fearless Friends. Then it was easy to come up with my podcast artwork: draw my guests in the same illustration style as I’ve done for this service. Boom! Something distinctive was created.
The current version of the artwork you can see is at least version 2 of what I put live. This version has more people on the cover and so the words, Call On Courage stand out. Your artwork will be seen at varying sizes from 3000 x 3000 pixels (the size you need to design and submit it at) to the smallest of thumbnails you might see on a Spotify search. Have a quick search for your favourite podcast on Spotify now. See what I mean about it needing to be recognisable at all sizes? That’s a very small thumbnail right there. Which neatly leads us into our next section…
The more words you shoehorn into your podcast name, the harder it is to read and more you need your audience to remember to search for you with. Discoverability is important of course. So a unique name is important if you want to be found on Google or as your audience searches for you in the podcast listings. It only dawned on me after I’d been working on Call On Courage for a while that Brené Brown’s Netflix documentary is called, The Call To Courage. I’m not too phased by that as it doesn’t feel in the zone of litigious and it was still available on pretty much all social media platforms and domain names I needed to get it registered on. The essential criteria for any quality brand name bolds down to, can my audience remember this?
Spelling also weighs in pretty closeby. My own personal name is a terrible brand name. I have to spell both Rachael and Kearney pretty much every waking day of my life. Cheers Mum and Dad. And it’s not really meaningful to the subject matter I cover. I worked on the thought - if I wanted my work to become known for one, single idea, what would that be? Say it in one word? Courage. That’s what I worked through in the therapy stages of healing after burnout. Courage was the only thought that emerged as something tangible that I still possessed and something potently valuable that every creative person needs. It was more than a memorable brand name - it’s how I wanted to serve my audience. That sweet spot between memorable and how the audience is served, is potent. And the mix of both creates an irresistible brand that people will become a fan of. It sounds hard to capture because it is.
It involves you asking yourself what do you want to remember your life’s work as? What message does your life carry?
That’s two huge questions to ask yourself - but ultimately they reveal what a powerful brand can carry. If you don’t feel you’ve got there yet in knowing that - I would also say that’s perfectly normal. Time will reveal what that is, often going through very adverse or challenging life experiences. If your creativity is light hearted, playful and fun that’s of equal weight and value. That can also come out of adversity too. Figuring out your creative message is an ongoing dialogue. But at least be brave and cut through what similar creatives are doing with the same subject matter. The aim is to stick in people’s minds, with a short, easy to remember name that offers something a bit different.
My podcast is as brilliant as the guests I recruit for it. Guests are the star of the show. They take me out of my own story and move me into the position of a creative who gets to serve many people with the space I’m creating about courage. Anyone who’s pioneered or started something of value from scratch should be celebrated. They’ve gone against the grain and activated stuff that most people haven’t. My podcast is a celebration of their hard work, grit and commitment. It’s mutually rewarding. I get the privilege of sharing a really interesting story. And they get a moment to reflect out loud on how far they’ve come. It also is a helpful reminder to my own ego: the best creative effort that comes out of me, isn’t about me. That’s finite. It can also become repetitive and introspective.
Interviewing people naturally expands my world and my creativity. I’ve met some very cool people through the world of podcasting. Honestly, that in itself is such a gift. I heard someone once say:
This is so true! I’ve seen this at play mainly in my lovelife. A big turn on in a date - someone who feels mutually intrigued in me, not just attracted to me. Otherwise I’m in a job interview asking them loads of one sided questions (yawn). Or my date is showering me with compliments. That becomes majorly weird quickly. Does that scenario sound familiar?
I find people who ask meaningful questions are very self assured and don’t need attention on themselves. Podcasting flexes my ability to ask a wide group of people questions that are tailored to them. I find the workflow of this highly stimulating and it keeps me motivated to find more guests with this in mind. I see my podcast as a valuable tool to gather as wide a variety of perspectives on courage as possible. That is something that I can see me doing over a long time span. Think about that at the start of your podcasting journey, even if you find your subject matter shifts or sharpens over time.
And classic advice: the more niche your podcast is, the more likely you’ll connect with a highly loyal audience. You’ll be surprised at how many niche subjects are up for grabs still in the podcasting space. It’s still a really exciting format to become a leader in.
So every podcast needs somewhere to be hosted. That’s the place you’ll upload each episode MP3 or Wav file to. You’ll also add the blurb or shownotes for each episode in there. The hosting provider can also auto publish your podcast to a bunch of platforms and offer metrics on individual episodes plus device and location of your audience. As I mentioned my downloads aren't big numbers but my reach is pretty spread out globally, which has massively encouraged me to keep going with it.
I use www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=877504
(this is an affiliate link, if you sign up to their hosting I get a small payback).
They're good value and you can try for free for your first 3 months, up to 2 hrs of uploaded audio. This is also where you'll generate your podcast RSS feed for the first time and where you submit your name and artwork that'll show up on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Amazon, Google podcasts (they distribute to these platforms on your behalf). You can edit your podcast name, description, artwork, and even episode audio after you publish it, which is super useful. I would try to get your podcast name and subject right so you don't confuse your audience and people know what they're searching for. To my knowledge it’s not really possible to set up a redirected name if you end up changing it later on. Buzzsprout also acts as a handy backup of every interview: the audio file, shownotes and transcription of each episode is stored there.
So you’ll need a tool that’ll be your virtual recording studio for each episode. Somewhere you can invite your guest to and record with confidence. Yep that is different to hosting and it is another subscription service. Hosting and a recording tool are your two minimum subscription services you’ll need to make a podcast happen. For this I use Squadcast. Yes I am an affiliate. I would recommend them and have used them when I wasn’t
If you like it and end up getting an account, please use my link as Squadcast will pay me a little referral fee, which is really appreciated 🙏🏻
I've found this a great tool as my guests are remote and often in a different time zone. From a quality perspective I've found having separate host and guest audio super useful when I edit the episode. I can beef up sound quality and feel I've got more control, I can even dip my sound if I talk over the guest.
I wouldn’t. This will really make you stand out much more as a pro and serious podcaster. Squadcast can record lossless audio with a track for each speaker. Zoom can’t. Also Squadcast are frequently improving and adding features. They now offer video recording of the conversation - great if you’re creating video content elsewhere. A huge time saver if you’re uploading your episodes on YouTube.
In terms of subscription fee, the way I look at it - compare it to cloud storage, pretty reasonable right? Plus you've got the green room (a link you schedule and email out) to welcome your guest into. There’s quite a lot of control. As I said, Squadcast $10 + Buzzsprout $12 are my two ongoing costs which actually don’t add up to that much per month. I feel that's a great price to pay to become a podcast owner.
Okay there's a ton of info out there. I did my best to research and ended up with the Blue Yeti mic. I wish I'd read this article beforehand, I would have chosen the Rode Pod Mic $99. I’m nowhere near an audiophile. I don’t have a ton to say on this, aside from trust your own ears. Listen to different mic recordings using earphones. A lot of people will listen in ear on their phones. So what will this sound like on the average pair of earphones or buds? You need to hear what you like the sound of. I think the market isn’t overly crowded for this for good reason - there isn’t loads of differences between the quality of mics designed for spoken voice under $200. When you’re going above that budget you’re entering into a reserve wine kind of conversation or level of research. I think there’s more valuable things to get your podcasting attention focused on.
The Yeti does what I need. My mic elevates my recording straight away and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between this and the Rode. BTW - if you do invest in the Rode Pod Mic you'll also need to get a microphone stand that accompanies this - it's not free standing like the Blue Yeti Mic.
Rarely I will interview a person in the same room as me so I'll need two lapel mics. I think this is useful if I’m considering video as something I’d invest in further down the line.
This setup is less fancy than Squadcast... You'll need two lapel mics, two mic extensions and one earphone splitter. You can then record everything into your phone which is super easy. You don't have editing control over each person, it records just one sound file. But the setup is easy. Plus the fact the mics are super reasonable and as you can hear, sound great. Just thought I'd mention lapel mics in case that's a scenario for you.
I found this video really interesting,
The Clippy Mic was less than £40 at the time of writing this. You’ll also need a splitter like the Rode one that plugs directly into your phone.
I’m on a Mac so I edit in GarageBand because it’s *fairly* straightforward to use and built in as a free app on my laptop. I say *fairly* straightforward because there is a slight learning curve. The app’s user interface is a tad early noughties to say the least. I have a background in using timeline based software. I used to animate and have used Adobe Rush to edit basic videos for social media. All of that kind of software has a ubiquitous look: layers you can add media to and time markers running horizontally for you to cut and add the action into. GarageBand is similar to that - the biggest issue I have with it: it’s annoyingly easy to click on something in error and wonder ‘what the heck did I just do?!’ It’s nowhere near annoying as the free downloadable counterparts online. I won’t name and shame but man, have I seriously lost some hours trying to figure out how on earth do I use these products?!
Because your focus is on storytelling through your podcast, you’re way less likely to enjoy the editing process - who wants to be bogged down in that technical learning curve? Podcasting relies on consistency. I will always be vocal about not creating for the algorithm’s sake. That’s just not enough of a motivator over a long time span. As mentioned in the Why Podcast? section, a podcaster’s audience is entirely different to an Instagram one. They’re committed and invested in what you’ve got to say. Anything that speeds up your podcasting workflow is going to become a weekly time saver that you’ll be glad you invested in. I want speed and ease in my editing workflow so that I put my creative energy and time into finding guests, the interviews and then how I present the published episode afterwards. Figure out where you want to invest your energy and spend the money on faster tools for the stuff you’re not that interested in.
Okay, are you ready to have your mind blown? AI isn’t as creepy as you imagine. But it is way more futuristic and useful than you’d guess! I’m dead serious. Wait til you see what you can do with Descript.com and Otter.ai.
Where do I even begin with these two editing sorcery tools?! Descript is the genuine mind blower. Both are transcribing tools that are insanely accurate. (You’re listening to someone with a fairly distinct Manchester / Lancashire accent). For clarification - what’s transcribing? It’s literally speech to type conversion of your voice. Both these tools take the audio of your recording and output them as text you can see on a Google style doc. The crazy thing about them both? You can edit the text doc - something we’re all pretty familiar with - and your audio or in the case of Descript, your video will update with the edits you made to the text. What’s even crazier is that you can train both to learn your voice so you can type words (rather than record again) to make quick voice over edits on the fly. Super smart.
Why bother? So I found watching the video below super helpful. The short answer here: transcribing is way more useful for Google on a website than for being found in a podcast listening app. The video below dives further into how the main podcast apps work based on searchability. (Eg. the fields Apple Podcasts or Spotify match people’s search terms to.)
Essentially it’s better for your website to have episodes transcribed. You’ll want to get a decent amount of words published onto your website page for each episode. I tend not to publish the full transcription of an episode. The average episode I publish is 45 minutes. That as a word count can rack up to 10,000 words! Firstly, who's going to read that much? And secondly, Otter.ai is very accurate. But an accurate transcribed conversation doesn’t translate to a well written blog post. So every transcription I have to read through and re-write parts to improve readability. I simply don’t have the time to read, let alone re-work 10,000 words every week! I tend to select the interview gold, which equates to 3000 - 5000 words with distinct subheadings and quotes. That creates a really nice episode page and gets me off the hook for not doing a detailed full transcription.
It’ll come as no surprise - I am not a SEO expert (yawn). But I’m happy to do the basic minimum to increase episode discoverability on my website. I built my website in Webflow. In my opinion the best tool for website creation. It’s entirely customisable and possible to create a truly one of a kind website that doesn’t feel cookie cutter. In all honesty a decent review on Webflow deserves a separate page… something that I’m keen to do, because I’m such a fangirl of their product. From a SEO perspective, what Webflow offers is a guided structure of fields to complete. These range from Title Tag, Meta Description to Open Graph Settings. All super easy to connect to your podcast content that you’ve already written. There’s the rudimentary H1 - 6 sub headings you can use, an obvious first step when you’re figuring out how to structure your page.
Google remains pretty tight-lipped about what increases website ranking (in SEO speak, that’s referred to as SERP, Search Engine Ranking Page). But it is easy to guess, the page that delivers not just an answer to a search query more directly, but also more comprehensively wins. You might have heard of ‘bounce rate’ - that’s essentially the time it takes for someone to leave your page. How is a 500 word page going to fare against a 2000 or 3000 word page? And if you’ve embedded your podcast episode in there too? Wow you’re streaming your podcast in the perfect setting if it’s on a web page. Google will track time spent on a given page, so to have your audience’s undivided attention with audio playing, that’s the sweet spot for your podcast metrics and SEO.
There’s quite a few things to consider if you’re new to podcasting. My take-away tip would be: have fun! Your enjoyment and energy will really come across in the recording. You get to be fully you - weird, funny, considered, intelligent. Bring it all to the table because you’ve critically got the time to present something substantial here. I’m interested to know if you do make a start with it - let me know.
Pps. be courageous with it x
If you've enjoyed any of these episodes or think a conversation on courage would help a friend, I'd appreciate a review. It takes less than 30 seconds and can really boost the chances of Call On Courage being discovered by others. Thanks so much 🙏🏻