I’m back for round #2 of the Aardvark Girl Q&A series. This time I’m answering some questions based on podcasting. Why I started one and what advice I have for anyone else who’s doing it or thinking about it. It seems appropriate to have a podcast about a podcast, right?

Why did I decide to do a podcast?

Starting from the beginning, why did I decide to do a podcast? This is another one of those ideas that came to me out of nowhere. It started nagging me one night, and I just had this feeling that I should do a podcast with my friend Melissa. I’d never thought about doing one. I never had any interest in being recorded, audio or video, or sharing anything publicly. It was out of my comfort zone and my instinct said to do it, so I knew I had to. I emailed Melissa that night, and she just said, “Okay.” So that’s how this journey began, with the show we co-hosted called the Womanpreneur podcast.

The goal was to share our conversations of positivity and how certain topics apply to business and your personal life. Every time we got together, we just had these great conversations, and we were always on the same wavelength. It was kind of funny because our personalities are pretty much completely opposite, but our values were the same, and that’s why that worked. Our number one goal was to help other people. But we also saw an opportunity there to get more work for both of us – her on the voiceover side and me on the coaching side.

We really took the time to learn the art of podcasting – using new equipment, building out a set, figuring out how to be a little more comfortable on camera, which wasn’t something either one of us really wanted to do prior to that. And we had a lot of fun. We got to hang out and talk about things that we were interested in, share what we had learned in our own businesses with other people. And a lot of the time it was me rolling my eyes or making faces at Melissa for something extra peppy she said, or her teasing me about my general sarcasm. I was more of the tough love personality, which is kind of what I am. And she is much more open and friendly and bubbly and all the things I am not. 

The balance worked really well. We each had our own unique perspectives about business, but we definitely shared a similar mindset that tied it all together. I think the only thing we didn’t really agree about was the name of the podcast. I wasn’t really a fan of “Womanpreneur” as a name. While I understand the importance of a niche audience, I felt that specific name limited us to an only female audience, and a lot of the clients I work with are men. But other than that, I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. It was something new that I had never done before. And it gave me a way to expand into new ways of creating content that helped supported my message.

We were just over a year into that podcast when COVID came into the world. And then, suddenly, we couldn’t go into the studio to record our weekly episodes. And we no longer had our production team who set up the lights and the cameras and the microphones and took care of all those technical details so all we had to do was show up and talk. We tried to do a few episodes remotely, but it just didn’t have the same feel anymore. And there was just too much going on in the world and our own businesses that we had to consider, and it just didn’t make sense to keep going. Our priorities had shifted in different directions at that time. But, I also didn’t want to lose the momentum. I still had the same passion to help people with business. And it seems like a more practical way for me to share what I know. I know myself pretty well, and I just don’t keep up with social media. I haven’t found that love for that so many people have. And the self-promotion angle still doesn’t feel right.

I know I have to do it, and I’m trying to get better about it. But I think I’ve said that in several episodes. It’s not high on my priority list at any time. I know some people are pretty successful with blogs, but I’m one of those people that I can write when I’m in the right mood, but I can’t choose when that mood is going to be. And that makes it pretty tricky when you have to deliver on a consistent basis. Anyone who’s signed up for my email list knows I hardly ever email. At one point, I was committed to doing at least once a month, and I didn’t even keep up with that. That’s another thing on my list that I’ll get to eventually, but maybe not.

And during that time when Melissa and I were making the decision to stop the Womanpreneur Podcast, it made me really evaluate what we had been doing. I knew what worked for me and what didn’t. And the biggest issue I was having, aside from having to completely learn a lot of new technical details like audio mixing and editing video, neither of which I’m great at even to this day, but I did spend the early days of the pandemic doing my best to learn how to at least get by. But the biggest issue really was that I just don’t have the bandwidth to manage two brands. And that was what I was trying to do. I had Aardvark Girl on one side and the Womanpreneur Podcast on the other. And while there was supposed to be some overlap there, where one was feeding the other, it just didn’t really turn out that way. And I think because the podcast involved somebody else, I was putting all of my time and energy and effort into the Womanpreneur Podcast, and completely neglecting Aardvark Girl. So I knew my next step had to be one and the same. I needed to realign my message with my own brand.

So I started thinking about what is it that I really want to do, and who is it that I really want to help? And while I don’t want to limit that in any way, my key audience are self-employed creatives. Most of my clients and the people I work with regularly are exactly that. And all the things they hire me to do for them really stems from the fact that they are creative, and they don’t want to deal with the business side of things. Or many don’t even see themselves as business owners. They think, “I’m just a freelancer.” And we know how I feel about that. So my goal has always been to make a shift there to where yes, you’re a freelancer, and you’re creative, but you’re also a business owner. Structure and details don’t have to be so scary or annoying. The key is to understand why you need those things in your life, and how being organized or having a better bookkeeping system or whatever that might be, is actually a benefit to you that will allow you to spend more time doing the things you love to do. So that’s why I’m here.

And I did start out with a much better plan. where each week I was going to have a video, the podcast, and a written blog to go along with everything, so people could choose how to consume the content. Some people like to listen, some like to watch, and some like to read, so I figured, hey, I’ll do it all. But what I realized is something I already knew – I don’t like video. And a lot of that goes back to the thing that I always say not to do. Don’t try to be perfect. And I’m not really trying to be perfect. I just want things to be better than what they are right now. And I’ve had issues coming up with the right backdrop or something that would work consistently. And also figuring out how to deliver on camera when I don’t have somebody else to talk to, and that’s been kind of a challenge because it’s basically talking to myself, and that’s not something I do regularly. If I write something out, it sounds like I’m reading it because I am. And if I don’t have it written out, I tend to ramble, and then there’s no cohesiveness, which is something that’s pretty important for an episode.

And then I got hired to work on this show, and my free time suddenly disappeared. Something had to go, and the easy selection at that point was to let go of the video. I wanted to maintain consistency with this podcast, so I’ve continued to do that. I release one a week no matter what, but the video fell by the wayside. It was the most time consuming and I got the least amount of enjoyment from it, so I’ve had to put that on hold. When the show is over, I’ll probably have more time, and then I can make myself get back to video.

Moving on to part two…

What do I recommend for someone who wants to start a podcast?

 These thoughts are in no particular order, but I will start with a one I feel is the most obvious: be prepared to do the work. I think that applies to pretty much anything that you do, but in the case of a podcast, it really is quite a bit of work. If you’re doing it on your own, or if you have a partner, or if you have a team you can outsource things to… no matter what your particular situation might be, make sure to be aware of the time commitment that you’ll need to make, and commit to it. Because another key part of podcasting, and this is advice that I’ve seen given in many podcast groups that’s consistent, is be consistent. Meaning if you decide to release one episode per week, make sure that episode comes out every single week, ideally on the same day at the same time. This helps your audience know what to expect and when to expect it.

And then once you have that figured out, I definitely recommend working ahead – making sure you have at least a few episodes produced and ready to publish ahead of time. You don’t ever want to get stuck to where you’re scrambling to get something finished, or you just run out of time. That’s too much stress to put on yourself, so make sure to always look ahead. I like to have at least three episodes ready to go at any time. I don’t want to ever miss a week because I put it off for too long. It’s important to me, so I make the time.

Another important step in the very beginning is to know why you’re doing the podcast. What do you hope to get from it? What is your format? Who is your audience? How do you want to structure each episode? Will you be interviewing other people? Are you going to talk by yourself? Chances are it will evolve along the way, but you never want to lose sight of the why – the reason why you’re doing it. Most of us do it because we want to help in some way. Whether we want to share our expertise and experience, or we want to entertain, there’s some reason why we want to do it. And it’s important to make sure that’s the guiding force. Meaning unless your only purpose is to get a giant audience, don’t worry so much about how many people are listening or downloading your podcast, especially in the beginning. I’m sure a lot of people want to be the next Joe Rogan, but it takes time to get there. A lot of us are starting without any kind of audienc, or a relatively small one compared to that.

If your goal is to help, all you need is one person. If you make a difference in one person’s life, or business, or whatever it is that you’re trying to do, that should be enough. It’s very similar to the social media trap that people fall into, where they get hung up on the number of followers and they focus more on that than delivering quality content. And that’s really important. You have to deliver good content if you want a podcast to work. That’s the best way to build and maintain an audience. Keep giving them quality.

And one way to help do that is to be authentic. Stay true to who you are and to why you’re doing the podcast. Don’t try to be somebody else. Don’t try to shift your personality to be what you think other people want to hear. They don’t want to hear that. They want to hear you. Your voice is unique to who you are, and that’s what the right people will resonate with. Try your best to avoid the comparison trap. Don’t say, well, this person has this uber-successful podcast because she’s like this, so I should be like this, too. Well, she’s already like that, and that she already has that audience. Your audience needs to like you for who you are.

And that goes back to not trying to be perfect also. Because people these days really resonate with authenticity. They want to know who you are and what you’re going through also. So you don’t have to try to paint the perfect picture of the perfect life for anybody. If you make a mistake, and you learn something from that, and then your audience might be able to learn from it, too, that’s a benefit to everyone. They’re not going to judge you for messing up. We’re all human, we all do it. So I think keeping that in mind is really important when you’re doing something like a podcast.

Now, when it comes to the technology, that’s another piece of the puzzle. There is a fair amount of tech involved in doing a podcast. So again, you want to be clear about what your responsibility is going to be. If you’re going to do it completely alone, there’s a lot to know. And if you’re going to work with somebody else, whether that’s a co-host or a producer or an editing team, communication, like with everything else, is really important. If you’re working with a co-host, you need to make sure that their responsibilities are divided and you both are on the same page about who’s doing what ahead of time. Treat it like any business partnership, because chances are if one person starts pulling the weight more than the other, it’s not going to end very well. You have to be able to talk about these things so it doesn’t get in the way of everything else, including the fun of sharing the experience.

When it comes to equipment, I would say to invest in that up front. But it really depends on your level of commitment to making it work. A lot of podcasts start and then stop within a month to three months. And I’m sure that’s for a lot of different reasons, but I think a big one is that people really underestimate how much time and effort it actually takes to do it. And for most of us, it costs money. We don’t make any money from it upfront. Unless you start off with a sponsor or advertising or other things that you’re doing, it can be a costly endeavor.

There are a few things to consider. Number one, are you going to do audio only, or do you need a video component? Video adds quite a bit to everything, but it’s a nice feature to have. Even if you don’t use the video all the time, at least you have it there and you can create other sources of content from that. You’ll notice that when I do my interview episodes, if the guest is willing to be on camera, I record video of the entire conversation, but I don’t post it. I started doing that in the beginning, but I realized that most of us don’t have the attention span to watch a video that long. I’m sure some people would make the effort to watch an entire video, but for now I just create an episode trailer with some highlights. Most of the people listening to the full episode are listening to the podcast anyway. 

Obviously, audio is the main focus, so a good microphone is necessary. Most of us don’t have a proper soundproofed place in our homes where we can record. You’ll see a lot of podcasters working out of a closet, or burying their head under blankets to muffle the sound. There are a lot of different things you can do to help, but the right equipment will make a huge difference. If you listen to my first episode compared to this one, I hope you can hear the difference. I started off with a pretty cheap lav mic that I had lying around because I wanted to test some things out and make sure I was truly committed. Of course, I wish I would have just started with the good stuff, because I knew better. But it’s all part of progress. There’s a lot of background noise that I couldn’t get rid of, and I learned quickly that I do not want to be an audio engineer. There are some great engineers out there and I need to let them do what they do. But I’m also mindful of costs and I don’t want to spend too much money on this thing. So I wanted to learn the basics at least so I can do my solo episodes by myself. I outsource the audio for my interview episodes to my brother and his company, Tansy Aster Creative, because I feel my guests deserve better than what I can do on my own.

Also, if you’ve listened to my last few episodes, you know that I’m living in in construction tornado, and I have just tons of rumbling and jackhammering and other sounds going on around me all the time. And I’m not quite ready to build a soundproof booth just yet. Again, I have that video component, and I still want it to look somewhat decent in the background. But I do have a new microphone coming my way that will hopefully help eliminate even more of that background noise. So I think the microphone is the most important because we’re talking about audio quality for something that is audio only, and that’s what people are listening to. I know I’ve tuned into some podcasts where it’s just horrific, and I can’t listen to it no matter how good the content is, because it sounds so bad. Also, depending on what kind of microphone you get, you might also need extra gear. You might need an audio interface. You might need a preamp. You might need some extra cables. These things can add up. But remember, you’re making an investment that will last you a long time if you stay consistent with the podcast.

You also want to choose software to use. There are a lot of free options out there, so it’s a matter of personal preference and what’s going to work best for you and whatever computer you’re using. I am completely Mac-based, so that affects my decisions. Right now, I’m using Twisted Wave for my VO and I use Adobe Premiere for my editing. I also invested in Izotope RX7, which gives me some basic tools for audio cleanup. I’ve seen a lot of different software options recommended by other podcasters for different things – for recording, for mixing, for all of that – so do some research and find one that you’re comfortable using regularly. YouTube is a great resource. There are tutorials for pretty much anything you could ever possibly want to do, so it’s a good opportunity to learn a new skill, or at least learn enough to get by.

You’ll also need a podcast host which is where you put the files that get published to everywhere else, like Apple and Spotify and those places. There are a lot of those out there, too. I chose Podbean because they had the best video plan when we were starting the Womanpreneur Podcast. I stuck with it because I was already comfortable with how it worked, and at that time I didn’t want to have to learn anything new. With all of this, you need to do a fair amount of research, but don’t overdo it. Pick one that sounds good and go with it, because I know if you’re anything like me, you’re going to waste a lot of time trying to find the best one. And a lot of it is going to come down to personal preference. You might start at one place and move to somewhere else. That’s perfectly okay. One of the big things you have to do is get started.

Oh, and of course, there’s the obvious. You need a name, and you need artwork. I always recommend going simple with a name. Make it easy for your potential audience to find you and know what you’re going to be talking about. And when it comes to artwork, it’s good to keep that simple, too. I’ve seen a lot of people design this really elaborate cover art that’s beautiful, but when it’s shrunk down into that tiny, tiny little square that you see on your phone when you actually have the podcast app open, you can’t read most of it or see all that detail. So save that for your social media posts and other visuals. But keep the cover art simple and easy to read.

I’ve seen this big debate when it comes to using a photo or a name. Some people think that it’s great to use your photo because it helps people know who you are. Other people say don’t use a photo, because unless you’re a celebrity, or already have a big audience, nobody cares what you look like. Same thing with a name. I say go with whatever you want to do. If you want to use your name, use it. If you don’t, don’t. If you like a photo of yourself and you think it’ll help, put it on there. If you don’t want it, you don’t have to. The nice thing about something like a podcast is there aren’t really any rules about that kind of thing. You get to customize it and do what feels right for you. Again, don’t worry so much about what other people think. It isn’t about them. It’s about you.

I think that’s enough podcast talk for now, but I want to thank everybody who sent me the questions about why I started a podcast and what I would recommend for those who want to do a podcast. If you have any other questions for me for the next Q&A episode, email info@aardvarkgirl.com or DM me on social @aardvarkgirl. I would love to hear from you.