Launching a podcast is an accessible way for many people to tell a story, share research, offer advice, and make others smile. They’re a popular media format—as of the middle of 2018, there were over 550,000 active podcasts on iTunes alone!
It’s true that podcasts are easy enough for almost anyone to make. The difficulty comes in creating something that people can’t wait to listen to week after week.
As you’re getting started, don’t waste your time trying to learn things the hard way. Instead, keep reading for eight of the most common rookie podcast mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Not Having a Clear Goal
Some people have taken to podcasting as others have to YouTube channels or social media. They don’t have a clear purpose in mind and they aren’t passionate about the craft, but it seems like the thing that people are doing these days.
Don’t be like those people. Listen to your mother—don’t jump off the podcasting bridge just because all your friends are doing it.
If you’re going to start a podcast of your own, do it because you have a goal in mind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using it to share information, promote your product or service, or to make people laugh. Whatever the reason, make sure it’s clearly defined and is something you care about enough to put some serious effort into.
2. Not Creating a “Rough Draft”
It’s tempting to record your first episode and set it free on the internet as soon as it’s edited, but that’s the same as a momma bird pushing her chicks out of the nest as soon as they hatch. They’re not quite ready to fly yet.
To avoid having your podcast fall straight from the nest to the ground after launch, treat your first few episodes like a “rough draft.” Record them, edit them, and then send them off to a few trusted friends or family members for a helpful critique. They can help you identify areas for improvement that you might not have found on your own.
After getting feedback, make changes! Re-record or edit segments, chop the boring parts, or scrap entire episodes if they feel out of place. Then, once you’ve polished up those rough drafts, set them free and watch them soar. Here at the Podcast of No Return, we went through several months of writing, finding the right cast, getting the right equipment, and learning how to put it all together before we released our first episode.
3. Not Practicing Enough
“Practicing for a podcast? But it’s supposed to be a live recording!”
Yes, and no. Not all podcasts are recorded live—many are scripted and recorded in segments before going through editing. But even if you are going for the off-the-cuff, unscripted feel, practicing is vital to putting out your best work.
This is especially true if you haven’t found yourself behind a microphone before. There’s nothing like listening to yourself talk in third-person to make you notice your vocal tics and idiosyncrasies.
If your podcast is scripted, make sure to run through it until it has a smooth and natural flow, fixing any awkward wording as you go. And if you operate more like a live talk show, practice by recording interviews with friends and family before releasing a real show.
4. Not Having a Defined Style
Consistency is the king of the podcast kingdom, and it doesn’t only refer to posting on a regular schedule (though that’s important too). Your listeners tune in every week expecting a certain style of content, and if they don’t find that, they won’t listen.
This doesn’t mean that every episode needs to sound the same. On the contrary, mixing things up keeps people interested. But if your listeners tune in expecting a light, family-friendly comedy only to find your jokes veering into dark and depressing territory, they’ll feel like you just hit them in the face with a brick.
Pro tip: listeners tend not to enjoy bricks to the face. So work on developing a consistent style that’s uniquely your own and let it function like your podcast’s signature.
5. Not Thinking Outside the Box
As important as consistency is, make sure that you change things up with out-of-the-box thinking every once in a while. Consider bringing in a special guest, changing up the formatting of your segments, or releasing shorter bonus episodes with behind-the-scenes material. There are tons of ways to stay on topic while still flexing your creative muscles!
6. Not Paying Attention to Sound Quality
There is nothing—we repeat, nothing—more distracting during a podcast than bad sound quality. The most common offenders are background noise, unequal sound leveling between multiple speakers, and gross mouth sounds (loud breathing, smacking your lips, etc.).
Thankfully, microphones with high enough quality for podcasting are inexpensive, and free audio editors like Audacity can help you polish up your recording. If you can afford it, invest in a professional DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Avid Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Steinberg Cubase, PreSonus Studio One, and others. A pro DAW will give you many more options in shaping the sound of your podcast. And speaking of “free,” you can try out Pro Tools First at no cost to see if it’s to your liking. That’s what we did here at The Podcast of No Return, eventually settling on the full version to produce our shows.
You should also pay attention to the sound profiles of the spaces you’re recording in. If your home office is plagued with traffic sounds or noisy neighbors, check out your local library or college to see if they have sound studios available for use.
7. Not Editing the Right Way
“Oh no, this podcast isn’t edited at all…and this one’s edited too much. But this podcast’s editing is just right!” —Goldilocks, expert podcast critic
When they’re starting out, many people fall into the trap of over- and under-editing their podcast. The trick is to find a sweet spot where you’ve cut out all the boring, irrelevant content but kept enough of the mistakes to still sound natural.
Don’t bother with chopping the audio every time you say “um”—it helps you to sound more human and relatable. But make sure to use the time you spend editing to identify opportunities for improvement and be aware of them while recording future episodes.
8. Not Marketing Your Podcast
Even if your podcast is Beyonce-level flawless from beginning to end, it isn’t going anywhere if the people don’t know it exists.
That’s where marketing and promotion come in. Build yourself a website, get the word out on social media, and partner with other similar podcasters to promote each others’ shows. BIG CLUE: Marketing your podcast is just as important as anything else, if not more so. Get the word out whatever way you can so that people can actually listen to the project you’ve poured your heart and soul into.
Learn from These Podcast Mistakes so You Can Avoid Them
It’s true, all these podcast mistakes are easy to make. Even the best podcasters have fallen into these traps on occasion. But knowing ahead of time what to look out for is one of the first steps toward creating a show your listeners can’t get enough of.
Want to get an idea of what a sketch comedy podcast sounds like? Tune in to the latest episode of The Podcast of No Return—you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll squint a little bit at the absurdity. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll leave feeling more inspired to start up a podcast of your own.