The myriad of ways you can get into the business of having a podcast are as varied as all the podcasters currently producing podcast content. A podcast can be an extension of your business, a venture with a group of friends, the fulfillment of a long-term plan, or the result of a hobby.
No matter what your reason for starting a podcast is, there are two primary ways you can begin. Those two routes are taking media courses and learning the technical aspects of a podcast through formal education, or being self-taught. Self-taught podcasters forge their own paths to learn the ins and outs of creating a podcast.
Here at Mr. Thrive Media, we’ve worked with and had the opportunity to get to know some unique voices in the podcast industry. We’ve even worked with podcasters who fall into the self-taught category of podcasters.
To dive into the journey of being self-taught in the podcast world, we spoke with two Mr. Thrive clients, Norah Jones of Fluency Consulting and the It’s About Language podcast and Joel Volk of Small BizCast. Jones and Volk host podcasts about two very different topics: the power of language, and small businesses, respectively.
We asked Jones and Volk a few questions to learn more about being a self-taught podcaster. Now it’s time to dive in, learn the differences between their journeys with podcasting, and find some unexpected similarities as well.
What Podcasting Can Do for You
We started with a question of, “What has your podcast done for you?” When you hear this question, no matter what your relationship with podcasts is, you might think of several potential answers. A podcast could:
Increase your business profits
Provide new areas of growth
Expand your social network within your industry
Any or all of these possibilities could occur as the result of a podcast. For Norah L. Jones and Joel Volk, we found that, for their respective podcasts, the things they gained and continue to gain are directly related to the types of podcasts they host.
For Jones, with her podcast based on the connections people have in relation to the power of words, her podcast has resulted in growth through communication. In her own words, “the podcast has taught me about how we can face a world in turmoil, find our voice, and together help to bring healing.” Jones started her podcast in September of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was creating urgency around the need to find ways to connect with friends, loved ones, and every human stuck in the same situation.
Jones’ podcast started as a way to bridge the communication gaps left behind by COVID-19, and it turned into an ongoing podcast of building connections. Overall, Jones said:
“The podcast not only relieved my loneliness, it healed my guests’ loneliness, too. I discovered in a deep and practical way what a compassionate and careful listener and questioner I indeed was – and heard it for myself. And, as the world continued to shift and fears with them, I found my voice again, the voice that spoke and speaks through the podcasts of the miracle of language not only in itself but in its power to bring hope to the lives of people young and old all over the world, and to their communities and society.”
For Volk, his Small BizCast podcast is a place of learning about small businesses, where he interviews small business owners to share their stories and expertise. He started hosting Small BizCast in 2019, after years of experience with small businesses.
On speaking about what Small BizCast has done for him, Volk said that the podcast has helped to grow his network and build his rapport and potential for work with prospects. Overall, it gives him a unique in with others in the industry.
He spoke to the quality of a podcast as a medium in saying, “having a podcast separates me from my would-be competitors.” In short, his position of hosting a podcast as part of a small business, and having it be about small businesses, has given him a circular train of success in his podcast business venture.
While Jones and Volk have jumped into podcasting in different settings, their podcast experiences share the benefit of helping them build further into their respective fields of passion and work.
Learning Curves for Podcast Hosts
Anyone looking to start a podcast faces some steep learning curves along the way. Self-taught podcasters, however, have more of an educational journey ahead of them than most. Our next question focused on the learning curves Jones and Volk found themselves working through as they learned about podcasting.
With Jones, the biggest learning curve of hosting was two-fold. One part, the technical part, was making proper use of media elements to make the podcast the best it can be.
She stated, “a good conversation captures even more attention when the production is beautiful, clean, and not showy.” Learning how to master the art of podcast production in and of itself is a hurdle every self-taught podcaster will experience at some point.
On the more human end of the production learning curve, Jones said that she has learned to keep the focus and intent of the podcast as the main goal. That has meant cutting parts of the process that don’t serve the main purpose of the work, and ending up with a beautifully crafted conversation because of that precision.
For Volk, his biggest learning curve has been one that anyone who is unsure about the spoken aspect of podcast work can relate to. Of course, that’s a big part of hosting a podcast, and it takes a lot of practice more than anything else.
Volk’s words on this continual practice of getting used to speaking on a podcast are, “remembering to take my time and breathe… remembering to use my voice effectively (still learning).”
In this question of the learning curves of hosting a podcast, there’s a great similarity for Jones and Volk. That similarity lies in the work of using each piece of the podcast production as effectively as possible. From the technical tools to your own voice, every piece together is what makes the podcast great.
Sharing Podcast Knowledge
Self-taught podcasters are in a unique position to teach others through their podcast subjects. The practice of learning to host a podcast in a hands-on setting gives these podcasters a lot of experience with learning, and especially with learning the most effective way to teach someone.
For our final question for Jones and Volk, we asked what they would say to someone who is looking to teach themselves about the subject matter of the It’s About Language and Small BizCast podcasts. That is to say, we were curious about what people can learn from the amalgamation of what they have learned through podcasting.
For Jones, in speaking about what she would say to someone looking to learn more about the power of language, she focused on the importance of listening more than speaking. She specified that you should “listen more, talk less.” She applies this concept to every space where you have the opportunity to listen, both to others and to yourself.
As Volk answered this question in relation to everything to do with small businesses, he settled on a phrase, “staying self aware and humble yet confident is a good place to start.” In learning about sales, small business growth, customer service, employee retention, and business management practices, this phrase truly is the place to start.
As we pondered over the answers to this last question, we found ourselves wondering, “Do these subjects connect to learning the art of podcasting?” We reached a conclusion, “yes.”
When you simplify these pieces of advice to “listen more, talk less” and “stay self aware, stay humble but confident,” they both are just as much a part of podcasting as learning through language or mastering small businesses. They show the educational journey that is becoming a self-taught podcaster.
Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Taught Podcasting
Starting a podcast with nothing but knowledge you’ve gathered by yourself is a taxing business. That’s why, for these frequently asked questions, we’ve focused on answering a few that will give you some background on getting started. Of course, there’s always more to learn, but these answers will get you off to a good start.
How Do You Start a Beginners Podcast?
To start a beginners podcast, the main things you need are the idea behind your podcast, and some basic equipment. To flesh out the idea, you should come up with talking points for each episode, an ideal audience, and a general direction you’re taking the podcast in. For the equipment, well, we’ll get a little more in depth in the next question.
What Do I Need To Make a Podcast?
To make a podcast, you need some basic equipment in addition to your podcast idea and plan. The equipment you should start with includes:
A podcast hosting provider
Recording and editing software
Of course, you can replace some of these costs and needs by working with a podcast producing company like Mr. Thrive. Our background in podcast production can support you on the technical side while you work on the creative side.
How Long Should Podcasts Be?
Podcasts can range from anywhere between 20 minutes to half an hour to an hour. Anything beyond an hour is rare, but not entirely unheard of for established podcasts or niche areas of interest. When you’re just starting out, it’s best to keep your episodes shorter, in the 20 to 30 minute range, to keep people interested.
Self-Taught Podcasters: A Textbook Case of Podcasting
Learning how to host a podcast by yourself will be a tough but ultimately extremely rewarding process. As you learn, you’ll expand your podcast plans, and end up with something you can be proud of. Mr. Thrive can help you along the way. Our agency of vocal talent, marketing experts, and podcast-producing pros can turn your self-education into your dream podcast. Contact us and get started today.