I started a podcast by accident. In February of 2012 I was finishing up the manuscript for Stuffed Animals and knew that I didn’t want to immediately write another book. I decided to explore how other people had created businesses doing what I loved: designing sewing patterns for stuffed animals. I figured if I talked to a bunch of people who had taken different paths I’d figure out what my next step should be.
I spoke with all sorts of people a that time, and wrote a series of blog posts called Softies for Sale, documenting what I found out.
Somehow I’d spent part of an afternoon one day searching through McCalls toy patterns from the early 90’s and found the name of an industry veteran, Carol Cruise, who definitely met my criteria. I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t know her at all, nor did I know anyone who knew her. I didn’t feel like I could ask her to spend time writing a guest post for my blog (and wasn’t really sure if she was familiar with blogging). I did, however, feel fairly confident that if I asked to call her and talk about her career for 20 minutes on the phone she’d say yes. I was right. I then asked if I might record the conversation and post it here, which she happily agreed to.
And suddenly I was scheduled to record an audio interview. I had no idea how to do that, but after some last minute scrambling I figured out how to record a conversation using a land line phone. I called her. She told me about what Quilt Market was like in the 1980’s. It was super. I posted our chat and then I was sorta hooked.
I recorded a few more interviews intermittently that year and the next, and then at the start of 2014 I decided to make a podcast for real.
In most ways I modeled my show on Gweek, Mark Frauenfelder’s podcast. Mark is the founder and editor of BoingBoing and I deeply enjoyed his show because:
- He had two guests on each episode and it was evident that they were people whom Mark thought were incredible.
- Listening to Mark’s show was like listening in on a fascinating conversation. It was casual and organic and smart.
- At the end of each episode Mark and his guests recommend great stuff they’re loving right now. I found out about so many fantastic things through Gweek. I wanted that for the craft community.
When I started in January I didn’t own a microphone or headphones. I just spoke into the built-in mic on my Mac. To get started I bought some cheap audio hosting through Podbean, downloaded CallRecorder so that I could record Skype calls, and took a Lynda class to figure out how to use GarageBand to edit the audio. And just like that I had a show.
A year later, I’ve realized quite a few things about what it really means to have a podcast and I thought I’d share them with you.
Figuring out guests is a big job. I have a giant list of potential guests and I mull over this list with some frequency, adding names and pairings of guests. Figuring out how to handle people who pitch to be on the show is tricky.
Booking guests isn’t a big job. Most people want to tell their story. Once someone says yes, it’s just a few back and forth emails and we’re all set as long as you’re clear about time zones.
Every guest requires several hours of research on my part. I read everything I can find. If they’ve ever given an interview, I listen to it. It’s fascinating and time consuming and absolutely necessary.
The show needs to be interesting in the first 30 seconds. I actually write a script for every single show. It includes my introduction and all the questions and the outro. And I rehearse, because I’m a nerd, but it helps. Just like the lead in a news story, the first 30 seconds of podcast have to draw the listener in or you’ve lost them.
Sound quality matters. I bought a real microphone in the spring. My husband gave me studio headphones for my birthday in August. Still, I struggled with getting the sound just right. It’s better now, but not perfect. I wish it was perfect.
Being perfect doesn’t matter. It’s true. I don’t edit out the “ums” and “ahs.” It’s too time consuming and would prevent me from ever getting an episode out. I make mistakes, misstate things, assume things that turn out not to be true. I truly think that, within reason, imperfection in conversation is acceptable, if not expected. I keep it in.
Marketing each episode is my job. There are guest who will happily post about their interview all over the place, and there are guests who never mention that it happened. All of that has to be okay. The job of promoting the show falls on me alone and takes as much time as recording the show itself.
Organized archives are important. I created a podcast archive that’s easily browsed. When you pitch to a guest, you want them to be able to look quickly through the roster of who’s already been on the show, and listeners want to find show notes easily.
It takes time for people to listen. Be patient. Podcasts aren’t like blog posts. They aren’t immediately accessible. People wait until later to listen to a show, when they’re commuting or exercising. It’s common to post an episode and hear nothing for a few days, then get tons of feedback.
Having a podcast is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Through my show I’ve been able to connect with the people in this industry that I most wanted to talk to. It’s led to all kinds of things including a speaking engagement (Craftcation in March), coffee with Lilla Rogers, and a new business opportunity that I’m working on now. Like this blog, the show itself is not profitable (in fact, both the blog and the show cost me several hundred dollars a year), yet they are the backbone that makes my whole business run.
Cheers to recording 29 episodes this year, with a 113,730 total plays. Catch the first episode of 2015 on January 5th. I’ll be talking to the team at Creativebug.