Surgeons aren’t granted a medical license after learning how to properly hold a scalpel. Musicians whose only skill was memorizing the placement of notes on their instrument of choice aren’t likely to be nominated for a Grammy. Best-selling novelists have more in their toolkit than a Typing 101-course certificate of completion.
None of those examples will come as a surprise to you. We know that true professionals—doctors, musicians, writers, and yes, podcasters—all invest a significant amount of time and effort in the study of their craft. Because with very few exceptions, professionalism isn’t achieved by the piecemeal accumulation of surface-level tactics, tricks, and hacks.
And no, podcasting isn’t that exception. No matter how many podcasters assume it so.
Beyond Podcasting 101
To be a professional podcaster, it's not enough to simply know proper microphone technique, even though every professional podcaster knows how to place and adjust their voice for just about any mic—and know which one is appropriate given the recording environment.
Professional podcasters know to export at -16 LUFS. But they also know why that’s important, and have the ability to leave in the right amount of dynamic range into their final episode, rather than blindly trusting their DAW to output to an arbitrary number.
Professional podcasters know not just the proper way to do those things—and a slew of other as-important things—but why those are the proper things to do.
Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to acquire the “what should I do” knowledge to get started in podcasting. And even keep going. Many multi-year podcasters are able to crank out episodes only knowing the what, not the why.
Hacks and Borrowed Skills Will Only Get You So Far
Professionals with experience in other forms of media are jumping into our pool, bringing their borrowed skills along with them. And while those skills absolutely can put them ahead of the game, they quickly find that podcasting requires a much wider skill set than they were able to develop previously in TV, radio, or another form of media.
Let’s take audio production skills learned for other formats of media for a moment. Those skills will probably let you move to the head of the class when it comes to engineering and audio editing. But getting a great-sounding audio file isn’t the end-game in podcasting. It’s just the start!
In podcasting, copywriting skills are a necessity. Episodes notes need to be written, as does the article that accompanies the episode on a website. Don’t forget the variations on social copy!
Oh, and those social shares will need some customized graphics. And the show itself needs compelling artwork to make it attractive to new listeners. Wait! The webpage for the episode will need graphics as well.
Website? Oh, right! That website needs to be built out and maintained. And the show needs to be marketed so it grows. Don’t forget liaising with other podcasters. And someone needs to figure out the business plan so the show succeeds and your idea of being a professional podcaster actually becomes a going concern and how you put food on the table.
That’s a sampling of what it takes to really be a professional podcaster. A few are able to master all of it on their own. More realize their own limitations and enlist the services of others. But even then, the podcaster has an understanding of all the pieces and can step in when necessary. Because it all has to be done.
Study Paths For Podcasters Who Want To Turn Pro
Over the last 20 years, podcasting has grown up a lot, providing options for those who seriously consider podcasting as a profession.
Today, potential podcasting students have a variety of well-crafted curricula to choose from, created by professionals with real-world experience in all aspects of podcasting.
For those looking for more one-on-one options, a slew of podcasting coaches can be hired. Some have a set routine. Others more ad hoc.
And for those who wish to go it alone and craft their own learning journey; there is a lot of great info out available, and much of it for free. Just be sure you’re able to discern garbage from gold, because there’s a lot more of the former than the latter.
If you do choose that last path, know that at some point, you’re likely to hit a wall. As the title of this episode implies, hacking through it will only get most people so far. At some point, you're going to need a guide. That guide is probably a person. A person who’s mastered the above skills and is willing (and able) to pass that knowledge along.
There's that old saying that oftentimes it just truncated down to the last phrase, but it’s worth stating in its entirety:
If I see further than others, it's because I stand on the shoulders of giants.
So learn from those who came before, adapting their tools, techniques, mentality as you continue on your journey to becoming a professional podcaster. And, if it’s in your nature, perhaps you too can pass your knowledge on to the next generation, helping them see further from atop your shoulders too.
Nota bene: This does not mean I'm preparing to launch a comprehensive podcast training program. I am not. However, people ask me to do that quite often, So who knows? Maybe that’s something I’ll revisit in the future.
For now, passing along pearls of wisdom like this is enough for me.
If you got any value out of today's episode, you can give me some value in return by going to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra.
I shall be back tomorrow with yet another Podcast Pontifications.