Bootstrapping a podcast with no time and less money

I’m an amateur podcaster. I’ve made a few shows and learned a few things. Here is how you can make a pretty-legit-sounding amateur podcast for free.

Assuming you already have the following:

  • A guest
  • A topic
  • A show name

My brother got me the Blue Snowball iCE last year for Christmas, and it was the best gift I’ve ever received. It didn’t cost him much either. $50 on Amazon, plus it’s Prime. The audio is definitely good enough to take your game to the next level.

If you are really bootstrapping though, forget this step and just use your computer mic to record.

Download Zoom if you are recording the guest remotely. I’ve found it to have the best system and quality for recording sound. Plus, 1 on 1 meetings are free and unlimited. You’ll also get a video recording as well if you decide you want to publish your podcast in video format.

Once you make an account and set up a meeting, simply hit that record button as seen below.

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Don’t forget to hit this button!

The file will pop up as an MP4 at the end of the recording. Save that somewhere.

If you are recording someone sitting next to you, then just skip to Step #4 and record directly in Audacity (it’ll save you the extra steps).

Convert the file to an MP3. I’ve used a number of different online audio converters for this. They’re all pretty much the same — clunky UI/UX, dubious terms and conditions, and quick & easy conversion to MP3. I’m open to better solutions on this, but it does the trick for now. Here’s one converter that works well enough.

Save that converted file.

There must be better audio editors out there, but I have a PC and am frugal, so Audacity does the trick. While it looks archaic, its functionality is not. Here’s a quick overview of getting audio into, edited, and out of Audacity.

First, you’ll want to import that MP3 file you just converted.

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Then you’ll want to go through and cut out as many “ums” and filler words as possible. Beyond that, you can edit it as you see fit to tell the story you want to tell, i.e. achieve optimal flow.

The best way to cut sections out is by using the Selection Tool, as shown below.

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You can drag over parts you want to cut and simply press ‘delete’ on your keyboard. Furthermore, you can move audio around with the sliding tool, which is one down and to the right of the selection tool. You can also zoom in and out on the audio to better navigate around. Those tools are in the top right-ish corner. See how far you can zoom in, it’s actually pretty amazing.

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When cutting out audio, be careful about making it sound choppy. Only edit audio out if it sounds smooth in between the new sections.

Some other useful functions are the Amplify and Equalize tools.

Amplify lets you adjust audio volume for certain sections. Highlight over a specific part then go to the Amplify button to change its sound.

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You can also make the whole track louder or softer by moving the slider on the very left side of the track in either the (-) or (+) directions. You can venture to guess which is quieter and louder.

If you have “P’s” that pop (you’ll know it if you have it), then you’ll need to equalize that sound with the 100Hz rumble, as seen below.

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After your audio sounds clean and your story flows smoothly, you’ll want to add some intro and outro music at the very least.

I love ‘How I Built This’, and part of that is because the production quality is so high. Unfortunately for us, they have a dedicated team of professional sound editors that make it so. We do not have that.

Instead, we have premiumbeat.com. Premium Beat has all the intro and outro instrumentals you’ll ever want. You can choose either 15 second, 30, 60 or full length versions of songs that are completely free.

There is a catch though. The audio is “watermarked” with their name, so at random points throughout the audio, you’ll hear a faint “premium beat dot com”. You can pay $48 to own the song and remove the watermark. I choose not to and just try to work around the watermark. Your choice.

Hit the download button on the track you want and save that to somewhere convenient.

You’ll next import that audio into Audacity, like we did before.

Then cut it up and move it around so it fits with the other audio:

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Use the selection and sliding tools to make your intro sound smooth.

Go into Effect > ‘Fade In’ or ‘Fade Out’ to mess with making it sound like a smoother transition.

Do the same thing with the outro.

This one can be a little more fun though. Do you know how your favorite podcast has the music softly playing under the talking just before a major transition? Here’s how you do that.

  1. Import outro music
  2. Find something with a “drop” and align the drop right after the audio ends, like so:
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that gap in the sound is a drop… this is a perfect place to play with the sound

3. Go to Effect > Amplify, then experiment with low levels that balance the music with the talking. For me, this was -13.

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It should look like this and sound even better:

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Once you’re happy with your new audio, you’re going to export it as an MP3.

This screenshot is self-explanatory:

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(Update as of 12/4/2018: Anchor has added functionality for creating simple cover art. I actually made my Credos podcast cover with that.)

Canva.com is a great way to make free cover art, because at the end of the day, cover art is the most important part of getting organic traffic. It needs to look simple, elegant, and appealing. Canva gives you the tools to do that in less than 10 minutes.

Once you are signed up, create a new design and choose the CD Cover template, as seen below.

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The CD Cover template is 1400 px x 1400 px, aka the perfect podcast cover size

Pick a design and edit from there. Here are a few that I’ve made:

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Yes, I made a food cart review podcast
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This one is ‘How I Built This’ meets ‘Shark Tank’

Not bad looking, eh? Those collectively took zero dollars and 20 minutes to do.

Every podcast needs an RSS feed. Don’t worry about what it means or why it’s needed. We just do it.

In podcast lingo, this is where you “host” your podcast. It’s like a back-end for your show. You can get neat analytics, edit your podcast info, and distribute it to various platforms. I was paying $15 per month for Simplecast, until I discovered Anchor. Anchor changed the game with free and effective hosting.

It even looks nice:

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Just make an account, upload some audio, then tell them you want it distributed everywhere. Anchor does the rest and sets you up with Apple, Spotify, Simplecast, and about 8 other platforms. It usually takes anywhere from 1 to 7 days to get onto all of them. Anchor just added payment functionality too, in case you are trying to monetize your show.

In December 2018, Anchor added an advertisements feature. Go to the ‘Money’ tab at the top of your Anchor homepage. From there, you’ll find sponsors that are willing to pay a certain fee per 1,000 listens. Every podcast is eligible for this meaning you’ll start making money right off the bat from your podcasts. It just requires you recording a voiceover from a script they provide.

Once it’s out there, it’s up to you to market it. I’m personally still working on that part.

[Updated August 18th, 2019)

You can check out some of my podcasts below:

  1. Credos — 5 min entrepreneurial storytelling: https://anchor.fm/credos
  2. Heard — This was a podcast extension collaboration with One Step Away, a Philly non-profit that publishes the stories of those experiencing homelessness. https://anchor.fm/heard

Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think!

Living in South Philly. Venturing for America. https://twitter.com/DylanShooska

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