Good podcasters can make it look like making an engaging show is easy. It’s not. There’s a lot of work involved in doing so. If you’re thinking about starting your first podcast or even in the early stages, you may not know this yet. And that’s okay. But it’s super common for people to start an independent podcast, get overwhelmed, and quit. I don’t want that to happen to you! That’s why I’m sharing these five stages that most indy podcasters go through during the course of their podcasting life. Knowing the bumps in the road may help you keep going so you can keep putting your story out there.
Podcasting Stages Are Similar to Growing Up
When you start a new podcast, you’re actually starting a new creative life. And just like you grew up from a baby to an adult in stages, you will most likely follow similar stages in your podcasting life. As with your human life stages, these podcasting stages have easy and difficult moments. I’ll focus on how they can impact your podcast’s creative growth.
Embrace Your Podcasting Baby-Like Curiosity
When we start something new, it’s awkward. We might feel needy and make a lot of mistakes. This is all a part of the process. Putting yourself out there in your podcast is a vulnerable act. Knowing that vulnerability comes with awkwardness can help you sit in discomfort. The good news is that your creative curiosity will be the highest during this stage. Your podcast ideas will burst out of you at a mile a minute. Let them.
Harness Your Questions in the Toddler Stage
As you learn the terminology, you’ll start to have more and more questions, like how to set recording levels, how you plan seasons and more. In the toddler stage, you are a learning sponge. Absorb every piece of information you encounter. As with human toddlers, this stage can be exhausting both for the toddler and for the people around them. The good news is that you know this stage is coming, so you can prepare for it.
Tips to Not Drive Podcasters Around You Crazy in the Toddler Stage
Many other new podcasters will ask questions in online and in-person podcasting groups you participate. Instead of asking questions all at once, spend more time listening first. You can learn from others’ questions without being too demanding yourself. Try:
- Listening (and taking notes) more than speaking in Facebook groups.
- Using the search function before asking a question in online groups.
- Saving your questions in order of importance in a digital space or maybe a paper notebook. Slowly ask one question at a time in group settings. And always thank the podcasters that answer your questions. You can even keep a running list of them and thank you tag them when you post your milestone posts (25 episodes, 100 episodes, 1-year podversary, etc.) in the group.
- Attending an online podcast conference and be an active reader of the chat room conversations.
Channel Your Rebelliousness in the Teenage Stage
Teenagers have a way of pushing back on traditions that can really help innovate how a culture functions. The same is true in podcasting. When you reach this stage, you’ll be really familiar with what best practices are, and you’ll be ready to challenge them. When done respectfully, this rebellious, creative energy can help move podcasting forward. I bet many disruptions in podcasting had a podcaster at this stage spearheading it.
By challenging podcasting norms, you may prove there’s a better way to do something. But remember, just like human teenagers can come across as angry and insensitive sometimes, these push-back moments are best done with kindness and respect. Chances are that, like most traditions, those best practices served a purpose when they started.
Nestle Into Routine in Your Podcast Adulthood
The adulthood stage of podcasting can be a time to relax: finally. After months or even years of your creative juices coursing through your veins, things calm down. This is a good time to set up systems as much as possible. Just like we go through huge growth spurts in real life, the same is true in your podcasting life. This could also be a time to start a second show with all the skills you’ve learned. Although you’ll probably want to publish episodes less frequently to make sure that your podcasting calm does not get disturbed. This probably doesn’t sound like a very creative time for you now. But we all need to slow down and let our creative juices refill. And that’s precisely what happens in this stage.
Bear Hug Your Generous Side by Giving Back in the Elder Stage
At this point, you’ve seen and heard so many of the same podcasting questions that you not only can answer them, but you can explain them with your own unique viewpoint. Podcasting can be a very friendly space for indy creators. There are quite a few seasoned podcasters sharing information and resources online and at in-person meet-ups. Even though you can share these things yourself at any stage in your podcast life, you’ll probably feel the biggest urge to do so in your elderly podcasting stage.
However, it’s worth noting that some folks might recommend that you keep your knowledge to yourself. The decision to become a gatekeeper is very real at that point. I encourage you to say HA to gatekeeping and instead lean into your generous side. When possible, use the words “can” or “might” instead of “should” to encourage newer podcasters to explore their creative curiosities. Share your experiences, not rigid rules.
The Stages Aren’t Always One-and-Done
Although these stages look like they occur in a clear order, the truth is that you may go through them out of order. You also might go through any one of the five stages a few times as a new podcaster. Here are a few situations when podcasters change their podcast, and it feels like they’ve gone backward.
…start out with a guest-driven show and then switch to a solo show
…change recording platforms like from Zencastr to Alitu
…go from recording weekly to batching your episodes
The good news is that as you go through the podcasting stages, each time you revert back to stage 1 in any skill, you’ll have more and more cumulative skills and can progress out of it faster. For example, when I switched from using Audacity to Hindenburg for editing my podcasts a couple of years ago, it slowed down my editing time. I had to watch video tutorials, experiment, and even get a tutor to find out how to do the things I knew how to do in Audacity but didn’t in Hindenburg. But after only a couple of months, I was editing faster, and my episodes sounded more professional than before. Compare that DAW learning experience to when I first learned to use Audacity, and it’s lightyears faster. This will happen to you too.
Focus on the Joy of Podcasting
Because podcasting is an open medium, there’s a fair bit of pressure that potential podcasters put on themselves before they start, and during the beginning of their podcast journey. Everything has to be perfect, right? Um, no. In fact, no matter where you start, you’ll learn and grow. Knowing these five playful stages can help you let go of unrealistic pressures and focus on enjoying podcasting.