We've been working on In Over Our Heads for about eleven months now, and we've decided to quit recording new episodes. We've taken this so much further than I thought we would've in some ways, and I've documented few victories and insights as we close this project out. A full episode list is available at the bottom of this post.
- We originally set out to create five episodes of this show and we closed out with nineteen.
- I knew from the beginning that providing content consistently was going to be the biggest challenge (confirmed) but we did decently well on this front too – we averaged one episode every 17.6 days and consistently released at least one episode per month with one exception.
- We made a theme song.
- We had guests.
- And we even got a few iTunes reviews.
- (Debatable) Production quality improved dramatically as we learned both how important this was (to a point) and how relatively straightforward it was to improve, even for amateurs.
All in all, we set out to do this show for fun and we both had a blast, but consistency is tough unless you're really all in. I came away having learned a bunch; a few of the more relevant are documented below.
Observations for the amateur podcaster
Listen to your own show
Listeners will be doing just that – listening. I went for several episodes without listening to my own voice, and we kept much of the format, production quality, speech patterns, etc the same. We were recording with cheap headsets, minimal editing, almost no planning or practice, and no effects…quality was low to put it lightly.
So much of this is obvious if you actually listen – there's a ton of low hanging fruit that's cheap or free to fix once you realize the problem exists.
The day I listened to my first episode was also the day I immediately rushed out and bought a new microphone, we started doing prep sessions (still briefer than they should've been), and we started looking into audio editing. We started counting “um's” and focusing on making ourselves easier to listen to.
Warning: I found there to be diminishing returns on this. It's more important to create content regularly than it is to make each episode a home run.
My best friend of 25 years and I recorded this podcast, and we were fortunate that we had a pre-existing relationship dynamic and a certain comfort being open with each other. It's very obvious when hosts can't have a conversation, and its worth practicing. Some of the best feedback we got was related to how we played off each other and could follow each other's lead.
Even if you're going solo, be aware of the tone you're setting vs the tone you intend to set.
Find a way to publish regularly
Every blog post on the internet says that this is critical for audience-building. Assuming that's what you're going for, two techniques that worked well for us are (1) peer pressure and (2) pre-recording episodes.
On peer pressure, we found a night every other week where we were going to get together and record, and we held each other to that.
Pre-recording episodes was one of the better techniques we used – on certain nights we'd record more than one episode, and then we'd have a backlog of episodes to publish if we wanted to take time off or missed a recording session. This worked really well for us because our show wasn't based on current events, and could be pre-recorded well before the actual publication date.
Know what success looks like
For us, success was having five episodes available on the internet.
We weren't going for a subscriber count, app store rating, etc. In most ways this was a very easy goal, but we had no intent to monetize the show, continue it forever, or build a loyal following, so this was right for us. If we were trying to accomplish these other things then there'd be a lot more to do to succeed, which is important to know about before you get too deep into the process.
This is especially important if you have a partner or team.
Full episode list
Here's our full episode list for posterity, in their order of release: