The Making of a Podcast (How did I start my podcast?)

Terri Hanson Mead
9 min readFeb 28, 2020

It was about this time in 2017 (end of February) that my podcast producer Jacqueline and I started talking about launching a podcast. Neither of us had any experience producing a podcast but by June 2017, we decided to go for it anyway.

The first episode released on Jacqueline’s birthday on September 21, 2017. Actually, we released the first five episodes; people like to binge listen and get frustrated if there’s only one episode when they get started.

I was responsible for guests, content and promotion.

Jacqueline was responsible for the technical production. This was critical for me. Hiring Jacqueline as my producer was one of my smartest decisions. If I had to do the editing, we wouldn’t have gotten past the first episode.

As of December 2019, we had released 116 episodes with four separate seasons. It’s hard to get good data on listeners without paying for analytical tools so I don’t know how many people are actually listening to it. I do know that since we’ve been on hiatus, I’ve had several people ask me when we are coming off our hiatus. I recently launched a YouTube channel and we plan to repurpose as podcast episodes.

How Did I Start My Podcast?

I often get asked about what we did and why and most people just want the nitty-gritty details so here they are.

Know why you are doing the podcast. It’s helpful to understand why you are doing the podcast and what your goals are. And then keep these in mind as you make all of the other decisions.

Set a budget for tools, production, promotion. We opted for mostly free recording and editing tools but paid for distribution and website platforms. We have not done any paid advertisement.

Decide on whether and how you want to monetize. I have no suggestions for this because we haven’t monetized the podcast. I pay for everything out of my own pocket including Jacqueline’s time to produce the podcast and create graphics.

Decide on your target audience (the narrower the better). Understand what they want. Keep the following in mind when making the decisions and creating content: how does the listener benefit?

Decide on format and length. Listen to other podcasts in your genre to hear what is possible. My research and experience showed that 20 -30 minutes was ideal for my target audience. I chose to do interviews, solocasts, and conversations with Jacqueline (Bubbly Bonuses).

Decide on frequency and release date (or dates if you are releasing more than one episode a week). It’s Been a Minute has an interview on Tuesdays and a news-related episode on Fridays. I had an interview on Tuesdays and a solocast on Thursdays. My listeners couldn’t keep up so we switched to Tuesdays only.

Create a title and a tagline. Brainstorm ideas, run them past a few people in your target audience, and then nail it down. I can’t remember how we came up with Piloting Your Life but I am so glad we did because it became the title of my first book.

Choose recording tools. We started with UberConference but now use Zencastr for interviews which we LOVE and Audacity for direct recording.

Create a website or landing page for episodes and show notes. We created a separate page on my personal website

Decide on what level of show notes you want to provide. One of my ‘listeners’ ONLY likes to read the show notes and doesn’t listen to the podcast so mine tend to be fairly detailed.

Decide on whether you want to provide transcriptions or not. We opted not to so I don’t have any suggestions around this. There was only so much that I wanted to pay for.

Find intro / outro music. We found a site and paid for music to avoid copyright issues. I can’t remember what the website was.

Create a graphic and theme for the podcast. Jacqueline uses Canva for the graphics. She created one for the headers on the website and for my newsletter and another one for the podcast episodes.

Create a marketing and social media plan. We identified when and how we wanted to share and promote the podcast. Jacqueline would talk to me about SEO and I wouldn’t listen to her. I still don’t focus on SEO.

Create social media profiles based on your target market and marketing plan. Each week, we pushed out to LinkedIn, Twitter (@pilotinglife), and Facebook (special Piloting Your Life Facebook page). I created an IG account for @PilotingYourLife but have used it for my book, not the podcast.

Decide on an email strategy. I created the Piloting Your Life weekly In-Flight Entertainment to share the podcast episode, sometimes include a Call To Action (CTA), and share what was on my mind. I’ve written one every week since September 2017 even when I didn’t have a podcast episode to announce. I haven’t paid attention to the click-throughs to the podcast from the newsletter. I use iStock for photos.

Decide on distribution platform. We chose Libsyn which is $15/month.

Decide on release date and how many episodes to release. All of our research showed that it’s best to release five episodes at the same time to allow for binge listening.

Record and edit episodes. See my checklist below for more details on our process.

Release episodes and promote based on marketing and social media plan. See my checklist below for more details on our process.

Learn from the feedback and process and continue to iterate.

What Would We Do Differently? What did we learn?

A lot! This is something that you learn from doing.

Go narrow with your target audience. I went too broad the first year (despite Jacqueline’s urging to go narrow) and completely missed. In the second year, first season, I narrowed my focus and hit my target. My target has changed a little each season but not by much.

Record and release in seasons. For Piloting Your Life (the podcast), the first year ended up being the first season. Seasons didn’t become popular until late 2018. In December 2018, we switched to a four month season format which allows for flexibility in theme and content throughout the year and gives me a chance to take a break in between seasons.

Think hard about how many episodes your listeners can consume in a week. We started with two episodes a week: one interview and one solocast. After three months we went to one episode a week. The listeners complained that they couldn’t keep up with the content. We mixed up interviews and solocasts and Bubbly Bonuses where Jacqueline and I would chat about something. At the same time, doing two a week meant we learned a lot very quickly which was really helpful. I found my voice and a comfortable cadence within the first 10 episodes.

My website with the episodes is busy. We need to clean it up and provide an index / search option. It’s too hard to go back and find and share older episodes.

Use Zencastr. We started recording interviews with UberConference but Jacqueline had to decide who to focus on for sound quality because there was only one recording. With Zencastr, she is able to work with multiple, separate recordings and can optimize for sound quality for each person.

Help your interviewees or others mentioned in the podcast promote the episodes and the podcast. I wasn’t disciplined about sending an email to my interviewees with easy links to share with their audience. I did tag them in social media posts in hopes that they would share out to their audiences.

Piloting Your Life Production Checklist

At one point, we were coordinating between me, Jacqueline and my virtual assistant and there were a lot of touchpoints. I created a checklist to make sure we stayed on track. Jacqueline has her own checklist for the editing and production.

  1. Terri schedules interview; sends invitation with Zencastr link. She updates the episode tracker (Status: Scheduled).

2. Terri requests bio, headshot, and how the interviewee wants to be contacted by listeners. She creates Show Note document for the episode and saves into a Dropbox folder created specifically for the episode (ex: PYL079 Maren Bannon Show Notes). Bio and headshot are added to the folder.

3. Terri sends reminder email to interviewee a few days prior to interview

4. Terri conducts and records interview; notifies Jacqueline when it is completed. She updates the episode tracker (Status: In Production).

5. Jacqueline performs initial edits; notifies Terri when it is completed

6. Terri listens to edited interview, identifies additional edits (notates in the Show Notes document), and creates the show notes in the Show Notes document. Terri drafts and records the intro and, if necessary, a custom pre-outro.

7. Jacqueline performs final editing including running the episode through a tool to optimize sound quality. She creates the show notes graphic and custom click-to-tweet. Jacqueline provides graphic and click-to-tweet to Terri to include in weekly In-Flight newsletter.

8. Jacqueline uploads the episode and show notes to Libsyn and schedules for release on Tuesdays at 12:01 AM. She adds the show notes, graphic, and link to the episode to the website.

9. Terri drafts the weekly In-Flight Entertainment newsletter in MailChimp, adds the graphic and click-to-tweet, and schedules for release on Tuesday mornings at 9 AM.

10. Terri takes the MailChimp preview of the email and pastes into a Medium post, makes some edits for the blog format, and publishes. She adds it to her Publication using the Piloting Your Life tag.

11. On Tuesday mornings, Terri listens to the released podcast to confirm quality and shares the link out on social media (LinkedIn, FB page, and Twitter). She updates the episode tracker (Status: Released)

12. Terri shares the Medium post of the In-Flight Newsletter out on social media (LinkedIn, FB page, and Twitter).

13. Rinse and repeat.

Is That All It Takes? Is it worth it?

The podcast has been a lot of work over the last 2.5 years and hasn’t been an inexpensive endeavor. On average, I would spend 5 hours/week on the podcast and probably $1000/month for production and platforms. Has it paid off? Depends on how you look at it.

I was able to:

— develop my voice.

— get comfortable listening to my recorded voice.

— provide a platform to amplify voices that would not otherwise be heard.

— satisfy my curiosity, learn about many things, and share the education with my listeners.

— meet and get connected to some amazing people.

— trust my ability to ask questions and navigate an interview to produce some great content.

— create a library of content that I can share with people years after an episode was created.

— create a weekly newsletter, develop my written voice and refine my writing.

— write a book. I self published Piloting Your Life (the book) in ebook, paperback, and audiobook formats on 9/1/2019 )available on Amazon or through the Piloting Your Life website).

— launch a YouTube channel at the beginning of 2020.

— Get mocked and ridiculed by my kids. :) They will say: have you met my mom? She has a podcast. The little shits!

So yes, it was worth it.

What’s Next?

I’ve recently launched a YouTube channel which has been a helluva lot easier and less expensive but then again, I am not doing any interviews. I am paying my 15 year old $50/week to produce two episodes.

Between the two of us, it takes about an hour to record (on Rei’s iphone in my office), edit (Rei does this on their iPhone), upload to YouTube, add notes in YouTube Studio, and share (usually scheduled).

Each episode is about 10 minutes long…quick bites of content to satisfy my target audience’s short attention span and limited time.

Actually, my target audience (midlife women) isn’t even on YouTube yet. I am trying to get them onto the platform.

If you aren’t married to a podcast, think about a YouTube channel. And then think about repurposing content from one platform to another. We’ll get started on that experiment in March. This is how I will bring my podcast back after a brief hiatus.

Good luck!

Terri Hanson Mead

Tiara wearing, champagne drinking troublemaker, making the world a better place for women. Award winning author of Piloting Your Life.