In the past year or so, I’ve been asked this question even more than I had before: how do I get into podcasting?
And, to be honest, most of the people asking are usually looking at YouTube (and sometimes Twitch) as their medium of choice. So Here’s a list of the important things I’ve learned along the way as I’ve made my path as a P.I.C.C (Professional Internet Content Creator. And yes, that’s an official term now).
1) Just do it
There, that’s really all you need to know. You can stop reading now.
Seriously, this is the most important point, and probably the only one that really matters. Stop wondering, stop agonizing, stop thinking, just get in front of your mic or camera and start doing it. This is especially true for YouTube, which makes producing and publishing incredibly easy.
Will your first productions suck? Yes, absolutely. No one successful today started with the innate knowledge of how this whole thing works (and those who did know usually came to this new form of their media with baggage that usually hindered them). Go check out the first videos from the people you like today; chances are, they’re pretty horrendous. Just do it, there’s nothing stopping you, and you’ll get better along the way.
2) Be sure you want to do it
It should be fun and rewarding, but it probably won’t be easy.
Here’s the second most important thing: you need to be consistent. And you also need to know it is most likely going to become a relatively hard “job” relatively quickly, so you’ll need te motivation. We’re not shoveling coal in a mine here, but still; it’s going to be silly fun the first few times, but then you’re going to have that day when you’re not into it. Or that other day when you’re tired, or you in a bad mood… If you’re serious about this, you’ll have to power through and keep “the show” going, because people will prefer a channel with one five minute video a week to a channel with three a week and nothing for a month. So once you decide how often you’re going to put out content, you should stick to it. You should understand this before you get started.
And it doesn’t mean you have to do 15 hours a day by the way. Or even five hours. Maybe you have a job and a family, and you want to do this for fun on the side. Doesn’t matter: if you’re doing a weekly show, stick to weekly, don’t skip too many. Every once in a while is fine, but again, people love reliable content. Once a month regularly is better than once a week with holes in the schedule. Every two weeks is fine too by the way! It’s a strange format, but people usually don’t seem to mind.
3) Do underestimate your ability to deliver
Ramping up is infinitely easier than ramping down.
It might not seem like it, but doing this takes time, on top of dedication. If you think you can do four Twitch streams and two YouTube videos a week, or a weekly podcast, shoot for two streams and one video, or one monthly podcast at first. You’ll quickly work out the kinks (of which there will be many), and you can easily ramp up from there. Plus, when you do too much, you can easily get caught up in it and get burnt out before you realize it.
4) Good enough is good enough
“Better is the enemy of good”, as we say in French.
You’ll never be 100% happy or proud with what you do. Sometimes you’ll think “yeah, that was pretty cool!” and sometimes you’ll think “man, that was *not* what I was hoping it’d be… but it’ll do”. Learn to recognize the things that are good enough and let go, just publish, and make sure you do better next time. You won’t hit a home run every time, but if you score… errr… points, sports metaphores, balls in hoops, with each thing you put out, it’s ok. Aiming for perfection can actually be counter productive sometimes. I’ve seen too many people torture themselves over the tiniest details and fall off the wagon along the way.
5) Triage your time
If you had all the time in the world, you could do everything in the world. But you don’t, so don’t.
Chances are you’ll be working alone for a good long time… Some things are super cool, but would take too much time. Some things are just ok but will only take you a few minutes. Do those. Decide what is actually “super important”, and make your peace with the fact that some other things are just “kind of important, but really the house won’t burn down if you don’t do them”, and will have to wait. Having a website is important, but they need content, maintenance, and a lot of work. Maybe you can add a Twitter presence to your Facebook presence instead. You can’t do everything, and you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to: as the wise people say: this is a marathon, not a sprint.
6) Do not, I repeat, do NOT launch with a Patreon
It goes like this: first build a community, then ask for money. Not the other way around.
Let’s be honest, we all want to make a living doing this. Patreon, for those who don’t know, is an up and coming way of monetizing your content through recurring crowdfunding. Essentially your community pays you to keep doing what you’re doing. But you shouldn’t get over eager in that department; not only because, as we’ve already discussed, you’re probably not that good yet, but also because only a fraction of your audience is going to give you money. So if your audience is modest to begin with, it might not be a great experience for anyone. It’s a much better deal to start strong after a couple of years than to linger because you started too soon. Everyone has their own expectations and plans of course, but that’s how I’d approach it.
7) Be bold
You’re a lot less likely to succeed if you never try.
Once you have something you’re reasonably happy with (meaning you start thinking “ok, this sucks less than it used to”), get yourself out there. Get in touch with people who’s work you enjoy, offering to do things together, to participate to their show, etc. What’s the worst that can happen? Of course, if you send an email to PewDiePie, you probably won’t get a response. But if you find people at a similar or slightly higher level of popularity than you (this is actually a fairly important sub-point, there’s a sort of camaraderie that develops with people of similar station. It’s weird, but I assure you it’s true) and they do things you genuinely enjoy, try getting in touch. Discoverability is going to be a chief concern very quickly, and cross-polenization is the best way to spread your content and get noticed.
But it HAS to be genuine. Don’t get in touch with someone because you think it would be a good audience boost for you; do it because you actually like what they do first… and the audience boost thing second. People who are successful on YouTube usually are super busy and have very little time; send an email offering something that will make their lives easier, and you might get an answer.
Oh, and also, don’t be obnoxious. If you don’t get a response, sending another email a few months later is fine, but a few hours later is not. Don’t send chain emails or Tweets. As I said, get in touch with people who’s work you enjoy.
8) Meet real people in real life
The Internet is great. But meat space is still a thing.
Nothing will replace the experience of meeting someone and physically shaking their hand. Conferences, meet ups, conventions… Get yourself out there, meet people you like, chat for a few minutes… It’s infinitely easier to get on with someone and build a relationship if you actually meet them. Not only will you discover people who you wouldn’t have guessed you’d have an affinity with, but it’s also so much easier to get in touch with someone afterwards.
As an exemple, I’d say that eighty percent of the Frogpants / Buzz Out Loud (at the time) / Wood Whisperer / Len Peralta / me / etc crew solidified their relationship by meeting at that fateful New Media Expo in Las Vegas in 2008. Ask any of them, I’m sure they’ll agree it was an important moment. I came all the way from Europe and it was a significant expense (thanks dad!), but it was probably the most important trip I took in my career as a podcaster. You don’t have to go that far though; go to local events (at least on the same continent), and meet the people you appreciate and are (kind of) in touch with.
9) Do it now, especially if you’re young (and stupid)
That’s not exactly the same as the first point, but rather general advice to our youth: most people will probably tell you get a job, get a solid situation, settle down, and generally be responsible. Fuck that. No seriously, I’m swearing for emphasis: FUCK. THAT.
I’d agree you should finish college. Get a diploma, put it in your pocket and keep it safe for later, because you might fall flat on your ass with that YouTube / Podcaster thing. Then, do one of two things, or preferably both:
– Travel. Spending a year or two in a different country, preferably on a different continent, is the best thing that can happen to someone. You learn stuff, you open your mind, you understand the world… The best thing, period.
– Be stupid. And by stupid, I mean financially irresponsible, not walking a tight rope between skyscrapers without a safety. But if you’re not going to live off dry noodles in your parents’ basement now, for a couple of years to see if you can make it, then when? When you’re married, with kids and responsibilities you’d do well not to run away from? Or after that, when you’re too old and all you really want is a sandwich? No, do it now. When you’re young and you can afford to do it and because you can wing it. If you don’t it’ll be too late and you’ll either resent yourself (and possibly others) for it, or you’ll have a super ridiculous midlife crisis and do something stupid then, which I’m pretty sure is not going to be pretty.
So take a couple of years and see what happens. And don’t let anyone tell you you’ll be wasting your time; I’m absolutely certain that between your diploma (remember, I’m still advocating for college completion here) and the two years of experience, any company will be just as impressed by your resume and dedication than by some other kid who went straight into a string of ridiculous unpaid internships.
The trick is, of course, that you must have something to show for. So I’m saying “be stupid”, not “be a slacker”. 🙂
And there it is…
There was a time when we needed so much for our creations to reach people in the country, let alone the whole world… Training, knowledge, hardware, teams… Today, all you need is a tiny bit of technical knowhow and a lot of elbow grease. We live in a wonderful time, and the only criminal thing would be to not make the best out of it. Be it for talking about video games or striving to make the world a better place, it’s really quite simple: if you want to do it, you have no excuse not to.
Now go forth, and do something awesome!