“Just start a podcast,” everyone says. “Rely on your natural talents and abilities,” everyone says. But if you want to take your show from amateur to pro, you might need more than your natural talent. You might need to level up your skills.
This is part two of a four-part miniseries on making the shift from amateur/hobbyist podcaster to professional podcaster.
This is part two of a four-part miniseries on making the shift from amateur/hobbyist podcaster to professional podcaster. Yesterday I talked about the reality check of what turning pro actually means for you. Today, I’m keeping the focus on you, targeting your abilities and your skills.
For many of us, getting into podcasting was a bit of an accident. While there are quite a few of us in podcasting who have some radio background, the vast majority of podcasters do not. And that’s OK. Part of the draw to podcasting is that, even after 15 years, there are no rules when it comes to creating a podcast.
But if you want to explore the professional side of podcasting, there’s only so far you can get on your natural talents and abilities.
You might have a great voice. You might have wonderful diction. You might be a natural-born storyteller. Maybe you’re really good at engineering audio. Or perhaps you’ve a mastery of whatever language you speak, which makes you an amazing copywriter or script creator. That’s an excellent place to start. You’re already ahead of the pack.
But you still need to get better.
Fact: True professionals always work on improving their skills. Always. Constantly refreshing and building upon their skills isn’t just what makes them a professional — it’s what keeps them as a professional.
Where are you in your journey to become a professional podcaster? Most of us are just at the beginning stages and, frankly, happy to stay there. But a small fraction of us — you, perhaps — want to explore the professional side a bit more.
If that describes you, you must first recognize that there’s only so much you can do on your own.
How (and what) you choose to upgrade is a personal choice. It starts with conducting an honest inventory of your skills — all of them — related to podcasting. Once you identify your deficiencies, you can work on improving.
Trouble is, that’s a near-impossible task. As a general rule, we’re either way too optimistic about our abilities, or much too harsh on ourselves. Self-reflection will only get us so far. And we can’t rely on our listener base or our fans, because they love what we are doing right now. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be fans. So you have to go outside of your bubble, perhaps by joining a mastermind or just seeking out honest opinions from other people who are doing something similar as you. I’ll talk more about that on tomorrow’s episode.
The other angle is to start with your strengths and hone them. If, for example, you’re good at scriptwriting, you can find other scriptwriters outside of podcasting and join them in discussions. Have you studied the coursework and how-to guides that exist for that skill outside of podcasting? Some of these hard skills — audio engineering, voiceover, etc. — already have many tomes of information written by professionals with that skill. Have you read them? Have you joined those discussion groups? Do you understand what skilled professionals are using as best practices today?
Harsh statement warning: You’re not going to get to a professional level by continuing to do what you’re doing right now.
Yes, practice makes perfect, but what are you practicing toward? Do you know what perfection looks like? Are you actually making a concentrated effort to improve your craft… or are you just jumping behind the microphone, grabbing a pen and paper, or fumbling through another editing session?
Do you know what professional looks (and sounds) like?
I stress outside of podcasting, because it’s sometimes hard to identify a professional podcast. What you might think is a professional podcast might not be. It might be somebody else who’s just making it up as they go along who happened to trap lightning in a bottle. But trying to trap lightning in a bottle twice is a lot less likely to bring positive results than studying and practicing the skills used by the professionals who’ve come before.
But lest anyone think poorly of me: There is nothing wrong with making it up as you go along. If you want to take the artist way and hope (?) somebody recognizes your brilliance, then you should rock on. There’s plenty of room for that in podcasting. Welcome!
But if you’re more pragmatic than that, you need to focus. If you try to improve everything all at once, you’re not going to get better at anything. Focus on the one thing you need to improve. Master it, then move on to the next thing. Later this week, we’ll talk about the commitment required. But for now, identify the abilities, skills, and natural talent that got you to where you are with your podcast right now. Then start working on improving those skills to get you to the professional level.
Of course, if all that sounds like a lot of work and you’d rather offload some of this to a professional team that only works on podcasts, get in touch! Email me at email@example.com, and you can go to PodcastLaunch.pro to see a list of the services we’re currently offering to clients all over the world.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 200th episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.