Ray Ortega is the guy behind the scenes at The Podcasters* Studio, guiding hosts in making high quality podcasts with the help of professional tips, tricks, and new techniques. Listen in or read some solid advice from an expert:
Do you mind introducing yourself?
My name is Ray Ortega, and to the podcasting community I often introduce myself as a hobbyist podcaster turned professional. I started a podcast and now I get paid to do it for a living by producing podcasts for a non-profit. I was able to turn it into a career and basically a dream job.
How did you get into podcasting?
I got into podcasting back in 2005 when I heard two guys talking about nothing on iTunes in a section called “Podcasts.” I was fascinated by the fact that pretty much anybody could have their own show and potentially a global audience, so I spent the next couple of years learning the tech of podcasting and developed my own show in 2006, eventually launching it in 2007. I became so enamored by the whole thing that I dove in headfirst and never looked back. I learned so much that I was able to become an expert in the subject, and again be hired to do it for a living.
What kind of advice could you give to a new podcaster?
If you listen to any of my shows, at the end you’ll hear me say “go start a podcast or two.” What I mean by that is that there are no gatekeepers, there’s no one stopping you from producing a show, or two , or three, or four. My advice to a new podcaster is to just get started. A lot of people spend too much time planning and trying to make things perfect, and it never will be. The main, important thing you need to do is to actually podcast. That means recording something and getting it out on the web, and no one is listening in the beginning, so it’s a good chance to make mistakes. As long as you care about the content and your audience, you will be successful with your podcast.
Do you think professional tools are important?
“Professional tools” is a tricky term because it often invokes thoughts of really expensive gear. I have quite a bit of expensive gear in my studio, but you certainly don’t need to start that way. The most important thing I think about “professional tools” is using what you have professionally. That means knowing your gear and how to use it. You can great results out of a $50 microphone, and of course going too cheap will hurt the quality of your podcast. I am definitely all about producing quality content and letting the tech get out of the way of the content. If it doesn’t sound or look good, people won’t stick around, so make sure you’re using the right gear that is good enough to produce quality sound and/or video. Again, it can be as cheap as $50 microphone, and of course you can upgrade from there. “Professional tools” is sort of a misnomer, and the key is to use them professionally. Learn good mic technique and how to use them with the equipment you have to get the best sound.
What are you podcasting pet peeves?
That would probably be too much advice about what has to be done. There are almost no have-tos in podcasting. In the beginning you need to set up your podcast properly with the right tech in the background, as the bones of your podcast need to be strong so that if and when you make changes you won’t lose your audience that you’ve spent time building up. Other than that there’s almost no have-tos in podcasting. There are certainly things you can do to improve your show, to improve the chance that people will find you, people will subscribe to you, people will stick with you, but it’s your show and you’re in total control. It’s a great place to experiment, see what works, and you make the calls. Don’t let people tell you you’re doing it wrong.
How do you know when you’re ready to make podcasting a full-time job?
If you’ve established yourself in the niche of your podcast, and you’ve shown the ability to produce quality content and grow an audience, you can start to go out there and look for people who are looking for your skills. I think that oftentimes people try to monetize their show, and they don’t think of themselves as their true value. When you start a podcast you essentially put yourself through “new media school” – you have to learn how to write content, produce the content, record it, publish it, get it on the web, promote it. You are everything, you’re a one man band, and once you can talk intelligently about the value you can bring to an organization, go ahead and start looking for people who are looking for your skills.
What are your favorite community building tips?
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Go out and get people who are in your niche, and instead of viewing them as competition, bring them into your show. They already have an audience that is very interested in your topic, and there’s always room for great content. These aren’t your competitors, they’re your peers, and so embrace other people in your niche, cross-promote your shows, and introduce each other to your audiences. That is a great way to find a lot of people interested in your content quickly.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Go ahead and get yourself out there podcasting. There are so many good resources, and there’s a great community of podcasters podcasting about podcasting – including myself. I’m on Twitter as @podcasthelper, where i answer podcasting questions totally for free and almost in real time. If you have a question, or if you’re finding you’re not getting past a certain barrier in your show, ask me. Work your way to starting your own podcast by taking it in small steps, accomplishing one small goal at a time. Create some album cover art, find some free or cheap music for an intro, and do that one day and then walk away from it. Record something, practice being on a microphone, record a demo episode, and get used to how to edit that. Play around, make mistakes, and don’t be afraid. So get out there and start your podcast!
Great interview, Ray!