A couple of months ago, my husband, Ryan, got tapped by a couple of friends of ours to provide his audio recording expertise to a podcast they were putting together. A healthy mix of alcohol-fueled film discussion and humor, the podcast sounded right up my alley.
“Hey, maybe I can be their producer,” I said in passing.
Well, when Ryan went to go help them record their first episode as their inaugural guest-host, he passed along my suggestion. And our friends enthusiastically agreed!
Oh, ok. I guess I should figure out what a podcast producer actually does …
Luckily, these days, you can learn how to do almost anything on the internet. A quick Google search for “what does a podcast producer do” netted numerous articles. I found this article from Podcast Engineers particularly helpful.
The answer? A little bit of everything.
Ok, so maybe the real question was: “What can I offer as a podcast producer?”
Creating my role
The beauty of offering my services … for free … for a couple of friends, is that I could be pretty flexible in my definition of a ‘podcast producer’ and really build the role around my own strengths.
Before I even met with my friends to discuss my involvement, I reflected on what I thought I could bring to the project and what I’d actually enjoy doing. Through my past jobs, I have a lot of project management experience, and I love making to-do lists (and more importantly, crossing things off said to-do lists). I also have a talent for breaking things down into little steps, delegating to others and creating schedules (as anyone involved in my wedding-planning can attest to).
Essentially, I know how to get shit done. Bingo! I could be the official taskmaster.
With this in mind, I reached out to my friends and gave them a proposal of what my involvement would look like. I think this is key for anyone looking to get experience through volunteering. Don’t just say “I want to learn. How can I help?” Take a little extra time to think about what exactly you want to learn, and reflect on your own skills and experience to propose how you can help.
Just call me the Project Management Queen
I had a basic understanding of what was required to create and launch a podcast. And what I didn’t know, I turned to the internet once again. I outlined the entire process in document that I shared with the podcast team before our first chat.
From there, it was a matter of identifying what items we should tackle first. They already recorded a test episode so they had a pretty good idea on the format. And they even had a list of people volunteering to be guest-hosts for their other episodes.
But there is still a lot left on the to-do list:
- Obtaining better equipment and recording software
- Securing a recording location
- Selecting and scheduling guest hosts
- Recording additional episodes
- Selecting where to host podcasts
- Creating artwork
- Setting up online presence (website, social media)
- Putting together a promotion strategy
And, of course, there are sub-tasks within all of these items. It can seem like a lot. Luckily, as I mentioned before, I have a talent for breaking down priorities.
The team wants to record at least four episodes before they launch. So, I told them that we should just focus on those tasks related to recording, leaving the tasks relating to launch the podcast for later.
Suddenly, the immediate to-do list is much smaller and more manageable.
Finding the right project management tool
Now, that I’m getting the team organized, assigning tasks and setting up a regular schedule to get through to-do list items, I figured it was time to start using a proper project management tool.
There are a lot of free tools out there, and it can be hard to know which one to use. I thought about what I needed to get out of a project management tool:
- Can have multiple users on one project
- Can set up and assign tasks
- Includes a calendar tool
- There is an easy way to view progress on various aspects of the project
With that wish list in mind, I set out to search for free tools. From my initial research, I ended up identifying a few possible contenders:
- Asana: Very popular tool that is really easy to use and intuitive.
- Google Sheets: The set up is a lot more manual, but we are using Google docs to house our notes, and I like the idea of using one system for project management and notes.
- Trello: I’ve known a number of people who use this tool. Is a very visual project management tool.
Since all of these tools have a free plan, instead of poring over reviews, I decided to just start setting up the project plan in each tool and see for myself which one best fit our needs.
It was close to impossible to get straight to the free version of Asana. They keep pushing you to sign up for the free trial of the premium version. After creating your account, you can get to the free version by quitting the step where they ask for your credit card info.
Once there, it’s pretty simple to create your tasks. Sections can act as project categories, with tasks underneath. You can easily assign people to tasks and set due dates. I like how you can check off tasks when they are complete. One drawback is the free version doesn’t provide good visualizations of progress.
With Google Sheets, you are essentially using a spreadsheet to set up your to-do list. You can utilize columns to designate task name, assignee, due date, progress and any other information you need. You can add notes to individual cells, create drop-down menus and use conditional formatting to highlight tasks.
It’s very manual to set up and pretty visually plain. Initial input is pretty quick and easy, but formatting it takes a little longer. I feel like it would take a lot of conditional formatting and sort to get the various views you’d want to see.
Trello is a very visual project management tool. You create different columns of to-do lists with what they call “cards” acting as tasks within each column. And within each card, you can add sub-tasks/to-do lists. You can apply colored labels to each task to designate the category and/or set each column as a different category. You can easy drag cards from one column to another; so if you set columns by progress, you can quickly get a visualization of the status of each task
There is no way to actually assign someone to a card; rather, you add members to a card. I guess one work-around is just setting a rule with your team that if you are added as a member, you are assigned to that task. At first I saw this as a drawback, but it’s actually helpful if you have tasks that are assigned to more than one person (as I do for this project).
One thing I don’t like is that you can’t actually check off a task as complete. Rather, you can create a column for “Completed” tasks and/or archive them.
After doing an initial set up in all three systems, I’m thinking Trello will be the best tool, at least for initial launch. I liked the visualization the best and how you can each drag cards from one column to another, making it easy to track progress.
Next step is to build out the entire project plan and share with the team. It’ll be interesting to get experience as a producer working within a larger creative team rather than acting as a solo, independent content creator.
One thing I’m liking already is that you have support from other rather than having every little thing resting on your shoulders. And with this group, I’ve still had the opportunity to have a creative voice, giving my own thoughts and recommendation on their episode format.
Keep your eyes out for the launch of Shot4Shot podcast in the next few months!