My Podcast Production Process, Start to Finish

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In this post, I’ll walk through my complete podcast production process for The Side Hustle Show.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s a top-rated and award winning business podcast with more than 8 million lifetime downloads.

I’ve been producing the podcast weekly since 2013, and though I know this process will continue to evolve, here’s what it looks like today.

podcast production process step by step

The Hook

Every episode starts with what I call “the hook.” That is, what’s the angle or story we’re trying to tell?

Why is it interesting or compelling?

Since podcast growth mostly happens via word of mouth, the hook is critical. Why should someone invest their time in this, and once they do, is it good enough they can’t help but tell their friends about it?

For me, the best-performing episodes are side hustles or marketing tactics that are:

  • Relatable
  • Repeatable
  • Don’t require a huge upfront investment

What are some examples of “hooks” that have done well?

These episodes have all out-performed their peers (episodes released around the same time). I believe one reason why is I got the hook right. The content was relevant to the audience and the title was compelling enough to download.

The hook is step one. Then I go out and try and find the best person to tell that story.

Guest Selection

The Side Hustle Show is primarily interview-based. That takes a lot of the pressure off me to monologue for half an hour, and instead lets me showcase other qualified and insightful entrepreneurs.

I source guests in several different ways.

Personal Network

When I first started the show, naturally my first guests came from my own–small, at that time–personal network. I spidered out from there by asking, “who else do you think would be a good fit?”

Interesting people tend to know other interesting people. Let them fill your guest pipeline.

Even years into doing the show, this still works. For example, Jacques Hopkins pointed me to the amazing success story of Nate Dodson, who’s selling $40k+ per month of an online course on growing and selling microgreens.

Community / Referrals

Today, many of my best guests come from inside The Side Hustle Nation community. These are people responding to my emails, attending meetups, or posting in the Facebook group.

For example, I discovered Jodi Carlson, creator of a $5k a month part-time girl scout blog, when she replied to one of my newsletters. I met Nikko Mendoza, builder of 3D-printed costume armor at a Side Hustle Nation meetup.

Inbound Pitches

The final source of guests–and perhaps least reliable–is inbound pitches. At this point, I receive several pitches a week from people who want to be on the show.

Some of those are great, like Austin Miller’s empire of free houses. But most are pretty lame. They come from PR companies or podcast booking agencies and don’t fully understand the nature of the show.

I set up a standard “pitch form” to funnel these through, which has helped.

If you’re struggling to find quality guests, you might check out a free resource like PodcastGuests.com.

Vetting Guests

These days, I rarely go into an interview completely cold. In most cases, I’ll do a pre-interview call.

Those 15-30 minute calls help me assess:

  • Does this person speak clearly
  • Are they excited about the topic
  • A general, subjective feel if they’re right for the show and audience

These pre-interview calls also help me explain my recording process and goals for the show.

If for whatever reason we don’t do a pre-interview call, I usually listen to one or two interviews the guest has done on other shows.

Creating an Outline

After the pre-interview, I’ll create an outline based on our conversation and the person’s expertise.

This is more for the sake of my own organization, but I’ve found it helps structure the episodes in a way that helps deliver the promised hook.

For example, many Side Hustle Show episode outlines follow this basic structure:

  • Where’d you come up with that idea? (Creation)
  • How’d you get your first clients / customers / traffic? (Traction)
  • What happened next? (Growth)
  • How does the business make money? (Monetization)
  • What’s working today in terms of marketing? (Marketing)
  • What’s next for you / what are you working on now? (Future)
  • #1 tip for Side Hustle Nation.

During the recording, of course we let the conversation flow, but this general outline helps me steer the episode where I want it to go.

Scheduling

I normally schedule the recordings while on the pre-interview calls. Otherwise, I use the calendar booking tool ScheduleOnce.

I try to batch all my meetings and recordings on Tuesdays, because that frees up the rest of the week for other projects.

We block off an hour to record, but don’t normally use the full time.

Setting Expectations and Getting Good Audio

In the calendar invite, I send the guests the proposed outline for the episode, along with some notes on what makes a great Side Hustle Show episode.

Among those are the two big goals of the show:

  1. Put the audience first. Help listeners learn about a new business or marketing strategy. This is the ONLY reason they tune in.
  2. Showcase your unique expertise and make you sound like a genius.

(I created a TextExpander snippet to quickly type this information.)

Lately, I’ve been offering to send guests my favorite budget external mic. This removes the sound quality variable from the equation so I know they’ll sound great.

Since it’s a podcast–audio is all we’ve got–it’s got to sound good. The mic is actually on loan, and I just ask the guest to hang onto it until I have the next guest lined up, at which point they drop it in the mail and pass it along.

Day of Recording

When recording day is here, I fire up Zencastr and get to work. Zencastr is a freemium browser-based recording tool, that gets better audio than Zoom and theoretically avoids VOIP lags you sometimes get on Skype.

The downside is it’s not perfect; it can still be glitchy, calls can drop, and recordings might not finalize. (In that case, there’s a way for the participants to recover a backup of their audio–thankfully it’s only happened once for me so far!)

Local Backup

In addition to having Zencastr running, I take a local backup of my audio track directly into Audacity. I’ll give my editor the choice of tracks to use.

Logistics

Before we start recording, I spend a few minutes chatting with the guest. The idea here is to make sure we have a strong connection, that they sound OK, and to double-check any specific websites or URLs they have to plug, along with how to pronounce their name.

Transcribing

After the recording, a couple things happen right away.

First, I try and fill in any notes I was taking during the call, and come up with 2-3 big takeaways from the conversation. This helps me when creating the intro/outro later.

The second thing is to generate a rough transcription of the interview. I use an AI transcription service called Sonix to get this done.

(Actually I upload the files to a specific folder in Dropbox, which triggers an email to my VA via IFTTT, who creates a stereo track from the files and uploads it to Sonix.)

Sonix isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. For me, it’s basically a tool to make editing the show easier. I use it to:

  • figure out where to start the interview
  • highlight sections of the conversation to trim

I then pass the transcription file along to my editor, with my notes and highlights.

You can get 100 minutes of audio transcribed free when join through my referral link.

Intro / Outro / Ad Scripting and Recording

My next phase in the podcast production process is to write the intro, outro, and ad scripts for the show. This can be a little time-consuming, but I believe it’s important.

In the intro to my shows, I want to accomplish a few things:

  • Explain what’s in it for the listener to stick around, and why the person presenting is qualified to teach that.
  • Tell where they can find the show notes or lead magnet for the episode
  • Plug my pre-roll sponsors

I try and get this done in the first 2-3 minutes.

After the interview, I:

  • Do another ad spot
  • Present my top takeaways from the show
  • Offer a call to action for the show notes or lead magnet again
  • Thank you for listening, and tease the next episode (if I know what’s going to be)

There’s a certain consistency to these elements, that I’ve taken cues from traditional radio on. It lets regular listeners know what to expect when you keep a similar structure and language.

After this is written out, I record my intro and outro in a single track.

I create a show structure outline to let the editor know which elements should go where.

Editing the Episode

The next step is to edit the raw audio and piece all the components of the show together.

For help with that, I use a service called Podcast Fast Track. (After years of doing it all myself!)

How this works in practice is I upload all the audio files to Dropbox, along with the Sonix transcription and my show structure notes. Then I just let my editor know the episode is ready for him to work his magic.

After the Edits

Once the editor is done, he uploads the completed episode back into a separate Dropbox folder. This triggers an email (IFTTT ftw!) to my writer, so he can download the audio and draft the summary and show notes for the episode.

Final Listen

I listen to the whole episode start to finish for quality check. I don’t usually have much to change in this final check, but will occasionally trim additional sections of audio I don’t think are necessary.

I’ve considered dropping this step, but every couple weeks I catch something and I’m glad I listened. (I hear stuff on other shows too, that easily would have been caught if the host or someone else on the team had given a final listen.)

I also check the show notes and summary to make sure they’re ready to publish.

Upload to Libsyn and Schedule for Release

Once I’m happy with the final audio, I’ll upload it to my media host, Libsyn, and schedule it for release.

That also means adding the Smart Podcast Player shortcode to the show notes page for the episode.

For episodes that have a specific lead magnet, I pass that file along to my virtual assistant, who will then install it via LeadPages to the site.

Release Day

Every Thursday is podcast day! It’s the most exciting day of the week because I know all this work is about to pay off and thousands of people are going to hear the latest episode.

I don’t request or expect my guest to share their interview, but I do let them know their episode is live and thank them for joining me.

And most Thursdays, I’ll send a broadcast newsletter email to my list to promote the latest episode and any blog content for that week.

I do this because I’ve seen it work on me; there are a handful of podcasts I listen to but am not subscribed to. If I get an email from the host selling me on their latest episode, I’m far more likely to download it and listen, becoming a bigger fan of theirs in the process.

Your Turn

What do you think of this podcast production process? Anything you’d change or do differently?

What have you found most effective in streamlining the production of your own show?

Pin it for later:

podcast production process

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Stock photo By Branislav Nenin via Shutterstock

3 thoughts on “My Podcast Production Process, Start to Finish”

  1. Nick – great post. I am a voracious podcast consumer, so I enjoy learning the behind the scenes details about “how the sausage is made.” This is also a good read for anyone contemplating starting a podcast since it exposes the scope of work involved. I’ll definitely refer back to it if I ever decide to go down this road.

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