Starting a Podcast from Scratch with Sarai WatersApr 28, 2022
Sarai is a multi-hyphenate creative and multifaceted storyteller. Join our conversation this week as we discuss her podcast creation process from start to finish.
Q. What was your journey like up to this point?
I’ve been a creative all my life. I began writing short stories and poetry in middle school and they were an escape for me. It was really an outlet and the same goes for track and field. I’ve been running since I was about 8 years old and I knew I always wanted to run until God said stop, which is exactly what happened. At the time, I was training professionally and one day, I woke up from a dream where God said, ‘It’s time to stop running’ and that was my first true heartbreak. It was around that time that I had to pivot my life and turn my focus toward grad school for film out in California.
Getting out there was a faith journey because my mom had recently lost her job and I had no real way of getting there until a friend of hers stepped in and paid for our Spirit plane tickets out there and even gave us cab money to get from LAX to the school. We got there, and I enrolled the same day, but my FAFSA wouldn’t kick in for 20 days, so we were essentially homeless during that time. And we were not happy about it, but the crazy thing is that people just kept blessing us. And that was the beginning of my real walk with God outside of the church.
Fast forward to 2017, I graduated with my Masters and moved back to the East Coast and didn’t see a real way of me making use of that degree, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I almost overlooked my year in San Francisco. It was my time there that really inspired my episode for the Shelter in Place podcast. I was homeless once again, but this time was much better because I went into it with the mindset that it was temporary because I knew there was a precedent set with my last experience in Burbank. So I knew God had me and knowing that made me feel secure. I operate on crazy faith.
Toward the end of my homeless journey, I was finally able to stay in a young adult shelter and build community and get involved in the creative community out there. I started going to open mics again and writing and performing my poetry. I spoke and wrote about what I knew and my friend who was out there with me is a publisher and she was like, we should publish our poetry and I was like, no we should not lol. Eventually I gave in and now I have a published book of poetry that I didn’t intentionally set out to do.
Q. I love that creating your book came from a place of creativity and not a need to satisfy the masses. Keep going on that subject.
Honestly, I think that’s why it’s so hard for me right now in the process of creating this podcast. Because it feels like more of a shared experience. I’m creating this podcast because I want to serve others, I want to inspire them with what I’ve been through and not just what I’ve been through, because I’m interviewing others who have been in similar situations or are also creatives. I want to bring light to their stories and so it’s a lot of pressure.
I got involved with podcasting in November 2020. I was writing for a blog that wanted me to gain some podcasting experience for them. The founder knew that Laura Joyce Davis at the Shelter in Place podcast was working on an apprenticeship program and I was like great! I’m down and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for community and resources. Just last week, I had a webinar with another member of my cohort for Pod People. We spoke about my award winning episode that I was interviewed for and it was centered around my homeless journey. It won the International Women’s Podcast Award and I was like Wow! My work is gaining traction.
If you want to see that, it’s S2 ep 24: An Affront to Zeus. That was my first time being on the other side of production. I’m used to being in the background, so being in the forefront is not my sweet spot.
Q. What has your experience been emerging from the background and coming to the forefront?
It is an internal struggle for me. I am an introvert in every sense of the word. I go out with people, I come home to recharge, and sometimes I write about it. It feels so outside of my nature because I’m used to being the observer. When I perform my poetry at open mics, I share my heart regardless of what I think people might say because I feel like I have something to say, I love what I’ve written and I just wanna share it with y’all. In retrospect, I think if I took that approach with my podcast, I would be so much further along. I’m the one that’s holding myself back right now because being in the spotlight startles me so much.
All my life I knew I was called to greater. My biggest fear in life hasn’t been ‘what if i fail?’ it’s always been, ‘What if I succeed? Do I have the capacity to carry out what God has called me to?’ and we really did have to get to a point where we stand firm and know not everything is for us. You don't always go through things just for ourselves, you know? Um, we're not alone in what we're going through. Sometimes it takes time to find a community who can encourage you and uplift you and remind you of who you are, because sometimes they see things that you don't. And it's really about being truthful to yourself and just not straying from that authenticity.
Q. How would you encourage somebody to take even the next little steps?
I don't, I don't know too much about little steps. When I’m clear on something, God doesn’t let me sit back on it very long. I get a gentle nudge that says, ‘this is what you need to do’ and if I ignore it too long, I get a push’ That's mostly because I asked for it, um, because I can be stubborn. Um, there are certain things that I just jumped on immediately. It's like stuff like this, where I'm actually in the spotlight. I'm like, are you sure? And it’s in those cases that it’s so important to have an accountability partner. Someone who can check in on your progress once a week and make sure you’re on track.
Q. What are the steps to bring a story or topic to life in a podcast?
1st: You want to establish a format for your podcast. There are different ways you can tell a story.
- Narrative: In a narrative format, which is like a scripted podcast, you're basically writing down all of your thoughts before you go on. And maybe you're interviewing somebody. And even if you do interview somebody you're including those audio clips, and weaving them into what you have written for each episode.
- Interviews: In an interview format, you're literally just recording what it is that you're taking from this interview with the person, and then you're directly uploading and distributing it to your audience. That's what we're doing right now on LinkedIn actually.
2nd: You want to have your equipment ready.
- Microphone: I went to 5 and Below and bought a $5 mic that works just fine. As you progress, you can always buy a professional microphone, but you don’t need one immediately. You could also make use of your headphones or headset with their mic attachment.
- Podcast hosting site: This is where your podcast audio lives and is pushed out to other distribution sites like Spotify and Apple podcast. I use Buzzsprout, which is totally free and easy to use.
- Audio editing software:
Q. How are you getting the medicine to the people?
So for beginners, I would definitely say. Started with the know which would be social media.
You can either promote it on your own personal Instagram page, Facebook, Twitter, or create a specific page for the podcast. I would do both.
As you get more professional and more invested in the world of podcasting, you're going to want to start looking into becoming your own producer. Basically, you're looking at radio shows. You're looking at online streaming services and you're sending out emails to other hosts and potential guests. You're diving into the world of digital marketing.
In digital marketing, you’re aware of your brand, you’re figuring out who your audience is, and where they live online. So you're listening to other podcasts with hopes of making meaningful connections to expand your audience. You're constantly gathering momentum.
Q. Where do our listeners really start in terms of organizing the ideas around what their podcast can be?
I will start with a Google doc or a spreadsheet, something where you can start brainstorming.
If you want to take it even simpler, get a sheet of paper and do the web and just branch out. See all the different ways that you could potentially go with your idea, write it all down and make sure it's something that you can see yourself talking about long-term. You need to make sure you can commit to a specific vein in podcasting, because podcasting can be very niche.
Now, you could also set the precedent that you’re going to talk about, whatever you want. It’s ultimately your decision. You're the host. You decide what type of stories you want to tell, but
you must be consistent. Set up a date and time, let your audience know where they can find your content.
Be consistent and people will rock with you because they're like, ‘you know what? This is great content.’ You could come out on the second Tuesday of every month and they’ll be right there because they resonate with you.
Q. Where are you right now in the process of creating your podcast?
So my podcast, Bloom Where You're Planted, is me sharing stories and the main stories that I'll be telling revolve around the homeless community: people who are close to being homeless, which looks like couch surfing. It looks like staying in your cousin's bedroom for three months or being displaced having to stay with your parents for an indeterminate amount of time. Like you didn’t make the conscious decision to move back in with them.
And I opened my episode with the Shelter In Place podcast with a poem about homelessness and I decided to carry that forward. Truthfully, the poetry is for me and the narrative/interview is for everybody else.
Q. What is your podcast host site?
I’m using Buzzsprout.
Q. Ok, so it’s hosted on Buzzsprout and then you're going to be pushing it to all the things, and then you're going to be on your personal Instagram and Twitter and all those things, using that to promote the interviews, etc. What's the rhythm that you're trying to create around this work?
So the rhythm that I'm trying to create after this first episode, is that I want to have multiple episodes done. I want to get this first episode out there to create an expectation for more episodes to come and to make it more real. The goal is that going forward, I will have multiple episodes done because I don't ever want to be in this position again; where I don't have another episode lined up and ready to go or ready for post production.
Speaking of post production, you want to make sure that you’ve done your research on the different platforms and pricepoints. If you’re doing the work yourself, it would be best to do research so you know the ins and outs of the platform you’ll be working on. I use Hnindenburg because it’s more intuitive to me than Logic Pro Tools.
Q. I'm excited for what you have coming out. What is the timeline? When can we publicly expect episode number one to be available?
Realistically next month because the end of the month is here. I would say about it’ll be ready by the 20th of May.
Q. What other piece of advice would you give to somebody who's starting out here?
For one, you may not stop being afraid, but you act in the midst of it. You get stronger and you get more confident in what it is that you're doing as you continue to do something, it's kind of like you're building muscle memory, so you get more capable.
Q. How often would you say someone should release a podcast episode?
You can post as frequent or infrequent as you like. It’s your production so you make the rules surrounding production. That could look like posting as often as once a day, to once a week or once a month. It all really depends on you.
Q. One of our listeners wants to do a podcast around business impact and politics, how the two can work for each other. How would you workshop that?
I'm not gonna lie. I'm not well-versed in the business world, but I would definitely do interview style because you're going to have some really important conversations with people. I would map out all the ways you believe they can work with one another. Do your research regarding people that you want to reach out to. Compile a list of people who believe what you believe, as well some who have contrasting opinion. Have a conversation with them first so you know how to gauge the conversation, make sure that you know how to direct it because sometimes people can take over.
How do people get in touch with you?
I’m available on gmail at [email protected] and Instagram @tosaraiwithlove.
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