Resetting Yourself for At-Home Production

Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash
Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

What to do when it's time to take your podcast operations in-house.

People all around the globe from a variety of industries are transitioning to new work formats right now, and podcasters are no exception. If you're used to putting your podcasts together in a pro studio, on location, or just in physical proximity to other people, you're suddenly being forced to figure out a way to switch up your game.

This is especially true for freelancers who frequently travel for gigs or reporting opportunities and make up a large portion of the creative podcasting workforce. To help support freelancers and independent audio producers, organizations like AIR, an international network of independent media makers, have put together resource guides containing helpful information like how to record remotely and the latest updates on the federal stimulus package.

According to Amanda Hickman, Director of the Freelance Futures Initiative at AIR, the guide is an evolving document that will soon include additional information about state and federal relief programs. As for how podcasters and audio producers can best take care of themselves during these times, Hickman said, “The best advice I can give anyone is to ask for the help you need. And go easy on yourself. This is incredibly stressful, and it is really hard to do your best work when you're overwhelmed.”

And even when you are feeling calm and capable, getting used to a new, less mobile work style can be tricky. For that, we’ve got your back with the below tips on how to set yourself up for at-home work and helpful ideas for bringing every aspect of your busy production schedule in-house.

Setting Up Your Space

Keep it livable

When you're arranging a workstation at home, remember you've got to live there too. Do your best to maintain a clear division between workspace and living space. If you've got a room (basement or garage will work fine too), an alcove, or even just a corner that you can cordon off, designate that spot for your studio and be vigilant about maintaining the borders.

Make it inspirational

Establish a creative environment in your studio space. Put up pictures of people, places, and things that inspire you or artwork that moves you. Try to avoid a self-isolating vibe by leaving some space for air and light to come through from the surrounding area.

Mind the acoustics

Unplug any appliances or devices nearby that have an audible hum, like your fridge, etc. (Just don't forget to plug it in again later!) Hang blankets, pillows, and other similarly soft objects to keep the sound in the room from bouncing around too much.

Got a closet?

Speaking of avoiding sound-reflective surfaces, a walk-in closet is actually an ideal sonic environment, since the clothes will provide just the kind of soft, non-reflective surfaces you want for recording. Saron Yitbarek found this to be an ideal setting for his CodeNewbie podcast. Producer Megan Tan, who has worked on NPR's Planet Money and others, is a fan of the practice too.

Bringing the Outside World In

Gearing up

If you decide to forego the closet and want to build a simple-but-effective home studio, here are a few hints that will prove vital. Get a stand-alone digital recorder instead of recording onto your computer. Scope out a high-quality microphone. Do your homework on which apps and software are right for you. And decide what kind of setup makes sense for your particular approach to podcasting. For details on all the above and more, look here.

Recording interviews remotely

Fortunately, remote interviews are already ultra-common in podcasting, and they're easy to set up. A few bullet points: once you've settled on a recording platform for your interviews, run a quick tech test and soundcheck on both sides beforehand. Remember that external mics are your friends, delivering clearer sound than your device's on-board microphone. Have your guest record their side of the interview separately so you can edit them together afterwards (FYI, Soundtrap can record a group chat to separate audio tracks). Visit here for more info on remote interview readiness.

Connecting with co-hosts

Remote recording isn't only for guests! Whether you've got one constant co-host, a whole crew of regulars, or any variation, keep in mind that you can keep that connection intact even in a solitary situation. All of the options for recording interviews remotely will work just as well for connecting with your co-hosts. So unless your podcast is strictly a one-person operation to begin with, taking it in-house doesn't have to mean going it alone.

—Jim Allen