Become an Audio Engineer in Three Easy Steps

There’s an industry that’s become huge on the Internet, yet the money-making potential goes pretty much unknown.


You probably already listen to podcasts but haven’t given much thought to how you can take advantage of this boom in online broadcasting.

If you’re not familiar, essentially podcasts are the radio shows of the Information Age. They can be radio plays, talk radio, music, sports radio, entertainment gossip, comedy skits, and everything else you can imagine. There are literally hundreds of podcasts out there on every topic under the sun.

And since more and more computers these days are shipped not only with built-in microphones, but also simple audio editing software, anyone who’s ever wanted to have their own radio show and speak their minds “on-air” now has that ability. And they can make a lot of money doing it.

Many simply seek to draw attention to their business or publicize their entertainment career.

But in this article I’m not going to show you how to become a podcasting personality – though if you have the chops, I say go for it!

What I want to cover in three easy steps is how you can make some serious money by working behind the scenes in this growing industry. You’ll become a technical expert of sorts, although it’s not that hard to learn the necessary programs and skills.

You’ll simply be handling the raw audio files of would-be podcast superstars, cleaning them up, and making them sound like pros with easy-to-use software. It sounds simple – because it is. But podcasters without the time or expertise to “fine tune” the podcasts they’ve recorded will pay you well for this service.

And the best part is you can actually start this little side business with little or no upfront investment.

Step 1: Get Free Audio Software

Free – it’s my favorite word, especially when starting a business.

If you’re reading this on an Apple computer, you’re already done with this step. Your computer has the GarageBand program on it and some of the biggest podcasts on the web – the ones with millions of downloads a month – handle all their audio software needs with this simple off-the-shelf program.

But if you don’t have GarageBand, no need to worry. Here are a couple of free programs for Windows you can download off the Web that are just as good at editing audio (there are more in the Resources section below):

* Audacity (www.audacity.sourceforge.net)

* Free Audio Editor (www.free-audio-editor.com)

I suggest downloading and researching the programs on your own. There are literally dozens of free audio editing programs available, and more are added all the time. The important thing is to find which one you’re most comfortable with.

This might mean the one with the prettiest colors or the one with the most comprehensive FAQ. Once you’ve picked one, you’ll have plenty of time to learn all the little shortcuts and quirks of the individual program while you’re making money by editing actual audio.

Step 2: Get to Know Your Competition

If you don’t already have a few podcasts that you listen to on a regular basis, try to get into the habit. You’ll hear what the top podcasts in the world sound like. And I’m a big believer in learning by studying and imitating the greats until you find your own unique approach. Fake it until you make it, basically.

The easiest place to find podcasts is on iTunes. You can download this application for free if you don’t have it already. Then you just navigate to the Podcast page. There you’ll be able to sort through different categories and browse the top charts.

Before you get inspiration for little tweaks of your work by listening to these top podcasts, it’s important to know the basic structure of all great podcasts. Here are a few quick tips on making them sound great:

* Add some intro music

* Use the audio compressor (this makes sure that you can hear each person talking)

* Mix the audio in mono, not stereo (especially if you’re editing a talk show)

* Remove “umhs” and “ahhs”

* End it with some fade-out music (really easy to do and it adds a nice professional polish to your product)

Those are the basics. Some other things you might consider adding to the podcasts you work on: individual theme music, a formal introduction – possibly from a professional narrator, commercial breaks, sound effects… the list goes on.

Again, you’ll get dozens of ideas like this from listening to top podcasts. You should also talk to your clients about any ideas they’d like to incorporate.

Speaking of which…

Step 3: Finding Podcasters (Your Clients)

The great thing about becoming an audio engineer for podcasting is you don’t even have to be in the same country as the folks doing the talking. They can just send you the raw audio files, you do your thing – adding music, taking out the hiss and pops, removing awkward pauses, deleting passages your client doesn’t want included, dampening any distracting background noise – and then you send them back the completed audio file.

The amount of money you make is largely going to be based on how long the podcast episode you’re editing is. Podcast episodes can run anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours.

You’ll have to listen to every second of the file you’re sent if you want to do a good job – and if you want to start getting bigger and bigger (and more profitable) jobs, you’ll want to do a great job every time.

You’ll learn as you go. The bulk of your job will be easy – taking out background noise and all those little distracting sounds that creep into any recorded audio, especially podcasts, which tend to be recorded outside of traditional recording studios.

Simply using the audio editing programs you’ve downloaded will give you a ton of experience and an ear for creating professional-sounding podcasts. But really all it comes down to is what sounds good to you. With practice you’ll be able to get into intricate editing work, for which you’ll be able to charge top dollar.

Freelance job boards like Elance.com and Odesk.com are great places to find projects and clients. Some pay per project and others are regular part-time gigs. Look to start at around $100 per edited podcast of about an hour. Once you gain a reputation and have some podcasts in your portfolio, you can raise your price accordingly.

The Future for Audio Engineers

It’s being widely predicted in the industry that the audience for podcasts will skyrocket in the coming years. Podcasts aren’t regulated by an agency like the FCC which patrols regular FM and AM radio, so the content can be edgy and current. And with the ability to listen to podcasts on your smartphone, traditional radio is quickly going the way of VHS tapes – it simply can’t keep up with the technology.

So I think if you put in a little groundwork now and build a basic understanding of how to manipulate simple audio, you’ll have the jump on a very exciting and very profitable field.

I wish you the best of luck!

John Hollister

P.S. I’ve just given you the three easy steps you need to become a successful audio engineer in the digital age. But here are a few more resources to help keep you inspired and on-target.

Resources

Editing Software

http://audacity.sourceforge.net

http://www.free-audio-editor.com

http://download.cnet.com/Free-Audio-Editor-2012/3000-2170_4-10809742.html

http://www.nch.com.au/wavepad/index.html

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/25-free-digital-audio-editors/

Inspiration

http://poducateme.com/guide/

http://aarongleeman.com/2012/11/02/a-podcast-obsessed-podcasters-guide-to-podcasts/

Job Boards

http://www.elance.com

http://www.odesk.com

http://www.sologig.co


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