Done Is Better Than Perfect: The Shift from Self-Editing Your Own Podcast to Professional Podcast Editing

Hey everybody. Today I want to talk about the mindset change that is needed when you transition from editing for yourself to editing for others.

You'll hear me talk about the importance of setting expectations when working with clients, but sometimes we need to reset our expectations when editing for others.

When you're editing for yourself, you're likely focused on making everything perfect. After all, it's your show, and you're doing all the work yourself, so you probably aren't too concerned with cost.

And it's easy to let that way of working continue into freelance work.

Our approach needs to change when becoming a freelancer. We need to think about things like efficiency. I've spoken with and worked with editors who were spending six, eight, or even ten hours editing a single 60-minute interview.

That isn't sustainable in the long term. Some improvements will occur naturally as we gain experience. This is one of the main reasons I recommend setting aside an hour or two a week to practice making edits, especially if you're just starting out.

There are no shortcuts to make up for experience. It's a lot easier to practice when it doesn't matter because you can take your time to really see what works and what doesn’t.  

Other improvements in efficiency will come from workflow improvements. Things like using shortcut keys or a programmable mouse.  Other control surfaces like a Stream Deck might also help.

Even switching software can help. I saved so much time when I switched from Logic to Hindenburg, and adding a Logitech MX Master 3 programmable mouse added to that time savings.

I went from six hours to four and a half simply by making those two changes.

One of the most common issues I see is editors who labor over making things perfect. That doesn't mean we shouldn't care about our work or be okay with bad edits.

What I mean, though, is that we need to put aside our perfectionist mindset and accept that human speech is anything but perfect.

We should try to approach our decision making from the mindset of a listener. Many people listen to podcasts because they tend to be raw and real.  They are more forgiving of minor imperfections, and they're not going to stop listening to a show if we can't make this edit or because the sentence that was spoken is hard to follow and we couldn't clean it up through editing.

We need to be able to accept that not all edits can be made. My rule of thumb is to move on if I can't make an edit in three tries.

I don't want to spend more than 60 seconds on any tricky edit. And I can often tell after the first try if it's even worth trying a couple more times or not.  It doesn't make sense to spend five minutes trying to make an edit on something that the listener won't really even care about.

I'm a big advocate of offering different levels of service to our clients. This makes it easier to avoid doing more work than you're being paid for.  No one will ever say no to you for going above and beyond for free. But how many of them will pay more for that level of service?

Most of them probably won't. And that's why we want to provide choices to them.  Offer a premium service level where the client pays you to go above and beyond.  Offer a standard service level that follows a very specific process. This makes it much easier to ensure you're not doing more work than you're being paid for.

For instance, in my standard service, I used to run things through iZotope RX and the batch processor, and I'll do up to two passes of noise reduction.  Now I’m doing all that work with plugins, saving me time.  I’m not devoting additional time in trying to clean up bad sounding files.  

Premium clients will still get more in-depth cleanup work when needed, but still within reason.  I'm not going into RX to manually remove a smoke detector that chirps every 60 seconds, or the guest's barking dog, that ringing phone, or the siren, or the next door neighbor who's chopping up bodies in a wood chipper.  It just takes too much time, and there's no guarantee of improvement to the audio.

Clients who send in good sounding recordings will get great sounding episodes.  Clients who send in poorly recorded audio, their episodes are still not going to sound that great. There's only so much I can do.  After all, we're the editors, not the engineers. It's the engineer who is responsible for audio quality.

So I always give the client the option if we've got some kind of noise like that in the audio.  They can pay me an hourly rate to try and clean it up without any guarantees of it sounding any better.  And guess what? To this day, no one has been interested in paying for that level of service.

I see so many editors who will go out of their way to do this level of work for their clients.  It's your business, and it's your choice. But try to think about it like a business owner.

You can't stay in business if you're giving away free work.

And keep in mind, not all clients are equal. As much as we want them to be, they just aren't.

If you've ever spent much time in Vegas, you know high rollers get a number of perks that most of us will never see.  Free rooms, free food, drinks, tickets to shows, and other perks that aren't available to the public.  They get those perks because they spend a lot of money there.

We can't offer the same level of service or perks to our $100 an episode clients that we offer our $5,000 a month clients.  That doesn't mean we can't treat them all like high rollers on a personal level and in our communications.  Ideally, we want to make every client feel like they are our only client.

When it comes to freelancing, it's tough to talk about editing without discussing the impacts on our business.  

If we aren't profitable, we can't stay in business. And we can't be profitable if we aren't working efficiently.

If you're struggling with your process or need some guidance on developing packages or anything else with making the jump to freelancing, consider joining Tansy Aster Academy's Pro Group.

We help editors like you become more confident with the business side of editing.