“How did you start your podcast?”
“How did you start your podcast?” is a common question I frequently get asked. With over 500,000 podcasts available, it can be overwhelming to think about where to start. If you’re a sex worker thinking about taking your first steps into the podcast scene, have a read through this article would be a great first step.
The birth of Stripped by Sia
When I first started my sex worker podcast, Stripped by SIA, back in the summer of 2019, I knew I had always wanted to start a podcast. I just didn’t know what it was going to be about. It wasn’t until I was at the club, that a patron there had commented to me that “stripper lead fascinating lives” and for once, I agreed with him!
That statement stuck out in my mind so vividly that I knew that I had to make a podcast on sex workers and our industry.
Creating a sex work podcast with purpose.
From its inception, I was very focused and realized what its purpose and intention was going to be. It was important for me to illustrate the lived experiences of sex workers and to paint a holistic view of what we endure, what our industry entails and our reality.
I wanted to showcase the good, the bad, and the ugly and to be as transparent as possible. There wasn’t going to be any sugarcoating. I was really sick of how society painted sex workers so it was vital that I gave sex workers a platform where they could speak freely about the work we do.
The logistics fun.
Once I had the focal point down, I had to begin about the mechanics.
What hosting platform was I going to use? How was I going to distribute and market the show? What about music and copyright infringement? I want to make money on my show! What about the title and the cover art?
There were tons of factors coming into play but again, because I was so focused on the end game, I was aware of how I wanted to brand the show, what sound I wanted to emulate, what the design was going to look like.
Podcast equipment and applications
In terms of equipment and applications, I chose to podcast because the barrier to entry was pretty low.
I went with the podcasting platform, Anchor.fm because they were able to do the heavy lifting in terms of handling distribution and the cost was free. I had used some old photos from a photohoot for my cover art and paid a friend to make my cover art. I also enlisted a friend of mine to compose original music for the show. I used Audacity in the past to mix music for projects which was another free downloadable application (GarageBand on the Macbook is also free).
In terms of mic, a fan of mine had purchased my Blue Yeti for me (which was going to be initially used for my YouTube channel). It’s a pretty decent starter mic with four different recording options which you can play around with, depending on your podcast format.
Podcast or vidcast?
With technology moving deeper and deeper into videos, it’s really up to you what mediums you want to distribute your show on (and how much time you have on your hands!).
With my relatively busy schedule, it was imperative that I be a solo host with my podcast format consisting of interviewing a new guest every week. I was able to commit to that. Many people choose to record a video of their podcast and post on YouTube to widen their net for listeners which is an idea I wanted to do but didn’t have the capacity to do. Not to mention, you’ll have to comply with YouTube’s growing list of terms and conditions
Consider your commitment.
How often will you be releasing episodes? Will this be a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly podcast? What days do you want to release episodes on? How far in advanced will you be able to plan and coordinate with your co-hosts if you choose to have one?
Commitment is a make or break thing. I’ve listened to some podcasts where they just end abruptly because of a falling out with their co-host or the passion for the show dies. The last thing you want is an inconsistent posting schedule or random co-hosts every now and then. Your retention rate will decrease and it’ll be hard to gauge and get those listeners back.
Consider your audience.
Because this podcast was going to very public, I understood that my audience was going to be a mixed bag.
In Season 1, I was conducting in-person interviews with my friends, peers and colleagues. Since I was friends with so many people from Season 1, I knew right off the bat that the audience was going to be made up of other fellow sex workers.
On the flip side, my network wasn’t just made up of sex workers – it also included, friend, families, coworkers, and strangers. Although I have always been pretty open about chronicling my sex work journey, there were going to be people listening to the show that I didn’t know very well and who were going to judge me. I bit the bullet and released the show within two weeks. It wasn’t a huge worry of mine, to be honest.
Consider podcast promotion.
Promoting the show to the public meant that a lot of non-sex working folk would be listening to the show and depending on your content, this could be a good or bad thing.
I was very headstrong on the educational aspect of my show so as much as I love my colleagues and other sex working peers listening in, it was even more important to have civilians listen to the show because I (as cliché as this might sound) I wanted to make an impact and stimulate change.
I’ve had to deal with some snarky comments but the best way that I deal with that is to present them with facts in an effort to try to turn their way of thinking around and honestly, they all have come around, which has been the most rewarding gift in this entire process.
Oh, the guests...
Finding, scheduling and securing guests for the show can be fun, challenging and frustrating all at the same time.
I quickly ran out of friends I knew well enough to bring onto the show so I began to slide into the DMs of people I had admired and had done extensive research on. I emphasize the latter part, not because it’s creepy, but because it’s key to bring on good, quality people onto the show.
I vet and curate each guest I bring to the show because they have to be a good fit, need to hold an engaging conversation for atleast an hour and because they are such an important part of the show.
Getting feedback. Receiving feedback.
Learning to receive feedback, whether it is good or bad, is always an interesting learning lesson. While most of the feedback I’ve received has been overwhelmingly good, I have received some critique which, naturally, I can feel defensive on.
Always take feedback with a grain of salt. People are going to have opinions, whether you like or not, but it’s best to take it in stride. Ask questions. What can you learn from them or what they are saying? Don’t be dismissive too soon. Listen, like, really listen. You might learn a thing or two.
Monetizing your podcast.
Everyone is always wanting to make money off of their show and to do what they love but don’t make that the be all and end all.
Choosing specific sponsors that are a fit for your show is so important. Plus, think about it from your audience’s side – do you want to be bombard them with 4 different ads per episode?
I know that money is always the point as sex workers but this is something that will take a bit more time and planning to do – and to do properly. I have had a sponsor in the past that was such a far cry from what my podcast stands for that I cringe whenever I listen to those early episodes.
If you do choose to run ads and choose sponsors for your show, ensure that they are a fit and align with your morals and values.
All that work is worth it.
Running my podcast, Stripped by SIA, has been so incredibly rewarding. It’s been a blessing to report on the ins and outs of the sex industry. I continue to meet so many amazing individuals through my show, most of whom I can now call my friends, and it has brought me so much closer to the community.
It’s also presented me with unique opportunities that I could not have ever dreamed of like guest lecturing at universities across North America, being invited to sex festivals and sitting on panels, conducting research for sex working youth for the United Nations, presented me with job opportunities…
It’s been a wild ride. I can’t wait to see where else it’ll be able to take me.
Steph Sia is a stripper, digital content creator and pole dance instructor based in Vancouver, Canada. She is the host of the sex worker podcast, Stripped by SIA, that shares the stories of the lived experiences of sex workers with an aim to destigmatize the sex industry. She always enjoys a good bowl of noodles.
Listen to the Stripped by Sia podcast on Anchor.fm/strippedbysia.