BALTIMORE — When you hear the phrase "side hustle," what do you think of? Things like a shoe cleaning business or a car cleaning service, sure, but not a podcast engineer.
Leon Stanford turned his side hustle into a full time job.
He used to work a "9-5," and during this time, he would look to the future.
"I was doing my regular 9-5, and I would read a lot of self help books, listen to seminars and all these things. I was constantly trying to expand my mind, and as a result I wanted to get that information out I was receiving," Stanford said. "It's some opportunity here, you know, you look for some type of need in the market, and then you fill a void. So that's what business I came from."
Calling himself a content specialist, he operates out of a small studio in Downtown Baltimore called Digital Empath Studios. The studio space has two rooms, one for photography and the other for podcasts.
The name comes from his passion for helping people.
"This is the way of bridging the gap and putting the people first, so that's where the empathy comes from. And as fate would have it, the studio part came in as a result of it not being available when I was looking for domain names," Stanford joked.
However, the set up wasn't always so sexy because he used to operate out of his basement.
Now, the location works to accommodate everyone as it's in a neutral area where everyone can feel safe. Trying to pitch a basement as a meeting place wasn't the most ideal.
"It really put a fire under me to go research commercial locations and I ended up deciding on this because downtown is a central area," Stanford said.
Early on, he struggled to use the equipment too. It came with a lot of trial and error he says.
"Initially I went to the Free University on YouTube and I learned a lot of techniques there," Stanford said. "I looked up a bunch of what's the best cameras, mics and equipment and then I realized I couldn't afford the best stuff. As long as things are evolving, I'm going to have to improve and I'm gonna have to keep educating myself."
He was the same way when it came to learning how to edit content as well.
"A lot of things you start to observe just watching other people's stuff from a different style, but I want to mimic it, I want to be able to replicate it," Stanford said.
Right now, Stanford oversees about 12 podcasts with 14 more on the horizon. If this sounds like a lot of work for one person, it is, so he has a team behind him.
The team consists of editors, photographers and videographers. They've all been trained by him.
"So I screened them and my biggest thing is wanting to know why you want to do what you want to do," Stanford explains. "The whole idea is anybody that's a part of this team needs to be trying and if they aren't, I don't want them around."
The goal is to keep expanding and he wants to reach 50 podcasts by the end of the year.
50 podcasts means a lot of people coming in and out of the studio. A lot of people means dealing with a lot of personalities.
Stanford isn't worried, he even says managing the personalities are the easy part.
"The hard part is punctuality, usually, that's usually the hardest part, because it's sometimes a show will start or they'll start late, and then another show is right behind them. You can't run two hours over or a hour over the time, because I charge by the hour."
So if you're considering starting a podcast, Digital Empath Studios isn't a bad option.
"Understand why you want to start your show, and be realistic about where you want it to go," Stanford explains.
To call his dream a long-shot would be misleading because Stanford pictured this success since he was 15.
"I understood what the calling was and that I was able to use my imagination. It's like, okay, I have this vision in my head...now I gotta bring it to life," Stanford added.
To learn more about Digital Empath Studios click here.