Do you want to learn how to start a podcast? Here is your guide:
If you are not on this blog for the first time, you may probably know already that I am producing my own podcast for a while and that I value this decision as being great. You may also know that I always encourage my readers to try new experiences and try to implement new and interesting side projects besides their usual work.
Side projects help you expand your horizons, learn new things, grow your personal brand and of course, evolve as a professional in your field.
Podcasting is one of my favorite side projects and this is one of the main reasons I chose to write this epic guide today.
We’re going to walk together through the main steps required from the first day you make up your mind to produce a podcast and up to what happens after your actual launch. And, hopefully, I will cover all the basics and even more and I will manage to answer all your questions, even those you don’t know that you’ll be addressing on the way.
Well, at least you don’t ask them right now…
Why should one choose to engage in podcasting?
Before getting to know how to publish a podcast, we need to at least clarify the reasons behind the decision to embark on such a mission. And, as you will soon find out, there are several such reasons, each important from a personal/company branding perspective.
Whether you are conducting marketing for your own benefit or for a company, you probably know already that your work is never done. And, you may already know as well that you should always be where your target audience is. It may not be enough to just create content. You need to adapt to the latest trends in human behavior and be prepared to shift your strategy 360 degrees if you feel there is a need for that.
Some of you will argue that you are not marketers per se. Well, the moment you start a blog, publish your first post and share it on social media, you are a marketer.
In this case, you market yourself but nevertheless, you are doing it.
Whether we are talking about smartphones, tablets or netbooks, these devices are always with us, wherever we go. The smartphone, especially, is probably the only device we always keep on and we never forget to take it with us.
We’re always connected to the Internet via fast 3G and 4G connections and we have access to a significant part of the entire human knowledge.
While commuting from one place to another, while being engaged in other activities, doing sports or chore, access to written text and video information is difficult. However, we can still consume our favorite content in audio format and podcasts facilitate it for us.
We no longer depend on what a radio station gives us. We can select what to listen to, where to listen to it and at what pace to do it.
A few years ago when I announced my Facebook friends and followers that I will be going to start my first personal podcast, I already knew that it will not be an easy task. However, I did my homework thoroughly at that time and after all this time, I feel confident that I am ready to impart my educated wisdom.
Before even considering learning about how to start a podcast chanel or how to start a podcast show, you need to prepare yourself emotionally and technically. It will be a long and bumpy ride from idea to practice.
1. Find the topic you want to talk about
Creating a podcast is not an easy task but nevertheless, it is not impossible either. You will need to start with an idea. And, the topic is important. We might say that is the most important part of your podcasting career.
First, think about podcasting as if it were an audio blog. It’s really not that different, anyway.
This means that before making your first steps, you need a few things such as:
An idea. And, I am not referring to a good idea for your first episode. Because you wouldn’t start a blog with ideas for one or two articles, isn’t it? You need a general idea of what you are going to discuss about. A general idea for the whole podcast series. I suggest picking up a topic you are really good at. The more you know about it, the better the results will be. And, I am sure you are expecting good results since you are contemplating on starting the podcast in the first place.
Research on other podcasts. Listen to as many podcasts as possible and try to learn as much as you can about the tone of voice, the sound, how everything fell into place technically. You can learn alt by paying attention not on the topic but on the technical details.
Research on the trendiest topics among your peers and your target audience. Find out what goes and what not in your niche and try to come up with interesting topics on the first category. This is an important step because it will help you establish the main theme of your podcast and if you are going to take guests, establish who and why you would need to send invites to.
2. See what’s in your interest
This part is also important because it will allow you to assess the best marketing strategy for your podcast. The main question here is the following: “What do I want to achieve?”. And, the answer, of course, will help you clear your mind and develop your main strategy.
In order to make it easier for you, take a few moments, and try to write your goals on a piece of paper.
Shut down the computer, put your smartphone away, make sure nobody is around and start with the following line:
My podcast is about…
Try to fill in the dots with anything that comes to your mind. Based on what you have written, select the most important goals and try to adjust your strategy or create a new strategy based on that idea.
3. Find out what you want to know more
A new experience can also be tied up to personal growth. There are a lot of things to learn from starting and producing a podcast and there are also a lot of things to learn if you choose the topics accordingly.
Remember my first advice? Remember the fact that I have told you to start with the topic you are the most experienced at? Well, this will not change. However, every topic is vast and nobody can say that they truly are absolute masters in their fields. There are always new things to learn, not to mention that every industry evolves and develops new fields and technologies constantly.
4. …Or, look for the topic that is closer to your passions
This may also prove to be a good choice for a topic if you opt for something you really care about.
A topic you have a lot of interest in, a topic you study a lot in your free time, is always a topic you will have a lot to talk about.
5. Learn how to commit to your topic
And, of course, do it!
You need to stay focused and to commit to the main theme of your podcast, just like you would do with a blog. What does this commitment mean?
Learn as much as you can about that specific topic or industry
Subscribe to all newscasts you can find on that topic or industry
Write down any idea you may have, regardless of how less important it may seem at a first look
Read blogs, listen to podcasts and watch videos that cover the topics you want to write about
Find out who are the influencers that are highly valued in that niche and find out whether or not they are open to the idea of speaking as guests in your podcast
Never back down. Don’t stop at the first bump you find in the road. Learn how to go past it and proceed further
The preparations are almost finished at this point. Before going further, however, you need to clear your mind and try to define your future podcast in just a few words.
Write down a short description and keep it always on your thoughts and mind as a definition of what you are going to do.
You will need it later to post online as a description and as an invitation to your listeners who, based on it, will have a clear understanding of what your show is about.
Don’t forget to include some important keywords, as you will need search engines to index your podcast page and send you organic traffic according to your specifications.
TIP: Write a short description in 250, 300 characters or less. It’s important for it to fit in what search engines are able to display for the audience when they search for a specific keyword.
Also, it is important to fit any descriptive requirements you meet on the several third-party platforms you plan to publish and deliver your podcast.
2. Choose a good and creative name
The next step is dependent on the previous one.
Once you have your description, it is important to also choose a good name for your show. It may be a name that includes a magic keyword and at the same time, it may be a name that sounds good and nothing more.
Choose whatever seems best for your topic and your audience and stick to that name.
It will be your podcast’s brand and it will be the thing that the audience will get to know you for.
3. Choose a keyword for your podcast
If you didn’t do it already or, just in case you skipped the sixth step, try not to skip this one. It is important for your description and at the same time, for all the major search engines that are going to index that description.
People will come and sample your podcast based on the description and the keywords you have selected as main keywords for your topic.
At this point, you have already figures out what you want to talk about and how your podcast will generally look. Now, it’s time to choose your colors, design the artwork and maybe, design your own personal logo for your show.
The above image shows us an original logo image that describes visually the topic of the podcast.
The second image shows us an entire website page dedicated to a podcast which features branded colors, fonts and titles and of course, a branded logo which in this case takes the form of the website header.
Now, that you have seen these examples, what do you need to learn from them and how can you adapt your own visuals to match the type of show you are going to launch?
A clear view of what your podcast will be about. The tone of your stories may also influence the color palette of the visual design as well as the logo of the show.
Basic designer knowledge or access to professional tools such as Bannersnack that allow you to create from scratch without being skilled as a designer.
A basic understanding of how visuals influence minds and trigger emotions. This will be very useful in the long run, especially on social media where I am sure that you will want to promote your show.
Finally, remember that some of the best designs are quite explicative. People find it easy to understand the topics of a show and its targeted audience based on colors, logo, and visuals.
Use these tools to make it easier for you to market your podcast.
Some of the best designs come from the heart and not from the mind but you will need to use your head in order to trigger a heart motion.
Visual elements may be representative but at the same time, they are only descriptive. If you are going to do this the right way, you need real content elements and this is the point where you have the chance to outline your most important items of this sort.
I know, these are also part of the preliminary process but still, they are important and you will need them for every episode starting day one and up to the show’s end, which hopefully, will happen a long time from now.
What do you need to start a podcast?
Audio introduction. Except for the shows that will feature guests and therefore, will require some work in this area, all your episodes should start with a simple introduction of who you are and what your show is about, followed by the title and the contents of the episode.
Music and voice overs. At some point, you will need background music and some descriptive voice overs if you will have to make introductions to the different chapters of your every show. This is a tricky part since you must respect copyright laws and at the same time, introduce your audience to the general atmosphere of your podcast.
Figure out your format. You can take one host for each episode, multiple hosts, guests and influencers to talk about your chosen topics. Or, you can go solo, mix the two options and even take a friend and join forces with him or her and do a duo. You need however to figure out these things before actually working on your show because you need to organize your tasks and know what to do.
Assess your medium show length. According to this statistic, the average length of a podcast is 43 minutes. Therefore, it is like sharing a TV series episode and nothing more. I don’t know your audience and whether they are eager to listen to longer podcasts or not. What I suggest is to limit your length at this average time or less and start from there. If your audience will want more, they will most certainly tell you. If 40 minutes is too long, they will tell you as well or, you can assess the stats and see how much are people listening to it.
The frequency with which you are going to post your new episodes. This is important for two reasons. First, it may help you commit to a schedule. Secondly, it will allow your audience to stay up to this schedule and know when to expect new shows from you.
Potential guests. If you are going to feature guests in your episodes, make sure you make a list of at least 20 potential guests and contact at least 10 before actually working on your episodes. You need content and if you are going to rely on others, you need their accept before going any further.
6. Create a strategic plan for your podcast
We’ve already mentioned some of the most important landmarks in your preliminary preparations. Remember how we’ve discussed the need to contact your potential guests, how to create your visuals and so on. Are there any other things that may seem important at this point?
Well, yes, there are.
You need a strategic plan that includes, besides the frequency and the guests, your main topics for at least twenty or thirty episodes in advance.
You need them all because it is possible that sometimes you will not have time for research. Or, you may find yourself without good ideas to follow up.
Also, you may need to conduct thorough research on each of your future topics. You will probably not be able to do it right away but knowing these topics will allow you to gather extensive data while you read your daily blogs and listen to your daily podcasts.
It is also important while doing research on a specific topic, to see what others talk or write about it. Read interviews, watch YouTube shows, listen to podcasts and read blogs on that topic.
The podcast setup should always start with the gear.
Most likely you already have a headset and a microphone you can attach at any time to your computer or laptop. If you want to deliver a professional sound and a really good podcast, in terms of hardware, you’ll need more than that. You will need at least a voice microphone suitable for voice recordings.
Let’s take a look at two of the best options in this case:
The starter kit can include one of the most popular microphones of these days. It’s the Blue Yeti USB Microphone, a piece of hardware currently being used by a significant part of the existing podcasters. It will not deliver studio-like sounds but nevertheless, it will do its job flawless. And, it is not even expensive. All in all, Blue Yeti delivers good results for a microphone that costs only $100.
Another good option is the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Microphone, a piece of hardware that is used nowadays by Tim Ferris, one of the most successful podcasters. Both these microphones are compatible with today’s computers and laptops via USB.
If you are looking for something more professional and consequently more reliable than the above microphones, your options depend of course on your budget. My suggestion is to start with Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone.
If you are planning to use more than one microphone, you should also consider buying a sound mixer with at least two channels. It may help you even if you are using a single microphone since most of the mixers come with effects such as compressors which help you deliver a better, low noise sound.
If you are not willing to invest a lot in such a device, I recommend one of Behringer’s entry-level devices such as the XENYX Q802USB mixer that costs less than $100.
3. Suspension arm stand for the microphone
There are some microphone models that come with their own incorporated stands such as the Yeti model which I have already mentioned previously. For any other type of mic, however, you might need an adjustable stand/arm for your desk such as this model.
D. Get your software for recording
When it comes to software and apps, what do you need to start a podcast? Well, considering you’ve got your professional microphone and maybe even a professional audio mixer. You have the hardware you need to start recording but something is still missing.
Yes, it’s the recording software. And, this is pretty essential from now on.
There are numerous options available at this time. I suggest choosing one that suits best your needs and sticks to it because you will need time to learn it by heart. There’s a steep learning curve and you’ll have to dedicate a significant amount of your free time to acquire the skills.
What are your best options?
Well, there are free and commercial software programs available, each of them perfect for recording and mastering. Here are two of my choices:
Free Software: Audacity. If you are looking for free and reliable software, Audacity may be your best choice. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux as well and it is open source. Audacity is multi-track recording software that features a lot of effects and mastering tools that should be more than enough for a podcaster.
Commercial Software: Adobe Audition. Adobe comes with a full suite of professional software for designers and multimedia producers. Audition is their tool of choice for audio producers and it includes full capabilities for recording, mixing and mastering your content on a multi-track interface.
E. Podcast hosting services
You have everything you need at this point, starting with the winning ideas and up to the tools that enable you to record and master your tracks. Time has come to select your podcast hosting service and select the main framework that will allow you to share it with the public.
Here are some of the most popular and most reliable options:
Few podcasters choose this option and the reasons are self-explaining. Third party content delivery services provide you with a lot more opportunities and better reliability in terms of uptime and speed. Nevertheless, especially in the beginning, when you don’t expect a lot of traffic, you can self-host your podcast on your website.
Even if you choose not to, you’ll still need to adapt your website/blog to your podcast. What does this mean?
Well, it means two things altogether:
Adapt your main page visually to match the visual elements of the podcast (or, adapt the podcast to your already established and branded visual elements of the company/personal blog). Here’s an example from ProBlogger.
Choose a framework for your podcast. You will need a player to fit your page and make your podcast available to your audience onsite. Some of them will nevertheless subscribe to it via a content delivery system but at the same time, you should take care of the ones who chose not to. Take care of the people who still use your website as the main gateway to your content. To this end, I recommend Smart Podcast Player, the player that allows you to capture listeners’ email addresses and by doing that, help you market your podcast better.
Buzzsprout provides podcasters with a professional yet simple and effective solution to host, promote and track their podcasts. Their services are commercial but totally worth it, considering that more than 50k podcaster already chose them as their main tool.
This one allows you to easily submit your content to all the major podcast directories such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Sticher, Google Podcasts and Amazon Alexa.
Libsyn is a service that hosts, just like the previous one, over 50,000 shows on all topics and categories. It provides you with an all-in-one solution for podcasting, whether you are a beginner or an already well-known name in your field of knowledge and of course, among podcast listeners. Just like Buzzsprout, Libsyn allows you to submit your content to main podcasting directories as well. These include major platform such as iTunes.
F. Other tools for podcasting
We’re almost at the end of this long and informative journey on how to start a podcast of your own. By this time, almost everything has fallen into place and you are already set with everything you need in order to make this new exciting adventure a reality.
Before getting to the part where you get to publish your podcast, however, there are still some little details we need to discuss. I am referring to all the additional tools you may or may not need during the creative process. Here’s a list of the most important additions to your repertoire:
A recorder for Skype
It’s quite possible that when you invite someone to be featured as a guest on your podcast, they will not be able to physically come where you are. Thus, you’ll need to record a conversation with them and later process the audio recording and mix it into an episode.
My suggestion is to use not your phone but a dedicated calling app via the Internet such as Skype.
The tool allows you to make HD recordings of good quality. While on your podcasts you will only need the sound, you might find the video stream useful as well when you promote your podcasts on social media.
You can use short behind the scenes video samples or video samples from your calls for Instagram Stories, Social Media ads or on Facebook.
Pamela for Skype is another option that is similar to the above one. Like Ecamm’s tool, this one is able to record your Skype calls and deliver professional recordings that you can use in your podcast. The tool is available for a 30 days trial period and therefore, you can give it a try regardless of your existing budget or the fact that you are already using another app.
There are a lot of tools available in this category. I am not sure whether or not you are already using one in your daily work but I suggest to start right now if you don’t. Podcasting is a side project that will add up to your already existing projects and in order to make this work, you’ll need to stay organized.
Plus, you will need to keep track of all your guests, your schedules and your collaborators. I suggest a simple and effective free tool like Trello which more than likely will prove to be enough. Other options may include Evernote, Monday or Todoist.
A cloud-based storage account
While it’s better to record and master your files offline, I would recommend a cloud-based storage for backup. You never know what can happen with your local disks. And, you might need to share some of your files among your collaborators or with your guests. It doesn’t matter the service you choose, be it a local business, OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or other similar services. It is important to save your files in the cloud and keep them safe from everything bad that could happen.
G. How to submit your podcast to the main directories
At this point, we’re almost done. Everything you need to know has already been discussed but there might still be a thing to talk about: I am referring to the content delivery platform of your choosing. You need to select your podcasting platform and use it in order to give unlimited access to your content to the audience. You can select one or more, depending on your strategy but what is important is to choose it wisely. Here are some of your best options:
How to start a podcast on Spotify
Spotify is one of the most popular audio platforms of today and there are a lot of podcasts there, waiting for the audience to find them.
You can submit your podcast to Spotify via Libsyn or Buzzsprout or you can do it entirely on your own. You can do it directly.
If, on the other hand, you want your podcast to be available on iTunes, you will need a hosting platform such as Libsyn and Buzzsprout as well. Also, you will need to check out the podcasts specs and try to adapt to them.
Once you have settled for a podcast hosting platform, you can retrieve your RSS and upload it on iTunes. After that, you will have to wait for approval and once you get it, to continue to update your feed with new content.
How to start a podcast on Google Play
If on the other hand, you want to publish on Google Play Music, you will need a working feed as well. All the major content delivery networks which I have already mentioned above support feed export by default. What you need to know is that the feed should be compatible and for this, you need to consult Google’s requirements available here.
How to start a podcast for free
This is a question that most of the future podasters ask. And, this is a piece of information people need to know because regardless the fact that you want to choose a commercial content delivery system or not, you may want to also release your content by yourself on a free platform. At least, you will consider this option in the beginning, before knowing how popular your show will get.
Here, you can create and host an unlimited number of episodes, distribute your show everywhere, and, if you are up to it, even make some money. All the tools you need are in just one place, and they are all for free.
What do you have to do?
Well, you have to sign up with service. It’s quite easy, as you don’t need to make more than one little step:
Fill in your name and your email address and you are good to go.
The main interface is easy to use and understand. You get an “upload new episode” button, a sharing area and of course, some settings:
You can now update with your name, email address, the description of the podcast, your cover art and your official website. These are all information that will be available to your audience and part of your own account.
You can later come back and change some of the data but nevertheless, I suggest paying attention and getting everything right from the start.
With Anchor.fm you can record your podcast from virtually anywhere (Android and iOS apps are available for free.). You get access to full analytics, audio editing tools and audio creation tools as well. Moreover, all the services are free and the hosting space is unlimited.
You can therefore start a podcast on Anchor and keep doing it on Anchor without concerning about future costs.
H. Mistakes to avoid
Before really concluding this guide, it’s only obvious that we should discuss some of the biggest mistakes you may commit while preparing for podcasting, recording or publishing your material. Making money from podcasts is hard but things will get even harder if you are ignoring your mistakes and not learn from them.
What things should you avoid? Here are some examples:
Select a too broad topic. It’s important to select a topic that you know about, something you are really prepared both technically and educationally to deliver a professional podcast about. A niche will help you a lot while a broader topic wouldn’t. Why? If it’s too broad, you have too much competition from third parties. You don’t want it.
Fail to deliver calls to action. Even if you are not in the business of selling a product or a service, you need properly crafted calls to action in order to actively engage your audience. And, of course, to prepare them for the time where you will have something to advertise. Because, if you are going to become popular, you will be contacted by third party companies who will want to sell ads on your podcast.
Using low-quality hardware. Your message might be delivered even if you are not investing in proper audio equipment. However, if you want to pass as a professional, every detail matters. The technical aspects of the podcast matter as much as your content. Commit to being professional in all aspects.
Failing to submit to podcast directories. You can always host a podcast on your own and market it to your already established online community of friends and fans. If you really need to get your voice out there and reach out to a large audience, you need to go where your potential listeners are. And, in order to do that, if you remember my previous pieces of advice, you need podcast directories that enable you to submit to Google, Apple, and Spotify with ease and efficiency.
I. How to start a podcast network
If you feel confident about podcasting being the thing that was missing from your life for the whole time, you can consider creating a podcast network of your own. I am not talking about simply recording a podcast and sharing it with your friends. This is something you need to really calculate and invest in. It’s a task that you should start to even consider only when you thing you are a hundred percent up to it.
Podcast Network definition:
A podcast network is a network of podcasts shows connected by a similar theme, topic, brand or ownership. The podcast network can produce, distribute or made available to advertisers through a single company, or network.
But, what if you really want to do this? What do you need?
Well, there are several things that are important at this point. Here’s the short list:
An identity (logo, brand name, graphic elements)
An audio introduction
A legal agreement for users and hosts
Let’s take each and every one of these aforementioned things and describe them in detail:
A. The website
This part is self explanatory but at the same time, is probably the most important part of the whole process. Therefore, I couldn’t just let it out of this article.
In order to set up a podcast network, you need a dedicated website and in order to do it, you will need a professional web design company or a team of professional coders. It is just not enough to know how to install a WordPress CMS and a theme for it.
You need to really work on the technical details for this to be happening for you.
B. The logo
At this point, considering that you have everything you need to set up the website, it’s time to consider some branding. You need a logo to be recognized for and of course, some social media marketing where you get to publicize that logo and allow users to be aware that you are there and that you are serious about your business.
C. The audio introduction
Podcasting is similar to radio. At least, it is similar to how radio stations used to work back in the day when they were mainstream. Do you remember listening to it? Do you remember what made them stand out from the crowd?Yes, it was that short audio introduction you got to hear between commercials or at the beginning and the end of each show. It’s a short audio spot of the station which tells us the name of the station and other important or significant details. You will need that for your network. It will help you market your brand and build awareness on it.
D. The legal agreement
You will also need a legal agreement for the website and for you podcasting network. This agreement should clarify a few key elements such as: Who owns the feed, what’s in it for the podcasters and what do you expect from them, etc. Also, it should clarify the hosting service, if you are able to host the files, how much is your bandwidth and what limitations are there.
Are you ready to start your own podcast? Are you aware of how much work you will need to do even before hitting record for the first time? With this article, I tried to put together some of the best strategies you need to put together in order to learn how to start a podcast for free or, how to start it with a minimal budget. I’ve covered all aspects regarding both these options and hopefully, you will be able to extract the exact information you need from this otherwise extensive guide.
Should there be any other tools, pieces of advice or hardware components you know about and feel they should integrate into this guide, please share some of your wisdom with us in the comments section.