A step by step guide to help you start a successful podcast to build your audience, and share your passion and expertise with the world
If you’re looking to showcase your expertise or build your professional profile, starting a podcast can be an effective means.
While podcasts have been around for almost two decades, in the past five years they’ve truly hit their stride.
That’s partly due to emerging software that has made the process easier, but also because of a growing audience’s insatiable appetite for exciting, innovative, and informative content.
As of March 2021, there were 1.9 million podcasts circulating on the internet via platforms like Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and more, with 47 million episodes available. This shows just how popular podcasting is.
Meanwhile, statistics indicate podcast listenership has more than doubled since 2016, with 77.9 million people in the US alone listening to a podcast at least once a week.
But how can you capitalize on this trend and start your own? Well, let’s walk through the process of how to start a podcast.
The benefits of podcasting
Podcasting is a great way to build your audience and expertise, allowing you to be seen online and become more searchable.
Depending on the guests you bring in, it also allows you to build networks and become more referable.
In the interim, podcasting ensures you are seen on new and fresh platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or SoundClound.
On a more personal level, podcasting allows you to forge a deeper connection with your audience as you become part of their day.
Perhaps the best thing about podcasts is that your audience can tune in at their leisure – whether that’s driving to work, in the evening, or while they’re completing otherwise mundane tasks.
So, let’s get started…
Related: How To Make Money Podcasting
Pick a topic
Chances are you already have a topic for your podcast in mind, but it’s important to consider your potential audience as part of the planning process.
Ask yourself, who will this type of content appeal to, and why? This will help you shape the format of your podcast and may also help you attract sponsors.
The topic you select should be related to something you are passionate about, have insight into, or are looking to understand more about.
This means topics can be based on anything – from your hobbies, to your business sector, to your professional expertise, and more.
The role of the host
As the podcast host, your role is to share other people’s stories or educate your market, but you might also opt to include a co-host as well.
If that’s the case then great, but you will need to ensure you are on the same page when it comes to the direction each podcast will take, and that may require planning.
Meanwhile, as the host, you have a couple of hats to wear. Obviously, the first is to lead the conversation and this requires planning in order to create a flow to go from one destination to another as part of an episode that connects with your audience.
In addition to leading the conversation in each episode, the podcast host is also the face of the podcast and the person people are looking out for on iTunes or Spotify.
Choose a name
Selecting the right name for your podcast may take time. The title should be short, recognizable and align with your brand and the topics you’re likely to cover.
Ultimately this name is what people will subscribe to and follow on the podcast listening platform of their choice.
To assist, here are some tips:
- Keep it short.
- Search for any possible competition or names that might be confused with your podcast.
- Don’t make it obscure (it should be easy to search and readily recognisable).
- Consider how it would look as a graphic in your podcast artwork.
- Try to come up with something that aligns with your business, your brand and the topics you are likely to discuss.
When it comes to podcasting, there are different types of formats, and depending on your topic, some styles might suit better than others.
Podcast styles include:
- Interview podcasts: These podcasts feature a single host who interviews individuals within a particular industry or as part of a topic theme.
- Scripted non-fiction: Typically, these are serial-style podcasts that have a single theme for a full season.
- News recap: A format that summarizes the news within a specific industry.
- Educational podcasts: Scripted non-fiction that focuses on teaching their audience.
- Scripted fiction: These podcasts are similar to radio dramas and are often scripted and highly produced.
Planning your podcast tips
Planning and preparation is key to success and connecting to your audience.
Define your podcast purpose and goals – Who is your audience, what are their interests, which topics are likely to appeal to them, and what length will your podcast likely be (15 mins, 30-45 mins, an hour)?
Don’t forget to be crystal clear on your personal goals for your podcast. Ask yourself, is the aim of your podcast to:
- Generate leads for a business.
- Be recognized as a leader in an industry.
- Share an important message.
- Have fun.
- Tell Stories.
Make a copy of our Podcast Planning board to help you with your planning process
Create Cover Art
Like a logo, your podcast cover art is a differentiator between you and other content. Your cover art should reflect the tone, feel, and brand of your podcast, and be readily recognizable as this is the artwork that listeners will identify your podcast with.
You can have a graphic designer create your cover art. Alternatively, you can utilize tools such as Canva, or outsource your cover art to a freelancer on a service like Fiverr or Upwork.
Get a professional Intro
A professional introduction isn’t a necessity but is worth considering.
Comprising a voice-over and music, it introduces the podcast and its theme. Again, this acts as a readily recognizable feature of your podcast and should reflect the tone and topics of your production.
A voice-over introduction also helps shift listeners into the right mindset for your podcast while identifying to new audience members what your show is all about.
If you have sponsors, the introduction is a great way of highlighting that sponsorship by including who the podcast is brought to listeners by.
There are some great services available for podcast intro voiceovers, including affordable options like Fiverr, Upwork etc.
Choose Intro Music
Diving straight into your podcast is a little bit jarring, which is why most podcasts feature introductory music.
If you are considering using music, ensure it isn’t licensed and can be utilized for the purposes of a podcast.
You could have theme music specifically created for your podcast or opt for an existing tune. Importantly, this theme music should also fit with the tone and content of your podcast.
Setting up your recording space
Obsessing over sound quality should never prevent you from actually launching your show and getting episodes out there.
Content and consistency are definitely more important than your actual audio. However, that’s not to say the sound of your show isn’t important – far from it.
As your podcast grows and matures you will start to strive for a more professional sound, and that’s where your home recording studio becomes pretty important. It’s not all about what mic you use or the set-up of your recording studio.
Sound proofing, or sound treatment?
Firstly, it’s worth clarifying something that many podcasters tend to get confused over.
There’s a big difference between sound ‘proofing’ and sound ‘treatment’.
To ‘soundproof’ a room means you are isolating it from any unwanted external noise elsewhere in the building.
There’s a misconception that by putting up some foam acoustic tiles on a wall that you’re ‘soundproofing’ the room. But that isn’t going to have any impact on noise bleeding through from outside.
To ‘sound treat’ a room means you are going to improve the way sound sounds within that room. So why might you want to do that?
Acoustics and reverb
Buying a top of the range microphone is all well and good, but if you’re recording your show down a well or in a cave, it’s still going to sound bad.
Excessive reverb or echo on your voice can make your show sound amateurish. A room with a lot of hard and bare surfaces will have your voice bouncing around like a pinball machine.
On the other hand, a room with a lot of soft and furnished surfaces will prevent that from happening. Think of the way your voice sounds in the bathroom, compared to in the bedroom.
Finding the best sounding room or area in your house is a great starting point if it isn’t possible to create a dedicated podcasting space. For most people, improvisation is key…
There are numerous reasons why you might not be able to dedicate an entire room to becoming a podcast studio. Whether you share the house with your family or flatmates, or you simply don’t have the space, a permanent setup isn’t an option for everyone.
So what are the alternative options?
- Use a pre-existing area – This might simply be the best sounding (softest furnished) room in your house, or it might be a walk-in wardrobe full of hanging clothes
- Localised treatment – Instead of worrying about the sound of the room, create a small ‘studio’ around yourself and your mic. This might be anything from popping your mic into a cat bed, to draping a doona over a clothes rack
Whatever setup you put together though, just make sure it’s comfortable enough to actually record a full podcast episode with!
If you’ve got a bit more room in your house, you can set up a recording studio that can still be used for other non-audio-related purposes.
You can buy or make sound-treated baffling boards or partitions on stands. These can be set up to form a mini ‘dead room’ around your recording area, and can be tidied away afterward – though you’ll still need a reasonable amount of room to store them.
Another option is to use acoustic blankets or curtains which can be hung on rails or hooks.
External/Internal Noise Considerations
Are any of the walls of the room external or joined to your neighbor’s house? Does your neighbor tend to play the drums, watch the television at a high volume, or have a dog that never stops barking?
If the bulk of unwanted noise comes from outside, then you might get away with blocking up the window. But if the building has paper thin walls that bleed sound, then you’d probably be better off just recording in your car, or even outside.
Get a microphone
A quality microphone is a bit of a podcasting necessity but that doesn’t mean it has to break the bank. The most important factors to look for include usability, sound quality, and suitability.
For example, if you’re likely to be recording on the run, a dual lapel mic might be best. If you’re always in your studio, a bigger model might be better.
It also pays to consider what you will be using your microphone with. For example, if you’re recording via smartphone or tablet, a 3.5mm input will be best.
If you’re using a computer, then a simple plug-n-play USB input will fit the bill. And if you’re super serious about podcasting, you might wish to consider an XLR microphone that requires additional hardware in the form of an audio interface or mixer to connect to your computer.
The biggest tip is to do your research on what microphone might work best within your budget, and keep in mind that you can always upgrade your equipment should your podcast prove an outstanding success.
You may or may not wish to have guests on your podcast.
If you do, the role of the guest is to bring knowledge, some expertise or to have a following that they bring with them to expand your podcast reach.
When considering potential guests for your podcast, assess the following:
- Look for fit first – to ensure their ideas and expertise suit your audience and are interesting to your listeners
- Following – Do they have a following? Are they considered experts in their field and will they bring new listeners to the table to expand your podcast’s reach?
- Make it easy – It’s important to make it easy for guests throughout the podcasting process. So that means making it easy for them to turn up (through tools like booking calendars)
You should also ensure they are comfortable by providing topics and information about what to expect.
- Use readily available tools – In addition to making bookings and preparation easy, you should also make it simple for the guest to actually attend the podcast recording. For example, supply Zoom links for the interview
- Give them the spotlight – Be sure to allow your guests to share their knowledge and engage with the audience through a conversation between the host and the guest
- Encourage sharing – Podcasting is all about audience reach. So, you should encourage your guests to share your podcast. You can do this by supplying them with the recorded audio, and with easy to share artwork, social tiles and podcast links
- Thank your guests – Let people know where they can find the guest and then share the podcast
We have example guest releases and checklists you can use in the Ps of Podcasting.
You may or you may not choose to use sponsors for your podcast, or that might be something you consider when your podcast has built an audience following.
The sponsor’s role is to pay for placement. They might sponsor your show, to have a placement in the show, or sponsor an episode.
You might need to find and approach them and offer your audience profile, listening numbers, and then outline the benefits of what’s in it for them.
Alternatively, they might come to you, or they may be among your listeners.
The other way sponsors may come to you is through your posts. Their role is to pay to be heard, or pay to be mentioned.
If you’re considering a podcast sponsor, you should find someone who fits with your podcast, will work with you and who is relevant to your audience. It needs to be a win-win relationship.
Recording and editing
Now you’ve got your studio set up, your microphone on hand and your podcast planned out, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of recording.
But first, you need to turn your attention to a couple of technical matters, including whether or not you require an audio editor, which platform will host your podcast, and any other software involved.
Once you’ve recorded your podcast, it will need editing. The editing process stitches together things like your introductory voice-over, theme music, then the actual content of that specific podcast, whether it’s an interview style or a monologue.
This audio process also allows you to smooth out issues like filler words (so, you know, um, ah, well) and repeated words.
When it comes to audio editing there are two main options: outsourcing to an editor or DIY software.
Outsourcing your audio editing
In today’s gig economy there are plenty of companies and freelancers who specialize in audio editing. Just make sure you receive an example of their work first and you are clear on the price involved.
Audio editing software
If you’re keen to try your hand at editing yourself or are looking for a budget-friendly option, there are also a host of software solutions on offer.
For example, Alitu is software that automates the process, balancing your audio, reducing background noise, and converting your files.
Meanwhile, there’s also readily available options like Garageband (for Mac and Apple), which also happens to be free.
With the technical side of things taken care of, you’re almost up to the exciting bit where you officially launch your podcast and upload that first episode.
But first there are a few extra items to take care of.
Choose your podcast hosting platform
Your podcast needs to be stored somewhere so that it can be accessed by listeners. Akin to website hosting, your podcast hosting platform will then connect with podcast search engines like Shopify and Apple Podcasts.
Things to look for in your podcast hosting service include storage, usability, and analytics. Many will also offer website plugins so that you can publish your podcast to your own website and the platform will take care of the podcast upload and sharing from there.
There are over 100 podcast hosting services currently available, but some of the top ones include:
Upload Your First Episode
With any luck you’ve picked a podcast hosting platform that allows uploading to be simple. The service should facilitate the quick upload of an MP3 file and it will take care of the rest.
Then you will also need to enter the episode title, description, summary, publish date, and episode number.
As a tip, it’s a great idea to create your podcast description in advance in a text document, then just copy and paste it across as part of each episode upload.
Another great tip is to launch with more than one episode available, so people can listen to a couple of your podcasts should they want to hear more.
Submit to Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, and Google Podcasts
After you’ve published your first episode, you can begin submitting it to the big names of the podcasting world such as Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
The process involved is similar for each, but goes like this:
- Copy the RSS link of your podcast from your hosting platform (it’s a simple URL)
- Submit it to the podcast directories where you want your show to appear (Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts are the most popular)
- Once you’ve copied the RSS link for the first episode, you won’t need to do so again. Each new episode will automatically be picked up from your feed
- Be patient. It can take a while for that first episode to appear (up to a couple of weeks), but after that, each show should appear within a day
- Each time you publish an episode, the description you have entered into your hosting platform should also automatically transfer across
Spread the word
Once you’ve launched your podcast, you are going to want to tell people about it, and you can do this on the social media channels of your choice, and on your existing website.
You should also reach out to your email contact list to advise them of your podcast launch.
Don’t forget to include the link to your podcast on socials and in emails, so people can simply click and listen.
Recommended steps (after starting a podcast)
Now your podcast is up and running, the attention turns to growing your audience and value adding. You also want to ensure your podcast is easy to access, easy to digest, and perhaps offers key takeaways or insights in the form of show notes.
Create a website
If you are not posting your podcast to an existing website, you may wish to create a site or set up an additional one where all the information about your podcast lives.
This site will feature information about the podcast and information about you, along with the episodes for people to listen to and perhaps even episode guides and key takeaways.
Transcribing each episode is a great way to convert the conversation within a podcast into a usable and easily accessible form.
There are a number of free options that allow you to transcribe audio into written text, but if you’re looking for a great solution that enables you to listen and edit both text and media at the same time, Descript is a solid place to start.
Bear in mind, few transcription services are 100 percent accurate, but they are getting better and better.
You will probably have to clean up any transcription a little to ensure the correct words are reflected and local spellings of things like place names are right.
Once you have this transcript, you can use it in a host of different ways, for example:
- Post the whole transcript along with the episode
- Create show notes from it
- Find the best quotes, and convert them to memes to promote your podcast on social media
- Create a blog post from the episode
Create show notes
Show notes allow people to gain information from your podcast at a glance. They reflect the key takeaways of the episode and might also then delve a little deeper into what was said so people have an action guide and steps they can take next.
You might also wish to include any links and resources mentioned in your podcast within your show notes.
Embed your episode
You should ensure your episode is available to listen to easily on your site, and that might involve embedding it as part of your show notes or within a blog post.
Embedding is simply a way of grabbing the content you want from a third-party site and then having it display in its original form on your own.
The process is also simple. Just right click on the podcast in Apple Podcast, Spotify etc, copy the embed code and then paste that where you want it as an embed code on your site.
Final tips and takeaways
Starting a podcast is a great way of showcasing your expertise and building an audience. It’s also a hugely popular form of content that people can listen to wherever they are.
If you are planning to start a podcast with a view to building following, it’s important you:
- Turn up regularly, so people get to know, like and trust you
- Remember as the host, your role is to inspire, engage and connect
- Don’t let perfection get in the way of starting out, you can hone the finer points as your podcast grows
Deep dive with me into each of these steps and more in the P’s of Podcasting Course built here right on Thinkific!
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