In recent years, podcasts have become an increasingly popular way for people to get new information and entertainment. From current affairs shows, comedy or TV recap shows to storytelling and meditation sessions that can help you drift off to sleep, and there truly is a podcast for everybody.
As the demand for different podcasts continues to grow, so does the number of people looking to start their shows. In fact, for podcast hosts, the popularity of their show can turn what was once a hobby into a business that makes real money through advertising.
If you’re thinking about starting your podcast – don’t be fooled. It’s not as easy as you think!
There’s a lot of planning to do before you hit that record button. You also need to make sure your recording equipment is of the highest quality possible to get crystal clear vocals. And finally, you need to deliver content that is appealing enough to generate a dedicated audience and to bring new ears to your show week after week.
That’s why we’ve put together this definitive guide on how to start a podcast. To get you on the right track and to help you give your show the professional finish that attracts both listeners and advertisers.
We’ll take you on a step by step journey, from planning to publishing, giving you all the information you need to get your podcast climbing the charts and earning popularity.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
Table of Contents
Why Are You Starting A Podcast?
Before anything else, it’s essential to ask yourself why you’re starting a podcast. Are you part of a business that’s trying out a new marketing strategy? Or are you a hobbyist who’s looking for a new way to share your thoughts on something you’re passionate about?
Whatever your reasons for starting a podcast, you need to make sure your chosen subject is going to give you enough new information to create engaging and exciting content regularly. Just as necessary though, your subject has to make you enthusiastic and motivated, because if you’re not enthusiastic about it, no-one else will be either. New content. Enthusiasm. Got it? Good. On we go.
Who Is Going To Listen?
Not only is it important to ask yourself why you’re starting a podcast. It’s also a good idea to figure out who you’re creating it for. Unless you have a target audience, you’re hoping to build through engaging content, the chances of your audience growing over time are pretty low. Podcasting for you, your dog and the fleas might be a cute bonding experience. A good podcast development strategy, it is not.
Finding your audience goes hand in hand with deciding what the theme of your podcast is. For example, if you’re a beauty therapist coming at your podcast from a business angle, then your target audience will be people interested in skincare, health, wellbeing, and self-care.
Likewise, if you’re creating a ‘hobbyist’ podcast on gardening, your audience will be people who want to care for plants and learn more about gardens around the year.
This is why finding a strong theme with evergreen content is so important. Without a strong thesis, there’s no incentive to listen.
Why Will They Listen?
Once you’ve decided on your podcast’s theme and you have a better understanding of your target audience, it’s time to think about why they’ll tune into your show. What will keep your audience coming back week after week?
You need to give people a reason to listen, and the best way to do that is to make sure your podcast’s content is fresh, engaging, informative, and entertaining.
That’s much easier to do if you’ve got a theme based around a passion. Specific podcast formats, like the interview format, will provide you with new material each week, as a different guest on every episode will share their thoughts on your chosen subject.
You might also have an alternative point of view to other podcasts around the same subject, which is guaranteed to draw people in to hear what you have to say. Having an original viewpoint in the world is always valuable.
One great way to figure out why people will listen to your podcast is to ask what keeps you coming back to your favorite shows yourself.
What makes the shows so good? And is there anything you wish they’d do differently? Asking yourself these questions can help you plan out your show and keep your content fresh.
How To Name Your Podcast
Naming your podcast requires some thought, especially if you’re hoping to become discoverable and for your audience to grow steadily over time. You might already have a name in mind, but before you decide, let’s look at the three main types of podcast name groups and see where your idea fits.
The first of these groups is the Clever Name. It is where a podcast’s name is loosely based around the theme of the show and is often a pun. For example, a podcast about cooking might be called ‘Knives Out.’
You need to be careful with a Clever Name format, though, especially if you’re growing an audience from zero. What feels clever in your head can be confusing for potential new listeners as they try to work out exactly what the theme of your show is. Knives Out? Cookery? Politics? Blade-making? A fancast about Daniel Craig movie? What?
That’s why it’s often a good idea to incorporate a tagline into your podcast’s name, which gives a small but detailed description of your podcast.
The second naming group is the Descriptive Name, and with this, you’ll be saying what the podcast is about through the name alone. For example, if you’re a stylist with a podcast named ‘The Fashion Podcast,’ there will be no doubt over what it is your podcast is about.
It is crucial, though, to try and keep it short and catchy when using the Descriptive Name format. Anything too long and you’ll risk people skipping past it as they search. Remember also that you’ll need to say the name of your podcast on each episode, so it needs to roll off the tongue naturally.
The third option is to name your podcast after yourself. But unless you’re already an established business or a celebrity, this is a no-no, as your audience will have no idea who you are or what your show is about. So why should the people care you have a podcast? Why should they stop, and read your description, and download a taster episode? What, if you name your podcast after yourself, will make them do that?
Think of it like a book jacket. If you’d written a book, and you named it after yourself, with just your name on the cover, would that get people to buy it and take it home?
Not unless your name happens to be Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. Otherwise, probably not.
If you’re determined to name your show after yourself, though, use a descriptor. For example, if your theme is sailing, don’t call your show ‘The John Smith Show.’ Go for something that gives your audience a better idea of what your podcast is about, such as ‘Sailing with John Smith.’ That way, people will still have no idea who you are, but they’ll know you like fishing. If they like fishing too – if they’re potential repeat listeners – they might well give you a try.
Writing A Compelling Podcast Description
While naming your show appropriately is an integral part of the process, writing the description of your podcast is potentially the most important thing you’ll have to do. Getting this right will sell your show, compel people to listen, and ensure that your audience grows at a steady rate.
Your podcast’s description is like the back of a book. You want to hook people in by giving them some information, but not too much. You want them to understand the theme of the show, and you want them to be curious enough to try you.
Now, let’s get technical. Unlike the name of your podcast, a podcast description doesn’t get taken into account with search results, so there’s no point in stuffing it with keywords. Keep it as brief as possible so that your potential audience doesn’t get the whole picture, but get enough info to lure them into wanting to learn more.
What Is The Best Length For A Podcast?
There isn’t a golden rule for the length of a podcast. The timing can vary from episode to episode and largely depends on the quality of the content in that one episode.
If you’ve got a guest who’s giving you some fantastic material, there’s no point in editing it out just to keep the episode within a specific timeframe. Likewise, if you’re a little low on content that week, padding it out with low-quality material could lead to your listeners switching off through boredom.
You also need to think about how much time you’ve got to record, edit, and publish your podcast. If you’re short on time throughout the week, aim to create a podcast with a shorter run time of around 15-20 minutes. If you’d like to go longer, then 45-60 minutes is usually the best length for keeping your audience’s attention. Beyond that, you risk going from entertaining and informative to just holding up their day.
How Often Should I Release A Podcast Episode?
How often is the most common question from new podcasters, but there isn’t a set answer to it. Choose a publishing schedule that works for you, and which catches most of your potential listeners at a convenient moment in their week.
If you know your life only allows you the space to release a podcast once a month, stick with that. If you can find the time to publish biweekly or even weekly, that’s even better because, in podcasting, regularity breeds familiarity.
Much like a season of your favorite TV show, the key is to keep consistent as your podcast grows, and your audience increases along with it. Following a set day for release lets your listeners know when to expect your show and gives them something to look forward to.
Another thing to think about when considering the regularity of your podcast is what day would be best to release new episodes on. The theme of your podcast can guide you here, and using the Monday-Friday working week will give you a good idea of what people want to listen to on which days.
For example, a motivational or self-care podcast would be a great Monday release and would be appealing to commuters making their way into the office after the weekend’s festivities. The same is true of dietcasts, and Marie Kondo-style organizational podcasts. Anything that feels like it needs a definite start date, regular motivation, or repeated practice has a very Monday energy.
Comedy podcasts are best suited for mid-week release when a lot of people need that extra boost and start to look forward to the weekend. Podcasts offering advice on DIY tasks or gardening jobs should launch on Friday. Why? Because your listener has a free weekend ahead of them, and the information you’ve offered will be fresh in their mind. If you can link your content and your listeners’ action, they’ll remember you and tell other people.
How To Choose Good Podcast Episode Titles
Just like naming your podcast, the title of each episode needs to be descriptive and searchable if you’d like your audience to grow consistently week after week.
The single biggest mistake anybody can make when naming episodes of their podcast is to label them as ‘Episode 1’, ‘Episode 2’, etc. That’s an information black hole. It gives your existing audience no idea what you’re discussing that week, offers nothing enticing to potential new listeners, and will remain hidden entirely in terms of searchability.
Try to relate to something said during the podcast that will spark interest or use descriptive titles such as ‘How to…’ or ‘Five Tips On…’ These phrases are useful because they ask information-questions in the listener’s mind. If offered a podcast on ‘How to…’ do a thing, they’ll wonder if they’ve ever actually known how to do the job. And suddenly they’re thinking about your podcast and possibly thinking they can spare the time to find out how to do the thing. And click to download.
In the case of a TV recap show, it’s usually a good idea to name each episode so that it corresponds with the season and episode of the show. That way, your listeners will know which episode you’re discussing, and won’t be given any spoilers if they fall behind with the TV show itself.
Which Podcast Format Should You Use?
There are many podcast formats to choose from, and it’s important to think about which one is best suited to the theme of your show. For example, if you’re planning on bringing in a guest each episode to talk about a particular topic, the interview format is your friend.
If you’re thinking about starting a podcast with multiple guests or co-hosts, the panel show format is the way to go.
The reason that choosing the correct podcast format is so important is that it helps you plan each episode of your show more effectively. It delivers consistency from episode to episode, and ultimately, it makes your life a lot easier when it comes to recording and editing your show. Your format is your roadmap for each episode and the podcast as a whole. It’s your journey from A-B, and both you and your listeners will come to know what to expect from that journey.
What Recording Equipment Do I Need?
Recording a podcast is more technical than you might think – at least, it is if you want to do it well. While equipment like a microphone and a computer are essential, there are a few other pieces that will bring your podcast up to the highest professional standard.
Let’s start with microphones. Two types of microphones are commonly in podcasting: condenser microphones and dynamic microphones. Each mic is designed to record in different environments, and you need to think about the format of your show when making this choice.
A condenser microphone is better suited for a quiet recording environment, such as a professional studio or a home setup where background noise is at a minimum. It is because they are extremely sensitive and work across a broad frequency range to record as much sound as possible. This sensitivity also gives a much more natural tone to vocal recordings, which is why they are often the preferred microphone type for podcasting.
Dynamic microphones are much less sensitive and can concentrate on vocals while simultaneously drowning out background noise. Making them better suited for a podcast that often records outside, has multiple guests or co-hosts, or that records in front of a live audience.
The pickup pattern of your microphone is another vital consideration, and like the choice between condenser and dynamic, it will affect the sound quality of your recording. There are two main types to look out for here.
The first of these is an omnidirectional pickup pattern. That records across a 360º arc. It picks up sound all around while concentrating on what’s in front of the microphone and reducing ambient background noise.
A cardioid pickup pattern, on the other hand, works across a 180º arc directly in front of it, naturally drowning out background noise and focusing more on vocals. Cardioid is the type of pickup pattern most commonly used for condenser microphones, but it also makes a great choice if you intend on recording outside occasionally.
Your laptop needs to have certain features to make your podcast perfect. Most importantly, it requires a lot of memory and high processing speed. That’s because you need to store each episode of your show safely after release. You also need somewhere to keep episodes that are yet to be published. And you need to run your recording and editing software efficiently.
The audio quality of your laptop needs to be of the highest standard you can afford. That’s important because you need to listen back to your recording during the editing process and pick out the smallest details when you’re adjusting the sound levels.
Many podcasters also use either an audio interface or a mixer as part of their recording setup. While they’re not imperative, they can help you adjust your sound levels across multiple microphones and can take a lot of work out of post-record editing.
A pair of headphones is an essential part of your recording kit. They’ll help you concentrate on what you and your guests are saying and block out any distracting background noise while you’re recording.
The right pair of podcasting headphones can enhance your recording experience. For example, wireless headphones will give you and your guest the freedom to move and settle comfortably into your studio without feeling restricted by a cable.
What Recording And Editing Software Do I Need?
Your studio is all set up with the correct equipment. Now – what recording and editing software do you need to give your podcast that professional polish?
The good news is that it doesn’t need to cost you the earth. There is some excellent software available that doesn’t cost you a cent. Among the best is Audacity, which is free of charge and will give you more or less everything you need from podcast editing software.
Another great piece of recording and editing software is Adobe Audition. Audition is packed full of features and is an excellent choice for anybody who already has experience of editing audio. It’s not free of charge but is available through a paid subscription.
Whatever software you choose, make sure it’s compatible with your laptop’s operating system, as some are designed specifically for use with either MAC or Windows. It’s also worth getting a package that can be used across both operating systems, as you may decide to upgrade your laptop to a different model at a later date.
How To Script A Podcast Episode
Having the best podcasting equipment and editing software in the world means nothing unless you’ve got a clear idea of what you’re going to say once you’ve hit record. That means it’s a good idea to script your show ahead of recording.
Scripting doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to write down everything you plan to say, word for word. In fact, doing that will likely create a monotonous tone that will sound as though you’re reading from a script and will soon bore your listeners.
Scripting a podcast is merely laying out a plan of what you want to say so that you remember to cover all your points. If you’re using a podcast producer, this is something they’ll do for you, but if you’re just starting, plan your script out in a way that makes sense to you.
A simple list of bullet points should be enough to keep you on track. The nature of most podcasts is natural and conversational, so your script should keep you on track, without telling you exactly what to say.
The only slight exception to this rule is for podcasts that use the interview format, as you’ll need to have a set of questions written down to ask your guest. However, remember that you also have flexibility with your script. If your guest responds in a way that naturally opens up to an unscripted question, go with it!
How To Talk Into A Microphone
Perhaps the most awkward thing you’ll need to get past when you start recording your podcast is how to talk into a microphone. It doesn’t necessarily mean how to speak into the mic physically, but how to cope with the feeling of speaking aloud to an invisible audience.
The best way to get past this is to create a persona and use that to pretend you’re speaking to someone. This will automatically make your tone and inflection seem more natural, which in turn will translate better and give your podcast that conversational tone.
Of course, recording with a co-host or featuring a guest each week makes speaking into the microphone a lot less awkward. When you have a rapport already, your voice will naturally drop into conversational ease.
However, even in this instance, it’s still worth practicing with your made-up persona, as the podcast’s introduction, or any paid advertisements, will have to be spoken by you alone.
How To Record Remote Guests
Occasionally – or even frequently in the age of Covid-19 – you may want to invite a guest onto your podcast who is unable to travel to your studio. In this instance, you need to think about how you can record them remotely but still get high-quality audio.
One of the most common, and perhaps the easiest, ways of doing this is to use a web-based meeting program such as Skype or Zoom. Simply record the entire call before running it through your editing software and adjusting for sound quality.
If you like to advertise upcoming episodes across social media, these programs can also grab screenshots using your laptop, allowing you to get a photograph with your guest even though you’re not in the same location.
How To Edit Your Podcast
There are some essential things to remember when editing a podcast, and while your chosen editing software will do a lot of the work, some decisions you’ll need to make yourself.
The first thing you need to do is listen to your recorded audio all the way through. Note which parts are absolute gold and cannot be removed from the episode. Honestly assess the elements that can probably be left out.
Once you’ve made these cuts and stitched your show back together in a way that sounds natural, check that the sound levels from all the microphones involved are consistent throughout.
Dips in sound and volume can be off-putting to listeners, and you run the risk of your audience switching off if the quality of the audio isn’t up to standard. Luckily, this is fixed easily with the right editing software. Of course, if you’ve used an audio interface or a mixer to record with, you’ll have already done most of the hard work before it comes to editing.
Choosing Music For Your Podcast
Just like a good TV or radio show, a podcast needs a catchy theme tune or introduction music to make it stand out from the crowd. While no rule says you need to provide music for your podcast, it will give it that professional finish.
Keep it short and sweet, ideally no longer than 15 seconds for an introduction soundtrack or a theme tune, and be wary of the licensing laws that surround music. Adding a piece of music to your podcast can land you in a lot of trouble if you don’t have permission to use it.
Luckily, several websites have libraries of royalty-free music you can use in your podcast. Some of these are free to use, such as Incompetech, while other sites such as Audioblocks require a monthly subscription fee.
Generally, sites that require payment will have a more extensive choice of music you can use and will let you download up to 3 songs a month for commercial use. However, if you’re only looking for a simple theme tune or some background music, a free of charge option would be the way to go.
How To Create Podcast Cover Art
As with your podcast’s title and description, the cover art for your show should stand out and grab the attention of your target audience. After all, it’s competing with hundreds of other podcasts, if not thousands.
Your best choice is always to go with a professional graphic artist or a freelance designer. However, this can come with an expensive price tag that may not be in your budget, especially once you’ve bought all the necessary equipment and software.
Some websites have a library of stock images, such as Getty or Canva, which are relatively inexpensive to use. However, it’s incredibly important that you check the licensing terms on the picture you choose from these, as some you can only use for certain things.
Make sure the size of your chosen image is in line with the requirements of podcast hosting platforms, so it looks clear and sharp when displayed.
The perfect size for most platforms is 1400 x 1400 pixels and no larger than 500kb in size. It’s also worth saving it in either a JPG or PNG format as well to avoid any upload issues.
Try to keep your artwork simple. It’s going to be reasonably small when viewed in the charts of a podcast hosting platform, so any intricate detailing won’t show up and could cause your image to seem blurry when displayed.
Which Podcast Hosting Should You Choose?
One common misconception surrounding podcasting is that once you’ve recorded and edited your episode, it is immediately uploaded to listening platforms such as iTunes or Spotify.
However, before you can submit your finished podcast to the download and streaming platforms, you need to make sure you have a podcast hosting service that can get it there.
Podcast and media hosts work like a server. They will store each published episode of your podcast so that your audience can listen anytime and anywhere. Some of these hosts will even create a website for you that will then allow you to publish your podcast across listening platforms. Alternatively, if you already have a website, they can place them on your site for you.
A monthly subscription is usually required for podcasting hosts, ranging from $12 – $20 a month, depending on what you need from it. Some of the best available include Buzzsprout, Captivate, and Transistor.
How To Submit Your Podcast To Directories
Once each episode of your podcast is stored safely with a podcast or media hosting service, the time has come to release it to your eager-eared listeners.
To get the best chance of your podcast being discovered and your audience growing steadily, you’ll want to publish your show in as many different places as possible. While that might seem overwhelming in terms of technicality, as well as being time-consuming, it’s often more accessible than you might think.
Whether it’s iTunes, Spotify, or any other podcasting app, most podcast hosting services will have an auto-submit function. Others will have tools to guide you through the process of getting your podcast out there, making it easy to release your show across as many platforms as possible simultaneously.
This also helps keep your release time and date as consistent as possible. In some cases, you can even use your podcast hosting service to schedule the release of weekly episodes ahead of time. That’s ideal if you plan on recording two or three over a single day to fit in with your schedule.
Publishing Your Show Notes
Your podcast has the potential to turn into a lucrative business venture, so it’s a good idea to build a website for it as well. Show notes will give you a place to talk a little more in-depth about the show and create excitement for your existing audience with teases of upcoming episodes.
A website is also the best place to publish your show notes for each episode. While this can seem like a chore, it’s an integral part of the podcasting process. Your show notes can work wonders when it comes to your discoverability through search engine optimization.
Show notes also allow you to provide more information or links for something you may have referenced in your show. And vitally, they’re especially appealing to advertisers, as they’ll give you a place to display any discount codes you might be advertising during your show.
Publishing your show notes also offers up another opportunity for marketing your podcast. The addition of ‘Like and Share’ buttons linked to social media pages means your audience can easily share your show notes with people who might not yet be familiar with your podcast.
After The Launch!
Once your podcast is out in the open for the whole world to listen to, ask yourself what you can do to help it gain as much popularity as possible.
Social media is probably the most effective way to advertise your podcast in its early stages. With the use of appropriate hashtags, your show can be discovered by your target audience without you needing to spend any money on it.
You’ll need to put a lot of effort into advertising your show in the beginning, though. Don’t fool yourself that one tweet announcing a new episode will be enough to grow your audience numbers. Even the most established podcasts send out multiple announcements throughout the week following the release of an episode, as well as a countdown to the next release date.
Use any available opportunity to advertise your podcast, and soon you’ll find that it’s gained momentum and has a large enough following to start appealing to advertisers.
Making Money With Your Podcast
Podcasts are becoming increasingly attractive to brands as a new platform for advertising. The more popular your podcast becomes, and the more listeners you have, the more ears that advertiser has got to hear about their product.
Advertising is a great way to start making money from your podcast, as each brand will ordinarily pay a set amount of money for an allocated number of ad spots. As your podcast continues to grow in popularity, the amount of money you charge for advertising can increase too.
Often, a brand will give you a specific discount code to announce on your podcast as part of the ad, entitling the listener to money off at the register. Specific codes help them keep track of how many sales they have had through your podcast. If your discount code is consistently successful, you may even be able to get a percentage of the money that comes from those sales included in your deal.