If you’re looking for a guide that walks you through how to start a podcast, you’re absolutely in the right place…
Starting a podcast isn’t difficult, but there are a number of steps you’ll need to go through in order to get it launched.
In this podcasting tutorial, we’ll walk you through every step of the process:
- Choosing a topic & name
- Show and episode format
- Cover art creation
- Intro & outro music
- Equipment selection
- Audio recording & editing
- Submission to Apple Podcasts (iTunes)
- Promotion tips
At this point, you probably don’t know exactly what goes into starting a podcast, which is exactly what this guide will tell you.
This is an in-depth guide that will cover:
- The cost and effort required to make a podcast.
- What equipment you’ll need.
- How to pick a topic.
- How to record episodes and distribute them.
- How to maximize your chances of success.
I’ve included step-by-step instructions for almost every part of the process. By the end, you’ll know whether or not starting a podcast is right for you, and have a solid understanding of the time and resources required.
There’s quite a bit of flexibility at each of the 3 main stages of creating a podcast, which is what this guide will cover.
For now, understand that:
- You record episodes using equipment and your computer.
- Upload those files to a podcasting host.
- Then submit those episodes to directories so that listeners can find them.
Within each of those 3 steps, there are a lot of finer details that you likely have questions about:
- What equipment do you need?
- What software is best?
- Where do you get theme music from?
- How do you choose a podcast topic?
- Which host is best for Podcasts?
- Which host is best if you have a WordPress site?
- How will you get people to listen to your show?
Your laptop microphone is not going to cut it.
Neither are most cheap headset microphones.
These microphones produce too much background noise and low sound quality in general.
This is the one thing you must buy if you don’t already have a quality microphone.
So which one should you buy?
First, you need to decide which type of microphone to get.
USB vs analog (XLR): These are the 2 major types of microphones. USB microphones are cheaper in general and can be plugged into your computer’s USB port, which is convenient. Analog microphones tend to have better quality, but more expensive, and you’ll need extra equipment.
If you want to start on a budget, get a USB microphone.
If you’re planning on podcasting for the long-term, invest in a good analog microphone. There are still some budget analog microphones that aren’t much more expensive than USB options.
There are tons of microphones out there, but here are some of the most popular ones recommended by most top audio bloggers, from cheapest to most expensive
Audio Interface (If you buy an analog microphone)
An audio interface connects microphones to computers.
If you buy a USB microphone, you don’t need an audio interface, since you can plug into your computer directly.
But an analog microphone has XLR connectors, which can’t be plugged in directly. Instead, you plug them into an audio interface, which can then send the audio data to your computer.
Audio interfaces can cost anything from $100 to the $1,000 range. For podcasters, the low-end interfaces will be more than sufficient in most cases.
Pop Filter (optional)
A pop filter is put over the front of microphones to reduce or eliminate popping sounds from your speech (like the unavoidable sound at the end of “pop”).
It can also keep saliva off your microphone, which will increase its longevity.
A pop filter isn’t always needed, it depends a lot on the specific microphone and recording setting.
However, they’re cheap (typically $10 or less), and it’s a good idea to test one out if you’re new to podcasting.
There’s not a huge difference in pop filter quality, so just find one that rated well on your preferred store.
You technically don’t need to wear headphones while recording a podcast, but I highly recommend it.
There are a few main reasons:
- You’ll hear yourself clearly, making it easier to maintain a consistent, ideal tone.
- You’ll also immediately hear if the microphone is picking up background noise.
- If you’re interviewing someone, it makes it easier to hear them clearly by reducing background noise.
Simple earbud headphones are okay, but ideally, you have headphones that meet the following conditions:
- Comfortable for long periods of time – For obvious reasons, podcasts can be long, and editing can take a long time as well.
- “Neutral” – You don’t want headphones that are treble-focused or sound unique. Neutral headphones ensure that when you edit your shows, they’ll sound good to everybody, not just users with particular types of headphones.
- Isolation – It’s a good idea to use closed-back headphones (the ones that go around your ear) so that sound doesn’t leak out and potentially get recorded as background noise.
Many headphones fit this bill, usually costing around $100-200.
This is the last main piece of “equipment you’ll need.
Recording software is more straightforward, with fewer options, and I’ll cover that later on in the guide.
But all good podcasts need editing, and there are many editing software tools to choose from.
Here are the most popular options.
For Mac or PC
- Audacity (free) – By far the most popular free audio editor, it’s the one I’ll use in examples later on in this guide. It has many “advanced” features that can be useful for podcasts, like normalizing and noise reduction effects.
- Hindenburg Journalist (paid) – Hindenburg has multiple audio editing tools, but Journalist is the cheapest and most appropriate one for podcasters. A license costs $95 and is a one-time fee. If you need a higher production value, it’s a good option, but not needed for most podcasters.
- Adobe Audition (paid) – It has a monthly fee of $20/month, but is a solid audio editing tool for podcasters. In general, I’d recommend Audacity over it, but if you’re familiar with Adobe products you might find it easier to use.
With equipment out of the way, let’s go over the 6 main steps of starting a podcast.
Step 1: Choose a Niche for Your Podcast
Just like with blogging, you need to find a niche for your podcast to fill. Something people desire to learn about that doesn’t exist.
There are 2 main situations that you can find yourself in.
The first is that you’re thinking of starting a podcast to bring in additional traffic (and customers) for your business.
This means that your general category is essentially chosen for you. It should be highly related to your business.
The second situation is that you want to start a podcast as a business, hoping to make money with it directly over time. Your category is more open-ended at his point.
But before you choose a category, consider that podcast listeners typically look to podcasts for expert advice.
Unlike blogging, where you can try to present a unique perspective as a beginner to a topic, most people motivated enough to seek out a podcast want expert advice.
So I ask you: “What are you skilled at, or an expert at?”
The alternative is to have connections to many experts that you can interview on a podcast, but few people have these. Be warned that it’s tough to get good guests if you don’t already know them, as people ask them for things all the time.
How to Validate Your Podcast Idea
You don’t want to go through all the work of making a podcast and it turns out that no one cares about your niche.
That’s why you need to validate demand.
lick on the most relevant category that you see.
Each of those categories covers a wide variety of topics, for example, business has:
- Personal finance
For the specific topic you have in mind, count up how many podcasts in the top 100 of that category cover that topic.
If there’s only 1 or 2, that’s a signal that there’s low demand. It’s going to be difficult to be successful.
Typically there are 4-5 popular topics in a general category, and you want to pick one of those (because they have significant demand).
Competition is a good thing, you just need to find the right approach to your topic that helps you stand out.
An alternative method – Use search engine keywords. There’s no public data of what people search for in a directory like iTunes or Stitcher, but there is keyword data for Google.
It won’t give you a perfect indicator of interest, but it will tell you if there’s some or none.
Decide on a specific topic you want to have a podcast about, then divide that into potential niches.
For example, if I wanted to make a podcast on entrepreneurship, here are some potential niches:
- Affiliate marketing.
Format and Ideation
If someone already has an e-commerce podcast, how can you differentiate yourself from them?
There are 2 main approaches.
First, you can go more specific. For example, make a podcast about e-commerce marketing, or e-commerce product fulfillment.
As long as you can think of 20-30 ideas relatively easily, it can work.
The second approach is to pick a different podcast format.
Successful podcasts exist for all formats:
- Solo podcasts.
- Multiple hosts.
- Case studies.
- Short or long.
Step 2: Choose a Name, Theme Music, and Design
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done before you start recording.
Doing the tasks in this section can have a huge effect on your success.
It’s your title and cover art.
If your title sucks, no one will give you a chance.
Don’t try to be too clever, just pick a descriptive name that you think will sound appealing to your audience.
If you are well-known in your industry, you can put your name in the title. For example:
- The Dave Ramsey Show.
- How I Built This With Guy Raz.
- Mad Money With Jim Cramer.
These are all top business podcasts.
Otherwise, pick the main keyword that clearly describes what your podcast is about. For example:
- Planet Money.
- StartUp Podcast.
- Entrepreneurs on Fire.
- Side Hustle School.
It’s good if the remaining word(s) gives some imagery about the general approach your podcast takes.
From above, “Entrepreneurs on Fire” gives you the image that it focuses on successful entrepreneurs.
Or, “Side Hustle School” is mainly focused on educational topics.
Your Cover Art
Your cover art might be the most important part of getting the attention of browsers.
Take some time to analyze the top podcasts in your category and see what trends they follow.
Almost all of them will:
- Be easy to read, even when small.
- Have the name of the podcast.
- Have a single focal image related to the topic.
- Have a colored background.
I highly suggest you pay someone to make your cover art unless you have those skills yourself.
This is not the place to cut corners.
If you can afford it, hire an experienced professional artist with experience working with podcasts.
Most directories share the same guidelines. Here are iTunes’ requirements:
- A minimum size of 1400 x 1400 pixels.
- A maximum size of 3000 x 3000 pixels.
- 72 dpi.
- JPEG or PNG format.
- In the RGB color space.
When viewed in a directory, your cover art will typically be somewhere between 50 and 150 px wide.
View your cover art at all sizes to make sure that it’s readable and still looks attractive before finishing.
Your Podcast Description
It’s a short blurb that explains what your podcast is about, and why someone should listen to it.
This matters for 2 reasons.
First, people will click on your cover art or title, but not decide whether or not to give your podcast a try until reading the description.
An interesting description will get you more listens.
Second, your podcast page (with the description) can show up in search results (in directories themselves or in Google). You should include your main keyword, and any other relevant keywords to increase how often your podcast shows up as a suggestion.
My favorite podcasts coincidentally have a really catchy intro and outro songs.
It’s the first thing that listeners associate with your show, and they hear it every episode, so make it good!
If you’re really on a budget, you can search for free music on Free Music Archive.
Again, I’d recommend paying a small amount for professional-grade theme music. Audio Jungle has hundreds of thousands of tracks that can be cut down to use as theme music.
Step 3: Pick Your Podcast Hosting Provider
If you don’t pick a reliable, good quality host, listeners might have trouble downloading or streaming your podcast episodes. This is a good way to lose listeners.
Podcast hosting services are built on media servers that are designed to store large media files (your episodes) and support the high bandwidth needed for listeners to download or stream episodes.
Each podcast host has their own strengths and weaknesses.
There are 4 main things that you should consider:
- Price – How much can you afford? Generally, the more you pay, the more space you’ll get. It makes sense to start off with an introductory package and then upgrade later as you record more shows.
- Simplicity – Some podcast hosts are easier to use than others. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go for simplicity over power.
- RSS Feed support – The hosts I recommend below all automatically create an RSS feed for you, but if you go with a different host, make sure they do as well.
- Embeddable players – How easy is it to embed a player with an episode somewhere else (do you even need this feature?). Do you like what it looks like?
- Sitebuilder – Some podcast hosts give you a site builder so you can build a complete website that can easily integrate your episodes. This may be useful or completely unnecessary for you. Others simply give you a basic podcast page that lists your episodes.
Step 4: Record Your Podcast
You can finally start creating your podcast episodes.
Start by setting up your microphone.
If you just have a USB microphone, plug it into your computer and it should be recognized automatically.
If you went with an analog microphone, follow the instructions that your audio interface came from.
I’ll outline the basics of recording, and your options, for 3 main podcasting scenarios:
- Solo podcasting (just you).
- Podcasting with multiple people locally.
- Podcasting with multiple people in multiple locations
Option #1 (solo podcast) – Record with Audacity
A solo podcast is the simplest type of podcast to make.
All of the audio software I went over in the equipment section has an option to record from a microphone.
The exact details will depend on the software you chose, but in Audacity, you pick your microphone device from the drop-down menu on the top toolbar:
With you microphone selected, you can press the circle “record” button to start recording the audio input to the microphone.
Press the square “stop” button to end the recording.
You can press the “play” button to listen to the clip you recorded and make sure that it was recording your voice.
Don’t worry if you have to repeat certain things to get them right during your podcast episode, you can always clip out bad parts later.
Option #2 (multiple microphones locally) – Use Audacity Workaround or Audio Interface
If you have 2 or more people recording locally, you’ll want a microphone for each person.
Ideally, you’ll have an audio interface that supports however many inputs you need.
This lets you record and edits multiple channels.
Unfortunately, Audacity only supports one audio input for recording at a time.
There are a few workarounds in this situation.
Here is a VoiceMeeter tutorial:
While Virtual Audio Cable is paid, it also supports more inputs.
On OSX, you can set up an aggregate device in Utilities to combine multiple inputs to record as one.
Option #3 (multiple people remotely) – Record Over Skype
Interviewing a guest over Skype is the most common podcasting situation by far.
There are 2 main options that you can pick from, both work fine.
Pamela: A free, easy to use a recorder. It has a nice interface for navigating past recordings.
There is a free version, but it only records up to a maximum of 15 minutes.
The professional version is a one-time $25 fee and has no restrictions.
MP3 Skype Recorder: A very simple recording interface with a minimal learning curve.
It also has a free and paid version, but the paid version is cheaper than Pamela.
The free version works great but is not intended for commercial use, which your podcast probably falls under.
Try the free version of both out and see which one you like best.
Step 5: Editing Your Podcast Episodes
Editing audio is a lot like editing video, but simpler.
Still, all audio editing software has a learning curve, and you’ll need to commit time to learn how to use it.
If you want to avoid this, you can use a post-production service like Auphonic. They will take care of volume normalization, hum reduction, and other editing tasks for a reasonably low price.
If you want to DIY, here are the main things you’ll need to do.
Import and Clip Together Your Audio Files
First, you’ll need to import your audio clips into your editing software, like Audacity.
You do this by going to “File > Import > Audio” in the menu:
You may have multiple clips of your episode content, as well as your intro, outro, and any ads.
You can then see the profile of each clip and edit them individually or together.
To move parts around, you can highlight a portion of a clip, and then cut and paste it somewhere else (just like text):
You can also select any single track and apply effects like ‘Noise Reduction’:
Audacity has a nice little beginners tutorial that goes over how to do these.
These take time and effort to learn, but once you have them down it won’t take too long to edit an episode.
Here’s a start to finish example of editing a podcast episode using Audacity:
Export Your Episode as an MP3
If you’re using Audacity, download the installer package for the LAME MP3 encoder.
Then, go to “File > Export Audio” in Audacity to bring up a save menu:
Set the file type to MP3, and bitrate to at least 128kbps.
Your sample rate should be 44.1 kHz by default, but you can always confirm it in “Edit > Preferences > Quality”.
Once you click “Save”, another pop-up will come up that allows you to tag your audio file.
Tags are used to provide information about your file, like who made it, and what its title is.
Some directories will pull this information automatically from your host, but it’s always nice to have here as a backup.
If you’re not sure how to label tags, here’s a trick: Download a podcast you like, then right-click the file, click “properties”, and go to the “details” tab.
You can base your tags on the professionally done ones.
You can access your tags and edit them later in Audacity at any time by going to “File > Open Metadata Editor”.
You don’t necessarily need all the tags, but here are the basic ones that are good to include when possible:
- Track – Your episode number, which may be used for sorting.
- Title – Your full episode title, which will probably include the episode number.
- Artist – The name of the host(s), which is likely you.
- Album – The title of your podcast.
- Genre – Most people just put “Podcast”.
- Comment – A short description of the episode.
- URL – The URL for your show notes, or a relevant episode page.
Now you should have a fully polished episode ready to go.
Step 6: After you publish your podcast, how do you promote it?
To publish your episode, upload it to your host provider. This is just a simple file upload, and your host should give you instructions when you sign up.
Now it’s time to try and get listeners.
What you’ll need: Your podcast’s RSS feed (get from your hosting provider).
Start by Listing Your Podcast in Top Directories
When listeners browse directories like iTunes or Stitcher, they only see podcasts that have been added to the directory.
You only have to add your show to a directory once. From there, your RSS feed will update as you add episodes, and the directories will update as well.
Most directories only require you to have a single episode on your RSS feed, but it’s a good idea to have at least 5 or so. If someone listens to an episode of yours, you want them to be able to listen to more to encourage them to subscribe.
The main directories you’ll want to add your show to are:
Most are simple, you just add your RSS feed.
For iTunes, follow these steps:
- Open iTunes and go to the iTunes store.
- Click “Submit a Podcast” on the right menu.
- Log in to iTunes Connect.
- Paste in your feed and click ‘Continue’.
- Review the information and submit your podcast.
Increase Your Chances of Success With a Launch
If you’ve ever tried blogging, you know that putting up posts and then hoping people find them is a bad idea.
The same goes for podcasts.
It’s possible that you’ll get lucky and end up getting featured in the “New and Noteworthy” section on iTunes (or another directory).
But you’re leaving a lot up to chance.
Instead, you should do everything you can to “launch” your podcast and get several good reviews at the start.
Here are some ideas:
- Ask any current email subscribers.
- Email friends asking them to check out the show and leave a review.
- Join niche communities and share your show if they allow it (be transparent).
Don’t be afraid to spend a lot of 1-on-1 time to get a review at the start, they can be incredibly valuable over time.
You can also encourage reviews over time by thanking people who leave good reviews in your future episodes.
Publish on Your Website With Show Notes (Optional, but Recommended)
There’s one common situation I haven’t addressed too much.
What if you already have a website, or want to start one first before starting the podcast?
The simplest option is a WordPress site.
Many podcasters use the following podcasting configuration:
- Blubrry podcast hosting.
- PowerPress (a BluBrry WordPress plugin).
PowerPress allows you to input your podcast’s RSS feed in WordPress, and then attach podcast episodes to posts on your websites.
Most podcasts use these posts as “show notes”, where you provide links to things talked about in each episode, and maybe a transcription.
Perhaps the best thing about PowerPress is that you can upload your episodes from your WordPress admin panel, and it will upload it to your hosting automatically.
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