First, congrats on deciding to start a podcast! Or even if you’re not completely sure yet, this How to Start a Podcast guide will hopefully show you that it’s not difficult to make your podcast.
The goal here is to provide a helpful step-by-step guide that you can follow to create a podcast in the easiest way possible.
People will ask what’s podcasting and how to start podcasting. It’s not always easy to explain it to people, other than: You get a microphone, recording software, record podcast episodes, upload it to a podcast hosting site and that’s how to start a podcast.
Simple right? There’s obviously a lot more to it than that and we’ll take a look at all of it here. But first, I know there’s a burning question.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?
No lying here – it will cost money to make your podcast. The costs could be between $0 to $500+ depending on what you have already and what you may need for better quality audio files. You’ll need the basics of a computer and that’ll be your biggest initial cost to start a podcast.
We’ll go through the steps to create a podcast and many of those steps don’t require any money. For those on a budget, there are free and budget-friendly equipment and software options. We don’t want to sacrifice audio quality or sound quality on the audio files either though because you want every episode sounding good to new listeners.
We’ll keep an eye on the bare essentials and upgrade options for those who are able to spend a little more. Providing options that you will not outgrow as quickly. Paid options will often give podcasters time-savings, additional features, and/or better overall audio quality.
Let’s get started with the step-by-step look at How to Start a Podcast.
Two Questions You Need to Ask Before Starting Your Podcast
Why do you want to start a podcast?
You need to know why you want to make a podcast. What are your goals in podcasting?
This isn’t a trick question. There’s no right or wrong answer here. But it’s actually something you need to know because it’ll help drive your decisions as you get started building your podcast.
Is the podcast being used as a marketing channel for your business, product, or service? Do you want to make a podcast to build your personal brand? Maybe you just want to have some fun and the podcast is an outlet. Or maybe you want to become rich and famous (it’s very difficult to become rich and famous podcasting).
Whatever your reason for starting a podcast, you want to be clear on what your reason is for creating a podcast. Write it down. Then you can start with the How to Start a Podcast side of things.
Who are you talking to?
As a podcaster, you’re talking to people directly in their ears. They can’t see you, but they’re listening intently. What’s the reason for new listeners to open your podcast up and to press play?
If you’re doing a podcast because you want to help people – What is it you want to help people with? Talk directly to them, offer them support and potential solutions to their problems.
Think about why you would listen to a new podcast. What are they helping you with? Maybe it’s to learn some new tips? As you think about how to make a podcast, those are questions to ask. It’ll help when you record.
Who is that listener that will become a loyal fan? What’re the listener’s dreams, desires, wants, fears, goals, hobbies, etc. Having a target listener will help you come up with what to talk about and record.
When you start talking, they’re going to feel like you’re talking directly to them. Make it feel personal to them by keeping it conversational, as if you’re talking to a good friend. Let them know that the podcast host is a friend.
That’s the goal, make your listener feel like you’re friends. Make your audience feel special. Help and support them through what you record on your podcast.
Pick Your Podcast Topic
After you know why you want to start podcasting, the next question to ask yourself is – What do you want to record?
No matter if you’re YouTubing or blogging, that’s also the first thing you have to decide. What is the topic niche that you want to discuss and that podcast listeners will be listening to you for?
This first step is often the toughest and longest one for people. I’ll show you how to make it easier through a process here, but the key is that you want to pick one and get started.
Make sure you’re not taking weeks or months to decide on the “perfect” podcast idea because there just isn’t one. Podcasters will adjust what they talk about based on the real feedback and analytics they’re getting from their listeners. That’s how you will continue to fine-tune your topic and how you’ll gain more followers.
So where to start with a topic? Let’s start by creating a list of potential topics. Think about your passions and hobbies. Are you interested in sports, music, traveling, or plants even? Think about jobs and different work experiences. What areas of life and the world have you become an expert in?
Write those topics down in a list and start thinking about what you feel comfortable talking about on a regular basis. What do you think you’ll enjoy talking about the most? The topic is something that you’ll want to be able to talk about at length and depth, all while having fun podcasting about it.
You want to find a topic where you know so much about it, that there won’t be any obstacles when it comes time to record the first episode. Don’t let the thought of “what do I say” be a stumbling block early on. Be sure that you can talk about it.
Another question you’re also answering here is – Who are you?
You’re going to start finding out more about yourself and that’s important because your audience also has to know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, your audience won’t either. Podcast listeners can’t see you, they can only hear your voice.
The key when you record is to engage the audience because you’ll be in their ears for 30 minutes or more. That’s an intimate connection. Your nervousness comes across when you record, even though it’s only audio. And if they find that you’re not comfortable talking about a topic, your audience won’t feel comfortable.
Think about the podcasters you listen to. Do you feel like you know them well? My guess is – Yes. That’s why you listen to them. That’s the feeling that you want your audiences to feel too.
To help get a jumpstart on your topic, see this article on 10 Good Topics for Podcasting that also gives examples of podcasts that are popular.
One last thing I want to reiterate – don’t overthink it. You can pivot and change as you start gathering feedback from listeners. You’ll know where to take your podcast as they listen.
Pick Your Podcast Format
Once you have your topic, think about your format. How do you want to present and share the information with audiences?
There are many different podcast show formats you can choose from. As you go through the different show formats, think about the topic you chose and what format will allow you to best present your topic. For example, if your topic is about entrepreneurship, you might choose an Interview format because interviewing entrepreneurs who’re “doing it” will give your listeners the most value. Entrepreneurs are all about breaking the rules and getting work done, so your listeners will probably want to hear about the creativity that helped people become successful.
So let’s get started!
This is all you. This is a common format because some podcasters are experts in their topic and can talk about their topics for 30-45 minutes.
Going with a solo podcast allows for maximum flexibility when you want to start a podcast. All you need to do is turn on your computer/digital recorder and start talking into a microphone. There’s no one else you need to rely on to record, so you’ll be able to record wherever and whenever. But one thing you’ll want to do is to plan what you want to talk about before recording.
Not many can just wing it for 30 minutes. If you’re a person who can speak into a microphone for 30+ minutes with an outline, do an outline. If you need to write out a script, create one. The thing you’ll want to keep an eye on is to sound natural. If you have a script, don’t sound like an audiobook.
You can also combine the solo/monologue format with other formats too, creating a variety show format. Sprinkle in special episodes with guests or stories. You can also do some Q&A shows where your listeners can send in questions via email or social media DM’s, and you answer those on your podcast.
It’s your podcast and you can do what you want with it.
This is a popular podcast show format as it’s always fresh. The podcast host is consistently bringing on new guests for interviews and those guests are providing new information for audiences.
If you want to do an interview format, treat it as if you were a TV show host. Prepare for the guest, especially if the guest is an expert in a specific subject matter. Prepare and structure your interview beforehand. Even do a pre-interview with your guests, so you’re both prepared on the questions and topics you’ll be talking about.
Some of the best podcasters, YouTubers, and TV hosts will do pre-interviews. Your guest may even have something that they’ll want to bring up, so you can prepare a question in advance to prompt them. Remember, they’re also willing to come on because they’re also potentially hoping for additional exposure.
Keep it casual and fun too. I know I said to also do a pre-interview, but it’s more about creating an outline of episode topics, questions, and what to talk about. It’s not to create a word-by-word script. If you and the guest already know each other well, your pre-interviews will probably be rather short. List out the handful of things you want to cover and you’re done.
Not being prepared for the interview beforehand will usually end up in awkward pauses. And while you can edit out those pauses, the actual interview time will be long and your guest’s energy will wane. You can’t amplify energy in audio editing.
If you want to up your game, you can also bring on multiple guests and have a round table discussion. If you do bring on multiple guests, people will be talking over each other, so be sure to moderate well.
One of the best interview podcasts is The Joe Rogan Experience. Check out that podcast here. Take a look at other podcasts and see what their interview style is. Think about what brings people back each episode. Then start creating your own interview style.
Co-Hosting a podcast can be a great idea if you have great chemistry with someone. If you’re a person who works and thinks best with others, this could be a way to go. Be sure you don’t find a co-host exactly like you. Co-hosts are complementary. Be sure that you complement each other with knowledge, skills, and work ethic.
The co-hosted podcast show format offers many advantages. You’re able to have conversations and that helps bring the energy up overall. Co-hosting also helps with splitting the duties between two people, rather you doing it all yourself. Audiences are listening to an organic discussion and not feeling like it’s scripted. That conversational feel helps create a friendly, familiar environment for audiences.
The co-hosting format does come with disadvantages too because there’s two of you now. You’ll both have to agree on episode topics and you’ll have to go through topics that both of you can speak on. Or a general topic that you can agree on for the whole show, but each of the co-hosts can bring their own thoughts to each episode.
If you do decide to go the co-host route, be sure to have a partnership agreement of some sort in place. If you’re good friends, it’s even more important to have an agreement before starting. The agreement lists out the roles and responsibilities that’re needed when putting together a podcast show. Who’s going to handle equipment setup/breakdown, editing, scheduling of guests, show planning, sales, marketing, social media, sponsorship/affiliate deals, profit splits, etc. And don’t forget, what happens when the show ends? Who gets what?
There are many things to think about when joining forces with a co-host. And if you’re thinking about co-hosting with your kids or setting up a podcast for your kids, check out the Podcasting for Kids post.
One of my favorite co-hosted podcasts is the My Favorite Murder podcast hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Read a case study on them. They have a huge Murderino fan base and tour to sold-out shows worldwide. Their format works well for them too because they have the common theme of true crime murders. But what they do is they each research their own murders and bring them to the episode. Karen and Georgia each talk about their own murders, so they’re able to riff off each other and the stories. They play off each other so well and people feel engaged.
Storytelling – Scripted Fiction
Storytelling in an audio format has been around for decades. The Golden Age of Radio was around the 1930’s-1950’s and families huddled around their radios to listen to the news and produced stories.
The storytelling format is similar to the old radio shows in that each episode’s story is scripted and produced by a team. The production value of these is much higher because they often require sound effects, guest actors, and more financial resources. Your audience may not be families huddled around the radio like the olden days, but people will be listening in.
Many people starting out won’t be able to afford to do these scripted fiction stories.
A great example is the We’re Alive: Goldrush podcast.
Storytelling – Scripted Non-Fiction
This type of format can be less produced without as many sound effects and guest voices. Podcasters who are good storytellers can do well here.
Telling stories is not something that anyone can just do. A popular scripted non-fiction subset is the True Crime format.
Serial is probably the most well known with scripted non-fiction as they tell true stories over the course of a podcast season. Serial helped to popularize podcasts and drove many to podcast themselves.
A great example of a non-fiction storytelling podcast is the award-winning This American Life. They pick a theme each week and tell various stories around that theme.
News / Current Events
Live radio news stations have been around since the advent of radio. So why make a podcast in a news format?
When you watch the news on TV or listen to it on the radio on your way to work, you can’t filter it for any specific industries, topics, or just the biggest news stories. When it comes to industry podcasting, NPR is a great example with its 12 different podcasts in various industries.
News podcasts will focus on the top news stories for that day or another specified time period. Every episode will eventually be outdated, so news podcasts will need to continually pump out a new episode on a regular schedule.
The only issue with news podcast formats is that older episodes will not be listened to because the news will be outdated. If you want to stay relevant with this type of show, you have to consistently record new episodes to keep audiences tuned in.
On the other end of the quickly-outdated news episodes are the evergreen podcasts that can come with Educational Podcasts. These podcasts are all about teaching listeners and education has a longer shelf-life.
Educational podcasts don’t always need to be ongoing either. They could be a limited number of series and it acts as an audio course, similar to online courses. These can be similar to audiobooks in that there’s an end to the book/course. An example of this would be Seth Godin’s Startup School.
Case study podcasts can be considered a subset of the educational format. I think most business students have heard of the Harvard Business School “legendary case studies.” They’re now in a podcast channel with HBR’s Cold Call podcast.
This is more of a personal decision and depends on your target audience. Will your listeners mind if you’re using explicit language?
Do know that if you do have explicit language, Apple Podcasts will ban your podcast in some Middle Eastern countries.
Podcast Episode Length
Length is another personal decision. Average podcasts are 20-60 minutes long. Depending on the format you choose, that’ll probably be a determining factor for most people.
If you go with a solo/monologue format, you might average around 30 minutes. If you have an interview format, you might average between 40-60 minutes. If you have a co-host, you might go 45-60 minutes because the talking is split between two co-hosts.
Once you start recording and editing your early podcasts, you’ll start finding your own sweet spot.
Podcast Show Format Wrap Up
There’s no one format that fits all nor a perfect format that will get you millions of listeners. Just pick a format that you feel comfortable with and as you record more episodes, you can always adjust your format if you feel that your original one isn’t working.
The idea is to keep moving. Choose a show format and get to the next step of picking your podcast name.
Pick Your Podcast Name
Choosing a name for your podcast is just as difficult as selecting your topic. When it comes to picking your name, work with the following criteria:
- Related to your topic
Having a name that’s related to your topic will help when it comes to people searching for certain topic keywords. Apple Podcasts looks at different metadata (podcast information) when a user is searching for podcasts:
- Title – The name of your podcast
- Name – You can include the name of the podcast host here as well to make the name searchable (your name)
- Subtitle – A single, descriptive sentence for your podcast
- Summary – Up to a paragraph summarizing your podcast or episode
You want to be descriptive in those areas with your podcast information, so it’s easily searchable – Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When it comes to submitting your podcast to Apple Podcasts, for example, think about how you’re entering key information like podcast name, podcaster’s name, and a brief description in the title to help with search results.
Let’s look at a few examples of podcast titles:
- My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
- You may not know who Karen and Georgia are, but you know what their podcast will be about – My Favorite Murders.
- You may not know who Karen and Georgia are, but you know what their podcast will be about – My Favorite Murders.
- Ellen on the Go
- Ellen Degeneres has become a one-namer, so there’s not as much needed here for description, other than – On the Go. People know instantly that her podcast episodes will probably be a similar style to the Ellen show on TV.
- Ellen Degeneres has become a one-namer, so there’s not as much needed here for description, other than – On the Go. People know instantly that her podcast episodes will probably be a similar style to the Ellen show on TV.
- Against the Rules with Michael Lewis
- People may not know that Michael Lewis is a bestselling author (Moneyball), but they know by the title he’ll probably be talking about flipping rules on its head. And if people did know who Michael Lewis was, they’d be able to find him easily with the podcast title.
Go to Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms to do some research of podcast titles in your topic category. See what others are using to help jog ideas if you’re having trouble.
If your format includes a co-host, it’s probably a good idea to go through the steps with your co-host, so you’re both happy with the eventual podcast name.
Get Your Podcast Equipment
Podcast recording equipment is important because podcasts are all about the audio file. Luckily, there’s a low barrier to entry with equipment and other things needed to start a podcast.
I’ll cover the main audio equipment that you’ll want to get your podcast started. There are other specific equipment guides and reviews on the site that you can look at for more in-depth information. There’s recording equipment for all levels of podcasters and some provide more bang for the buck than others when it comes to audio quality.
Since this How to Start a Podcast guide is more for podcasting beginners, I’m going to focus on things you probably already have. Will try to keep costs low, but also get you up and running to record your first episode quickly.
If you’re looking for more information on multi-person setups, check out this post on 1, 2, 3, or 4 person podcast setups and a podcast starter kit for the solo-caster.
The first thing you’ll need is a computer. The computer can be a laptop or a desktop. It can be a Mac or a Windows PC. It’s up to you, but the computer you have already will most likely be good enough to start out. If your computer is 10 years old, you might need a newer computer because the recording and editing software will not open. The computer’s hardware needs to be able to run the software.
My laptop is the Apple 16” MacBook Pro:
The next thing you’ll need is a way to record your voice – a microphone. There are many microphones for podcasting.
If you have no money to spend, you can record on the mic on your laptop or your earphones with a mic. The biggest negative to those mics is that it can record sound all around you. That may lead to echoey sound, unclear, weird room sounds, etc.
If you’re going to spend any money, it should be in getting a good microphone to record. There are many different types of mics, USB microphone vs XLR microphone, dynamic vs condenser mics, and many other features that people will consider. But one keyword you want to look for is a cardioid pattern because that reduces picking up sounds from the sides and back of the microphone. That cuts out a large portion of unwanted noise as you record.
If you have a little money to spend, less than $100, you can record with a great starter USB microphone. We recommend the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone (ATR Series):
If you get an XLR microphone, you’ll need more equipment when you record an episode to get the audio into your computer.
There are many mic accessories to help record higher-quality audio, but if you’re just starting out, you don’t need all of them. You can get a mic stand, boom arm, shock mount, cables, pop filters, etc.
The key ones to get are a mic stand and a windscreen / pop filter of some sort.
Stands will hold the microphone and it’s a better way to record, instead of holding it yourself as you record. Since your podcast isn’t streaming live, you can take breaks if your hand and arm get tired. But people rarely can hold their hands and arms still when talking, so you’ll be getting wind sounds with the mic waving potentially.
If you get the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB Microphone above, it includes a tripod stand, so there’s no extra cost. Stands range from $10-$30 usually.
Upgrading to a mic boom arm stand allows more flexibility with mic positioning. If your desk and chair heights are not complementary, you could be straining your neck down or up to record.
The other key accessory is a mic windscreen or pop filter. They help to reduce excessive sounds from your breath, voice, or any wind. They do work together hand-in-hand, but if you had to pick just one, get a windscreen. They’re usually a few dollars, while pop filters are around $10-$20. The mic windscreen below is one that’ll work with the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB mic above:
We’ll need to add one more thing if you get a mic boom arm, a shock mount. The shock mount helps to eliminate noises that are caused by vibrations from the mic arm. Mic arms are usually connected to your desk, so any finger taps, typing, opening/closing books could cause vibrations to the mic boom arm. A shock mount like the Microphone Shock Mount on Amazon here helps to reduce that. These are usually $20-$40, so it’s good value if you’re going to buy a mic arm.
Other Podcast Recording Equipment
There is a lot of other equipment to record a podcast for bigger shows, but for a podcast starter kit, a computer and a microphone are everything you need. The other equipment you can get as you progress on your podcasting journey will help get better audio quality for your listeners.
A good pair of headphones is a very useful piece of equipment. The advantages over your computer speakers and your earphones come when recording and editing.
When you’re recording, there’s less opportunity that your mic will pick up the sounds coming through speakers or even earphones. When recording, you’ll want to look for closed-back headphones to isolate the sounds you’re hearing when recording.
When editing, headphones will usually give better sound quality, so you’ll be able to hear clearer than with earphones.
The Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II Wireless Bluetooth Headphones is a popular set of headphones that people buy:
Audio Interface and Audio Mixer
An audio interface and audio mixer both act as intermediaries between your microphone and the computer. They allow audio adjustments while recording and the reason you’d do that is it saves you a lot of time when editing.
Remember, you’ll also need one if you have an XLR microphone. An interface or mixer isn’t needed when you’re using a USB microphone because you’re able to connect the mic directly to a computer through the USB port.
When you’re recording more than one person, you’ll also need one to better separate and record the voices for editing.
These can range from $100-$300+, so they’re not really needed when you’re starting out on a budget.
An example of a good audio interface is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd Generation). See it on Amazon by clicking here.
An example of a good audio mixer is the Yamaha MG10 and you can find it on Amazon here.
Portable Digital Audio Recorder
A digital recorder is a handy piece of equipment because you’re able to record high quality audio wherever you are.
These portable recorders can range from $100-$500+. When you’re just starting out, you don’t need one, unless your show is recorded on the road. Depending on the quality of the audio recorder’s mics, you can also connect an external mic directly to the recorder.
An example of a portable recorder is the Zoom H1n you can see here on Amazon. The audio will usually record to an SD card that you’ll need to purchase separately.
Get Your Podcast Audio Editing Software
Luckily, podcasting software, Digital Audio Workstations (DAW), for recording and editing has great free and paid options. We’ll focus on free daw software here for starting a podcast, but the free ones don’t lack pro-features.
A great, free audio editing software option that works on Macs, Windows, and Linux machines is Audacity. It’s open-source and completely free to use. There are many professional, advanced features too. You can download it from their website here. Buzzsprout has a good Audacity Tutorial for Podcasters if you need help getting started here.
GarageBand is also free audio software, but it’s only for Mac users. It’s a bit easier to use, but you need to be a Mac or iPhone user. Buzzsprout has a GarageBand Tutorial here.
The professional software out there has many more features, but using them to make a podcast might be overkill. When you have a large following and your podcast production is larger, you can look at Pro Tools and Adobe Audition.
There are also some editing apps on the iOS App Store and Google Play, but we personally find it difficult to edit anything (audio, video, images) of high-enough quality and precision on our phones.
We have a post on the Best Audio Software for Podcasting (Free & Paid) that you can see for more options.
Start Recording Your First Episode
Finally time to start recording! Yes, the above is a lot of information just to get to this point, but there’s also a lot of the work that needs to be done beforehand.
Keep in mind, this is your first one, so be forgiving to yourself. Know that it won’t be perfect. As mentioned above in previous sections, it’s going to take time to find your voice and audience. As you record more and more, you’ll be fine-tuning along the way. Have fun with the first few episodes, that’s the time to start getting your legs under you.
Make a Podcast Outline or Script
You’ve picked your topic and format earlier on. What do you want to say as an introduction to your podcast?
You can write an outline out if you want to keep it casual and can improv freely. If you want something more structured in case your nerves get the better of you, you can write a script out. Remember to try and not make it seem like you’re reading from a script and keep it conversational.
Pick your Recording Space
Choose a space where your voice isn’t bouncing off walls, ceilings, and other hard surfaces. Think about when you’re on the phone in a closet, elevator, or bathroom. You hear echoes in the audio recording because your voice is bouncing all around. The key is to find the least echoey room where the sound dies as it travels out of your mouth.
There are different ways to reduce echoes and improve the sound quality of your audio files. You’ll also be saving yourself from a migraine during editing because your editing software can only do so much.
One great way is with egg carton foam, aka acoustic panels. You might’ve seen them on walls in sound stages, or on the walls of your favorite YouTuber’s videos. They don’t absorb the sound, but they reflect the sound in a way that doesn’t create the echoes. When you’re deep in your editing software, you’re going to be thankful you were careful of echoes when recording.
These types of acoustic panel foam are the ones used in professional studios and home offices alike:
Setup Equipment and Software to Record
Connect your microphone to the computer and get your recording software up to record.
Make sure that your recording software’s (eg., Audacity) audio input setting is set to your microphone.
Position your microphone, so it’s about 2-4 inches from your mouth. You don’t want to be on top of it and you don’t want to be too far away. Try doing some test recordings from different distances and angles to see what sounds the best.
Take a Breath and Record!
Everything’s setup – press the Record button!
Take breaks whenever you need the first time. Water is usually the best to drink to avoid potential voice adjustments. Professional singers don’t drink a soda in-between songs, they drink water to stay hydrated and keep the vocal cords moist. Other liquids can lead to dryness.
If you happen to stutter, don’t worry. Make sure to pause, take a breath, and start again. Don’t forget that your podcast is not live and you can edit out mistakes in the audio file later.
Edit Your First Episode
First, congrats on recording your first episode! Many people quit before they record even one episode. That’s a big hump you just got over as you’re starting a podcast. You’re in the home stretch now to finishing your first episode.
Now it’s time to get into editing, mixing, and mastering.
Think back to when you listened to a podcast and how that sounded. Think about how clean the audio quality was (or wasn’t). Keep that in mind for when you’re doing your own audio editing. Go back and listen through some podcasts if you want before getting started.
Open up your audio editing software, like Audacity, and get editing. Edit out the pauses for awkward silences. Edit out any stuttering, uhms, stammers, etc. Edit out if you feel like you’re rambling to keep the episode tight and on-point with what you want to talk about. Normalize your audio levels, so the levels are not jumping all over the place with loudness and softness.
And before you export your MP3 file, add ID3 tags to it. That stores information on your podcast like title, artist, date, cover art, descriptions, etc.
For your MP3 file’s bitrate, if you have any music, you’ll want to export as 192 kbps and 44.1MHz sample rate stereo. If you don’t have music and the audio recording is just you talking, 96 kbps is the minimum bitrate needed.
Finding Music and Royalty-Free Music
Other things to consider for your podcast include an intro, intro music, outro, and other podcast music to use in between segments.
Go to your favorite podcasts and listen to their intros, outros, and music. Look for how they utilize podcast music to set the tone. See if they kickstart inspiration for your podcast. You don’t need a highly produced one either for now. Continue to change them as you begin to find your voice and style.
Before you hire a music composer to write podcast music for you, try a site like Incompetech (Free) or Shutterstock (Paid) for royalty-free music. They have a lot of different types of music and you should be able to find something that’ll work for you when starting out. All you have to do is download the music and import it into your editing software.
To get you started, we have a list of the 11 Best Royalty-Free Music for Podcasts that you can check out here.
During the editing process, think about what the fun, core parts of the episode are. When you’re done editing, make 1-2 audio clips to use for marketing and promotions later. Audio clips are a great way to give new listeners a taste of what they can expect.
Professional Audio Editing
Podcasts are all audio, so we are of the mind that those 30-45 minutes that audiences are listening, you want to make it enjoyable to their ears.
As your audience grows and your revenue increases, the best way to get high-quality audio is to outsource your editing. There are many editors out there you can go to. Two big sites to get editors are Fiverr and Upwork.
Upload Audio to a Podcast Hosting Site
The podcast host site is where your MP3 file will be uploaded to and hosted. Podcast hosting services help you get the RSS feed that’ll be used to submit to a podcast directory. They offer the best way to upload to a directory. Two of the better podcast hosting platforms have Free plans – Buzzsprout and Podbean.
They’re both considered good podcast hosting providers and you’ll want to make sure you check which ones are best for your situation. They both have free plans that will allow you to upload and distribute your podcast for free.
Buzzsprout’s free plan allows people to upload 2 hours of audio each month. Now, episodes are removed after 90 days, but that does give you 3 months to test it out for free. Upgrading to the lowest paid plan allows for 3 hours of upload each month and no 90 day limit on episodes. Check out their plans on their website. If you sign up through the affiliate link and end up getting a Paid Plan, Buzzsprout will also give you a $20 Amazon gift card as a bonus.
PodBean’s free plan allows 5 hours total, so Buzzsprout’s plan is one more hour than Podbean.
A major advantage to both will come later when it’s time to submitting to the different directories like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and others.
When we talk about getting your own website later, both Buzzsprout and Podbean have embedded players that will allow your listeners to play your podcast directly on your website.
We go through 15 of the top podcasting hosting sites in this rundown.
Fill out Podcast Description and Info
On both of the sites, you’ll need to fill out your podcast episode name and description. Be clear what the episode is about and make it enticing to people.
Think about how many times an episode name has piqued your interest that’s led you to read the description that’s led to you deciding to listen.
And don’t worry about the title and description being permanent either. You can adjust them at anytime.
For your category selection, be sure that the first category you select is the primary one you want your podcast to be listed for. Apple Podcasts and other directories may only count the first category.
Podcast Visual Branding
Everything above has been all about the podcaster and podcast audio, but there’s a whole visual branding side to your podcast too.
Your branding starts with your podcast cover art.
Here’s an exercise. Take a look at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc. Scroll through podcast covers and see what’s a scroll-stopper. Which ones make you stop scrolling?
Why did you stop scrolling?
- Was it the colors?
- Was it the font type or size?
- What kind of artwork or photo was used that caught your eye?
Cover Design Specifications
Use those ideas to help guide your own cover designs. Use these points as a checklist to make sure you have the creative and technical basics of the cover completed when you submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts and others:
- Make sure your cover’s technical specifications have this at a minimum:
- 3000×3000 pixels (square image)
- 72 dpi
- JPEG or PNG format
- Does the artwork reflect your podcast and topic?
- When you look at the cover for the first time, will someone know what your podcast is about?
- Keep the cover design tied to the topic and you. Eg., Using a rabbit image for a finance podcast probably doesn’t work (unless there’s a rabbit + finance relationship I don’t know about).
- Utilize photos of yourself or stock images if you think it helps the cover
- Scroll-Stopper – Does it stand out?
- When someone’s on a phone, scrolling through podcast covers, will the cover’s design make that person stop scrolling?
- When someone’s on a phone, scrolling through podcast covers, will the cover’s design make that person stop scrolling?
- Is your font size big enough?
- If your font size isn’t big enough to read, you might have too many words. Or you just chose a small font.
- The covers on phones are small, so be sure your font is big enough to read.
- Is it consistent with your brand?
- Does the cover’s look tie into your website, other visual elements, and of course, your podcast style?
- You want everything to tie together, so it’s consistent and on-brand.
As you grow, you can also consider making covers for each new episode for each to be unique and stand out.
Design and branding don’t come easy for everyone, but there are many free and paid options out there depending on your budget. Here are a few.
Free Cover Artwork Creation Option
Canva is a great free way to create all types of graphic designs for branding like logos, social media posts, posters, flyers, and podcast cover designs.
First step, go to Canva’s website to sign up for a free account.
Follow these steps to start creating your own podcast cover art with templates. You’ll want to follow these steps to ensure that you have the correct dimensions of 3000×3000 pixels. Don’t follow other Canva guides out there because they usually don’t tell you how to get the correct dimensions. Your cover art will be pixelated and blurry if you don’t make sure your dimensions are correct. This is the best way we’ve found:
- After you login to Canva,
- Click the Create a design button
- Select the + Custom dimensions option
- Enter 3000 for Width and 3000 for Height. Leave it with px for pixels
- Click the Create design button
- A new browser window tab will open up with a blank square and templates on the left (probably logos)
- In the Search Templates input field box, enter CD Cover and select CD Cover.
- You can select other specific types, but selecting the CD Cover will show you all of the specific types anyways.
- Now scroll and search for a cover you like
- Bonus Tip – It’s hard to select just one sometimes and maybe you want to select a few before deciding on one. But you see that each time you click a template, it replaces what’s on the right side of the browser. Here’s what you do to select a few templates to whittle down:
- On the right side of the browser window where your designs are, click the Add a new page button. That’ll create a new blank, white square.
- Now select another template you like and it will replace the new white square.
- You can now scroll up and down to compare the different templates.
- If you click the Page Manager icon in the bottom-right of your browser, you can see all of your pages side-by-side.
- Get to designing!
- When you go to download, Canva will export it as a PNG format.
Canva is a great tool and has a lot of free images and artwork elements to add on. Some of the photos and elements are paid, so you can either pay-per-use or purchase a monthly plan. Sign up for a free account here.
Paid Cover Art Creation Option
Finding a professional designer to create your podcast cover art is also a great way if you have a budget for it. You have a number of options to find some great freelance designers:
- Fiverr.com – Can find decent designers, but you have to search for them. The quality is hit or miss in my opinion. It Will probably easier on your wallet.
- Upwork.com – Usually better quality designers and costs more.
- 99designs.com – Better than Upwork, but will cost you more. Most likely a few hundred dollars.
- Design Agencies – Depending on the agency, prices will run the gamut in a range, but they usually offer the best service when compared to a freelancer. You could also talk to an agency about doing your whole branding for visual consistency.
Get Your Podcast Listed on Podcast Directories
Now it’s time to submit your podcast and get listed on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Spotify, Google Podcast (Google Play), and all the other podcast directories through your podcast’s RSS feed.
The directories are how most people will find every episode of your podcast because they’re scrolling through category listings and looking for a new podcast to listen to. That’s why your podcast cover art mentioned before is so important. we cover 7 of the most popular podcast platforms in this post.
Luckily, getting listed on all the directories is a short learning curve with podcast hosting platforms like Buzzsprout. Buzzsprout and certain hosting sites are the best way to submit your RSS feed to each podcast directory easily and quickly.
Depending on the podcast hosting site you go with, you’ll find a Directories or related link where you can submit your podcast’s RSS feed to a number of directories, like Apple Podcasts, from there. The good thing is that once Apple Podcasts or another directory has your RSS feed, you’re good to go with them picking up your next new episode. There’s no need to resubmit your RSS feed to Apple Podcasts each time. Apple will check your RSS feed every 24 hours automatically.
Launch Your Podcast
All the steps previously are really all the necessary steps to Launch your podcast.
Let’s talk more about launching with a strategy in the sense of marketing and promotions. When you’re just a beginner and don’t have a following from another platform (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, blogging, other social media platforms), then you might want to consider a smaller launch to friends and family.
Most beginner podcasts aren’t that good. Sorry, but true. So it might not be a good idea to launch it in a big way. You may want to keep it small until you’ve got your sea legs and can find your voice after a few episodes. Get honest feedback from your family and close friends.
Continue to improve with each episode and when you’re ready, you can get the marketing and promotions train started. You’ll also want to plan out a publishing schedule because your listeners will want to know when new episodes are coming out.
If you do already have a following from another platform and you want to launch your podcast, be sure to use the checklist below to see if you’re ready to launch to a wide audience. Beginning podcasters with small, but loyal followings can get away with more trial and error. Beginning podcasters with large, not-so-loyal followings have little room for trial and error. Think about all the ways to listen to podcasts and see what your target listeners use.
This isn’t something that many people will tell you. They’ll tell you how easy it is to start a podcast – because it is easy. The problem is those beginner podcasters don’t get far because the podcaster hasn’t figured out who they are and what the podcast is all about yet. If the podcaster hasn’t yet, then first-time listeners definitely won’t and those listeners are most likely gone forever.
Marketing and Promotions
Before you start marketing and promoting to everyone, let’s double-check some things and see where you are on your podcasting journey:
- Do you have a clear target audience? Who is that one person you are speaking to?
- Are your podcast topic and niche clearly defined?
- Is your podcast format clearly defined?
- Are discussions in each episode clear and do not go on tangents?
- Is your audio of professional-level quality?
- Do you have good intros, intro music, outros, and music?
- Is your branding consistent across your podcast audio style, cover art, website (next section), and other audio/visual materials?
- Do you consider your last 5 podcast episodes as good?
That last one is big. Do you like your last 5 shows?
If you like it yourself, that means that you’ve found out who you are and what your podcast is about. You can now promote your podcast with confidence to people.
A problem with many beginners is they start promoting their podcast through social media, but they themselves may not be completely satisfied. For example, if they don’t like the sound quality, they’re not going to be able to promote it well and other people won’t like it either.
As part of your overall branding, a website for your podcast is also a great way to help you get your brand out to people. The website is the best way for everyone to access you and your podcast episodes. You may not think it, but the website adds to the listening experience for podcast listeners.
I know what you’re thinking – But isn’t that what Apple Podcasts and Spotify do? Yes, they do. But the problem is that you’re limited by what you can customize for your own branding. The best way to create a brand is to have a website.
New listeners who just listened to a podcast might go online and google to find out more about the podcast host, even to reach out. Search results might show the Apple Podcasts and another podcast directory listing, but they won’t have your email address or a contact form for podcast listeners to contact you through.
There’re a number of advantages to having your own website:
- Branding control – it’s in your hands and not a directory’s
- Listeners are not distracted by other podcasts
- Start an email list by collecting the email address of listeners, so you can connect with them anytime
- Connections with directories are not always the best
- The “Reconnecting…” pop-up message on Apple Podcasts
- Easier for everyone to remember your domain name
- Easier to be found in Google and other search engines, especially with SEO
- Easier to monetize your podcast (another section)
- Loop in non-podcast parts of your brand
- Start a blog, yes, I did say that.
- The blog could be as simple as a blog post per episode, show notes, transcript, etc.
- Or each post could be your personal thoughts on each podcast episode.
- Or you can track the beginnings of your how to start a podcast journey for people to learn from.
- Include other media like video
There are many ways to get a website up and running, but generally you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Sign up for a Bluehost web hosting account
- They’ll also give you a free domain name, so you can search for an available domain first.
- Install and Setup WordPress on Bluehost
- You can search for a WordPress theme that has a good layout for podcasts
- Start embedding your podcast episodes on your website
- Be sure to include your show notes with each episode too. This will help with SEO on your website
That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Yes, there are lots more steps in-between that have to do with customizing and personalizing your website design, but there are tools to make it easy. There’s also a lot you can do for SEO.
And of course, it’s easier to monetize your podcast with a website.
How much money do you make from podcasts?
Advertising revenue for podcasts is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2020.
Monetization is a valid consideration as you get started because it will take time to record, edit, and market your podcast. There are a number of ways to monetize your site and once you have a solid base of listeners, you can start looking into different options. Let’s take a look at some of the options:
Sponsorship and Ad Placements
This is probably one of the most common monetization methods as brands will want to sponsor and/or place ads in your podcast because you have a good-sized following. The sponsors and advertisers will often give you a script of what they want you to say during the intro, outro, or somewhere in the middle of your episodes.
Some podcast hosting platforms have partnered with advertisers, so they’ll help some podcasts with larger audiences. If you have a website, you can also offer ad placements on your website and potentially increase the overall revenue you receive.
The key is to make sure you continue to focus on great content as you’re starting a podcast. There are sponsors and advertisers for you in the future.
Marketing products/services from others is a popular way to monetize for Bloggers and YouTubers. They will mention products or services to their followers, and if a follower purchases through their affiliate link, the Blogger or YouTuber receives a commission.
The advantage with this way is you don’t need a big following for most affiliate programs. But you won’t be able to make more than a few dollars here and there until you have a good following.
In our articles, there are Amazon Affiliate links for most products mentioned here. If you click and purchase through my affiliate links, Amazon will send me a commission, somewhere between 1-4%. There are no extra costs to you or anyone else.
Many brands have affiliate programs, so you can often find them by searching “(Brand name) affiliate program” in Google. You can sign up for their programs and get unique affiliate links that you can share with others. You can read more about it and see a list of some of the top affiliate programs in this article, written by our friends at producerinyou.com. It’s geared toward bloggers, but still relevant as it’s about choosing affiliate programs that work with your topic niche.
Selling merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and anything else you can get your logo on is another popular way to monetize.
If you have your own website, you can sell directly from your site. There are print-on-demand (POD) companies like Printful that have WordPress plugins. Your listeners can purchase from your site and the order will go straight to Printful (or another POD company) to fulfill. You don’t have any inventory and there is no charge to you until someone orders a product.
Of course, you can also print a bunch of merchandise beforehand to sell and you’ll probably have higher profit margins this way. But there’s a large upfront cost to ordering all that inventory. Unless you know you’re going to sell a lot, then the better way is to get started with print-on-demand companies. If you see that you’re getting a lot of orders, you’ll have the data on what’s selling well. When you know what’s selling, you can consider purchasing the merchandise upfront because you know that they sell.
In the early stages of starting a podcast, selling merchandise will be more a difficult way of monetizing because you don’t have a brand yet.
Online Courses, eBooks, and Other Educational Materials
You’re reading this article hoping to learn about how to start a podcast. There are many other people out there who are also hoping to start a podcast. We want to share our experiences of starting a podcast with others, so we created this article.
If you want to share your knowledge, think about what topics you know well. Maybe it’s what you’re planning to talk about on your podcast? Can you package that up into an online course or into an eBook that could help others solve a problem?
You can create and sell online courses through platforms like Teachable. You can sell eBooks and other educational materials on your own website too.
Membership and Premium Content
Once you have a large following, you can look at setting up an exclusive area with premium content, and you sell memberships for access. You can use sites like Patreon.com or setup a members area on your website.
A good example of this would be the My Favorite Murder podcast’s Fan Cult Membership with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. Check out what they offer here. You can also look at them and see other things they do like Tours and merchandise.
Do check out a specific monetization for podcasts post here to learn more.
If you’ve made it down here, we want to say one thing – THANK YOU!
All the energy that was put into this How to Start a Podcast guide didn’t go to waste because at least one person (you!) got all the way down here!
Why didn’t we just create multiple, short articles? Well, we could’ve made you click through multiple links to get all this information, but we thought why not give you the ability to create your own PDF out of this article yourself?
Go to your browser’s Print function and save it out as a PDF. You now have an eBook sans formatting! That’s our little bonus tip for you, since you made it through the article.
We’ll have more specific articles in the future expanding on topics here and in other podcasting areas. We hope you continue to come back!
Now that we’re at the end, make sure to keep in mind that starting a podcast is a journey. The learning curve isn’t that great either. The key to any journey is to Get Started.
Handy Recaps / FAQs
This is a massive article, so here are some quick recaps that can be handy to refresh your mind on some key things when starting your own podcast:
- How to Start Your Own Podcast – All the Steps for Beginners
Recap of all the steps needed to get your podcast started. Click on each of the links to get taken back to the specific sections for each topic.
1. Pick Your Podcast Topic
2. Pick Your Podcast Format
3. Pick Your Podcast Name
4. Get Your Podcast Equipment
5. Get Your Podcast Software
6. Start Recording Your First Episode
7. Edit Your First Episode
8. Upload Audio to a Podcast Hosting Site
9. Podcast Cover Art and Visual Branding
10. Get Your Podcast Listed on Podcast Directories
11. Launch Your Podcast
12. Marketing and Promotions
13. Podcast Website
- Two Questions to Answer Before You Start Building Your Podcast
1. Why do you want to start a podcast?
2. Who are you talking to?
Find the answers to those two questions and you'll be on your podcast way!
- Popular Podcast Formats That Have Proved to Work For Podcasters
4. Storytelling – Scripted Fiction
5. Storytelling – Scripted Non-Fiction
6. News / Current Events
- What Do You Need to Start a Podcast?
3. Microphone Accessories – stand, boom arm, shock mount, cables, pop filters, etc.
5. Audio Interface and Audio Mixer
6. Portable Digital Audio Recorder
7. DRIVE and PASSION!
- Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) – Free Podcast Recording and Editing Software Options
1. Audacity – Mac, Windows, Linux
2. GarageBand – Mac
- Podcast Website – Advantages to Having Your Own Site
1. Branding control
2. Listeners only see you and your podcast
3. Connect with fans directly
4. Avoid directory downtime (eg., “Reconnecting…” pop-ups)
5. Easier for audiences to remember your domain
6. Easier to be found in Google and other search engines
7. Easier to monetize your podcast
8. Loop in other parts of your brand
- Popular Podcast Monetization Methods
1. Sponsorship and Ad Placements
2. Affiliate Marketing
4. Online Courses, eBooks, and Other Educational Material
5. Membership and Premium Content