Spend about an hour in discussion with me and there’s a 90% chance I’ll mention at least 1 podcast that I’m listening to. Then I’m likely to follow that up by telling you how much I’ve wanted to do a podcast for more than 10 years now.
Now, before we get any further into this content, let me confess that I have still yet to launch a podcast as of this writing. (3/23/2020) However, just because I haven’t launched one of my own doesn’t mean I haven’t done 10 years of research into how to launch a podcast – and I’ve even helped others get theirs launched.
Because of my knowledge of podcasting, I often have friends ask me for advice on how to get started. That’s why I’m writing this large how-to.
So let’s get to it.
Start with your topic
The first thing you need before you can start a podcast is your topic. It’s very likely you’ve already made this decision and that’s probably what prompted you to want to start a podcast. But, if you’re like me and you just know you want to do a podcast and you haven’t yet nailed down the topic, that’s ok. So let me just throw out a few suggestions on ways to find what your topic should be.
I believe there are four main paths to making this decision:
- Pick a topic with which you’re obsessed. This will likely be a hobby or passion of some sort. It could be related to your job if you’re lucky enough to be doing something your passionate about.
- Pick a topic in which you are an expert. Now, I know your first thought might be “I’m no expert,” but let me ease your mind be telling you that everyone has someone else that knows more than them in a given topic. You may not be the most knowledgeable on the topic you choose, but you can always be sure that you know more than someone else. And perhaps there are people out there who just need to hear it from your perspective. Nobody else can deliver a topic the way you can!
- Pick a topic you want to learn more about. Some of the most proficient leaders I follow in some of the topics I’m passionate about started off as people who just wanted to learn more. They were willing to do that learning out in the open. They made everything public as they learned more about a topic, and in turn, they thought their audience more about that topic, too. Along the way, they became a go-to source. Don’t be afraid to learn in front of others and lead them in the process.
- Choose a topic based on competition. This one won’t apply to many, but for those that are seeking to do a podcast because of the business/income possibilities in the podcast world, then you might want to think about this scenario a little. I won’t waste a lot of time going through it, but if you’re interested you can start by reading this article.
Pick a Name
After you’ve chosen your topic for your podcast, it’s time to give it a name. Now, it’s easy to get stuck at this point if you don’t already have a name. Don’t let it delay you, though. A name, while important, isn’t important enough to make or break your show. You should still give this step a fair amount of thought, though. If you have a brand that’s associated with your podcast, then just use that brand name. Otherwise, just pick something that’s memorable and descriptive. Don’t try to flood your name with keywords. Just keep it simple.
You’ll want to purchase a domain name to fit your show name. To do that, I recommend Namecheap. They are low priced and the interface is super easy. I’ve used a lot of domain registry services and they are by far the best I’ve seen. Please don’t use GoDaddy…. 🙂
I would recommend searching the various social platforms and domain names to make sure the name you want is available. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but it can help to have a consistent name across platforms. If the name you want isn’t available on all platforms, but it’s available on the one platform you use most, then choose it. You don’t have to be on every social platform to be successful. Just be good at one service.
Create Your Cover Art
Aside from a simple, memorable name for your podcast, you also need some attractive cover art. Good cover art can help you really stand out in the crowd of podcasts when others are searching through the catalog. Quality cover art can also lend credibility to your show. It’s like judging a book by it’s cover–we all know we aren’t supposed to, but we still do!
Here are some tips for creating great cover art.
- If your podcast isn’t for a brand, it’s a great idea to put your face on the cover. People connect better with people than they do with brands. When they see your face, they connect. Otherwise, your brand logo will suffice.
- Make the title large. Users should be able to read the title of your podcast clearly in a grid of other podcast show covers.
- Use vibrant colors if possible. Check the other podcasts in your category and pick colors that stand out among the crowd of other shows.
How to create your cover art
If you’re comfortable with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator (or other design software) then you’re probably already comfortable tackling the cover art on your own. So, for the non-designers out there, there’s a really great, free program online called Canva. If you’re a solo operation, Canva makes creating all sorts of creative super simple. Not only can you use it to create your cover art, but you can also use it to create social posts, ads, and more.
Time for Equipment
Let’s start this section by saying if you have only your phone, then you have enough to start a good podcast. Equipment for podcasting can get expensive quickly, and if your podcast grows to a point where better equipment makes sense, then that’s great and you should definitely upgrade when possible. But to get started, all you really need is your phone. I’ll cover more about what software to use on your phone, later.
For now, let’s cover some of the simple equipment purchases you could make when you’re ready to move past just your phone. Or perhaps you have the budget for equipment from day 1.
There are several different podcast mics available and most of them will provide good quality. It really comes down to your budget and your environment. A good audio environment (often a bedroom closet – seriously) can make even the cheapest mic sound good enough.
Here are some of the mics I recommend.
Audio-Technica AT2005USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone – $79
Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB Cardioid Dynamic Microphone – $99
INSTAMIC PRO | Wearable Wireless Waterproof Audio Recorder and Bluetooth Microphone – $189
Blue Yeti USB Mic – $129
Zoom iQ7 Stereo X/Y Microphone for iPhone – $99
Rode IXYL Cardioid Condenser Microphone for iOS – $199
Rode Podcaster USB Dynamic Microphone – $229
Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone – $399
As you can see, there’s a big price range for podcast mics. I have an Audio-Technica mic and it does a great job. You might even be able to find an older model for less than $79. I also have the InstaMic and it’s a great little travel mic that can act like a lapel. If you want to record on location, it’s a great option. Plus it’s waterproof!
If you have zero budget and you still want to start a podcast, don’t worry. You can just use the earbuds that came with your phone and that will be good enough to get you started! Just get into a nice quiet room that doesn’t echo and you’ll be fine.
Recorders are not required to do a podcast. You can easily just record directly into your phone or computer. That’s totally fine and if it’s all you have, then go with it. But if you have some money to spare and you want to have a nice recorder as a backup (or even as the master) then there are some great options out there. Plus these can travel, so you can record away from your home/office.
There are a few other items you may want to grab if your budget allows:
You may be able to find all three of those items in a package deal on Amazon.
You Need Podcast Hosting
One of the common misconceptions with podcasting is that iTunes does not host your podcast. iTunes and Spotify are simply catalogs that display podcasts that have been submitted, but you never send them your audio file. You only send them a link to something called an RSS feed, which links to each audio file as you publish them.
The next thing to know is that if you have a website, don’t be fooled into thinking you can upload your audio to the website the way you do images, etc. Most web hosts restrict things like podcasts because of the amount of space and data that is required with podcast hosting.
Basically you need a hosting provider that specifically hosts podcasts. There are several podcast hosting options out there and most are pretty good and have their own pros/cons.
I recommend only one podcast host and that’s Transistor.fm. There are many reasons I recommend Transistor over other hosts. Here are some of the main reasons:
- The owners are great guys who I have followed online for 5+ years.
- It’s inexpensive – $19/month for unlimited podcasts. That means you could launch another podcast and still only pay the $19/month.
- It includes a fully functioning website for your podcast. So you can connect your domain name, or use the one provided, and have your website be hosted by Transistor.
- It has a pretty slick podcast player to embed on your website if you choose.
- The interface is super easy to use.
- You don’t need an external RSS feed and you can upload and submit your podcast to iTunes, Stitcher, Google, and Spotify, all from right within Transistor. Other hosts simply host your files, they don’t do all the other stuff. Transistor does… and it’s awesome.
And A Podcast Website
As I mentioned earlier, if you use Transistor.fm for your podcast hosting, then you get a website as a part of your paid account.
Wherever you decide to host your website, the important thing is that you do have a website to drive listeners to. This is where you can have your email newsletter sign up (and you should definitely start an email newsletter) and also where you can post your show notes.
Don’t forget that if you decide to use Transistor for hosting but not your website, you should still take advantage of the podcast player they provide and embed that into your website.
Decide How Often You Will Publish
“How often should I publish podcast episodes?”
The answer is you should publish as often as you’re able to on a consistent basis. The keyword there is consistent. Whether you publish daily, once a week, twice a week, or twice a month, the important thing is that you’re consistent. Your listeners will depend on your consistency so if you stray, you’ll lose them. Commit to what you think you can stick to and nothing more. It would be better to record twice a week, but publish once a week and build up a backlog.
Plan Your Show Format
This part is pretty flexible and you don’t necessarily have to nail it down upfront. But you should give it some thought. Here are some ideas for creating your show format.
Will you have segments? These could be intros, user questions, commentary after an interview, or even ads. Think through if you want to have segments or not. Segments are a great way to break up the content, especially if your main content gets lengthy. They are also a great way to extend the time if your content is super short. You might only have a 10-minute main segment, but add on a 5-minute intro and 10-minute user question segment and now you’ve got a longer podcast.
How long will your show be? The length depends on several factors. If your content lends itself to longer conversations, then long podcasts are fine. Especially if you’re posting less often. If you’re posting twice a week or even daily, you can get by with shorter podcasts. I would say a good rule of thumb would be to have at least 20 minutes, but it’s ok if your podcast is almost an hour. Most of the podcasts I listen to are an hour.
Will you split your show into seasons? This has gotten popular in the last few years. It allows for some time off as the podcast creator to plan for the next season. If you think there are seasons of life that would limit your ability to be consistent, then definitely consider the season model for your show. If you think you can publish year-round, then you could probably just publish without categorizing it into seasons.
Most people will do just fine recording their podcast directly into their computer using software such as Garageband. But, you should also consider posting your podcast on YouTube when you are finished. And if you post it on YouTube, then you also have the opportunity to go live on YouTube or just post a recorded video of yourself doing your podcast.
Another option for recording your podcast (and publishing/hosting) is an app owned by Spotify called Anchor. It’s a pretty robust app that allows recording, live streaming, call-in guests, editing, cover art creation, publishing, monetizing, and more. Honestly, this app can eliminate the need for everything else in this post, but you give up some control by doing everything through the app. So I definitely recommend it as a way to get started, but once you get your bearings with your new podcast you’ll want to transition to your own recording equipment, mics, hosting, website, etc.
I know not everyone is comfortable on camera. Trust me, I’m not either. But there’s a huge audience on YouTube and people love to subscribe to podcasts on there, especially if they can see you while they listen. It really opens up the experience for your users beyond just audio since they can see your expressions, etc.
If you’re going to record video and upload it to YouTube later, a great option is to do that on your iPhone using an app called Dolby On. This is a video app made by Dolby, the group behind Dolby Surround Sound. They have figured out how to record excellent audio using the microphones built into an iPhone. So you can use this even if you don’t have an external mic and really get some great audio. It even allows you to live-stream directly to your Facebook page (your podcast should have a Facebook page of its own, so set that up if you haven’t already!).
If you want to stream to multiple platforms, or just have control over what’s on your screen like your name, logo, etc. then I recommend a great live streaming service called Restream.
Another option for the same type of functionality is Streamyard.
There’s also an application for your computer and phone called Wirecast that allows you to stream to platforms and use multiple cameras/devices. It’s more robust so when you get ready for a tool like that, it’s worth a look.
Once you’ve recorded audio for your podcast, you’ll want to edit out any mess-ups, blank spaces, and anything else you want to cut out. It’s also a great time to enhance audio, raise audio levels, etc. That all can get complicated, but most of the time you can get by with just the basic controls in Garageband.
Another great option for post-show editing is a service called Auphonic. You upload your audio and it will normalize the volume and do some other enhancements/cleanups on the audio for you.
This part is really key. You really need to have show notes for every episode. This is your chance to post links and further information for things you mentioned during your show.
Your show notes should also include a transcript of your entire episode. Now, I know that sounds overwhelming. But there’s a really great piece of software out now that will transcribe for you! It can even do things like removing sound bites just by deleting words from the transcript! It’s a really amazing app. It’s called Descript.
Lastly, your show notes are a great place to post the link to the episode on your website.
Have More Questions?
That was a lot. I’ll be adding to this page more and more as I get more tips and information to share on how to get started with podcasting. In the meantime, if you have questions please let me know! I’m happy to help however I can. I’m planning some webinars in the future where I’ll dive deeper into this stuff so if you’re interested in that, then sign up with your email at the bottom of this site and I’ll let you know when it’s ready!