How to Start a Podcast in 11 Steps
This article will walk you through all the steps that I believe are required to start podcasting, ranging from developing the idea, to signing contracts, to recording, to hosting and promoting your show. Additionally, this step by step guide does assume you have a basic working knowledge of recording software, setting up online accounts, etc. If you have any feedback about the information contained in this article feel free to contact me on twitter @bandrewsays.
STEP 1: DETERMINE THE PODCAST TOPIC
When deciding on what you want your show to be about you need to make sure that you’re passionate about the topic area. I say this because growing an audience can be difficult and it’s beneficial if you’re willing to talk about it if no one is listening, which may just be the case in the beginning.
Additionally, when choosing how narrow or broad your focus is, you should make sure that there’s sufficient content to talk about depending on how long you want your show to run for. For example, if you want a show to run for 100 episodes, but you’re discussing the different types of styrofoam in gas station cups, there may not be enough to talk about for the full run. But if you broaden the focus to different types of drink ware across different cultures, you might be able to make that last for the full 100 episode run.
STEP 2: COME UP WITH PODCAST FORMAT / STRUCTURE
The best way I have found to develop a format is by listening to competing podcasts in your topic area and see how they have structured their show. Once you’ve done that, determine what you don’t like about those shows, or what you would add if you were a guest on their show.
There are no standardized formats for podcasting, so you can run your show however you want. Personally, I subscribe to the idea that you should have a brief table of contents up top so people know what the episode is about, then you get into the meat and potatoes, and at the end of the show you do your plugs and all the personal stuff. As I mentioned though, this is completely subjective, so do whatever you think is best for your show, and whatever your audience wants.
STEP 3: COME UP WITH A NAME FOR YOUR PODCAST
This is one of the most important aspects of launching your podcast because this is what will be queryable in podcast directories. The name that you choose should have something to do with the focus of your show and should be descriptive of what the show will be about. For instance, if you’re starting a show about coffee, “Cult of Coffee” might be a good name, but “Bandrew’s Weekly Show” would be a bad name. Essentially, think of what people would be searching if they are trying to locate the information you’re providing.
Before you settle on your name, you should make sure to check podcast directories, social media sites, and domain registrars to ensure a show with your name does not already exist, and lock down those accounts and domains.
STEP 4: GENERATE A CONTRACT BETWEEN PODCAST TEAM
If you are launching a show with a podcast team (co-hosts, voice actors, writers, editors, producers, etc) you should draft up a brief agreement or contract outlining how any potential earnings will be handled. This will help avoid any awkward situations down the road if you end up making money.
STEP 5: BUY YOUR PODCASTING GEAR
Now for the fun part, picking out your gear. I would personally recommend going the route of a Cardioid Dynamic XLR microphone and audio interface. Some great beginner options would be the Samson Q2u (offers XLR and USB outputs), or the Behringer XM8500 (only XLR) and a Behringer audio interface like the UMC202HD.
For more information on microphones I recommend for starting a podcast, check out my article here.
When selecting the device to connect microphones to your computer, you have a decision to make. Do you want a USB Audio Interface, or a USB Mixer. The main difference is USB Audio Interfaces will allow you to record each input to a separate channel in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW’s discussed in Step 6), while a USB mixer typically mixes everything down to a single stereo file. What this means for you is that an audio interface will give you more control of mixing and processing in post, and on the other hand a USB mixer will allow you to do all the mixing and processing up front, so it limits the post production time.
The downsides to the audio interface route is that it can add a significant amount of time to your production schedule, but it allows you to really fine tune each person who is speaking into a separate microphone, and get the levels and processing just right. The mixer can save you a lot of time, but it makes it significantly more difficult to make any adjustments to levels or add any kind of processing to an individual microphone.
I should note that audio gear is constantly changing and evolving, so if you would like to stay up to date with my reviews you can find them at podcastage.com or you can stop by my discord server and ask for some advice at discord.podcastage.com
Step 6: Record a couple episodes of your podcast
Do not misinterpret this as a reason to never launch your show. This is intended to give you a bit of practice prior to launch. It has the added benefit of giving you a backlog of a few episodes in case you end up having to miss a release date, as well as helping determine how long it takes to edit, process, create show notes, and finalize the episode. This will give you the information needed to decide on what your release schedule should be because you’ll now know how much work goes into each episode.
If you are recording to a computer you will need what is called a DAW (digital audio workstation). This is the software that allows you to record, edit and process your audio. On the other hand if you’re recording to a portable recorder, you will need a DAW to edit and process your podcast once you import the files to your computer. When it comes to selecting your DAW, there are many options that you can download for free, or you can pay for an extremely expensive DAW that costs hundreds of dollars. In all honesty, for podcasting you can get away with a free DAW or a cheap DAW. Here are some options:
Audacity (Windows / Mac / Linux) - Free: https://www.audacityteam.org/
Garageband (Mac) - Free: https://www.apple.com/mac/garageband/
Reaper (Windows / Mac / Linux) - Free (or $60 if you want): https://www.reaper.fm/
Hindenberg (Windows / Mac) - $95 - $500: https://shop.hindenburg.com/
Logic Pro X (Mac) - $200: https://www.apple.com/logic-pro/
Adobe Audition (Windows / Mac) - $21/month: https://www.adobe.com/products/audition.html
Pro Tools (Windows / Mac) - $25-$30/month: https://www.avid.com/pro-tools
When it comes to processing the audio, it is a bit too in depth to get into in this article, so I will create a supplemental article to assist in making sure your podcast audio is ready to go.
Although we’re not going into editing or processing tutorials in this guide, I do need to note that when you’re finished with this step and you’re preparing your file for upload there are a few “standards” that you should follow (you don’t have to, but they are generally accepted).
First, the final podcast should be an MP3 file that is exported as CBR (constant bit rate) in 64kbps if it’s a mono file or 128kbps if it’s a stereo file. These are options that you should be able to select once you choose to export/bounce the finalized edit of the show.
There is also a generally accepted loudness that you should level to which is -16 LUFS (loudness units full scale). The easiest way that I have found to do this is a piece of software called Auphonic. You can use this service for free if you only use it on 2 hours of audio per month, or you can pay for the service/software if you need to process more than that every month.
Step 7: Get your podcast art created
This is another step that is very important in my opinion because this is the first impression people will have of your show. If you have a working knowledge of photoshop feel free to design it yourself, but if you can’t create it yourself, you should hire an artist. I hired a few Fiverr artists to design some artwork and the prices range anywhere from $5 up to $100+, so there are artists for every budget. Find an artist for your artwork on Fiverr (Affiliate Link). Here are some examples of the artwork I received from a few Fiverr artists:
NOTE: You should make sure to vet the artists prior to hiring them to create your podcast artwork to ensure they’re trustworthy and do not use copyrighted imagery in the art provided. I chose to hire people who did full hand drawn artwork to avoid this issue.
Step 8: Set up your social media accounts
If you did not do so in step 3 of this guide, do so now. Lock down your show name on all the social media accounts that you’d like, but I’d only suggest directing people to the accounts you actually plan on using because it’s always a let down going to the social media account of someone you want to follow and seeing that they do not have anything but auto-posts from their podcast host.
Step 9: Set up URL / Hosting / RSS Feed
Again if you didn’t do so in step 3, get your domain locked down, and also set up your podcast hosting / rss feed. The reason I recommend having a domain is that it is a hub online that YOU own, meaning if you were to get banned from any social media sites it may be difficult for your audience to find you. But, if you’d been directing people to your domain the entire time, your audience would still know where to find what you’d been working on. With the domain you can either set up a stand alone website for your show using a service like Squarespace or Wordpress, or you can use it as the location for your podcast site, for instance bandrewsays.com as opposed to bandrewsays.libsyn.com. For domain registration there are too many options to list. When I asked around these seemed to be some of the most frequently used services.
Google Domains: https://domains.google
Name Cheap: https://www.namecheap.com/
There are also many different podcast hosts available which will host your content, and generate the RSS feed so you don’t have to do any obnoxious manual coding. I cannot tell you which one to use, so you should check the pricing and features of the available hosts to determine which is the best fit for you.
You will also need to submit your show to Apple Podcasts and any other podcast directory that you would like your show to be included in (note: many podcatchers use the Apple Podcast directory).
Apple Podcasts: https://itunesconnect.apple.com/login?module=PodcastsConnect
Google Podcasts: No submission required.
Radio Public: https://podcasters.radiopublic.com/
Many directories require that you have at least one episode uploaded to your feed, so you may not be able to submit to these directories until your first episode is live or you have a traiier uploaded. I do not provide step by step instructions on submission to each of these as the instructions provided on each submission page is fairly easy to follow. If you run into any issues, let me know on twitter @bandrewsays, and I’ll attempt to assist ASAP.
Step 10: Launch your podcast
This is a pretty simple step. In your podcast host, you’ll upload the mp3 files and input all of the episode information. Then you’ll hit the “publish” button on your first episode to go live. One last reminder, don’t forget to stay on schedule with your release so your audience knows when to expect a new episode. HAVE FUN!
Step 11: Promote your podcast
Do NOT go to a bunch of facebook communities or message boards and spam “YOU NEED TO CHECK OUT MY SHOW”, because that will accomplish nothing other than making enemies. What you should do is become an active and valuable community member of whatever niche you’re in. Then when people realize you’re knowledgable they may ask you how you know so much, and you can link them to your show.
Also, when posting your show on social media, make each post interactive. What I mean is instead of just auto-posting the URL to your show, add a question for your community to answer and interact with. This will increase engagement and let you get to know your audience. Don't be disheartened if there’s no interaction initially, it happens to all of us.
Another great option to get some awareness of your show is by guesting on shows with an overlapping audience. For instance, if you’re launching a show focused on art restoration, you might want to guest on a show that focuses on art appreciation. This will allow you an opportunity to show potential audience members what you can offer them if they subscribe to your show.
The last option for promotion that I have is to submit feedback to other podcasts that you listen to and are in a similar field as your show. I do not mean, leave a review on their show in Apple Podcasts. I mean if they have a feedback segment on their show, consider recording an audio sample and sending that in, or try providing a well thought out e-mail / comment regarding a topic they discussed on their show. If they choose to include your clip or feedback, they may provide a shoutout for your show.
Bonus Step 1: Listen to every episode
You’re not done just yet. You now have to listen to every episode that you publish, and my recommendation is find at least 1 minor thing in every episode that you want to improve on the next iteration of the show. This will help keep the podcast fresh and exciting for you, but also makes the process of improving your show much less daunting since you’re only improving one small thing each episode.
Bonus Step 2: Listen to podcasts about podcasting
There are so many podcasts about podcasting that are insanely valuable, and the best part is THEY’RE FREE! Why aren’t you subscribed to them already. By listening to these shows it will help you stay on top of the latest podcast news, as well as any potential changes to podcast directories or standards that may potentially harm your show (i.e. Apple deleting shows for keyword stuffing in podcast name and author fields).
Better Podcasting: http://betterpodcasting.com
School of Podcasting: http://schoolofpodcasting.com
Podcast Engineering Show: https://podcastengineeringschool.com/category/show/
Podcaster’s Roundtable: http://podcastersroundtable.com
Pod News: https://podnews.net/
Audacity to Podcast: http://audacitytopodcast.com
If you follow all these steps you should be well on your way to launching your show and getting your content out there. If you would like to hear my show where I analyze the latest technology, social media, and YouTube news to determine how it affects you as a content creator, you can find it at bandrewsays.com, and you can also check all my other projects at bandrewscott.com