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Updated Jun 06, 2024

Tips for Starting a Podcast

Follow these steps to start a podcast for your business.

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Paula Fernandes, Contributing Writer
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Podcasts have become essential companions, whether for enduring a lengthy commute, navigating parenthood, or passing the time in a waiting room. Podcasts have evolved into essential resources for information and entertainment, with approximately 3 million active podcasts and 150 million episodes since their inception in 2005, according to data from Exploding Topics. Podcasts are popular, too; Edison Research’s The Infinite Dial survey found that about 64% of the U.S. population tunes in to at least one.

This high popularity has gotten the attention of marketers, who recognize the potential for audience engagement. Podcasting offers a unique platform to establish authority, influence consumer decisions and foster brand loyalty via word-of-mouth advertising. The beauty lies in its accessibility, as launching a podcast often requires minimal initial investment. However, navigating the podcasting landscape can be daunting, especially for beginners. We’ve consulted experts to help you sidestep common pitfalls and kick-start your podcasting journey.

TipTip
Looking for an online business idea you can launch quickly? Starting a podcast is a great option. Some others include becoming a mobile app developer, social media consultant, web designer or affiliate blogger.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio series available online. Like a TV or radio show, a podcast is often made up of episodes and seasons. Listeners can subscribe to specific podcasts and listen to them whenever and wherever it’s convenient. Tuning in to a podcast requires only a smartphone, tablet or computer that’s connected to the internet.

How to start a podcast

So how can you make your own podcast? Here’s some expert advice on how to start.

1. Identify your topic and audience.

The first step is to decide on your podcast’s focus. You need to find a happy medium between a topic that’s broad enough that you can explore various aspects and narrow enough to attract an audience with that specific interest.

Don’t try to be everything to everybody, advised Jennifer Moxley, founder and CEO of Sunshine Media Network, whose work includes guiding clients on how to start, improve and be interviewed on podcasts.

“By showcasing quality content targeted to a specific group of people who want that content, you’ll find your voice and start to grow your audience,” she said.

If your industry is underserved in the podcast universe, there are probably listeners who are hungry for information and actively searching for new content. Find a niche market where you can speak easily and authoritatively for long stretches in informal and engaging language.

Did You Know?Did you know
There are podcasts for Salesforce fanatics that are dedicated to helping people learn more about this CRM platform.

Choose a name.

As part of identifying your topic and audience, you should choose an appealing name.

There are a couple of ways to find the perfect name for your podcast. You can come up with a descriptive, self-explanatory title, or you can create something clever and catchy that offers a clear connection back to your niche. The name must be instantly recognizable to listeners looking for your topic.

Although it may be tempting, avoid incorporating your name into the title. This works only if you already have tremendous name recognition among your audience.

Select a format.

There are many podcast formats; the most common ones include solo shows, co-hosted shows and interview shows. Solo shows involve the podcaster speaking directly to the audience. With a co-hosted show, you share the mic with another presenter. In an interview show, you speak with guests, which you can do solo or with a co-host.

“If you’re interviewing guests, two hosts can be a bit cumbersome and also potentially prevent you from digging into interesting information from your guest, because both hosts may want to add commentary,” said Jen Spencer, CEO of SmartBug Media and host of the podcast Intelligent Inbound. However, she noted that a co-hosted show can work if each presenter plays a specific role.

Regardless of the arrangement you prefer, what matters most is that you find a format that lends itself well to exploring your subject matter.

“In the end, it’s about having a message that resonates with your audience, not the number of voices delivering it,” said Mary-Lynn Foster, vice president of the coaching and e-learning firm BIGG Success.

2. Define your style.

The most successful podcasts provide targeted content in a conversational, engaging style. Be authentic. Talk about what you know, using essentially the same words and tone you normally use when conversing with a close friend. Successful podcasts allow listeners to get to know the podcasters.

“Every person who is new to podcasting needs to understand that the key to being interesting is being interested,” said Jason Klamm, founder and executive producer of StolenDress Entertainment and producer and co-host of Dan and Jay’s Comedy Hour. “Curiosity is everything, even if you’ve got a ton of knowledge on a subject already. Make each show a connection, either with the interviewee or the audience. Eventually, you’ll figure out what the story you actually want to tell is.”

With your style set, you’ll need to put some thought into two additional aspects of your podcast: length and frequency.

Decide on the length.

Your podcast’s length should be determined by how much you have to say on a topic and the needs of your audience. “We give each episode the freedom to be the length it needs to be,” Foster said.

There are five-minute podcasts that appeal to a certain kind of listener and four-hour podcasts that offer in-depth coverage of a particular issue. However, typical podcasts tend to be 20 to 45 minutes. Find what works for you, and don’t be afraid to vary the length when necessary.

The podcast’s objective is to connect with listeners and build a community over time. People will invest their time in listening to what you have to say, so make it worth their while.

Did You Know?Did you know
A podcast is usually around the length of an average commute: 20 to 45 minutes.

Figure out the frequency.

Your content will determine how often you release new episodes. However, if you are trying to build a brand or gain traction with followers, consider recording and issuing an episode each week.

“I wish I’d been told how important keeping a regular release schedule was in maintaining an audience and getting more listeners,” Klamm said. “If I had, the show might have grown a lot faster.”

To avoid feeling overwhelmed and rushed when producing new episodes, create a few episodes before launching, Spencer recommended. This way, “you don’t feel unreasonably pressured, but you are still able to stick to a regular schedule for your subscribers,” she said.

3. Get the right equipment.

All that’s required is a laptop or a tablet, audio recording and editing software, and a high-quality microphone to record the audio.

Microphones

“The utmost important factor in a show is sound,” said Tom Scarda, founder and host of The Franchise Academy Podcast. “[Do] not skimp on a good microphone.”

A poor-quality mic may result in fuzzy audio that will brand your podcast as amateurish. Look for a USB microphone that plugs into the USB port of your computer. Do not use your computer’s built-in microphone.

There are some basic microphones for less than $100, but if you’re serious about podcasting, you’ll want to budget for a higher-quality model. Many podcasters swear by Blue Yeti USB or Audio-Technica microphones.

Condenser microphones, such as the Samson Q2U, also provide rich sound and are quite popular. Be sure to buy enough microphones in case you have several speakers or guests.

Consider purchasing a pop filter to muffle or reduce the clicking and smacking sounds people make when speaking normally into a microphone.

Ideally, you should record audio in a quiet area away from cars and nature noises. To reduce the time you’ll spend editing each podcast, consider sectioning off the room and adding dense, sound-absorbing materials. Some podcasters record in a closet, where carpeted floors and hanging clothing absorb ambient sounds.

Recording and editing

You’ll need audio software to create your podcast. If you own a MacBook or an iPad, you are already ahead of the recording and editing game. Apple’s laptops and tablets typically come equipped with GarageBand, a professional-level studio editing application that’s free and easy to use. Learn more about working with GarageBand by watching the GarageBand Podcast Editing and How to Use GarageBand for Podcasting YouTube tutorials.

For PC users, applications such as Audacity and Adobe Audition are similar to GarageBand. Audacity is free, and Audition is available for a monthly subscription.

TipTip
If all of this feels too technical for you, you may want to try Alitu, a podcast-maker tool that helps build episodes by automating the processing, editing and publishing of your show.

4. Conduct interviews the right way.

If you have remote guests, choose a video conference service that lets you record calls. The quality is much better than you get with landlines, and the connections are usually strong.

Beyond the tech tools necessary to record interviews, you’ll need interviewing skills to elicit information from your guests. As an interviewer, you’ll need to build a rapport with guests, as well as sound natural and fluid while keeping them on topic.

“Interviewers must keep the interview moving forward, [as well as] focused and relatable,” Moxley said. “They should realize when the answers are getting derailed or lengthy and keep [their] ears open for those golden nuggets of information.”

Additionally, interviewers must be ready to challenge or call out a guest’s comments or assertions when necessary. This is sometimes uncomfortable for new podcasters, but it’s key if you want to establish long-term credibility.

“Often, a new podcast host is so grateful for an interview, they allow it to be full of fluff,” Moxley said. “If you’re just hosting 30-minute commercials for someone, today’s audience will not participate or trust you.”

TipTip
You probably prepared questions for your interviewee, but remember that you can ask questions that are not on your list. This lets you follow up on something your interviewee said during the interview. Having interview skills, like knowing when to ask follow-up questions, is a great way to dive deeper into the interview and shows you’re prepared for anything.

5. Embellish and upload your podcast.

With your style and audience defined and your interviews conducted and recorded with high-quality equipment, you’re ready to share your podcast with the world. To do so, you should add the following elements to your podcast.

Voice-overs

An intro is a short voice-over, usually accompanied by music, introducing each podcast episode and the host(s) at the show’s beginning. Outros thank listeners and direct them to your website at the end. You can record these yourself or hire a voice-over professional to record them through a service like Music Radio Creative.

Podcast intros and outros add personality and professionalism. They can be creative and fun, but most importantly, they should make a good first impression, thus reassuring listeners that they made the right choice in selecting your podcast and that you will deliver.

Music

You want music in your intro and outro to suit your show’s personality.

One of the most extensive libraries of free-to-use music, also known as Creative Commons, is Incompetech. However, because the music on this and similar sites is free, it’s very commonplace and used extensively. If you have some room in your budget, get royalty-free music for a one-time fee at Jamendo. You also can access thousands of music tracks through the monthly subscription service Storyblocks.

Another creative, budget-conscious option is to have a local band or musician compose something specifically for your show, or ask if you can use a clip from one of their existing songs. This partnership provides you with original music while offering the artist some exposure.

Cover art

Your podcast cover art is the first thing listeners see when looking through podcast directories like iTunes or Google Play. Your cover art should be 1400 x 1400 pixels, in JPG or PNG form, and under 500KB to meet iTunes’ specifications.

Podcast artwork is your first opportunity to create a strong visual brand. Your artwork should visually communicate your podcast’s subject, include your logo (if you have one), and use simple fonts and high-quality images. Remember, your listeners will see the image in a much smaller format, so keep it clean and uncomplicated.

Use stock images to create cover art on platforms such as Canva or Snappa, or pay for custom art through sites like 99designs, Podcast Designs or Fiverr.

Did You Know?Did you know
There are various presentation tools that you can explore and experiment with when creating your podcast cover art.

Hosting

Once you edit the audio and add images and music for the podcast’s intro and outro, you’re ready to export the finished podcast to your website and the distribution platforms of your choice.

Many novice podcasters assume that you upload your podcast directly to places like iTunes. However, you need to create an account with a media host, which is a subscription service that stores your audio files. In addition to housing your audio files, a hosting service provides statistics, marketing tools and podcast websites while serving as a link between you and podcast directories such as iTunes.

Libsyn and Buzzsprout tend to be favorites among podcasters, but there are many other hosting services, including Blubrry, Podbean and Transistor.

“They make it easy to upload your audio file, add show notes and get your podcast to the places where people will be listening,” said Joey Held, senior manager at INK Communications and host of the podcasts Good People, Cool Things and Parks n Wrecked.

After you have your web hosting squared away, your media host will provide you with an RSS feed, which is basically a URL. This is the feed you’ll submit to platforms such as iTunes, SoundCloud, TuneIn and Spotify. You can then publicize your RSS feed to listeners so they can find, download and subscribe to your show.

Make sure your podcast landing page on these platforms includes art that reflects your podcast’s look and feel. Platforms such as iTunes pay attention to details like artwork and podcast description text.

Did You Know?Did you know
Design matters as a marketing tool. Your podcast's landing page and cover art give prospective listeners their first impression of your show.

6. Launch and promote your podcast.

To generate buzz on launch day, have several episodes already completed and uploaded. As part of your marketing plan, announce the launch in advance to your business network via email and social media. You want to build an audience before you launch. To improve your chances of being noticed and possibly featured by iTunes, encourage new listeners to subscribe to your podcast and leave reviews.

To get the most out of your podcast, think of ways to repurpose your podcast content on your blog and social media channels. Also, be open and willing to learn about your listeners’ needs by the way they respond to your content. This is especially important if your listeners are current or potential customers.

“We’ve been able to track which episodes are the most popular and have used those insights to inform marketing campaigns,” Spencer said. “For example, one of my latest podcast episodes on SEO [search engine optimization] basics is pacing well ahead of any other episode. This data helps validate the need for our company to create more educational content on this topic, because clearly our audience is hungry for it.”

Did You Know?Did you know
Podcasts can be a call-to-action tool. For example, pull a tip from your podcast and post it on social media, which will prompt readers to listen to that podcast episode.

7. Explore additional podcast resources.

Though podcasting may be intimidating, there are support systems to help newcomers succeed.

“The best thing for every newbie to know about starting a podcast is that other podcasters want to help you,” Foster said. “Podcasters are some of the most giving people, who freely offer tips and encouragement.”

A host of online podcast communities can answer your questions and provide support. Here are just a few:

TipTip
Even if your podcast niche isn’t relevant to some of the support system topics, listening and connecting to them can still offer support. These groups can help you expand and grow your vision for your podcast and the podcast itself. Family and friends are a great support system even if they don’t completely understand your new podcast business.

Benefits of starting a podcast

If you still don’t know if it’s worth your time to create a podcast, consider the following benefits.

Create connections

Podcasting allows you to build a relationship with your audience, thereby opening doors to new opportunities.

“Whether you’re hosting your own [show] or appearing as a guest on another show, you’re connecting with someone in your industry or field, which can lead to additional work and collaboration down the line,” Held said.

Build a name for yourself

Podcasting gives you access to movers and shakers in your field in a way few other experiences can.

“My podcast gives me credibility with my clients … and allows me to contact people who are otherwise out of reach to request an interview,” Scarda said.

Earn some extra money

There are ways to make some extra cash through a podcast, even if you’re on a smaller scale when starting out. Consider making podcast hosting your side hustle; it will bring in some extra cash and be an enjoyable experience.

Start a new hobby

Podcasts are a great way to have an entertaining activity to do either by yourself or with friends. Podcasts can be free or low-cost to make; for those on a budget and in need of entertainment, podcasts likely won’t break the bank.

Become an expert

Perhaps most important, podcasting helps establish you as an expert in your chosen area or field because of your efforts to delve deeper into relevant issues during your show. You can become a trusted voice and thought leader whom others come to for insight and advice. Your brand will grow as you connect with listeners — similar to customer engagement — and provide them with the information they need most.

“Podcasts can elevate your level of expertise in a field, which you can leverage for your own exposure,” Moxley said. “Podcasts can make you relevant; they’re a reason for someone to talk about you, share your social media content, invite you to guest panels, or highlight you in your community.”

Misconceptions about starting a podcast

There are often misconceptions about how to break into a field and grow. Here are some myths about starting a podcast. 

You’re too late.

A common misconception is that with the podcast market constantly growing and already having thousands of podcasters, you’re too late to make your own. This just isn’t true; you can still create a podcast and have it resonate with listeners.

You won’t be found.

Similar to the previous point, many beginners in the podcast world might think it’s already a saturated market so their podcast won’t be discovered. This isn’t the case if you find the right niche. If the podcast is geared toward a specific audience, it will be easier to connect with listeners.

It’s a full-time job.

Another myth is that podcasting requires a lot of time, practically making it a full-time job. Although that’s sometimes true for big-name podcasts, it can also be a fun hobby or side project.

You need to be well-known to start one.

Just because the public doesn’t know you yet doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. Making an entertaining podcast will allow you to be successful, with or without a well-known name.

Mistakes to avoid when starting a podcast

As a podcast newbie, you’re bound to make mistakes, but here are some of the most common ones to avoid.

Buying expensive equipment

You don’t need a professional studio with fancy equipment to record a podcast. Keep it simple, with just one laptop and a high-quality microphone.

Using copyright-protected songs

Don’t use copyright-protected music without permission; it’s a severe violation that will get you kicked off iTunes or Spotify.

Using a script or teleprompter

A short topic outline might prove helpful, but successful podcasters don’t use scripts because they lead to stilted language that doesn’t resonate with listeners. Podcasts that feel like an advertisement or resemble college lectures won’t cut it, either.

Following your time, not your subject

Don’t stretch out material to fit a rigid time frame or, conversely, cram so much information into an episode that it overwhelms listeners. You can be lengthy when the topic calls for it, but don’t be lengthy just to meet the time you’d prefer to have.

TipTip
You can have an advertisement in your podcast without making the entire episode sound like a commercial or college lecture by keeping your advertisement simple. Just make sure your podcast revolves around your topic for that episode, not the advertisement.

How to make money with a podcast

While you might be starting your podcast as a fun hobby, there are ways to make money off your podcast even with a small audience.

Ads

Although you don’t want your podcast to sound like an advertisement, you can find companies that will pay you to feature them for less than a minute. This way, you make money while having listeners tune in for what you’re saying, especially if the commercial you feature is related to your topic.

Affiliate marketing

Similar to ads, affiliate marketing allows you to choose a more specific topic that could align with your podcast niche and listeners’ interests. When listeners click affiliate links or codes in your episode or purchase an item with the code, you’ll make a commission.

Donations

If you’re an extroverted podcaster who’s not afraid to be upfront with your listeners, ask for donations directly. Set up a link where listeners can support your podcast. You can even give your donors a shout-out on the next episode as a reward. This way, you make it interactive with listeners while bringing in some extra cash.

Merchandise

Once your podcast grows in popularity, place your brand’s logo on items you can sell for listeners to buy. Whether you put your cover art on shirts or a catchphrase on a mug, selling merchandise can help bring in money to your business.

Mastering the mic

Podcasts have emerged as indispensable companions in people’s daily lives, providing knowledge and entertainment to millions of listeners. There is so much potential in the podcast landscape, but finding where to start can be tricky. Podcasts offer a unique platform for individuals and businesses to connect with audiences, establish authority and foster meaningful relationships. Follow the advice provided so you can join the podcast life that’s full of rewarding opportunities and connections.

Paula Fernandes contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Paula Fernandes, Contributing Writer
Paula is a New Jersey-based writer with a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in education. She spent nearly a decade working in education, primarily as the director of a college's service-learning and community outreach center. Her prior experience includes stints in corporate communications, publishing, and public relations for nonprofits. Reach her at fernandes.write@gmail.com.
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