How to Start a Podcast
Starting a podcast was an absolute game changer for our business and although the prospect of having your own “show” may seem overwhelming, it’s honestly pretty easy to get going. Most definitely I’ve made some mistakes along the way for which needed to be corrected, but now that I’ve hit my head against the wall so many times, you won’t have to!
This guide consists of 5 simple steps to follow if you’re thinking about starting a podcast. I only have one ask of you though: you absolutely must be consistent with it.
As more and more people begin their own podcasts, the only way to cut through the noise and find an audience, will be to do it again and again and again. So long as you’re dedicated and patient, you’ll find podcasting to be a game changer for you as well.
What is a Podcast?
Surprisingly, many people are confused about this so let’s clear it up right off the bat. A Podcast is really just a digital audio file. By uploading this digital audio file to Podcast Platforms, you’ve now made your digital audio file available on their designated channel for download to people’s computers or phones.
Typically, people who put up digital audio content do so in the form of a show or series in order to get listeners to subscribe to their channel to be notified for future instalments of the show or series.
Why Start a Podcast?
People are busier than ever and are looking for ways to increase their efficiency in all aspects of their life but particularly when it comes to educating and entertaining themselves. People want to learn while they perform another activity such as walking their dog, working out or driving to work and the easiest way to achieve this is through audio.
Therefore, there is an incredible opportunity for you to reach your desired target market through the Podcasting platform. Firstly, the space isn’t as saturated as compared to a video hosting platform (such as YouTube) and secondly, if you’re a bit intimidated by the camera, (trust me, most people are), then an audio show or series will allow you to convey your message to your intended audience in your pjays if you’d like.
Although an audio-only show is a great place to get started, particularly for anyone who is not currently producing any type of video content, it’s our belief that you should truly consider video recording the show and here’s why.
If you record yourself recording the Podcast, now you can take that full-length piece of content and chop it down into lots of short pieces of content, clips, to be used on other platforms like your social media pages. From there, you can drive more and more people within your social media audience to your show, both audio and video, giving them the ability to learn or be entertained by you in whatever format suits them.
Trust me when I say I didn’t do this from the very start and the growth was slow. Once the team added the video component, the show completely took off.
What Do I Need to Plan Out First?
Like anything in life, starting a Podcast requires a little bit of planning, so be sure to consider the following:
1. Pick a Topic
Although we hate to put people into the proverbial box, it’s important to have a clear topic or niche for which you will discuss. Content consumers need a simple reason to tune it; they need to know what they can expect by listening to your show and that can be done through your topic.
By being clear, however, we do not necessarily mean that you have to only have one topic. For example, let’s say you sell houses in the outskirts of Toronto. You’re probably thinking “okay great, I’ll start a Podcast about everything you need to know before listing your home for sale.” That’s a great start, particularly since you’ll be giving away a ton of information away for free and your audience will definitely appreciate that, however, that might be too niche a topic to keep your audience engaged and more importantly, keep you committed.
Consider opening up your show to talk about the neighbourhood you work as a whole. You can speak with shop owners, residents, sports leagues, or the local dog walker. You see where I’m going with this? You need a topic that is broad enough that your show will be interesting for many episodes but not so broad that your audience has no clue as to why they should tune in.
Always keep in mind when choosing your topic that the goal of the Podcast is for your audience to connect with YOU, so pick a topic that allows them to see more of your unique characteristics and not just what you do for a living.
How do you know if you’ve chosen a good topic? Try writing down all of the potential episodes you could record; if you can’t come up with more than 50, then you need to go broader.
2. Pick a Name
We have gone through 3 iterations of the name of our Podcast and this is less important than you think. If you’re really trying to brand yourself, then keep it simple. Call it the “[Your Name] Podcast” and keep it moving.
If that doesn’t work for you, you may want to consider a name that is descriptive of what the show is about. No matter what though, pick a name that is broader then your topic so that your Podcast can grow with you.
Once you decide upon a name, consider purchasing a domain name. You’ll want to do this so that when you tell people about your podcast, you can direct them to [yourname]podcast.com which is easy to remember both for you and your potential listeners.
3. Consider a Co-host
Like so many things in life, sometimes having another person committed to a cause will keep you more accountable than if you go at it alone. As mentioned, the name of the game here is consistency and if having someone show up on a scheduled time will keep you consistent, then we say go for it!
Before diving right into a partner, you want to ensure that your co-host is someone who you naturally have a great charisma with; ideally someone who you can engage with in an easy-flowing conversation and someone who is as committed to keeping you on track as much as you are to them.
4. Bring on Guests!
This one we love because a major fear of people when they get started producing a show is that they don’t know enough about a particular topic. Let’s take our Toronto neighbourhood example: perhaps you just moved into the neighbourhood and are only a year into the real estate business. You fear that you don’t know enough about either subject matter to speak confidently on it week after week.
That’s okay! Who says you need to be the “know it all”? Invite guest experts onto your show and simply be the interviewer. Ask them the questions and learn along with your audience. The listeners will love that you have the same questions they do and your guests will love it because they get to showcase their in-depth knowledge on a particular topic.
The best part of this, your guests can also promote the episode , opening up your listenership to a larger audience!
There is some basic equipment you will need to get started. We cannot stress this enough — do not break the bank here! So often we’ve seen people go out and spend a ton of money on equipment, claiming “if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right”. More often than not, this is actuality a stalling tactic for fear of getting started. We’ve also seen a number of people buy the equipment and actually get started, just to hate Podcasting and quit weeks later.
Your goal should be to take baby steps! Get a few things to help you get started, then see how you jive with it. If after a 6 months you have been consistent and want to upgrade your game a bit, go a head and add to your equipment. Do not use equipment as an excuse not to get started.
Remember, at the start, your audience will be small, perhaps made up mostly of your friends and family. They will give you a pass if the audio quality is short of perfection.
What you really need is a webcam (to do Zoom recordings with your guests), a small light and a microphone.
Don’t get sucked into the notion that there is some ideal length of time that your podcast needs to be. Joe Rogan, arguably the best Podcast show in the world, has an episode that’s over 5 hours long. At the same time, there’s plenty of successful Podcasts that have episodes less than 15 minutes long.
The great news with Podcasts is that even if a commuter doesn’t have the time to listen to an episode in its entirety on their way to work, they will start where they left off on their way home from work.
You may also think there is some kind of rule that states a Podcast has to go like this: teaser clip from the episode, intro music, interview, call to action, and then outro music. Although this is a format that we have seen often, the goal should not be to follow what every single other Podcast is doing. The goal should be to do what feels right to you. Why? Because this will ensure you are consistent with it, and just to keep hammering this down, consistency is the single most important determinant of success.
7. Style and Design
Some people like to pre or post record their intro and their outro while others like to do it in one take. Some people go into the interview planning to edit it and will stop and start throughout the recording and others will do it in one take. While we suggest doing whatever makes you comfortable enough to get started, our experience shows that it’s much easier and faster to record the entire piece in one take. No edits, just add the music or sound tag to the start and finish and move onto the next one.
Given all that’s happened with Covid-19, know that you are not required to interview guests in person. This has opened up your potential guest pool to be anywhere across the world, which is awesome! You simply provide them with a Zoom link, record your episode and away you go. Podcasting has never been so easy.
The music, should you choose to include it, at the start of the Podcast is like the intro to a TV show. It should be catchy and unique enough that when people hear it, they resonate it with your Podcast and your Podcast alone.
Whatever you do, do not steal music to include on your Podcast; chances are it will be taken down from the platforms you choose to post it on and ethically, it’s just not the right thing to do. To find music that you can use for your podcast check out storybooks.com
Cover Art — this is the thumbnail that people will see as they scroll through Apple Podcasts, Spotify or other Podcast hosting platforms. Think of this as the cover of your book; it should be descriptive and representative of your Podcast. You may want to include the name of your show, the name of the hosts and a brief description of the subject matter of your show.
Thumbnails for Episodes — each time you upload a Podcast, you’ll want to include an image. You may simply re-upload your Cover Art again and again or you may want to create a new thumbnail each time with a separate title or description of the episode.
If graphics is not your thing, you may want to consider outsourcing this to Fiver or a student at a local design school in your area.
No matter what you decide to do, just be sure that the dimension of your thumbnail meets the platform’s requirements.
You’ll need to write a general description so when people click on your Podcast they get a sense of what the show is about. You may want to include ways in which people can connect with you through email or social media in this section as well.
For every episode you will want to include a brief description of the episode also. Here is where you would include information about how listeners can connect with your guests, such as their website, email or social media handles.
I’m Ready to Get Started, Now What?
Now it’s time to reach out and get guests! Make a list of all of the potential guests you’d like to have on your show and their contact details. Don’t skimp out either; if there’s someone you’d love to have but it seems like a long shot, add them to the list anyway and work toward it.
It’s important to note here, that reaching out to potential guests one time will rarely cut it so don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from them. Instead, send them a follow up email or two or three or four. My rule of thumb is to reach out until they either accept the invitation or tell you to F-off.
You may need to get creative here too. Try calling them instead of emailing them. Perhaps you need to reach out to their assistant. Sometimes, hitting them up on DM works also.
Regardless of the outcome, don’t get discouraged. This is a numbers game, the more No’s you get, the more Yes’ are around the corner.
Congrats. You are now ready to put out an episode of your first Podcast!