Looking to start your own podcast? Great choice! Podcasting is a powerful way to produce incredible content and build a loyal audience. And with 384 million podcast listeners globally, there’s an audience for every topic and niche you could imagine.
In this podcast beginners’ guide, we walk you through everything new podcasters need to know. We’ll explain important concepts and teach you how to start your own show.
Step 1: Planning Your Podcast
Before you start buying equipment and recording audio, it’s smart to spend a few minutes planning your show. Making a few decisions early on will make your work easier.
First, ask yourself why you want to make a podcast. Do you want to explore a passion? Share expertise to educate a community? Support religious, non-profit, or other community activities? Generate leads for a business? Understanding this will help you produce amazing content.
Next, choose a podcast topic if you haven’t already. The best topics are ones that you know well and can be monetized. Ideally, you should be able to bring something unique to the table.
Then you’ll need to choose a format for your show. There are five common formats, but feel free to mix them together or come up with something entirely unique.
- Monologue podcasts
- Multiple host podcasts
- Panel podcasts
- Interview podcasts
- Story-telling podcasts (fiction or nonfiction)
Once you know your format, you’ll want to answer these basic questions:
- How long will your episodes be?
- How often will you publish new episodes?
- How will you monetize your show in the future?
- How will you find guests or come up with content ideas?
Finally, your show will need a name. Your name should convey who you are and what your show is about immediately. Concise names are usually more successful. Choose something that feels good to say often. It should exhibit your personality, but don’t be too clever or vague. Don’t forget to check for a domain name and social handles before settling.
Step 2. Setting Up Your Gear
Before you start recording, you’ll need some podcast equipment, software, and hosting services. We recommend spending at least $200 to $400 to get the right tools, but you could potentially spend a lot more. This infographic is a comprehensive breakdown of the necessities and nice-to-have extras.
In order to record, you’ll need a computer, microphone with pop filter, and headphones. We recommend starting with the Audio Technica ATR2100x, Sony MDR7506 Headphones, and PEMOTech Microphone Pop Filter.
Next you’ll need recording and editing software. Descript is our top choice because it’s easy and intuitive for beginners, but it also has lots of professional podcast tools. Other popular options include Audacity, Adobe Audition, Hindenburg Journalist, or Reaper.
Finally, you need two hosting services: 1) a traditional web host for your podcast website, and 2) a podcast host that will store your audio files and provide you with an RSS feed.
Step 3: Recording Your Episodes
Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to record an episode!
It helps to have a dedicated space to record podcast episodes. You don’t need your own studio, but you should make some adjustments to the room so your microphone captures good audio. Try not to record in high-traffic places of your home or office. Use fabric, such as blankets and towels, to dampen the reverberation off of hard surfaces. Avoiding echoes will help a lot.
It may sound odd, but many podcasters prefer to record in a closet that’s full of clothing. The small space and hanging fabric is great for combating against the reverb.
For your first few episodes, we recommend starting with the script. Your script doesn’t have to include every word you say on the recording, but it should be comprehensive. Here’s an example of a script for two hosts.
Over time, as you become comfortable recording, you can reduce your script to some brief notes, like this:
As you speak, try to maintain good microphone technique. Position your face about two inches away from the microphone. Angle the mic at about 45 degrees away from your face so it picks up less noises as you speak. Most importantly, secure your microphone to your desk or table and keep your hands off of it.
Make sure to use your equipment properly. USB microphones should be plugged directly into your computer. Open your recording software and configure the audio input settings to your microphone. Then plug in your headphones and set them as the playback device. If you are using an XLR microphone, plug the cable into a pre-amp, then use a USB cord to connect the pre-amp to your computer. If you are recording multiple people, be sure to record them on separate tracks.
Try to remain calm during the recording. It’s okay to take a few moments to compose a sentence before you speak it aloud. If you say something unclearly, or think of a better way to say it, don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. You can always remove those pauses and repetitions during editing. Having detailed notes or a script will reduce these mistakes.
Step 4: Editing Your Episodes
The editing and production process is considered one of the hardest parts of creating podcast episodes, especially for new podcasters who don’t have any experience with editing software. It’s possible to outsource your editing to a third party, but as a new podcast here, right now you may not have the budget for that.
For editing software, we always recommend Audacity. It’s free and one of the easiest tools and perfect for beginners. Eventually, you’ll graduate to something more intricate, but Audacity is a good tool to start with.
Here are some editing tips for new podcasters. These will dramatically improve the quality of your recording without much effort.
Use sound markers. If you make a mistake during a recording that you intend to fix during editing, make a loud sound right after the mistake occurs. You could slap your desk or click a pen. Later, when you look at the recording in your editing software, you will see a spike in the audio levels that indicates your mistake. Simply remove the mistake and the sound marker.
Add custom intros and outros. Intros and outros are important parts of every episode. An intro welcomes the listener and explains what the episode is about. An outro concludes the episode and drives listeners to take action.
Learn the software’s keyboard shortcuts. Learning your editing software’s shortcuts will save time and make the editing workflow less painful. You’ll find yourself using the same commands over and over.
Use music in your episode. Including music within an intro, outro, and throughout an episode can keep your audience engaged. But you can’t use any music. Stick to music with royalty-free or creative commons licenses. Here are some sources: Syncly, Audioblocks, and Dig CCmixter.
Don’t edit immediately after recording. Recording can be tiring, so give yourself a break before diving into the edit. Fresh ears also help you identify mistakes.
Remove gaps of dead air. Pauses are a natural part of conversation, but they feel awkward when listeners can’t see your face. If there’s a long pause, trim it down.
Export your file properly. Make sure your exported file is an MP3. We recommend setting the bitrate (which controls the sound quality) to 128 kbps. Use mono audio if your episode only consists of spoken words. Use stereo audio if you use sound effects or music. Set the LUFS (loudness) to -19 LUFS for mono recordings and -16 LUFS for stereo.
Step 5: Publishing Your Podcast
Now that everything is in place, your next step is to publish your show. This involves three important steps.
First, upload your episode to your podcast hosting platform. This is not the same as your website host. Podcast host is optimized specifically for audio files. Your podcast host will provide you with an RSS feed link.
When you first publish an episode to your host, you will need to complete a form to populate the RSS feed with important information, such as your show’s description and how the show should be categorized. You’ll also need to supply podcast cover art, which is the square image you see alongside every podcast. Cover art should be JPEG or PNG, 3000 by 3000 pixels, and 72 dpi.
Second, submit your RSS feed to the major podcast directories, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and others. These platforms do not store your audio files. They simply read the RSS feed and publish the information contained within it. Some podcast hosts offer integrations to submit your show automatically.
Ideally, you want to submit your podcast to as many directories as possible so that your show is available to every potential listener, no matter where they prefer to enjoy podcast content. All you need to do is make an account with each directory and give them that RSS link. Check out our big list of podcast directories with submission instructions.
Third, create a new post on your website for each episode. This gives potential listeners an easy way to explore your show. Each episode’s page should include the title of the episode and the media player so they can listen.
It’s also helpful if you include show notes (a bullet point list of the episode’s topics) in a complete written transcription. These elements boost your website SEO to help you attract new listeners and improve accessibility. Freakonomics is an excellent example of what to include.
Step 6: Growing Your Podcast Audience
Promoting your podcast is a big topic. Once you’re producing regular content, you’ll spend most of your time marketing your show.
We recommend launching with at least three episodes. This gives potential listeners enough content to consume on the first day. It’s also smart to create a teaser episode, sometimes called episode 0, that introduces yourself and explains what your show will be about.
Get used to asking your listeners for ratings and reviews. Positive reviews entice other listeners to give your show a try. They also influence where your show appears in the rankings on each podcast directory. If you can manage to get a burst of good reviews at once, you can muscle your way into prime categories, such as Apple’s New & Noteworthy section.
We also recommend creating a group of marketing assets for each episode, such as audiogram, social media copy, email copy, videos, and images. Drip these assets to your audience and over social media after an episode is published. (This podcast promotion template offers a good workflow.)
Finally, be active in your community. Network and cross-promote with other podcasters. Join other shows as a guest. Converse with your listeners over social media and in private groups. If you mention another person or brand in an episode, reach out to them and see if there is any way to work together.
Most importantly, focus on the marketing activities that would work the best for you. If you find something that works well, lean into it, even if it’s unconventional. You don’t have to be like everyone else.
Focus on Your Content
Podcasting isn’t easy, but we believe it’s a satisfying and rewarding experience, especially when you begin to build an audience who cares about your topic as much as you do. You won’t see success overnight, but if you continue to publish high-quality content, your followers will grow.