A Beginners Guide to Podcasts
Starting a podcast can be amazing for your business. More popular than ever before, there is a podcast for everyone, and there are just as many pros to starting one as there are for listening to one. Podcasts offer deeper intimacy with audiences as people remain engaged for longer than they do while reading blog posts. You can also multitask while listening to podcasts, they can keep your mind busy while you’re commuting, cleaning or exercising. Yes, starting a podcast will be awkward at first. There are lots of valid fears to overcome. Public speaking, the horror of hearing your voice and learning new technologies are things you will confront headfirst when starting a podcast. But if you put in the work, you can reach new audiences and grow your business.
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Here is a step-by-step guide to how you can easily start your very own podcast:
What is Your… TOPIC
You can’t get any further into podcasting if you don’t first and foremost know what topic you’ll be talking about. Choosing the right topic is all about striking the balance between something not too niche and something not too broad. It needs to be open-ended enough that you can have multiple episodes, but specific enough to attract an audience, try writing a list of at least 25 potential episode ideas. Ask yourself where you see it in a years time, what are your goals? Whether you are doing this to grow your business, help and educate people or just to have fun, your idea needs to excite you and be something you can commit to. As much as possible, keep the podcast inside your zone of genius.
Who is Your… DEMOGRAPHIC
Who is your desired audience? Thinking about your target demographic in the early stages of planning your podcast is really important. If you already have a preexisting audience you can target, you can try surveying them to find out who they are listening to already (and why). Take their feedback into consideration. Once you know who you want to reach, you can think about how you are going to reach them.
What is Your… TITLE
When choosing your podcast title, don’t box yourself in so much that you don’t have room for growth. You could have a clever title that’s witty, catchy or humourous and draws people in. You could have a descriptive title that’s searchable and informative, but if you go this route make sure you don’t get too wordy. Or you could even use a name title (e.g. “The VA Show”) but you need to incorporate some detail that still gives people a sense of what the podcast is about. You want to use some keywords in your title, as that will help potential listeners find your podcast through search engine optimization (SEO), but don’t overdo it. It is also helpful to purchase a domain name.
What is Your… FORMAT
Now it comes to deciding what format your podcast will be. Will you go solo, or have a co-host(s)? Will you have guests every week? Will it be an interview, storytelling or informational style podcast? There are pros to each format, you just need to find what will serve your topic best. You could also choose to be a seasonal podcast, where each season usually has its own theme.
It pays to identify how long you want each episode to be. Lots of people argue about what the “ideal” podcast length is, but there is variation for a reason. There are 5 minute podcasts that are successful just as there are 3 hour podcasts that work, it all depends on your content and audience. It’s just a matter of figuring out what will work best for you. Just be sure not to make your podcast run longer than it needs to, as you will end up with lots of rambling, but also don’t rush through an episode just to make it shorter and snappier.
What is Your… STRUCTURE
It’s key to think about how you will structure your podcast. Again, there is lots of variation for a reason – so you can do what works best for you. Feel free to get creative, and remember to target both new and returning listeners.
A common podcast structure is:
- Intro Music
- Ad Break
- More Discussion/Interview
- Call To Action (remind your audience to review your podcast, check out your social media or website)
- Outro Music
What is Your… Schedule
How often will you release a podcast episode and when? Choose a specific day and time (remember to consider the time zones of your target audience) and be consistent with it. You need to be able to commit to your date, so you don’t compromise the standard of your podcast by promising to release an episode when you don’t have the time to because you’re overloaded with work. Whether you decide to be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, the thing that matters most is that you prioritise quality over quantity. Batching can be your best friend when it comes to being consistent.
What is Your… COVER ART
Just like your title, your cover art will be one of the first impressions of your podcast. It should communicate the topic visually and be consistent with your branding. But there are also technical things to consider, it needs to work for a variety of sizes, and it needs to be legible. This means limiting visual distractions by not adding too many words, selecting only one or two fonts, and avoiding overused images like microphones and headsets (unless your podcast is about podcasting). You could create a cover image yourself using Canva or Photoshop, or we’ll do it for you!
What is Your… DESCRIPTION
Your description should summarise your podcast, and it could make or break whether your audience will choose to listen (especially if you, like the majority, don’t start your podcast with a preexisting audience). Try beginning with a hook or point of interest by thinking about what is important to your listeners, and tell them a bit about you and any other hosts, what makes you qualified to be talking about your subject? Also, think about what category or sub-category fits the genre of your podcast best.
What is Your… INTRO MUSIC
Having a small jingle at the beginning of your podcast helps your audiences associate you with a specific tune. You can license music through Premium Beat or use royalty-free music, but commissioning a custom intro is a great method as your listeners will have music they haven’t heard before to link with your podcast. Make sure to keep it brief though, it only needs to be between 15 and 30 seconds to be effective.
What is Your… EQUIPMENT
Audio quality is everything when it comes to podcasting, so you will need to make sure it’s a smart investment. It doesn’t need to break the bank, but it shouldn’t be the area where you cut costs. Most people recommend starting with a USB microphone. The Audio Technica ATR2100x-USB and the Samson Q2U are both highly rated, but doing some research will help you find a microphone that fits within your budget. Remember, once you are more familiar with the technology and have a desire to advance the quality of your equipment, you can upgrade to using mic stands, boom arms, pop filters and professional headphones. Fears of spending excessive amounts of cash on the gear shouldn’t stop you from starting a great podcast.
Who are Your… GUESTS
If you plan on having guests in your podcast, it’s a good idea to begin reaching out ahead of time. Write a list of the people you would like to have on and contact them to see if they’re interested. To avoid the messy back and forth of finding a time to record, try using a service like Calendly where they can book in a time that suits both of you easily.
What is Your… SCRIPT
Podcasts do best when the tone is largely conversational. So you might think that a script isn’t necessary, but it’s a good idea to have one, especially when you’re starting out. Scripting the intro and outro will help you avoid nervous rambling and ensure that you get all your desired points across, as well as scripting any questions for guests. Scripting is the best way of managing time during a podcast, as you don’t want too many tangents, especially for more informative podcasts. Be sure to practise beforehand, you don’t want to sound stiff as though you are directly reading from a script, it should sound effortless and natural, and this skill will improve with time.
3. Recording and Editing
What is Your… SOFTWARE
One of the most intimidating parts of podcasting is the recording and editing side. If you are recording solo or with multiple hosts together physically, you can normally record directly into the editing software. But if you are managing multiple people remotely, Zoom or Squadcast (a service for remote recording) are the best options. It also pays to test out your recording software and equipment in advance to ensure that the audio is crisp and you can use it easily when it comes to your official recording time-slot, especially if you have guests.
There are different platforms for recording/editing podcasts, again depending on your budget, but if you do thorough research to find what will work best for your needs, you can ensure that your investment is worthwhile. GarageBand and Audacity are both free options, but Audacity tends to be recommended more as it works for both Apple and PC, its features are more advanced and it’s easy to use. Abode Audition ($20.99 USD per month) is another powerful editing software that’s great if you’re using high-end equipment and working at a professional level with a higher initial skillset. But by far, the most recommended tool is Alitu: The Postcast Maker ($28 USD per month) as it simplifies the editing process. Alitu automates many of the confusing technical aspects and is all based in your web browser, meaning you don’t actually need to download any software to access it.
How to… RECORD
Ensure your microphone is plugged into your computer and that it is the default input device for your recording software. Then all you have to do is press record. Don’t stop and restart even when mistakes are made or there are awkward pauses, as you can fix those while editing. It’s normal to be nervous when starting out, but focus on sounding confident because the more self-conscious you are, the more stressed you will be which can make your voice shaky and unsure. As you record more often, you will become a better speaker where you sound more natural and composed. Remember, you can use your first episode or ‘Episode Zero’ as a trial where you introduce yourself to listeners and tell them a bit about the topic so they can get a feel for the podcast before you begin releasing official episodes. Once you get through the first, each following episode will become easier and easier.
Editing is a crucial part of podcasting, it allows you to add your intro/outro music or any ad segments, remove mistakes or extended silences, stabilise volume and eliminate background noise. Remember, practice makes perfect. There are lots of tutorials available online to navigate your chosen service so you find the right settings and learn tips on how to improve the quality of your podcast.
How to… EDIT
Edit with separate tracks for each of your audio sources (speakers and/or music), so you can make edits by adjusting volume, removing pauses, coughs or other interruptions easier. Be sure to edit for content on your first run-through before fixing errors and distractions so you don’t waste time editing sections that may end up on the cutting room floor. Try fading between tracks to avoid unwanted clicks or pops when cutting audio to make transitions smoother. You can also use post-production tools like Auphonic to stabilise volume levels and improve the audio quality (pricing ranges between free and $89 USD per month, as well as custom plans).
Once your podcast is edited, make sure to save or export it as an MP3, this is the best format for uploading and sharing.
What is Your… PODCAST HOST
Finding a podcast host is the best way to simplify the process of launching your episodes. They store your audio and allow listeners to hear, download and/or subscribe to your podcast.
- Buzzsprout is one of the most popular and highly rated hosting options, with pricing options ranging from free to $24 USD per month
- Captivate is great for running multiple shows with the podcast plan running at $19 USD per month
- Transistor is suited to private podcast feeds with a starter plan ($19 USD per month), professional plan ($49 USD per month) and business plan ($99 USD per month).
- Libsyn is another option with prices ranging from $5 USD to $40 USD per month
How to… PUBLISH
With a podcast host, publishing is as simple as uploading your MP3 file. Hosts like Buzzsprout will automatically embed ID3 tags into the audio file, which provide players and devices with data like the name of the episode and podcast.
You also have the option of submitting to directories to extend the reach of your podcast and is easily accessible through the podcast hosts listed earlier. Popular directories include Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Youtube and Google Podcasts, some of which may need to be submitted manually like with uploading a Youtube video version of your podcast audio for example, but is normally done easily through the media host using an RSS feed (contains all episodes and associated data).
Another thing to think about when it comes to launching a podcast are the details, i.e. transcriptions and show notes. Transcriptions are great for SEO, as they allow search engines to ‘read’ your podcast. Show notes can be transcriptions, a written summary of a podcast episode, a blogpost version of the episode, or a mixture of all of these options, as they help you make the most of your podcast by adapting the content into versatile formats for broader audiences. Be sure to add your episode embed code to your show notes page so people can easily listen to the podcast from your website.
How to… MARKET
Now that you’ve made the podcast, don’t forget to promote it! Sharing episodes through your website, email newsletters and social media channels is a great way to ensure your customers and clients become aware that you’ve begun a podcast. If you don’t have a website, most podcast hosts will provide you with a website through your plan. Remember to reach out to your guests and remind them to promote their appearance on your podcast to notify their followers. Buzzsprout has a social sharing feature that allows you to create teaser videos to share through your different platforms, but you can also make shareable podcast content through Headliner, Repurpose and Wavve. Some people create also social media accounts for their podcasts either from the beginning or once it becomes more established. During the early launch period, be sure to engage with podcast listeners who leave reviews or comments by saying thank you.
Starting a podcast can be hugely rewarding and fun, and it doesn’t need to be a scary, impossible task. Once you have the basics down, take the time to practise and improve your skills in speaking and editing. There is always room to advance by learning more about new technologies in equipment and software, but by focusing on bettering the quality you will strengthen your audience and podcast to the point where you can think about monetisation and new goals for growth. If you’re looking for more information, check out Buzzsprout’s comprehensive How to Start a Podcast guide, and be sure to do lots of research before diving in.