There’s someone starting a podcast every 3 minutes. As of December 2019, there are over 800,000 podcasts and over 29 million episodes out there to listen. There is a lot of buzz about podcasting and the industry itself – thanks to Spotify’s acquisitions and the launch of Luminary, amongst many others. In this post, I will help you understand podcasting holistically and take the right first steps to start your podcast from scratch.
Just before I jumped into this topic, just in case someone sent you this link and you already know it all and want to just get rolling, please do so by finding your podcast idea or get a step further by starting to outline your podcast.
I recently published 17 podcasting industry predictions for 2020 and beyond. Read the predictions and also download my 2020 Podcasting Strategy Handbook. You can use the handbook to evaluate and effectively position a podcast for your brand or business in the new decade.
A question I see getting asked by aspiring podcasters is this.
If you’ve wondered when is a good time to start a podcast, the answer is always NOW. That’s what I tell every time someone asks me this question. When I interviewed John Lee Dumas on The Design Your Thinking Podcast and he told exactly that.
I would’ve started earlier. I think so many people are waiting for all the lights to be green, all the signs to be pointing north, all these different things. Just start. I would’ve started earlier. That’s what I wish I’d done. That’s what I wish to leave as a message for everybody here. Just start…get it going.
– John Lee Dumas
A question like that is usually a sign of not being convinced on doing something. If you are convinced that podcasting is indeed the right activity to invest your time, energy and resources into, you should start working on it right this minute. Reading this post is a good start whether you are convinced or not.
Had Michael Jordan never gotten started playing basketball, he would’ve never gone on to become the champion we know him as.
There is no better time than now to start your podcast.
In the due course of this article, I will walk you through this process in a lot more detail. But, here’s a quick outline of the steps it takes to starting your podcast:
It’s now time to start peeling the ‘podcasting’ onion. Shall we?
LAUNCH LIKE A PRO!
Back in 2016 I was on a career break after 15 years of working a corporate career. But in just a couple of months, I started to miss not being amidst people. I had a blog, and also had a popular eBook back then that got downloaded several thousand times in a few months. I thought a podcast was a great extension to the blog.
My goal was to connect with people.
So, having listened to podcasts since 2010, I decided to start one. And all I knew about podcasting at that point, was based on the free video tutorials on YouTube.
I started the show so I could speak to people that I could never speak with otherwise, build relationships and hopefully write a book someday.
But opportunities came knocking.
As luck would have it, here’s what happened in the first 12 months of starting my podcast:
In the recent times, I’ve been approached by editors from business newspapers like Mint and other national papers to get my views on podcasting and trends.
The Bottomline is..
You don’t need a podcast with 10,000 to 40,000 downloads per episode to make money!
Well, anyone can start a podcast. There is nothing holding you back from starting a podcast. But a podcast is more than just recording your voice into an MP3 file and uploading into the internet. It takes effort, time and consistency to show up regularly.
It’s not about who CAN start a podcast. It’s about who MUST.
Assuming you are ready to put in the effort, have the time and be consistent, you MUST consider starting a podcast if you fall into one of the three categories.
This is how I actually started off thinking of starting a podcast – I wanted to express myself and my opinions. I did this through interviews and solo episodes.
We all have our own views of the world. If you are someone who wants to share your view of the world, starting a podcast is a good idea.
But isn’t starting a blog easier?
Absolutely. You could start a blog too, and I can see why you think that’s easier. I personally find writing a blog easy (and I started with a blog too). You could also just post your thoughts on social media posts.
Here’s the biggest reason for you to consider starting a podcast to express yourself.
A podcast is a more intimate medium of communication. Your listeners hear your voice, and that makes the connection more human. As compared to sharing your thoughts on social media, a podcast gives people one place to return (or subscribe) to.
“I believe in your message, and I know where to go now, if I need to listen more” rather than “but I have to search through all your social media posts”.
Though I started with expressing myself, I soon ended up in this bucket – starting my business and building my personal brand. Perhaps you are in a similar state too, and a podcast can help you a lot.
Finding your tribe
A podcast is a great way for you to find your tribe. As you express your thoughts through your podcast content, you start to attract like-minded people. A good example here is Jon Nastor of Hack The Entrepreneur podcast.
Jon started the podcast in 2015 to interview other entrepreneurs in a format he didn’t find anyone doing. He soon found his tribe of listeners (including me) and even went on to author is his first book because of the podcast.
Podcasts are a great way to understand your listeners and test your business ideas. While some say it’s harder to get listeners to respond, I find a podcast as a great way to understand them. And this is applicable even if you are a guest on others’ podcasts.
Bryan Harris of Growth Tools (previously Videofruit) uses content upgrades to get listeners to subscribe to his email list, and then through meaningful conversations, understands his listeners. In fact he launched a whole suite of tools just by having meaningful conversations with people in his email list.
Imagine spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (or whatever currency it is) on television advertisements vs taking time to be inside people’s ears.
If you already have a business, a podcast is a great way to expand your business’ reach. This applies as much to brands and personal brands, as it does to businesses. Podcasts are a great way to take your business or brand to newer markets.
It’s way better than TV Ads!
Advertisements are thrust on people. No one wants to see them! But when people listen to your podcast, they’ve made a conscious choice to listen to you. People are going to respond to you because they’ve chosen to do so.
Podcasts are more intimate.
There is no single medium that’s as effective today as podcasts are, where you can talk to your customers and prospects about things that make you more human.
Yes, I know what you are thinking “What about videos?”.
But do note the important word in what I said – “effective”. As an entrepreneur you are looking to be effective and smart in the way you connect with your customers and prospects. Imagine your customers or prospects wanting to have coffee with you!
Podcasts, like any products, is more than just the product itself. In other words, a successful podcast is not just about high quality episodes that are well targeted at a specific kind of listener. In order for the podcast to be successful, you need to pay attention to a few other elements.
The Foundational Model
To look at the key elements of a podcast, I’d like to consider the 4Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. When you look at your podcast from these 4 lenses, it changes the way you approach starting your podcast.
Let’s take a look at a podcast from these 4 lenses.
Starting a podcast is like creating a product. In fact, a podcast is a product. But it’s seldom that podcasters think of their podcasts as products. So, in order to have a successful podcast, it’s important you focus on key aspects of your podcast that will make it a well-rounded product.
Podcast as a well-rounded Product
Just recording your voice into an MP3 file and putting it up in the cloud is not what a podcast is. That’s just an MP3 file in the cloud!
A well-rounded product is one that takes into consideration the audience, the experience and the finer aspects of podcast episodes like length, frequency, etc. I’ve written a complete step-by-step article about creating your podcast outline.
Price is a very interesting way to look at a podcast. I know what you are thinking…
Podcasts are free. Aren’t they?
They are…largely. But when I say price, I’m not just talking about money alone. Listeners have a lot more than just money to give you, in return for your awesome content. Allow me to show you some of them:
The biggest price your listeners can pay is with their time. I consider time to be a lot more valuable than money – simply because time is something we control while money is controlled by banks.
How can listeners pay with their time?
While there are many ways listeners can do this, directly or indirectly, let me share 3 of them.
Listeners take time to share your podcast or its episodes with their friends and family in various ways both online and offline.
When your listeners respond to your social posts, emails and in other forums, they are taking time to do that. The choose to spend a minute of their time letting you know what they think.
Listeners can also pay you indirectly, and sponsorship is one such. It’s because your listeners choose to spend their time listening to your podcast, engaging and sharing with you, that sponsors choose to pay you a price.
The second way your listeners can choose to pay back is by supporting you with their social reputation. Here are two specific ways they do it:
Liking your podcast page on Facebook, Following your podcast updates on social media and sharing your content on social media is what I’m talking about here.
When they share, the chances that their followers also listen and engage with your content is very likely. This is because of the inherent way trust works in social networks.
Listeners who are super-fans also write blog posts and other forms of content with a link to your podcast, or directly talking about your podcast itself.
What are the chances that you’d give a stranger your email? Would you accept a ‘friend request’ from a random stranger on Facebook?
On the other hand, would you give your email to someone you are a fan of? Wouldn’t you accept a ‘friend request’ from a celeb you follow?
There are big ways a listeners can pay with their contact information today.
When some listeners who like your podcast episodes and visit your website to subscribe to your newsletter or get episodes by email, they are giving you the permission to send them an email.
My listeners subscribe to my newsletter and for various other valuable ebooks and content.
Some listeners, like the above, would prefer to subscribe to your episodes and newsletter through Facebook messenger. Again in this case they are giving you the permission to send them a message!
Andrew Warner does this brilliantly at Bot Academy.
There are some who prefer to give you their phone numbers, so you can send them a message or even call them.
Gary Vaynerchuk does this by letting his listeners give their email addresses to either get updates or even call them into an interview.
And finally let’s talk about the elephant in the room – Money! Yes, people can indeed pay you for your podcast directly or indirectly. Here are 3 ways:
Subscription is a great way to make your podcast directly drive revenue. Listeners who love your content can consider paying for your content.
Listeners who like your podcast can also choose to purchase one of your products or products that you are an affiliate for.
The third way listeners can pay you with their wallets is by donating. Thanks to services like Patreon, a lot of podcasters actually use this.
Now that you understand how thinking from a Price perspective can make a big difference to your podcast, let’s look at placement.
Placement is essentially where people will listen to your podcast from. Here are 4 common places where listeners can access podcasts:
Your podcast listenership can vary depending on where people can find your show. If you have a website for your podcast, the chances are high that people searching for that content on Google or any search engine is going to land there.
Podcast listening on a computer went up from 29% to 31% (smartphone listening went from 71% to 69% respectively).
I have a good number of subscribers who are both subscribed on an App and by email.
A lot of podcasters are so focused on creating content, that they forget this bit completely. I used to be like that for the first few months too.
Promotion is about getting the word out when every single time a new episode is out. Here are some places where you should consider promoting your podcast:
Starting a podcast is not exactly hard, so long as you are doing the right things. When I started mine, people told me, “Just get started” and I did exactly that – got started. I did everything that was easy:
And a lot more. I realized this is exactly what a lot of first-time podcasters do. I’m hoping you will not do the same after reading this post.
But we anyway need to get them, right?
Yes you do. But remember that doing all of that takes a lot of time at this point as you still have no much idea about your podcast topic, audience, episode frequency, length and so much more.
It’s important to get the equipment, but you still don’t know how you are going to record them – locally or online, indoors or outdoors. All those decisions will have an impact on the kind of equipment you choose.
Let’s say you want to take a vacation.
What is the first thing you do? Will it be booking tickets? To where?
Would you go shopping for clothes? What kind of clothes would you pick? Summer or winter?
It depends on the place.
Exactly. So what’s the first thing you do if you want to take a vacation?
You start by outlining your ideal vacation!
You start by asking questions like will I go with my family? With kids? Tropical place or cooler places? Beach or trek or theme parks? How long? Budget?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you start to plan your vacation.
Starting a podcast is no different!
That’s exactly what I want to talk about in the next section.
In the last section I told you the biggest mistake a lot of people do in starting a podcast. I also told you why you should avoid them.
I even told you about vacation planning. So you probably understand what is the first thing that you must do.
It’s Outlining Your Podcast.
Outlining is a great activity to do anything – be it a vacation or buying a car or starting a podcast. For one, the process of outlining helps us get a lot clearer and find answers that’s there somewhere inside our head.
It’s like an avalanche.
You’d be surprised with the sudden increase in clarity when you do this exercise. If you’ve read this far in this post, I’m assuming you are pretty serious with starting a podcast. So to make it easy, I want you to read this step-by-step post on outlining your podcast that consists of 12 questions.
At the end of this exercise, you will have a very good level of clarity about your podcast. I recommend you keep revisiting this exercise every few months in the beginning, as you might make changes to your podcast outline based on your experience.
Once you have your podcast outline done, it’s time you moved on to the next step.
LAUNCH LIKE A PRO!
In the previous step, you outlined your podcast. If you were building a plane, outlining is like thinking of the seating, cockpit design, wing design, sourcing parts, etc. You are not building anything yet.
But action needs a plan.
Planning is a key aspect of doing anything. Isn’t it? In the case of your podcast, planning is what connects the dots from the outline to the actual podcast that your listeners listen to.
Primarily, this includes listing down, and thinking through all the activities that’s involved in taking your podcast from the outline to publishing the show.
One of the biggest reasons why you should spend time on creating your podcast artwork is because it takes time.
Apple recommends creating JPG or PNG image of 3000×3000 px and 72dpi in resolution for your podcast artwork. That said, you could create one using Photoshop or Pixelmator if you are a graphic designer, or you could outsource it to a graphic designer on Fiverr, Upwork or 99Designs.
Take time to think through this image, so you have a good looking podcast artwork.
A podcast jingle is the music that plays in the beginning intro and outro. Typically a jingle is played as a background to the intro or outro.
You could create a jingle using a tool like Garageband or download a royalty-free music, or you could outsource this to a competent expert. I got my jingle produced and created by Music Radio Creative.
Finding the right platform to host your podcast is key. There are platforms that are free and paid ones too. When it comes to paid options, each platform has a way of charging you – based on downloads, number of episodes, and so on.
No matter what platform you choose, take a moment to read the fine print to understand how the platform treats your content. Various aspects of these platforms from intellectual property, to advertising, downloads, distribution, to file size and analytics, that play a big role in your selection.
Creating a podcast involves multiple activities. Broadly, your creation would go through 4 stages:
In this stage, you prepare everything required to do the actual recording. This could be finding and inviting guests, getting the intros and outros, background music, preparing an outline for an episode, researching guests, preparing questions.
This stage plays a key role in determining the outcome of your podcast episode. When you are launching your show, this stage also can include activities like creating the artwork, getting the voice over and jingles recorded, etc.
You perhaps guessed it right. Yes, this is the stage when you actually record the episode. If it’s an interview, you are perhaps doing this in-person or online.
All you care about in this stage is to make sure you record the conversation or monologue in the best quality possible. It could be that you are recording into your computer, or into a recorder.
Once you finish recording, you are done.
Producing and mastering episodes is when you actually edit your episode and prepare it for the internet by adding tags. The final produced episodes are MP3 files.
We get a lot deeper into all of this inside the Free Your Voice course.
Episodes that are edited and tagged, are technically ready for publishing. But this stage is more than just putting out an MP3 file into the cloud.
As you upload your episode MP3 into the cloud, you also optionally add show notes for that episode. As the name indicates, show notes is a very useful part of an episode where you can actually describe the episode with more detail.
Show notes are places where you can add links to important topics discussed in the episode, or a link to other websites.
“No one’s listening to my podcast!”
No listener is going to listen if you stow away your episode in some corner of the cloud. The biggest activity with creating any content is not producing it, but distributing it so that people get to discover it.
To make sure you are taking your podcast to the right ‘thirsty’ people, you need to fix the way it’s distributed. Distribution of a podcast is done at 2 stages:
When you launch your podcast, you distribute the show on multiple platforms by submitting a feed. You do this for every platform on which you want your podcast to be available – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, are just some of them.
But every time you publish a new episode, you don’t have to do the above. Instead you’ve got to reach out to places where your ‘thirsty’ audience is. It could be a Facebook group, or an email list, or some other forum.
“What microphone do you recommend I buy?”
This is the question I get asked almost every time I meet an aspiring podcaster.
It is important to talk about the microphones and equipments, but I hope you got a good idea of the more important aspects of starting a podcast in the previous sections.
But what goes into the podcasting kit?
It depends. I know that’s not what you wanted to hear. But don’t worry, I’ll explain that and you can also download the full equipment list for 3 podcasting setups if you’d like to.
I’ve written about my podcasting kit here, with exact names and specifications of every single hardware and software in my kit. But below are some key members of my podcasting kit that I want you to specifically consider:
I dive deeper into all of this inside Free Your Voice, my free podcasting course.
“Oh yes, I do that a lot…I keep constantly sharing my episodes on Facebook, Twitter…”
If you went back to Section 3 where I walked you through the 4Ps of marketing, you probably know what I’m about to say.
Marketing your podcast goes beyond just promotions. In fact, promotion is a key aspect of marketing. You cannot keep sharing your episodes on all social media platforms and tell “No one’s listening to my show”.
You need to know more about your podcast, who it’s listeners are, what they like, where they hangout, who do they hangout with, what’s the price listeners have to pay, what’s the value your podcast gives them in return, where are the places listeners can access your podcast?
Answering the above questions can result in a lot of clarity about your listeners. Use that clarity to focus your marketing efforts. You might need to use some promotional strategies to help you market your show.
Content marketing is a great place to start.
If there’s one thing that many people who start a podcast ignore to consider, it’s the timeline.
You know that you’ve got to plan, create and distribute. Is that all you’ve got to do? What will you need to do when you first launch your podcast? What will you need to do every time you have a new episode?
That’s precisely why it’s important for you to have a good idea of the big picture timeline. I like to think about the timeline in two contexts:
As we saw in Section 6, Planning is done at the very beginning. You typically don’t have to revisit these activities every time you publish a new episode.
This is the same case with submitting your podcast feed to places like Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Google Podcasts. They are done just once in the beginning.
Inside the Free Your Voice course, I walk you step-by-step and help you plan your podcast carefully so you have a clear date and launch plan.
Podcasting, at its core, is a simple thing – you record your voice, upload the MP3 into the internet, give the location a name and submit it’s feed to some directories.
In fact, thanks to Anchor, podcasting is actually much easier than that – open your Anchor app on your smartphone, press record to record your voice, click a button to publish the episode.
It depends on why you want to start a podcast.
The real hard part is making sure you are actually creating the podcast for an audience that exists, and that you are making sure they know about its existence. (This is why outlining your podcast is SO IMPORTANT!)
The hard part is making sure that a listener comes back to listen to your next episode.
The hard part is to make the podcast worthwhile for you and the listener, so you show up every day or week to record a new episode, and your listeners do the same to listen.
In short, the hard part is:
There are several kinds of courses for podcasting out there. Each course is meant for a certain kind of student. So if you are looking to learn podcasting, it’s important to pick the right course.
One course I highly recommend you take, is the one by Pat Flynn. It’s called Power-Up Podcasting.
One of the biggest reasons I like this course is because Pat walks you through every step of the process on video, plus you get access to a Student Center where you’ll find hundreds of other students that have taken the course. Pat also hosts a weekly call for students to ask questions and get unstuck.
When I got started with podcasting, I had taken Pat’s help in getting started – so my recommendation is based on first-hand experience. That’s the confidence with which I recommend the Power-Up Podcasting course.
I must remind you that the above link to Pat’s course is an affiliate link. In other words, I will get paid a small sum if you decide to signup for his course using this link. So I highly recommend you sign up ONLY if you think it’s a perfect match for you.
But if you decide to signup using my affiliate link, I want to offer you a 45-minute coaching call with me. To get that offer, just email me your receipt after purchasing Pat’s course, and we’ll get in touch with you.
The Ultimate Podcast Launch Tool is something I’ve been working on in recent times. It’s a tool that will be your companion and guide to help you launch your podcast. Once you get access to the tool, you’ll be asked for two questions:
Based on the two questions, the tool creates a plan for you to launch your podcast along with every single detail. This tool creates a To Do list, and packs in a bunch of other features to help you search for guests, and a lot more!
LAUNCH LIKE A PRO!
Now I understand that not everyone needs a paid course, and this could very well be you. If, for whatever reason, you are not ready for a paid course on podcasting, I still want you to get the help to create your podcast.
That’s why I created Free Your Voice, the 4-week podcasting course, and it’s free. I know you are wondering “why is it for free?” and I totally get it. In fact, a few of my students told me that the course is better than a paid course, and asked me to put it behind a paywall.
I refused to do so because I wanted everyone in the world to have access to it. It’s also that I teach podcasting to kids from economically backward societies – I don’t want to stop teaching them because they don’t have the money to pay for a course.
I’d invite you to signup for Free Your Voice even if you’ve taken some other course. No, it’s not just because of the content that’s available (we have really good content too!), but to take advantage of the coaching and the community.
You can also find a ton of free resources on the internet to learn podcasting. Here are some you can consider:
Here are some blog posts I’ve written on podcasting before.
I understand that some people need more personalized help. It could be that you are an entrepreneur running a business that needs someone to take a closer look at your podcast. You perhaps need specific help in areas like marketing the show. It could be that you need help with sounding good, and training your voice.
Every month, I open a few coaching slots. Click the button below to schedule one.
No literature about starting a podcast is complete without a mention about sponsorships. While I did make a mention in Section 3, I intentionally stayed away from the topic for a reason.
Over the years I’ve seen a lot of discussions on this topic. So much so that I observed so many new podcasters feel bad about not able to get sponsorships, instead of feeling good about being able to have a loyal audience.
If you have a podcast with over 10,000-15,000 listens per episode, that’s great. Go ahead and try to get some sponsors.
But having 500 or 5000 listens per episode is not a disgrace. Yes, you wouldn’t get sponsors, but you have real people listening to you!
If you could offer something really valuable for the 500 or 5000 listeners, they would pay you. Even if 10% of them bought something from you for $10, $500 or $5000 is lot of money!
That’s great. Congratulations!
I’m not qualified enough to talk about sponsorships, but I know if one person who is – John Lee Dumas aka JLD. He’s interviewed over 2000 guests and his show has been consistently generating sponsorship revenue for over 7 years.
In this ultimate and deep-dive article, JLD outlines everything you need to know about podcast sponsorships.
If you’ve read till this point, congratulations! But it’s likely that you’ve forgotten what was discussed in the beginning of this article.
Here’s a quick summary of everything you need to remember from this article:
When I first launched my podcast, one thing I really wished for is assurance and someone who could tell me if what I’m doing is right.
The problem is not with knowledge – it’s available everywhere in the internet (and thankfully so!)
The issue however is due to an abundance of knowledge and the resulting doubt.
“Which article should I follow?”
“What do I do after I complete what’s outlined in this video?”
“Is there someone I can reach out to, to clarify this step?”
At the time of writing this post, there is not a single resource like The Ultimate Podcast Launch Tool available on the internet for free.
Why, what’s so special with the Ultimate Podcast Launch Tool?
Everything about it is special.
First off, it’s not a PDF. While I’m a big fan of PDFs that are actionable, I am a firm believer that PDFs as ‘guides’ don’t really serve the purpose.
Guides are supposed to help the reader maneuver through a difficult task in the best possible way. But the best possible way changes over time. Publishing a PDF every time there’s a change is not an easy thing, and hence a lot of these PDFs are generally updated far slower than they should be.
It’s a dynamic tool. And it’s built using Google Spreadsheets. I plan to keep this tool updated as things change in the world of podcasting, so you always get the latest.
The Ultimate Podcast Launch Tool (in it’s current version) is a:
..and so much more is being added!
We are adding more into this tool, so you can completely forget about having to break your head thinking “What should I do next?”, or “Am I doing this the right way?”, or “Is there something I’m missing?”
Download The Ultimate Podcast Launch Tool. If there’s something specific you need, and find missing in the tool, shoot an email to me. You will receive my personal response.
LAUNCH LIKE A PRO!
If you’ve read this article all the way to this point, congratulations! It’s takes a lot of interest and commitment to stay focused. Let’s now put all of this to action.
Here are a few things I highly recommend you do to keep the momentum going:
I hope this article was useful for you. If you’ve decided to go ahead and start a podcast as you read this, that’s awesome! Every word in this article is based on my personal experience and talking to my readers and students from the past. If there’s anything you were looking for (and don’t find in this article), please don’t hesitate from letting me know. My email is my first name at the domain name.
Look forward to seeing your podcast in the comments below. If you liked this article, I’d be humbled if you could give a shout out on social media. I also invite you to listen to The Design Your Thinking Podcast, where I interview many people who are just like you. Here’s a link to the podcast – let me know what you think!