Often times, we want to start a podcast, and yet there are a hundred other questions that stop us from doing it. In this article I share 7 steps to starting a podcast from scratch.
In my last post, I talked about how to outline your podcast. If you’ve successfully outlined your podcast, you are probably going to enjoy this one.
Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a podcast.
That’s a very good decision! However, do you know that most people who think of starting a podcast, never start it? And a lot of podcasts don’t go beyond the first few episodes?
In this post, I’ll help you avoid all of that and actually get moving in the right direction. You’ll not be creating your podcast yet, but doing everything else to help you get to creating your show. Sounds good? Let’s jump in.
Man without a plan is a man without a clan.
Podcasting is not just about recording your voice and throwing it out there for people to listen. It’s about being able to relate to your listeners, being discoverable, being consistent at publishing episodes and creating quality episodes and content.
So, in this article, you will be planning your podcast from scratch. Here are 7 steps we’ll broadly cover in the rest of this post.
- Find a good podcast idea
- Pick a Podcast Name and Category
- Pick a publishing schedule
- Finding a Platform to Host your Podcast
- Get the Right Tools for Producing Your Podcast
- Prepare your Podcast Creatives
- Create a Website for Your Podcast (Optional)
Yes, there is work before you start a podcast. Well, you can still start a podcast using an app like Anchor without needing to do all 7 of these.
But if you are looking to be in the ears of listeners from the larger podcast listening audience, these 7 steps will help you make a significant difference to your podcast.
Find a Good Podcast Idea
Many podcasters spend a lot less time on finding a good idea for a podcast.
If you look at the iTunes directory, you’ll find a lot of “entrepreneur interview” shows, for instance. Many of them would’ve been discontinued.
Finding an idea that resonates with you and your audience is very important to the success of your podcast. In this exercise, I walk you through an exercise to help you come up with a podcast idea that works for you and your audience.
Pick a Podcast Name and Category
Excellent! You’ve come this far and I’m sure you’ve started to think through your podcast idea. You may not have an idea by now, but I’m hoping you have some ideas floating in your head.
Leave a comment below with your idea, and I’d love to help you with some more clarity.
Now if you have a couple of ideas, I suggest you pick the one that you are more comfortable with. That’s the key – being comfortable talking about the subject with strangers. If you are, let’s now pick a name!
What do I call my podcast?
Does it need to sound fancy? Or should it be simple and straight. I’ve seen so many people get stuck here for days! No don’t worry though. Let me share a little secret with you.
Simplicity eats fancy names for breakfast!
Seriously. Let me elaborate that in 3 simple points:
- If you have an established online presence, you can use that name (because people are already familiar with that name).
- If you are someone famous like, say Seth Godin, you can afford to use a fancy name. Seth’s new podcast is called Akimbo. What does that ever mean? But who cares? It’s Seth!
- If you are new to the online world, pick a simple name that cannot be misinterpreted.
Pick a Publishing Schedule
Publishing? What does that mean?
Well, if you aren’t too familiar with the way podcasts work, let me quickly explain this.
Podcasts work similar to blog posts.
Once you record your episode, you need to put that MP3 file into a web server, just like web pages. That’s called publishing.
So, how frequently will listeners get to hear you with fresh content? More than once a week? Every week? Or, lesser frequently?
From best practices, I suggest once a week. But I leave that decision to you. Pick one and stick to it.
Pick a Podcast Hosting Platform
Like I said in the last section, you publish your podcast episodes to a web server. For all practical purposes, you can upload your episode MP3 files into the same web host as your blog.
But the servers used by website hosting providers are not built to stream audio content. That’s why we use specialized hosting providers for podcasts.
What? I just can’t do it one more time! Selecting a hosting provider is so complicated!
Don’t worry. I’m going to help you do just that in this section. First, I’ll tell you how to pick a podcast host.
How to Pick a Podcast Host?
Let me bust the most complicated part of the selection – the criterion for selecting a podcast host. Below are a few parameters you’ll need to look for, when it comes to picking a podcast host.
Number (and Duration) of Episodes Per Month
How many episodes would you be publishing every month? How long would each episode be? This defines the size of each MP3 file, and the total size of uploaded files every month.
In my experience, a every minute of a 128-bit MP3 file would be about 1MB. So, if each episode is 30 minutes long and you publish once per week, the total would be about 120MB/month.
Some hosts have different plans based on this monthly upload size. So you need to look out for that.
Most platforms would offer you a feed of all your episode MP3 files that you can submit to directories like Apple iTunes, Castbox, Stitcher and more.
Some platforms however are more compatible and tested with platforms like WordPress. If you have a blog hosted on WordPress and intend to have your podcast episodes available there, some hosting platforms work better than others.
Metrics / Analytics
How much of metrics and analytics do you have access to? This is a major factor in deciding which hosting platform you pick.
Some hosting platforms differentiate tiers by the level and depth of metrics and analytics you have access to.
Ease of Distribution
Once you upload your podcast episode to your podcast host, they need to be distributed to various directories so that it reaches various kinds of listeners.
Some podcast hosting providers help you distribute to directories. Directories like Google Play or TuneIn allow people using Android phones and Amazon Alexa respectively to listen to your podcast.
Ease of Listening
Can people listen to your episode from inside social feeds? Can they play from within your website? In other words, how easy is it for listeners to listen to your episode?
For example, Soundcloud allows your episodes to be listened from your Twitter feed itself, without having to open the episode in a new window.
What Hosting Provider Should You Pick From?
There are a number of podcast hosting providers today. There are more coming up too, and I’ll have them included here in the future.
I host my show on Libsyn. I started doing it because they are one of the oldest podcast hosting platforms, and the most reliable.
However, Libsyn got even better since last year after they updated their new metrics and analytics dashboard. Libsyn also offers a dedicated Podcast Page and a Custom Mobile App for your podcast (with the advanced plans). They have a plan for everyone, starting just $7/mo.
So, if you are looking for a podcast hosting platform, I’d recommend Libsyn any day.
That said, below are some other podcast hosting providers that I’ve heard good reviews about. They are:
A word of caution.
I strongly suggest you read the Terms and Conditions on any new podcast hosting platform before you sign up for their service.
In a step towards being different and more helpful for podcasters, to improve distribution, some platforms may place small clauses including content exclusivity and revenue sharing on sponsorships or advertisements.
Get the Right Tools for Producing Your Podcast
So now you have some idea of what your podcast is going to be about, a name for your podcast and where you’ll be hosting it.
In this section let me help you with something many new podcasters spend too much of time on. Tools. Really?
You don’t have to run from pillar to post.
People spend countless hours browsing Amazon, reading reviews and forums. They either end up being confused or picking and buying the wrong tools.
But what’s that you’ll really need to get rolling? You just need a lean podcasting setup.
What’s a Lean Podcasting Setup?
To get quality podcast recorded, all you’ll need is a computer, a microphone, a pair of headphones and a DAW.
1. Digital Audio Workstation or a DAW
Fancy terms are sometimes belittling, and I used it here because you’ll see other podcasters use that term in forums too. So, what’s a DAW?
Simply put, a DAW is a software (or an electronic device) with which you can record, edit and produce any audio content (like your podcast).
That must be expensive, right?
Nope, it’s not. Audacity is one of the best DAWs available in the market, and it’s open source! It runs on both Mac and Windows. Just head over to Audacity website and download the software, and you are good to go!
If you are using a Mac computer, you can take advantage of GarageBand, a DAW that Apple offers out of the box in all Mac computers.
The second thing you’ll need is a microphone. Like I said in my earlier article on Why you Should Start a Podcast, there are many options for a microphone.
Here’s how I’d recommend you do it.
- If you are testing the waters with starting a podcast, I suggest you can pick up this microphone for just under $10. And when you get more interested in podcasting, you can always pick the one below.
- If you are pretty sure of your interest in podcasting, I highly recommend you pick up this microphone for around $60. I use it in my kit and it’s actually all you need to produce very good quality audio.
- Well, if you have some disposable cash and want to try something even better (and pricier!), you should consider picking up this microphone from Heil Sound. I use this in my kit and would recommend it any day.
There are several other microphones in the market. But remember, all you’ll need is a microphone that will make your voice sound good, loud enough and works like a charm.
Now, that’s all you’ll need to spend time on, when it comes to picking a microphone. Let’s move on.
The next thing you’ll need is a pair of decent headphones. That’s it. If you have a decent pair of headphones, just use it.
Headphones help you listen to the sound levels while you are recording, editing and producing the episodes.
A word of caution!
Please don’t use a noise-cancelling headphone. If you own one of those Bose QuietComfort headphones, please don’t use them for producing your audio!
Your listeners would listen to your podcast in their cars, while taking their dogs for a walk, while on a run. They would not be wearing a noise-cancelling headphone.
If you wore them while producing your audio, the sound levels may end up being lower than what needs to be. The audio quality will suffer.
What headphones will I recommend?
Like I said, just use a decent pair of headphones that you may have.
But that said, if you insist on picking up a new pair, I’d recommend picking up a headphone that goes around your ear. Remember, you’ll need to be comfortable with them for longer periods of time.
Here are some good headphones for every budget:
- Neewer NW-3000 Professional Monitoring Headphones (around $35)
- Sennheiser HD 200 Professional Monitoring Headphones (around $69)
- Sony MDR-7506 Professional headphones (around $80) <- I use this
Again, you don’t necessarily need a Professional Monitoring headphones. You can do with the regular earphones like Beats too.
You are actually good to go. Unless you are looking for something more, you are free to skip the following section and go to Creating a Website for you Podcast section.
Optional Podcasting Setup
Good going so far! In this section of this post, I will talk about a few tools that will help enhance your podcast.
You’ll not need them, unless you are an audiophile or your listeners are asking for even better audio.
So let’s talk about the challenges first..
..and look at the tools that will help you overcome those challenges.
I want to specifically talk about 4 most common challenges that you might face with a Lean Podcasting Setup:.
- Uneven sound levels.
- Multiple Microphones (and other inputs).
- Mics that you need to literally shout into – Gain-hungry Microphones.
- I need to be mobile, and my laptop is too clunky / slow.
Uneven Sound Levels
Say you have an interview-based podcast and you are recording the episode over a Skype conversation. You have a great conversation, and finally you listen to the recording.
Horrible! Your guest / co-host’s voice is feeble!
That’s a horrible feeling. You are pretty much paralyzed now. If you try to work on the audio file inside your DAW to increase the volume selectively, you will end up screwing your audio.
So here’s the solution.
Use ECamm Call Recorder for Skype (works only on Mac). It’s a software that runs alongside Skype, to record the conversation. The best part is that it facilitates multi-track recordings too.
So, if you have multiple guests speaking, Call Recorder for Skype will help you split them into separate MP3 files. This allows you to play with the volume of each speaker individually.
In case you have a Skype Video call, Call Recorder for Skype also separates the video from the audio files so you have a great level of control on the final episode audio output from your DAW.
You can get a copy of Ecamm Call Recorder for Skype for $39.95 to save you hours of hard work and a great audio quality.
Multiple Microphones / Speakers / Music Mix
I know of a few podcasters who have co-hosts for their show. The co-hosts can sometimes be sitting next to you, or sometimes connect remotely.
Some shows I know of, play a little background music even while recording the show. The best way to record these multiple inputs is by using a Mixer.
A Mixer, as the name says, is an electronic device that takes multiple inputs (microphones, line-ins, mixes these inputs to give you one output that can go into a recorder or a computer.
How to Choose Between Mixers?
There are many of them in the market. And, there are many brands that make it.
They are fundamentally differentiated based on the number of inputs they can take, the special capabilities they have (like introducing special effects / FX), having a built-in equalizer, etc.
Some high-end Mixers also have software sliders and knobs, instead of the classical hardware ones.
What Mixer Should You Pick?
All you will need is the basic mixer capabilities. Even the smallest Mixers support two inputs. But which one should you pick?
Here are my recommendations:
- Mackie ProFX4v2 (about $120 on Amazon)
- Mackie ProFX8v2 (about $200 on Amazon) <- I use this
- Behringer 1204USB (about $150 on Amazon)
A word of caution about Behringer mixers
If you are using a gain-hungry microphone like Heil PR 40, I recommend you don’t pick Behringer mixers. The preamps on these mixers are not great. Mackies have great preamps.
Microphones You Need to Shout Into
I just mentioned the phrase “gain-hungry microphones”. What are they?
Gain is the measure if how powerful the signal is. The output gain of microphones, when lower than the input gain, they are termed “gain-hungry”.
If you have a microphone that’s gain-hungry, what do you do? Should you get a mixer?
No, you don’t need a Mixer to just improve gain.
Use an audio interface instead. What’s that?
An audio interface, as the name suggests, interfaces between your audio input (if that’s a microphone) and the recording system (computer or recorder). The audio interface has preamps that will help improve gain of the incoming audio.
Preamps, as the name suggests, are pre-amplifiers and their job is to amplify the sound.
What’s audio interface should you pick?
Scarlett audio interfaces are the best ones in the market. They work well with most microphones, and is used by amateurs and professionals alike.
I need to be mobile, and my laptop is too clunky / slow.
If you have a slow laptop or an unreliable laptop, and you still need to record interviews (and sometimes take the setup with you), you aren’t alone.
What you need is a good recorder.
Yes, recorders are small electronic devices that you can carry around and record audio into. Recorders are extremely useful for 3 reasons.
- You need to record while being mobile.
- They can record each microphone in separate tracks.
- They are relatively quiet cheaper than getting a laptop.
What I like about recorders is they are custom-built to record. That’s their primary function, unlike a laptop. So, they are far more dependable than a laptop.
What Recorder should I pick for my podcast?
I highly recommend you pick Zoom recorders. Simply because they are Japanese, they do their job really well, they are reliable.
Here are my top 3 recommendations:
- Zoom H5 (about $250 on Amazon) <- I use this
- Zoom H4 (about $200 on Amazon)
- Tascam DR-05 (about $110 on Amazon)
Prepare Your Podcast Artwork and Creatives
Awesome. You are almost there. You know what your podcast is going to be about. You’ve picked up all the necessary tools as well.
It’s time to start recording your podcast, right?
Yes, technically it is. But there is one other thing you’ll need to get out of your way, before you consider yourself fully ready to record and publish episodes.
You’ve got to create your podcast artwork!
What is a podcast artwork?
Remember seeing the square image that shows up for every podcast in your podcast player or in iTunes marketplace?
Those are podcast artworks.
You need to have an artwork for your podcast too. This helps listeners identify your podcast and differentiate it from the other podcasts.
How to create your podcast artwork?
Your podcast artwork needs to be 3000×3000 pixels in size. And a JPEG image works best.
You can create it by yourself using an image editing tool, or you can get some help. Here are the best places to find someone to help you with creating your podcast artwork.
Here are 2 places where you can find designers to help you with your podcast artwork:
- Fiverr Pro
Fiverr is a marketplace where you can find designers, look at their portfolios and hire the one you like to create your podcast artwork.
Both are good services and similar to each other.
Create a Website for Your Podcast
Wonderful. You’ve come this far!
Know what? You are actually good to go. You can skip this entire section, and yet record, edit and publish your new podcast.
But if you are someone who already has a blog or a website, you might be interested in showcasing your new podcast with your website audience. Wouldn’t you?
Integrate Podcasts into Your WordPress Website
There are multiple website platforms out there. We’ll discuss WordPress and how to integrate your podcast with an existing WordPress website.
Perhaps you already have a blog, and you want your podcast episodes to be visible alongside your blog posts.
How to Integrate Podcasts Into Your WordPress Website?
You can start to integrate your podcasts into your wordpress website in 3 different ways:
- Use a Podcast Player
- Create a Podcast Category
- Design a Podcast Website
Use a Podcast Player
Using a podcast player is the simplest way to integrate your podcast into your website. Podcast players are also available as plugins in the WordPress marketplace.
Here are a few players I recommend:
- Smart Podcast Player (about $8/mo)
- Blubrry Player (FREE; you need to be a Blubrry customer)
- Libsyn Player (FREE; you need to be a Libsyn customer)
Create a Podcast Category
You can take this a step further by actually showing podcasts alongside your blog posts. To do this, you can use a plugin called Powerpress.
What Powerpress does, is it creates a new category for your podcasts, and also gives you an option to insert your episode MP3 files into posts and publish them.
With this, you can now start to see every episode appear as another post on your WordPress website.
Design a Podcast Website
You can design your website from scratch to make it look super professional. Now you can do it in two ways:
- Download a readymade Podcast website WordPress theme
- Create your own Podcast website from scratch or using readymade templates
Download Readymade Podcast Website Theme
You can download a readymade Podcast Website Theme for WordPress. Themeforest has the best collection of WordPress themes for Podcast Websites.
It’s my favorite place for a lot of creative resources, and they are priced reasonably. Get your Podcast Website Theme from Themeforest.
Create Your Own Podcast website from Templates
Are you looking for even more control in the way your podcast shows up on your website? Get Thrive Architect from Thrive Themes.
For $67 (one time), Thrive Architect gives you access to hundreds of web page templates. You can take complete control of your website with Thrive Architect.
Thrive Architect also works with your existing WordPress website theme, whereby allowing you to leverage what you have, while building newer looks on the side.
Get your copy of Thrive Architect here.
For more resources on podcasting, hosting and getting creative work done, check out my resource page. Please safely pick any of those tools there – I’ve used all of them.
Your Next Steps to Starting a Podcast?
We are at the end of this exercise. I hope you found the post useful. I sincerely hope you’ve started to put together the podcast. Perhaps also started to record your episodes.
If not, leave a comment below and let me know what’s stopping you. Why haven’t you started recording your podcast yet?
If you started to record your podcast episodes, let me know how it went. Liking it? Did you publish it yet? Let us know in the comments below.
I’ll see you in the next post in this series. Until then, subscribe to my newsletter below and see you in the comments!