The question “How do I make a successful podcast?” differs from the question “How do I make a podcast?” in a few ways.
This is mainly because it has never been easier to actually launch a podcast. You don’t need to spend a lot at all, and there are countless tools out there that can make things really easy for you.
Once you’ve recorded a piece of audio and uploaded it to your media host, you can find your very first episode proudly sitting in places like iTunes and Spotify before the week is out.
This simplicity and low barrier to entry is a good thing overall, because it enables almost anyone to get their message out there, regardless of their background or experience.
But a huge amount of podcasters give up after just a handful of episodes, and that’s a by-product of how easy it is to launch. If something is created without much thought or genuine purpose, then it’s also easy to quit.
So as we’ve already put together a really popular step by step guide on how to start a podcast, we thought we could maybe now take a deeper dive into how you can make a successful podcast.
What steps can you take to make sure your podcast will actually achieve the things you want it to?
How do you give it the best possible chance of getting through those tough early days and sticking around for the long haul?
1 – Define Success
First thing’s first: success means many different things to many different people.
For some, it’s about the big download numbers. Others dream of earning a full-time living from their shows. Many business podcasters see success as getting regular sales enquiries because of their content. And for others, it’s simply a case of having a creative outlet and a platform to tell their stories.
So in order to work towards your own version of a successful podcast, you need to first ask yourself, “What does success look like to me?”
2 – Have a “Why”
When you run a podcast, things don’t always go to plan.
Life can get in the way, hardware and software can break, files can vanish, and there’s really no shortage of things that’ll test your patience in the long run.
When things go wrong, you really need to have a solid core reason for wanting to podcast. One that’s big enough that it’ll never be overshadowed by any of the above.
That ties in to how you define success. But with the question “Why am I doing this?”, it’s more about the journey than the destination, as cliched as that might sound.
3 – Play The Long Game
The truth that many aspiring podcasters don’t like to hear is that it can take years to build an audience.
And in order to make a successful podcast you need to be prepared to turn up consistently and regularly over the next few years.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have short-term goals though. It’s definitely a good idea to break down your main ambitions into smaller achievable aims. This can help give you a sense of progression.
But hopefully you just enjoy the process of running a podcast. If you do, then you’ll stand the best chance of sticking at it and growing an audience.
If you don’t enjoy it, then certainly nobody is going to enjoy listening to you. And it won’t be long before you start missing episodes, before giving up altogether.
If you’ve recently launched your podcast and it’s already making you miserable, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Check out why it might be time to quit your podcast for more help with this.
4 – Make It Sustainable
A big part of enjoying the process of podcasting, is that it isn’t a complete battle to get new episodes done and out.
In the planning stages it’s easy to have big plans about the time you can dedicate to your show each week. It’s also easy to create an episode template in your head that’s going to take a lot of work to produce on a regular basis.
The key to making sure working on your podcast isn’t something you dread, is to build a workflow of sustainability. For more on this, take a look at our article on how much time it takes to run a podcast.
5 – Don’t Get Stuck On “The Launch”
I’ve already said quite a bit on the long-term nature of making a successful podcast. Unfortunately however, it’s the concept of a big explosive “Launch” that many aspiring podcasters choose to focus on instead.
Another uncomfortable truth about your podcast before and during its launch, is that – unless you’re famous before your podcast goes live – nobody really cares about it.
It shouldn’t be treated like a film premier or launch of the new iPhone. It’s more the case of laying the foundations for building something that’s going to get bigger and better with every passing month that you work on it.
In those early days, there’s every chance you’re finding your feet with things like presentation skills, recording, and editing too. If this is the case, you should embrace the fact that hardly anyone is listening. Start small, learn the ropes, and let your audience grow naturally along with your podcast.
There’s not a lot about a podcast that can’t be changed over time. So don’t get paralysed by the thought that certain things aren’t perfect before publishing that first episode.
6 – Take Control
Long term, you’ll want to check in regularly with your audience and seek feedback from them. This is the difference between a podcast surviving and thriving.
In the very early episodes though, you won’t have an established audience at all. These early listeners haven’t fully bought into your podcast yet, and with each episode, they’re weighing up whether or not to stick with you.
It’s better at this stage to be decisive and tell the listeners exactly what the show is about, how it works, and what they’ll get from listening.
If you come out the gate asking for feedback and direction, it can make you and the show seem poorly planned and lacking in purpose.
If you’ve done your research in the planning stages, you know what your target audience want. So design a show that’s going to serve them.
Nail down an agenda in the early days. Those who buy into it will appreciate your decisiveness and stick around. They’ll become your core audience, and further down the line, you can begin to consult them on shaping the future of the show.
7 – Don’t Rely On Audience Participation
A common mistake many new podcasters make is to build their shows around an audience that doesn’t yet exist.
If your episodes are built around answering listener questions, or doing live shows, then I’d recommend going back to the planning stages.
In the early days it falls on you and you alone to create your content. Anything else is only going to lead to disillusionment and disappointment.
How to Make a Successful Podcast
Hopefully that’s given you a different take on planning and launching a podcast, aside from the usual “What mic should I get?” and “What media host should I use?” questions.
That’s not to say those aren’t valid questions though. And you can find everything else you need in our step by step guide on how to start a podcast.
If you’re looking for more tailored help too, then check out The Podcast Host Academy. That’s where you’ll find all our courses, from planning and launching, to editing, presentation skills, promotion, and monetisation.
We also run regular live Q&A sessions in there too, so you’ll never get stuck on anything again. If you want to make a successful podcast, then we’d love to work with you in there!