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Learn how to start a podcast, launch your show and start growing! This complete step-by-step beginners guide goes from initial idea, to going live, to snagging your first 100 listeners.
In this article, we’ll walk you through every stage in creating your podcast, from planning and recording to publishing and promotion. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to make a successful podcast, and hopefully, execute it in the quickest, most pain-free way possible!
How to Start a Podcast: The 5-Stage Guide
1. Why are you Making a Podcast?
2. Who is Your Podcast For?
3. Give Them a Reason to Listen
4. Naming Your Podcast
2ND: EPISODE FORMAT
5. How Long?
6. How Often?
7. Choosing Good Podcast Titles
8. Choosing a Format
3RD: RECORDING & GEAR
9. Recording Equipment
10. Recording & Editing Software
11. How to Script your Podcast
12. How to Talk Into a Mic
13. How to Record Remote Calls
4TH: EDITING & PRODUCTION
14. How to Edit Your Podcast
15. Finding Music for Your Podcast
5TH: PUBLISH & PROMOTE
16. Podcast Cover Art
17. Podcast Hosting Platforms
18. Submitting to Podcast Directories
19. Podcast Websites
20. Next Steps
1ST STAGE: PLANNING & PREPARATION
There are two big questions you need to ask yourself here, and they’re joined at the hip. First…
1. Why Are You Making a Podcast?
So firstly, why do you want to make a podcast?
Are you a freelancer? A business? Or a marketing manager? If so, you might have identified podcasting as a great way to grow authority or community. Here, you can provide your customers and target audience with valuable and entertaining content. You can build trust, and nurture those fanatical superfans every company dreams of having.
Podcasting isn’t exclusively a content marketing strategy for businesses, though – far from it. You might be coming at it from more of a “creative outlet” perspective. This could involve you making the show in your spare time, and on a subject that you’re passionate about. Your podcast topic can be anything from true crime to vegan baking. Here, you’ll still have a why, though, and it could be every bit as serious as a company looking to attract new customers.
So what’s the bottom line with all this? Unless you answer the question of “why?” then you won’t be best positioned to design podcast content that’ll match your ambitions and objectives. You are building the foundations of your metaphorical house, so it’s worth a little extra thought (and work) to get it right!
Our ‘How to Start a Podcast’ guide was originally written in 2016. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in technology, our recommendations, and because we’re always learning new things!
2. Who is Your Podcast For?
Unless you know exactly who you’re making your show for, and why you’re doing it, you’ve got no chance of growing an audience.
If you’re coming at it from a business point of view, and you’re (for example) a personal trainer who wants to make a health and fitness podcast, then your target audience might be people who are interested in healthy eating, weight loss, exercise, or bodybuilding.
If you’re creating a hobby show – let’s say it’s based around your love of zombies and post-apocalyptic fiction – then your target audience would simply be folks with the same passion. They might be fans of TV shows like The Walking Dead, video games like Resident Evil, books like World War Z, and films like Night of the Living Dead.
A lot of smart people talk about creating listener personas or avatars. It’s a good idea, sketching out exactly who it is that you’d like to listen to your content. That persona is something to keep in mind every time you plan an episode: “Would John, our listener persona, like this? Is this focused on what he likes, what he’s interested in?”
That persona and those questions help you to keep your show focused and on track, both of which make for more engaging episode content.
- Your Ideal Podcast Listener
- How to Create a Value Proposition For Your Podcast
- Choosing a Topic That’s Unique & Original
- The Podcast Host Planner Journal
- Free Personalised Podcast Planner Tool
Do I Need an Audience to Start a Podcast?
This is a frequently asked question, and a good one to tackle before we move on.
Some folks already have a bit of an audience in place when they start a podcast. This could be anything from a business or brand, to a musician, former athlete, or author.
If you already have an audience built around something other than your podcast, then it’s a good opportunity for laying the foundations of the show’s fanbase. This assumes, of course, that your podcast is relevant to that audience.
During the planning stages, you may opt to survey your audience. Here, you can ask them things like “what’s your biggest pain point?” and “what are you struggling with right now?”. This could help you shape your content, going forward.
You might even choose to find out a bit more about them. This could be anything from demographics and location, to what other podcasts (if any) they enjoy listening to.
What If I Have No Audience?
Welcome to the vast majority of people who start a podcast! Of all the things that might put you off launching your own show, please don’t let it be this one. Most podcasters kick things off by talking “into the void”, but follow the steps in this guide, bookmark the articles we link to, and you’ll begin to steadily grow your own audience from scratch!
Here’s some good news for you too. In our 2020 Podcast Discovery survey, the data showed that potential new listeners don’t care if they’ve never heard of you. In fact, it’s the least important factor they’ll consider when weighing up whether or not to hit play. Check out the survey link for more useful stats and info.
3. Give Them a Reason to Listen
So once you know who you want to reach, how do you reach them?
You need to give people a reason to listen.
This means creating content that they will get something out of when they hit play.
Whether you’re providing information that will help someone lose weight (in the case of our personal trainer), or doing a really entertaining interview with one of your favourite authors (in the case of our zombie podcaster) you’re providing value for your listener.
Not only have you given them a reason to listen, but you’ve also given them a reason to come back for more. It’s important to think about this in the planning stages. Can you write down 10-15 potential episodes that you think your target audience would love to listen to?
Your Podcast Description
Did you know that your podcast’s description (also known as a show summary) is THE most important thing potential new listeners will judge your show on? That’s according to our 2020 Podcast Discovery Survey.
Here’s how to write the perfect summary for your podcast. Your future audience depends on it.
Are you more of a visual learner? We’ve got a podcast launch video course and weekly live coaching sessions inside our Podcraft Academy, all dedicated to designing your show.
4. Naming Your Podcast
No “how to start a podcast” guide is complete without answering this most common of questions – what do I call the thing?
There are three main camps when it comes to choosing a podcast title and naming your show.
Option 1 – The Clever Name
You might think of a really clever name for your show. But remember that people need to be able to find it when they’re searching for information about your topic. If you have a clever/catchy name for your show, then try to also incorporate a description into the title. There’s no point putting out great content if nobody can find it.
For example, one of our shows is called Path of Most Resistance. It probably falls into the ‘clever name’ category, even though we’re not that clever… So, to give a bit of description, we also use the tagline: The Uncommon Leader’s Guide.
Option 2 – The Descriptive Name
The searchable (but some might say boring) choice is to simply call your podcast what your target audience is searching for. If our personal trainer called her show The Fitness Podcast then there’s absolutely no doubt as to what it’s about. It’s a good idea, although possibly reduces how memorable it is, just a bit.
Avoid getting too long and wordy if you go down this route. Remember you’ll need to say the podcast name quite a lot when recording your episodes, so make sure it rolls off the tongue.
Option 3 – Using Your Own Name
This is pretty much a no-no unless you’ve already got an audience. If someone started The Mike Smith Show and it was about rock climbing, people would just think “who is Mike Smith?” and move on to the next podcast. Again, you can incorporate this into your show’s name along with something descriptive (‘Rock Climbing, with Mike Smith’). But avoid naming the show after you without any other details.
Deeper Dive: What Should I Call My Podcast?
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2ND STAGE: ORGANISING YOUR EPISODES
After establishing what type of content you’d like to be putting out in your podcast, it’s time to think about the episodes themselves. So, when looking at how to start a podcast, what are some of the most common questions about podcast episodes?
5. How Long Should a Podcast Episode Be?
How long does it need to be to get the message out? If you asked most podcast listeners, a “short” episode would probably be anything under 15 minutes. And a “long” episode would probably be anything over an hour.
Many will reference the time of the average commute (said to be around 20 minutes) as a good length to shoot for. But anything from 20 up to 45 minutes seems to be within the “sweet spot” for an episode length.
Don’t worry too much about these figures though, ultimately your episode lengths should be decided by two things.
- Your content
- Your audience
If you have 50 minutes of valuable, relevant content, why chop it down to 20? Or likewise, if you’ve said everything you have to say in 10 minutes, why pad it out to 30? In extreme cases, say you do an interview and it’s a fantastic conversation from start to finish but runs for 2 hours. You can always chop it in half and create two individual episodes.
Over time, your listeners will tell you if they think your episodes are too short or too long. Try to survey your audience once a year to gather data like this, and you can adjust accordingly.
Finally, length can actually be a ‘unique’ factor, as we talked about earlier. Short and snappy 4-minute episodes could suit a certain type of listener, or huge 3-hour in-depth interviews might suit another. Think about whether length might be a deliberate unique choice for you.
Deeper Dive: How Long Should My Episodes Be?
6. How Often Should I Release New Episodes?
This is another big ‘how to start a podcast’ question. Here’s the answer:
The best schedule is normally the most frequent one that you can stick to, on a regular basis.
So, if you can only manage once a month, that’s fine. If you can manage every 2 weeks, even better. If you can manage weekly, that’s great.
You can still have a big impact with a fortnightly, or monthly show, but people often plan their lives around what day of the week their favourite shows drop.
That said, sticking to a deadline just for the sake of it is pointless. You’ll have a bigger impact if you put out one excellent episode a month instead of a very average episode every week.
Deeper Dive: How Often Should I Release New Podcast Episodes?
How to Make a Daily Podcast
Daily podcasts are more common than they used to be. These tend to be done in a short-sharp “one quick tip” style, running Monday through to Friday.
Becoming part of your listener’s daily routine can be powerful, though you generally have less time with them over the course of a week, because of the length of your episodes. Sure, you can do a one-hour daily show, but who has the time to listen to that, let alone, make it?
With our daily show, Pocket-Sized Podcasting, we batch all of the work. Scripting, recording, editing, production, and publishing an entire week takes about 3 hours. The short focussed episodes are great for repurposing, too!
Another Option: Podcasting In Seasons
What if the podcast you’d like to create is a really in-depth, highly produced show, that goes out every single week? But, you know that, in the long run, this is totally unsustainable?
The ideal answer could be to take a leaf out of your favourite TV show’s book, and podcast in seasons.
Here, a “season” represents a block of episodes. The “How many” is up to you. For some, it’ll be 6, for others, it’ll be upwards of 20. This means that you can really throw yourself into creating some great content, and then, take a well-deserved rest before going on to tackle the next season.
The beauty of this approach is that seasons can be themed too, which can make your show accessible and appealing to new listeners. Our fitness podcaster, for example, might do an entire season on upper body strength, whilst our zombie podcaster could do one on video games.
Podcasters who take this themed season approach can also benefit from repurposing and monetising their content. We’ve seen many ebooks and courses created from serialised podcasts, because a lot of the work in the planning, structure, and organisation, has already been done.
One common critique of seasons is that listeners will “forget about you” during your breaks. This doesn’t need to be the case. So long as you make it clear to them how the show works – then they’ll know what to expect. You’re also asking them to subscribe on their listening app of choice, too. So they never need to “remember” you’ve come back. Your next episode will be delivered to them automatically, without any effort on their part!
Deeper Dive: How to Podcast in Seasons
7. Choosing Good Episode Titles
Just like choosing a name for your podcast, choosing good, searchable, descriptive titles for your episodes is important.
The biggest mistake when it comes to naming your episodes is to give them boring and nondescript titles like “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, and so on. Nobody’s going to know what to expect if they listen. You need to give them a reason to click on one of your episodes.
What’s the real meat of the episode? If there’s one key takeaway or solution here, what is it? This is a big clue as to what your episode title should be.
We find a lot of good and bad examples of episode titles with interview shows. If you have a guest on, don’t just call the episode “A chat with Jane Smith”. If your listener has never heard of Jane, why would they care? But as it happens, Jane could be an expert on something they’re really struggling with, so this would be the perfect episode for them. It’s your duty as a host to signpost this to them as much as possible.
The added benefit of descriptive episode titles is that they’ll show up in search in most listening apps. So if someone types in a “how to” question on your own topic, and you have an episode on it, then there’s a much better chance of them finding your show. Everyone wins!
Deeper Dive: How Should I Name My Episodes?
8. Choosing a Podcast Format
The format you choose is really personal and depends on who’s involved. It’s totally up to you!
So what are the common types of podcast show formats?
The Solo Show
Also known as the monologue.
Benefits: You don’t need to rely on anyone else to record your episodes, and you’re building a reputation as the authority on your subject. The podcast is also exclusively yours, so you can make calls on sponsorship and monetization. And you don’t need to split the profits with anyone.
Challenges: Perhaps the most intimidating style of show for the beginner podcaster. One of the biggest challenges of the solo show is getting over the feeling that you’re ‘talking to yourself’ and realising that you’re actually talking to the listener.
The Co-Hosted Show
Presenting alongside a friend or colleague.
Benefits: A great way around the ‘mic fright’ of recording alone is to chat on the show with someone else. If you find the right co-host you have someone to bounce off, debate, or even mock (don’t be too mean!). Some co-hosted podcasts have great chemistry between the presenters. This can create a first-class listening experience.
Challenges: Not only do you need to set aside time to record, but that time must also be suitable for your co-host. There’s also the question of ownership: who’s podcast is it? Do you split any potential income 50/50? And what happens if your co-host loses interest or becomes unavailable in the future?
The Interview Show
‘Borrowing’ the expertise or entertainment value of others.
Benefits: Talking to your heroes. Doing an interview show gives you the opportunity to have a chat with someone you’ve always looked up to. On top of this, your guests will have their own audiences who may listen to the interview and end up subscribing to your show. If done right, you can really grow an audience this way.
Challenges: Interviewing is a skill that you’ll need to hone through practice, so don’t approach the A-listers in your field straight away. You’ll need to constantly find and approach potential guests, schedule interviews, and rely on others to show up (in person or digitally). You also need to rely on technology to work properly throughout each call.
Deeper Dive: Podcast Interviews – Everything You Need to Know
Finally, there are a bunch of other formats that aren’t so commonly used but might well suit you.
For example, you’ve got:
- Roundtable – One regular host and a number of guests, talking through one specific topic (eg. The Game Design Roundtable).
- Documentary – A narrator walks you through a range of interviews, conversations and on-location clips to paint a picture (eg. Startup)
- Docu-Drama – A mix between drama and documentary. Offering learning and info, but in an entertaining way (eg. Hostile Worlds).
3RD STAGE: RECORDING & EQUIPMENT
So once you’ve done the groundwork and planned out your show, it’s time to get to work recording your first episode.
9. Audio Recording Equipment
The bare minimum you need to record a podcast is a computer with a USB microphone and access to the internet. As a general rule, though, the more limited and lower cost your setup and equipment, the more limited the sound and audio quality of your show will be.
Simple USB microphone setups can give good results if you choose the right mic. Plus, it’s much better to get started and see whether you enjoy podcasting before forking out big sums of money on audio equipment.
With that in mind, the Samson Q2U is our top pick for a quality and affordable mic. It could last you years, and you can use it with all sorts of other recording equipment, too. Availability depends on where you are in the world, but the ATR2100 is an almost identical option. Neither of these great podcast mics should set you back more than $100!
The Samson comes with a small mic stand, but a nice upgrade is a boom arm mic stand, to give you a bit more flexibility.
There’s a benefit to keeping things simple in that it’s very easy to record. That means you’ll be able to keep the show regular in the early days and really give yourself a chance to build a loyal following.
If you’re planning to do a lot of in-person interviews, the Rode Smartlav+ is a great tool. Two of them, plus the SC6 splitter, makes for a really light, simple interview setup.
From there, you can upgrade to an even better USB mic (like the Rode Procaster), or maybe even upgrade your setup with the Zoom PodTrak P4. The P4 is a dedicated podcast recorder that lets you record 4 participants locally, as well as remote guests, both on the phone and online. It’s a fantastic all-rounder piece of podcast gear.
Whatever gear you choose, here’s a handy resource for running a microphone test to check everything is set up properly.
And if you’re looking for more information on podcast equipment, here’s a list to start with:
- Best podcast microphones
- Best USB microphones
- Best digital recorders
- Best USB audio interfaces
- Best headset mics
And, our comprehensive Guide to Podcast Equipment, which covers all of the above, including the less glamorous but still important stuff, such as pop filters and boom arms.
10. Recording & Editing Software
When you plug your USB microphone or audio interface into your computer, you will need some software to actually record and edit the audio. The good news is that there are a few options for this, and one of them doesn’t cost you anything.
- Audacity: a good quality, free-of-charge audio editing application. For the majority of people, it caters to all your podcasting needs.
- Adobe Audition: my favourite Pro-level production tool – great workflow, and feature-rich. It’s available through a paid subscription. Compare Adobe Audition VS Audacity.
- Alitu: The Podcast Maker: the easiest audio recording & editing experience, and tailored for podcasters. This is a web app that records your audio, automates the audio cleanup, and adds music & fades. It’ll auto-generate a transcript of your episode, and you can directly publish via Alitu’s own hosting, or, directly to your existing hosting provider. It also offers great editing and episode building tools.
Audacity and Audition have steep learning curves if you’ve never worked with audio before. We have courses that teach you them both, from scratch, in Podcraft Academy.
If you’ve never worked with audio before and find the very thought intimidating, then Alitu was made for you. If you want to see how it works, check out our guide on how to make a podcast with Alitu.
For what it’s worth, if you’re a Mac user you will probably have Garageband installed by default on your machine. This is popular audio software with podcasters too, although recent versions have really cut down the features it offers. These days, I’d recommend that even Mac users get hold of Audacity as a free alternative.
Deeper Dive: How to Record a Podcast
What’s the Best Laptop for Podcasting?
The humble laptop fits nicely between the bulky desktop (don’t you ever try to move me, ever!) and the dainty mobile phone (take me everywhere you go, and please, doomscroll me to your heart’s content). It’s the ultimate “best of both worlds” when it comes to podcasting hardware.
So what’s the best laptop for podcasting? As our tech-spert Sarah says in her article dedicated to answering this question – “The brand doesn’t really matter. It’s what’s under the hood.”
She goes on to recommend an 8GB of RAM quad processor with a base speed of 2.6GHz. If that makes no sense to you whatsoever, then she breaks it down and offers some recommendations, too.
How to Start a Podcast on Your Phone
If you don’t own a computer or laptop that doesn’t mean the podcasting gate is locked shut to you. Your smartphone can handle every part of the podcasting process. This can be at the expense of a drop in flexibility and quality, but mobile technology is improving at a rapid rate and that gap is closing all the time.
Any cons of podcasting on your phone can be negated by its pure convenience, too. This comes in especially handy if you’re at an event or conference, or if you just so happen to bump into your dream interviewee whilst down the off-license buying eight cans of Kestrel Super.
Deeper Dive: How to Start a Podcast on Your Phone
11. How to Script your Podcast
Once you’re set up with a microphone and podcast editing software you are ready to hit ‘Record’ – but what will you say? That’s where scripting comes in.
When we talk about ‘scripting’ it’s easy to imagine an in-depth essay that’ll be read out word-for-word to become your podcast episode. That approach can work, but it’s only for really highly produced, heavily edited shows.
For a start, it takes aaaaages to write, every time, so if you’re working yourself, you’ll never manage it every week.
Next, unless you’ve practised this a lot, like highly produced presenters have, it’s really hard to avoid sounding like you’re reading. And listening to someone reading out a script is really, really boring…
The intimate nature of podcasting is far more suited to being a conversation, as opposed to a sermon. So try to wean yourself off a fully scripted show with bullet points of everything you want to cover. This will become easier over time with practice, until eventually writing a full script will seem unnecessary.
And, if you are a fan of those aforementioned highly-produced podcasts, here’s our guide on how to create your own documentary-style show.
12. How to Talk Into a Mic
This is probably the most difficult thing to conquer when learning how to start a podcast. You need to get over that feeling that you’re talking to yourself. Instead, focus on talking to a single person. We talked about who your podcast is for earlier on, your listener persona. If you are a business, you may already have this persona or “avatar” sketched out. Remember, an avatar is basically your ideal customer/listener.
When creating that persona, it’s up to you how much detail you put in. Some people go as far as creating jobs, hobbies, likes, dislikes, family, friends, etc. The point here is that holding a conversation with them, rather than with yourself or the microphone, will sound much more natural and engaging. This means that everyone who listens feels like you are talking directly to them. And this leads to building and strengthening relationships over time.
If you’d like to learn how to become a better speaker, including everything from finding your voice, to vocal warmups, to mic technique, check out our Voice Training for Podcasters course. That’s just one of a range of courses, plus live coaching, you get inside our Academy.
Deeper Dive: Mic Technique for Podcasters
How to Be a Good Podcast Host
Of course, there’s more to being a good podcast host than mic technique, or having the confidence to talk into one. It’s said that a good host needs to be curious, genuine, relatable, and a cohesive storyteller.
It’s not always what you do on-mic that counts, either. Research can be a big part of running an engaging and informative podcast – especially if you’re inviting guests on.
Deeper Dive: How to Be a Good Podcast Host
13. How to Record Remote Guests or Co-Hosts
Whether you have a co-host in another country or regular interviewees from all around the world, it isn’t difficult to record your chat with them.
A popular option is Zoom. But a much better option is to opt for a dedicated ‘double-ender’ call recorder. The term ‘double-ender’ means each participant is recorded on their own computer. That means the audio isn’t compressed to be broadcast online and you don’t hear the sort of connection glitches often associated with platforms like Skype and Zoom. Audio files recorded on a different channel (ie; separate tracks) can give you a lot more flexibility and control. Two of the best podcast recording tools out there these days are Squadcast and Riverside.fm.
A third option, if you’re looking for pure simplicity, is Alitu. Alitu is our own ‘Podcast Maker’ app, built to make editing and production as easy as humanly possible. We recently added a call recorder feature into Alitu too (along with hosting and auto transcription) meaning you can now do everything inside one single platform!
- How to Record a Podcast Remotely
- How to Record a Podcast With Alitu
- Great Podcast Interview Questions
- Podcast Interviews – Everything You Need to Know
4TH STAGE: PODCAST EDITING & PRODUCTION
Next stop in this how to start a podcast guide – production! This is where you edit out mistakes, stitch together different audio clips, add in music or FX and make sure it’s all sounding great with EQ, levelling, compression and more.
14. How to Edit Your Podcast
Typically, it’ll be the same place where you record your podcast, which helps keep things nice and simple. The two big exceptions are:
- If you’re using a Digital Recorder you’ll need to move the files onto a computer for editing and production.
- If you’re using Remote Call Recording Software, most of these don’t have editing and production capabilities.
With that said, here are three podcast production options to cover every base.
Audacity: The Free Option
If you’re recording with Audacity then you can also do all your editing and production there. It’s worth pointing out that you can’t use it to record remote calls though – at least without a bunch of extra equipment. That said, Audacity is still decent, and many podcasters swear by it. We have a comprehensive video course that can teach you the whole package if you think it sounds like the ideal choice for you.
Outsourcing: The Hands-Free Option
It can take a bit of time to become comfortable using Audacity, and time is something a lot of folks lack. If you’re prepared to spend some money to save time, you can always outsource your editing and hire someone else to do it. You’ll find options for all budgets and requirements over at our Podcast Production Directory.
Alitu: The Simplest, Quickest Option
What if you want to start a podcast, but you’ve never used audio editing software before? Maybe you’re concerned that you don’t have the budget to outsource your production, but also don’t have the time to learn it all.
If that’s the case, you might want to check out Alitu, the ‘podcast maker’ tool, which practically builds your episode for you.
Alitu is really simple to use. You can record your episodes right into it (either remote calls or solo eps) and it’ll take care of the processing, editing, and publishing of your podcast, without the need for any actual editing software.
It’s also got a library of royalty-free music and jingles now that bypass any need to find your own audio branding, and, it’ll auto-generate transcriptions of your episodes, too.
So whether you’re a complete beginner, or an experienced podcaster looking to drastically cut down on your production time, Alitu: The Podcast Maker could be the answer you’re looking for!
How Much Editing & Production Do I Need to Do?
From awkward pauses to uhms and ahs, there are no shortage of things you could edit out in the post-production phase.
If you want a starter guide on what type of editing to do, check out our article on the MEE Podcast Production process. This keeps editing simple, sustainable, and consistent.
Production-wise there are a few processes to learn which can enhance the sound of your audio – for example, Noise Reduction, EQ, and Compression. The benefit of outsourcing to a freelancer or using Alitu is that these will all be done for you, automatically.
What File Type Should I Use for Podcasting?
The most common format for uploading a podcast episode is an MP3 file. Not all MP3 files are created equal, though. Most podcast editing software platforms will ask you to make some decisions when you’re exporting an episode.
- Bitrate? Choose 96kbps for spoken-word audio
- Constant (CBR) Vs Variable (VBR) bitrate? Choose CBR
- Mono or stereo? Go mono, unless you’ve got loads of music and sound effects
- Sample rate? Opt for 44100Hz
If this seems like the sort of stuff that melts your brain, remember that podcast-maker tool Alitu does this all for you automatically!
15. Finding Music for Your Podcast
There’s no rule to say your show must have music, but many podcasters stick some at the beginning and end of the show – if not between segments – to add that extra layer of professionalism.
Though you might have seen films or TV shows with 1 minute + of intro music, don’t copy this in your podcast. I’d say that you don’t want to have a piece of music playing on its own for any longer than 10 seconds. If you do this, it can really start to grate (especially for binge listeners), and you’re going to train your audience to start hitting the skip button.
What Music Can I Use Safely?
Many websites have music you can legally use on your podcast. This type of music will usually be referred to as royalty-free, stock, or library music. You can now get subscriptions that give you access to huge libraries and lifetime licenses on anything you use during that subscription.
It’s possible to find free music if you search for ‘creative commons’ licensed music, but it’s often very commonly used, so can take away a bit of uniqueness from your podcast sound. There are also varying levels of creative commons licenses. Some are very liberal, whilst others ban you from using that music for commercial purposes. Always check the source site and make sure you have permission to use a particular piece of music.
- Here’s where to find podcast music that’s safe, legal, (and sometimes, free!)
- And here’s where to find podcast sound effects.
5TH STAGE: PUBLISHING & PROMOTION
Finally, we move from the nitty-gritty of how to start a podcast, to how to get the thing out to the world!
16. Podcast Cover Art
Just like your episode titles, first impressions are everything. Having attractive cover art that stands out is vital when your show lines up against thousands of others in apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Ideally, we’d recommend your podcast artwork be 1400 x 1400 pixels, in JPG form, and under 500kb in size. Some podcasters upload beefy 3000 x 3000 PNG files that can gum up their feeds, causing issues further down the line. So always opt for the smaller formats.
Your podcast logo will often be viewed as a thumbnail so don’t cram any small text onto it. In fact, the only text on there should ideally be your podcast name.
You can create decent cover art for free on Canva. They even have podcast logo templates on there. Or, you might want to hire a freelancer on a platform like Fiverr if you’d like someone to do it for you. The benefit of working with a designer is that they can help you to encapsulate your branding. Cover art is a bit like choosing a podcast name, in many ways. You’re trying to find that balance between descriptiveness, cleverness, and quirkiness, all in one static image – and it all still needs to work well when viewed as a thumbnail on a phone screen.
Deeper Dive: How to Design the Perfect Podcast Logo
17. Podcast Hosting Platforms
When it comes to getting your podcast out there for everyone to hear, you’ll need a podcast hosting account, sometimes called a media host. Media or Podcast hosts are services that store your audio and allow your listeners to listen, download, and subscribe to your podcast.
One common misconception when learning how to start a podcast is that you are meant to upload your podcast to places like iTunes/Apple Podcasts. This actually isn’t the case (see our ‘How to Upload a Podcast‘ article).
We use a few different podcast hosting providers, and you can read what we think of them in our dedicated roundup. We also recently added hosting to Alitu, which means you can do everything in one single place.
18. Submitting to Podcast Directories
Once you’ve created your show inside your media host of choice, you can then submit it to various directories. These are the podcast platforms where listeners can discover, subscribe to, and download it.
Any good host will have a decent set of auto-submit or guided-submission tools. So, they make it easy to get your show into Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, and other popular spots.
You need to have at least one published episode in order to submit your show to some key directories. It’s a good idea to create a short teaser, podcast trailer, or episode zero early on in your podcasting journey. This way, you can ensure you’re being listed on all popular platforms in time for you dropping your first “proper” episode.
Once your podcast is out there, the way podcast listings work varies from platform to platform. For example, Apple Podcast search will favour shows with high numbers of all-time subscribers. That means that established shows can have the upper hand when it comes to discovery, so take on board our podcast naming advice from earlier in this guide.
19. Podcast Websites: Where to Publish your Shownotes & Player
If you’ve already got a website for your business or your brand, then you don’t need extra web hosting – you can just set up your podcast on your main website. Check out how to install podcasting tools on your website here.
When you sign up for media hosting, you often get a free website with it too. Captivate, RSS.com, and Transistor all give you a simple but decent-looking site for your podcast. If you’re running a hobby show, this is a good option to keep things nice and easy. You might also fancy taking a look at Podpage which can build a great-looking podcast website for you in minutes. Alternatively, there’s the self-hosted WordPress option, which you can find out more about in our main podcast websites guide.
Whichever way you choose to set up your site, that’s where you’ll publish your episode show notes (AKA your episode descriptions) as blogs. You’d make your audio content available here too by embedding your podcast player in your blog posts. When you share your episodes like this, any potential listener landing on your site can then be directed to your ‘subscribe’ or ‘start here’ pages.
20. How to Start a Podcast: Next Steps: What Makes a Successful Podcast?
Once your podcast is launched and out in the world, that’s when you’ll move on to thinking about promotion, building your listener base – and maybe even earning a crust from your show.
Get Your First 100 Listeners (and Beyond)
When it comes to growth and visibility, we have a few options for you to bookmark and check out.
- Our Ultimate Podcast Marketing & Promotion Guide
- Podcast Advertising: How to Advertise Your Podcast, from Facebook to face-to-face
- The Podcast Host Planner (Notebook)
- Free Personalised Podcast Planner (Quiz & PDF Download)
- Podcast Growth: How to Grow Your Podcast Audience (Book)
- Short daily podcast tips on Pocket-Sized Podcasting
- Growing Your Podcast Audience (Course, which includes all other Academy courses on everything from editing to launching, along with access to us via weekly live Q&A Sessions!)
A Caution on Podcast Download Numbers
Podcast hosting services give you download stats which help you gauge how your show is doing. You can also get some platform-specific data from the likes of Spotify, Apple Podcasts Connect, and YouTube.
Download stats can become an obsession, especially when comparing yourself to any popular podcast. But there are so many variables when it comes to what are “good” download numbers. You might be surprised to learn that many successful podcasters thrive with “only” a few hundred downloads per episode.
So try not to compare yourself with others. The only valid comparison is against your own content and your own numbers.
Podcast Growth Starts With Your First Few Listeners
When you start a podcast, it’s tempting to go off chasing all the people who aren’t yet listening to your show. But one piece of invaluable advice we’ve found over the years is to take care of those who’re already listening. If you do this, your podcast will grow as a result.
Delivering consistently good content, coupled with solid Calls to Action (CTAs) at the end of each episode can work wonders for podcast growth. Typically, this is an ask like “subscribe or follow the podcast on your listening app of choice”, “leave a rating and review”, or, “please share the show with someone you think would like it”.
These are all good CTAs, but you’ll want to focus more on the “share” and “follow” ones in the early days. Getting a nice review is great, but ratings and reviews don’t necessarily move the needle in the way the other two do.
Earn Your First Shilling
If you put the work in, stick at it, and consistently deliver great content for your audience, then you’ll eventually be in a position to think about monetizing your podcast.
- Our Ultimate Guide on How to Monetize a Podcast
- Affiliate Marketing for New Podcasters
- How to Make Money With Your Podcast (Course, which includes all other Academy courses on everything from editing to launching, along with access to us via weekly live Q&A Sessions!)
‘How to Make a Podcast’ Recap: 12 Steps to Starting Your Own Show
- Decide on your Why, your Who, and your What
- Come up with a name for your show
- Consider factors like episode format, length, and frequency
- Choose your equipment and software
- Come up with a compelling podcast episode topic and title
- Script your first episode
- Record your first episode
- Edit and produce your first episode
- Create your podcast cover art
- Sign up for a podcast hosting provider
- Publish your episode
- Submit your podcast to the major podcast directories
How to Start a Podcast: Raring to Go?
Phew! So that concludes our crash course on how to start a podcast. Remember to bookmark this guide so you can return to it each time you work through one of the sections. As you’ll see, launching and growing your own show takes a bit of work – but it’s a fun and rewarding type of work. The fact that you’ve gone and looked for a guide like this one says a lot about how seriously you take your creative projects. Now, there’s nothing else to do other than get started. You’ve got this, and we can’t wait to hear about your journey, as well as your success 🙂
Join Podcraft Academy, for Live Coaching, In-Depth Courses & Resources
Podcraft Academy is our coaching and support community, which includes a huge collection of courses, resources and tools to help you get your show out there.
The core of the Academy is our weekly live Q&A support sessions, where you can get all your questions answered by one of our team, and talk to others in the community.
Then, start with our Podcast Launch video course, which takes you through every single step of making your show live, right from that initial idea. And you’ll find a bunch of other resources in the Academy too, from presentation skills, to equipment guides, to editing courses.