How to Start a Podcast: Every Single Step for 2020
This guide holds your hand through every single step around How to Start a Podcast. Including planning for success, top quality equipment, recording, editing, publishing and growth. Let's begin!
So you want to know how to start a podcast? Great stuff! Our ‘Why’, here at The Podcast Host is, "To Spread Life-Changing Audio Programmes." So, we're here to help you along the way.
In this article we’re going to walk you through every stage of launching your show, from planning to publishing. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to make a podcast, and hopefully be motivated to do it as soon as possible!
How to Start a Podcast in 18 Steps
- Why are you Doing a Podcast?
- Who is Your Podcast for?
- Why Should they Listen?
- Naming your Podcast
- How Long Should an Episode be?
- How Often Should I Release an Episode?
- Choosing Good Episode Titles
- Choosing a Podcast Format
- Recording Equipment
- Recording & Editing Software
- Scripting your Show
- How to Talk into a Mic
- Recording Remote Guests or Co-Hosts
- Editing your Podcast
- Music for your Podcast
- Creating Podcast Coverart
- How to Publish your Podcast
- Next Steps After you Launch
Simple as that!
There are 18 steps, broken down into 8 chapters, so read on for the full details. We really hope this guide gives you the skills and the inspiration to get started. And, if it does, get in touch and let us know. We want to hear.
Want an email series of this, with added resources, actions & homework?
Ok, enough procrastinating - that's what we're supposed to be avoiding!
Let's find out how to make your podcast.
Planning Your 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 build authority, and provide your customers and target audience with valuable and entertaining content.
Or are you looking at podcasting from a hobbyist perspective? This might mean you'll be creating a show in your spare time. And the subject will be something that you're passionate about.
In either case, you can identify your "why" here. That's important to keep in mind, so that you can stay motivated, even when you're finding it difficult to get a show out.
Next, what about your "who"?
So first day, get the big question in: Who are you making this podcast for?
The thing is, 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 why 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 focussed and on track, both of which make for more engaging content.
So we 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 listen.
Whether you're providing information that will help someone to 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, you've 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?
Need more help with planning your show to make sure it's got the best chance to take off? We've got a podcast launch course and weekly live coaching sessions inside our Podcast Host Academy, all dedicated to designing your show.
This course will walk you through defining your audience, your topic and your format, and then take you through everything else you need to go live, from recording, to equipment, to editing, to publishing. Then, you can ask all of your buring questions and get direct support from us, every week, in the live Q&A sessions. Get started!
Naming Your Podcast
There’s three main camps when it comes to naming your show.
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.
The Descriptive Name
The searchable (but some might say boring) choice is to simply call your show what your target audience are searching for. If our personal trainer called her show The Fitness Podcast then there’s absolutely no doubt as to what the show is 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.
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?
Planning 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?
Podcast length depends solely on content. Don’t cut down good content or pad out succinct work!
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 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.
When you get that data, of course, there’s no need to stick to the same length each time, but it’s good to have an ‘average’ so your listeners know what to expect.
Finally, length can actually be a ‘unique’ factor, like we talked about on Day 3. 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?
This is one of the biggest starter questions. 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, then that’s great.
You can still have a big impact with a fortnightly, or monthly show, but people plan their lives around what day of the week it is. It’s the routine at the forefront of our lives, and tapping into it can be powerful.
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?
Podcasting In Seasons
Starting a podcast doesn’t have to be like jumping on a treadmill, where you have to get a new episode out every week/fortnight/month. You can take a leaf out of television’s book and podcast in seasons.
When you start a seasonal podcast, each season will usually have a theme. You might create episodes based around that theme or topic for 6-12 episodes, then have a break. After a month or two, you’ll launch a new season (with another theme/topic) and repeat the process.
An example of a seasonal podcast is our very own Podcraft Podcast, where season 1 (updated on season 10) was all about being a beginner podcaster. Next, season 2 was about podcasting equipment, season 3 was about building a podcast website, and so on.
If your content is appropriate for it, you can even turn each season into a course or an ebook further down the line, so there are many benefits to seasonal podcasting. One pitfall however is that you might lose momentum (and the interest of your audience) during your breaks. We’ve found, though, that if you prepare them for it, and explain when you’ll be back, then you combat both issues. You can’t miss your own deadline after all!
Here's a more in-depth look at how to podcast in seasons, if this is something that interests you.
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 call them “Episode 1”, “Episode 2”, and so on. Nobody’s going to know what to expect if they listen. The whole point of a podcast is that people listen to it, so give them a reason to click on one of your episodes.
Make it clear to people what they will get from listening to your show. If you look on any podcast directory you will see shows with titles like “How To…”, “Five Tips For…” etc. These are popular because they work. You just need to make sure that you are delivering in the episode what you promised in the title.
The extra benefit of this is that iTunes allows searching by episode name. So you can show up not only for the terms in your podcast title, but for the keywords in your episode names. That gives you a whole extra level of reach if you name them well.
Need more help with titles, lengths and ALL the details?
We've done solo, co-host, group, roundtable, drama, blah blah blah... We've also done a lot of seasons, and made it work really well for us.
Everything we've learned is packed right into our Podcast Launch course inside the Podcast Host Academy, and is supported by weekly live Q&A sessions where you can talk direct to us. Take the course, ask us for guidance and launch with confidence!
Deeper Dive: How Should I Name My Episodes?
The format you choose is really personal, and depends on who’s involved! If it’s just you, you’re not doing a co-hosted show any time soon, for example
The thing is, it’s similar here to your podcast length: while it’s good to have an ‘average’ format, so your listeners know what to expect, you don’t have to stick to it every time.
You might be comfortable with a certain format and settle into a groove, or you might prefer a ‘mixed bag’ approach. 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’ or 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 great 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 future 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 (like Skype) to work properly throughout each call.
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 Paperclipping Roundtable).
- Documentary - A narrator walks you through a range of interviews, conversations and on-location clips to paint a picture (eg. UK Business Startup)
- Docu-Drama - A mix between drama and documentary. Offering learning and info, but in an entertaining way (eg. Hostile Worlds).
If you need more help, we've got a full guide to formats, including their pros, cons and how to go about it, within the launch course inside the Podcast Host Academy. All supported by our regular live Q&A sessions.
Recording Your Podcast
So once you’ve done the groundwork and planned out your show, it’s time to get to work recording your first episode.
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 quality of your show will be.
Simple USB microphone setups can give great results if you choose the right mic. Plus, you are much better to get started and see whether you enjoy it before forking out big sums of money on audio equipment.
With that in mind, the Samson Q2U is our top pick for a good quality and affordable mic. It could last you years, and comes in at only around 50 USD/GBP.
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 upgrade your setup with a digital recorder (we use the Zoom H5), or even a mixer (Yamaha MG10). Be wary of complicating things too much, though. More complications means more things that can break.
If you’re looking for more information on equipment, here’s a list to start with:
Remember, we've got a starter equipment guide inside our Podcast Launch course, and we also have a number of separate in-depth Podcast Equipment courses, if that's all you need. Plus, we love to talk gear, so join us in one of our regular live AMAs, for members only, to ask everything about shiny things!
When you plug your USB microphone into your computer, you will need some software to actually record and edit the audio. The good news is that there's 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 - steep learning curve, but great workflow, and feature-rich. It's available through a paid subscription. Compare Adobe Audition VS Audacity.
- Alitu: The Podcast Maker: the easiest possible experience. This is a web app which can automate audio cleanup, adding music and publishing to your host. It also offers great editing and episode building tools.
In The Podcast Host Academy we have a course that teaches you how to use Audacity for cleanup, editing and production. Check out Audacity Podcast Production for full details.
If you go the Alitu route, or just want to see how it works, check out this free course on how to use Alitu.
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 even Mac users getting hold of Audacity as a free alternative.
Deeper Dive: How to Record a Podcast
Once you’re set up with a microphone and your 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 practiced 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.
We’ve talked about invisible scripting before, and that’s really what you’re aiming for.
Also, the way you open and close your episodes is really important too!
This is probably the most difficult thing to conquer when learning how to start a podcast. You can make this difficult for yourself by imagining that you are either “talking to yourself” or ‘talking to a microphone”. 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 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.
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.
Another option is Zoom.us, which is a video conferencing tool that's free to use for 2 people, and free for up to 40 minutes for a group of people. Read the pros and cons of Zoom in podcasting here.
Finally, there are a few good double-ender tools out there, which means they record each person live on their own computer. That means the audio isn't compressed to be broadcast online and you don't hear the standard Skype connection glitches. One of the best is Squadcast, and you'll find a few others in our 'how to record a podcast online' article listed just below.
Deeper Dive: How to Record a Podcast Online
Producing Your Podcast
Next stop, 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.
So, you might already be recording with Audacity.
If so, this is also a good platform for production. We’ve got a comprehensive video course inside The Podcast Host Academy designed to turn you from complete beginner to master producer. Plus, you can ask us all your burning editing questions in our regular live Q&A support sessions, for members only. Check it out to get started.
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 and consistent.
Get Someone Else to Edit Your Show?
If you're prepared to spend a bit of money to save time though, you can always outsource your editing and hire someone else to do it for you. In fact we sometimes take on interesting production projects too - check out our production page for more on that!
Here are a couple of examples of highly produced shows we've worked on before:
The Simplest Option - Alitu: The Podcast Maker
What if you’ve never used 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 making' tool, which practically builds your episode for you.
Alitu is really simple to use, and will 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 music and jingles now that by-pass any need to find your own audio branding (see below!).
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!
There’s no rule to say your podcast must have music, but many choose to add some at the beginning and end to add that extra layer of professionalism.
Though you might see 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 on its own for any longer than 15 seconds.
What Music Can I Use?
There are many websites that 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. Usually you can pay a one off fee for a song which entitles you to use it on your show, or you can now get subscriptions that give you access to a huge library.
It's possible to find free music if you search for ‘creative commons’ licensed music, but it's often very commonly used and not the best quality.
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.
Where Can I Find Podcast Music?
There are a few good places to get podcast music. First, you've got the free option: Incompetech. This works, but since it's one of the only free sources, the music is really common. You'll hear it all over the place, so you definitely wont be unique.
If you can budget even $12 then you can make sure you're a lot more unique. For this we use Audioblocks, which is a monthly subscription service, although you can cancel after the first month and still get 3 tracks on the cheapest level.
For that subscription, you get access to over 100,000 music tracks, loops and sound effects to jazz up your show. Audioblocks let you use their music forever, so jump in for a month, download a range of tracks and try it out. You can always cancel after the first month and continue to use those tracks you downloaded.
If you want to really step things up there’s also Music Radio Creative who will create tailored intros and outros for your show using music and professional voice overs. Or you can ask a musical friend or band to create something for you, or to use one of their existing songs.
Deeper Dive: How to Find Podcast Music.
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 the iTunes store.
Just like music, creative commons licensing can be found in visual art too. Many podcasters use creative commons/stock images to create cover art on platforms like Canva.
You can also have artwork completely custom designed by us through our own cover art service, or approach an artistic or photography-loving friend to see if they will help you put something together.
Ideally your cover art should be at least 1400 x 1400 pixels, in JPG or PNG form, and under 500kb in size. Stick to these specs and it’ll help you avoid having any issues in directories like iTunes. Your artwork will often be viewed by potential listeners in a much smaller format, so avoid cluttering it full of details that could turn it into a mess. It should be clearly readable when only around 200px wide.
Deeper Dive: Designing Great Podcast Cover Art
Publishing Your Podcast
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 make a podcast is that you upload your podcast to places like iTunes. This actually isn’t the case. As this was a commonly asked question we talked about media hosts and getting your show into iTunes in detail in our ‘How to Upload a Podcast‘ article.
In short, though, you need to sign up with a media hosting service to host your audio files, and you can either have a website set up on their site to deliver them, or place them on your own existing website.
We use a few different media hosts, and you can read what we think of them all here:
Or, here are what I see as the best 3 hosts on the market right now, and the differences between:
Buzzsprout is the cheapest good option ($12/month)
Captivate is the best for multiple shows & growth features ($19/month)
Transistor is the best for private podcast feeds ($19/month)
Submitting to Directories
Once you’ve created your show inside your media host of choice, you can then submit it to various directories, where listeners can discover, subscribe to, and download it.
Any good host - and all three I've listed above - will have a good set of auto-submit or guided-submission tools. So, they make it easy to get your show into Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and other popular spots.
What Website do you Put your Shownotes & Players On?
When you sign up for media hosting, you often get a free website with it too. Buzzsprout, Captivate and Transistor all give you a simple but decent-looking site for your Podcast. If you’re running a a hobby show, this is a good option to keep things nice and easy.
But, if you want more control, more tools, your own branding and to own the space where your podcast lives, then you’ll want to create your own website for it. That means buying web hosting too. I recommend Bluehost as a good value option for this.
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.
Alternatively, you can set up a brand new WordPress website as a home for your podcast – it’s surprisingly easy!
HOW TO START A PODCAST: NEXT STEPS
Once your podcast is launched and out in the world, that’s when you’ll move on to thinking about promotion and building your listener-base.
We actually have a course inside our Academy that can guide you on this front too. It’s called 30 Days of Audience Growth, and it gives you one actionable tip a day over the course of a month. This’ll really help you gain the visibility and authority needed to steadily increase the impact your show has within your niche!
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 monetising your podcast too.
In the meantime though, that concludes our crash course on how to start a podcast. I’ve tried to include as many relevant links throughout the article as possible which go more in-depth on each particular topic. However, you can let me know if anything is missing or if you’d like more information by leaving a comment below.
And if you’d like some more help in launching and growing your podcast, then don’t rush off just yet. We have a couple of great options available to you.
The Podcast Host Academy, for Live Coaching,
In-Depth Courses & Resources
The Podcast Host Academy is our coaching and support community, which includes a huge collection of courses, resources and tool to help you get your show out there.
The core of the Academy are our regular 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 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.
If all you want, though, is a critique and review of what you're doing right now, then check out our Podcast Healthcheck service. This is where we can review one of your episodes, and send you a full report of suggested improvements and next steps, so you can go ahead and make it even better in future.
The "Personal Plan-on-a-Plate" Option
The Podcast Launch Package is the way to work directly with us. Here we’ll spend 4 one hour sessions coaching you through the entire process of designing, planning, and launching your podcast.
On top of that we can also produce your first 4 episodes for you too, if you want that help. This is the ideal option for those who want tailored advice and guidance from idea to launch – as well as a premium level of production from the very first episode!
Or, if you're looking for a more bespoke service based on your own unique needs, aims, and struggles, you can Build Your Own Coaching Programme with us.
We’d love to work with you there!
Just in it for the Gear?
Yea, I know how you feel. I just do this for the shiny things. In that case, forget your planning, and jump right to the kit!