If you’re considering starting a podcast, now is a good time to get started. There are 57 million people in the US listening to a podcast every month. In addition, 25 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 – 55 listen to three podcasts every week on average. Podcasting is quietly growing, and that’s good news for you as an aspiring podcaster.
Like any other project, podcasting requires upfront planning and preparations before you begin. In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to start your own podcast.
Step 1: Choose Your Topic
Choosing the right topic for your podcast can be difficult. As an aspiring podcaster, you may have a general idea of what to talk about on your show but you may be struggling with the specifics to focus on. If you’re in this situation, we suggest that you take a step back and consider the following steps to help you find your focus.
Define Your Purpose
Besides (hopefully) making money, why do you want to podcast? What drives you to invest the energy and resources needed to pursue this venture? For example, a basketball enthusiast might want to start podcasting to talk about their favorite NBA team or players. Put your deepest motivation on paper because every episode should flow from that purpose.
Determine Your Audience
You can generate a wealth of topics from your purpose, but it can become overwhelming and confusing at the same time which is why it’s important to identify your audience. What is the age range of your audience? What are their goals and interests? Asking these questions can help you narrow down your choices as you develop topics that are relevant to your audience.
A good example of a podcast that has successfully determined its audience is the Dave Ramsey Show. The podcast is focused on personal finance but is written in a way that targets the average person who may not be financially savvy. In it, Ramsey shares easy to understand and actionable advice with his listeners rather than weighing it down with technical details or industry jargon.
Find Your Niche
In 2015, there were about 5,000 podcasts added to iTunes every month according to a study published on Medium. In other words, you are very likely to have hundreds if not thousands of competitors in your area. This is why it’s important to find your specialization.
Millennial is a great example of a podcast that has nailed down its niche. Unlike other podcasts that focus on pop culture or comedy, the show is about the life of a millennial in Megan Tan. Podcasting from her closet, Tan recounts her experience from waiting tables after college to landing her first real job. Throughout seasons, listeners also got to meet Tan’s boyfriend as they followed her journey in applying for a sought-after fellowship and eventually getting a radio gig. Tan’s story appeals to a particular audience: millennials.
Step 2: Consider the Costs and Purchase Equipment
The primary expenses of starting a podcast include your equipment, such as a microphone, computer, and headphones as well as an internet connection and web hosting. Depending on your budget, you can choose between these options:
|Audio Editing App|
- Cost-Efficient Option – using the computer you already have and its built-in microphone, you can record and edit a basic podcast for free. You can also register on SoundCloud to get free three-hour podcast hosting. However, you will still require a website and a web hosting service, but you can minimize these costs while you get started.
- Starter Pack – to improve the quality of your podcasts, consider investing in some of the basic equipment used by podcasters who are just starting out. With a budget of $600, you can get quality entry-level gear including a laptop, microphone, headphones, stand and boom arm, and shock mount.
- Business Option – in addition to the equipment mentioned above, a virtual assistant can help you market your content so you can focus on writing and recording your podcasts.
While you can use what you have right now, Kristin Marquet, Creative Development Media Founder and Creative Director, says that you should invest in quality equipment:
“Anyone interested in starting a podcast will need to invest in the proper equipment – a website, a substantial microphone, a Skype account, podcasting hosting, a good pair of earphones, and Canva to design your promo images.”
Proper equipment can range widely in price. Let’s look at some options below.
We recommend allocating as much of your budget as you can to your microphone as it will have the most impact on your podcasts’ sound quality. You need something that effectively cancels background noises while providing broadcast quality that is free from delay or echo.
Unlike video editing, audio editing does not require a lot of processing power. Therefore, you can use any Windows, Mac, or Chromebook computer. If you do need a new computer, then we recommend investing in one with decent memory and processing power for good overall performance. A quad core machine with 2 GHz of processing power, 4GB of memory, and 500GB of hard disk storage should do the job. Laptops with good components can cost less than $300. If you want to invest in top of the line machines, you need to pay around $400 – $1,000.
Headphones come in handy when recording as some people feel more comfortable listening to their voice while doing a show. It’s also absolutely necessary when conducting a remote interview so that you can hear your guest. Considering that headphones do not affect the recording sound quality, an entry-level option should suffice.
You need a stand that will hold the microphone in front of you. The stand should also be sturdy and flexible so you can make adjustments and find the suitable height and angle to capture your voice. Desk clip-in stands are popular among podcasters because they are easy to maneuver plus they save space.
Any desk movement, such as nudges and heavy typing, produce vibrations that can affect sound quality. You can keep your microphone steady with a shock mount that isolates it from vibrations and stand noise.
Audio Editing Software
Speaking of audio editing, you also need software that can eliminate background noise, cut out unwanted sounds, and add background music among other functions. Audio editing software licenses range from as low a $20 for basic applications to as high as $900 for pro-level licenses, but there’s a free application available for newbie podcasters that offer many of the same features as paid options.
Audacity is an open-source audio software for recording and editing. It offers multiple features such as recording live audio, splicing, editing, and converting files into various formats. Best of all, it’s free.
Your website will serve as your primary marketing tool. This is where your audience can have direct access to your podcasts and articles. Plus, it can help you generate more revenues through banner ads and affiliate links. Which website host you choose will depend on your budget and how much traffic you expect it to receive, but there are many economical options available.
Even though you have a website with a hosting service that lets you store files, it’s still recommended that you get a different host for your podcasts. Podcasts can take up hundreds of megabytes in storage depending on length. Eventually, you will encounter storage or bandwidth issues if you choose to host your podcasts on your web host.
Podomatic offers 15 GB of bandwidth per month and 500 MB of storage at no cost. If you have room in your budget, consider investing in Amazon S3. Prices vary by region, but it costs around $0.022 – $0.026 per GB for standard storage.
Step 3: Record and Edit Your Podcast
The specific details of recording and editing your podcasts may vary depending on your chosen tools and software; however, the general process is more or less the same. Once you have all the necessary equipment, you can follow these steps to start recording your podcasts:
- Set and test the input volume of your microphone.
- Open your audio recording and editing software — for example, Audacity. Before you start recording, make sure the software is set to record from your chosen microphone.
- Click the red circular button to start recording. Don’t worry about making mistakes at this stage. You can always edit your podcast after you record it.
- Listen to your recording and use the noise reduction feature of your software to eliminate any background noise.
- Delete sections of your recording where you made mistakes.
- Use the leveling feature of your software to correct areas where the volume may be louder than others.
- Export your audio as a WAV or MP3 file. These formats are supported by virtually all media players while providing good quality audio and a reasonable file size.
Here’s a video from CNET on how to record and edit your podcasts using Audacity:
As you record each podcast, you might ask yourself whether you have enough material for more than one episode. If you get into this position, you might be tempted to release episodes ahead of schedule. Anand Bhatt of Al & Anand Crack Hollywood Podcast chimes in on the issue:
“One of the hardest things to do is to resist the urge of breaking up the podcast into too many episodes and releasing too often. I know we struggle with this and have to use will power. One recording session may yield a dozen episodes and you might want them all out that day. But most people only see your latest episode, and some podcast listening platforms will auto-unsubscribe your audience if they miss too many episodes. So take breaks between episodes. Once a week is usually good depending on your audience. It is also OK to take a month or two off despite what everyone else will tell you. Instead of looking at your podcast like a morning radio show, think of it like a TV show (even if it is just an audio podcast). You can do it in seasons and be just fine.”
Step 4: Submit Your Podcast on iTunes
After recording a few episodes, you are ready to share your podcasts. Apple’s iOS Podcast app is the largest podcast player in the world, representing 60 to 70 percent of the market. That’s why many podcasters claim that iTunes’ podcast directory is the only directory that matters.
Before you submit, be sure to have the following:
- Title, author, and description of your podcast
- 1400 x 1400 image file either in JPG or PNG format
- Valid RSS feed URL
- Apple ID
Once you’ve completed the requirements, the next step is to optimize your podcast to improve your ranking on iTunes. While optimization will not help you appear on the home page and “New and Noteworthy” lists, it will definitely help you rank in search results. Here are few tips to improve your iTunes ranking:
Optimize Content with Keywords
Using keywords helps iTunes understand what your podcast is all about so it can match your content to relevant searches. The key here is to know what your audience is looking for. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool to help you put together a list of sought-after terms. Once you come up with a list, add the primary keywords in these areas:
- Podcast title – the title of your podcast should include two or three relevant keywords for your podcast. For instance: Steve’s Daily Show: NBA | Basketball
- Publisher name – enter your name and follow the format of your podcast title here. For example, Steve Nash NBA | Basketball
- Podcast description – write a description of your podcast here but also include the same set of keywords you used in the publisher name and publisher title.
- Podcast title and description – also include the same set of keyword terms here.
Ask for Comments and Reviews
Another way you could influence your ranking on iTunes is to increase the number of comments and reviews of your podcasts. Many podcasters find it difficult to get reviews because their audience often listens while on the go. However, there are ways to motivate your listens to spend a few minutes to leave a review.
You can run contests where you pick a one random reviewer per episode to win a prize such as a session of your service or exclusive content. You can also solicit reviews at the end of each episode to remind your listens to spend some time writing a few words about your show.
Share iTunes Link
After you publish your podcast episode on iTunes, get the iTunes link and share it on your website and social media channels. Many people still use their computers to listen, and if they click on your iTunes link, the number of downloads in iTunes increases. Also, listeners don’t need to download iTunes to open the link and listen to your show. The iTunes web platform gets the job done.
The more downloads your podcast gets, the better chances you have in ranking.
Invite Listeners to Subscribe
One advantage of getting your audience to listen to your podcast on iTunes is it makes it easy for them to subscribe. At the end of each episode, invite your listeners to click the subscribe button. Getting more subscribers boosts your ranking on iTunes search.
Step 5: Market Your Podcast
While you may have some great podcasts saved on a hosting service or submitted to iTunes, no one will know they exist until you market them. You need to find an audience and let them know that your show offers something valuable to them. It’s a tall order for someone just starting out, but it’s not impossible. In this section, we provide some tips on how you can build an audience for your podcast.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
Hiring a skilled and reliable virtual assistant (VA) can be a sound investment. A VA can perform a variety of tasks that can help get your podcasts off the ground, including transcribing audio files, marketing on social media, and connecting with market influencers. To further save costs, you can find a VA on freelance websites like Fiverr and UpWork. Contractors on these sites charge from $5 to $10 per hour of service.
Connect with Other Podcasters
Have your VA look for other podcasters who can add value to your target audience. Send an email that lets these podcasters know what your show is all about with an invitation to be a guest on your show. You can also add that you’d be happy to guest on their podcast in return.
A good number of podcasters will feel inclined to grant your request even though you’re just starting out. First, interviewing you provides them with the opportunity to come up with virtually free content that adds value to their listeners. Second, guesting on their show increases their popularity by giving them access to your listeners. As for you, interviewing podcasters with an established audience gives you exposure. Plus, you get access to their audience as well.
Justin Kerby, Host, Mind Your Marketing agrees:
“Featuring other podcasters on your show, going on other podcasts as a guest, paying to amplify your podcast and soliciting reviews can all help grow your audience. It takes time, but as we learned at Mind Your Marketing, it’s worth it.”
It’s a win-win situation that savvy podcasters will always consider.
Transcribe and Optimize
With the help of your VA, transcribe the most compelling parts of your interviews. Add the transcription to an article and post it on your website. The purpose of the article is to grow your audience. Therefore, your article must not share every detail of the show but rather pique the reader’s interest. Include the most interesting parts and leave your audience wanting more so that they download or stream your podcast.
After you transcribe your podcast the next step is to optimize it for search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving your website’s ranking in search engines like Google. SEO involves the publishing of useful content with relevant keywords. To get your website to rank, you need to find the keywords that your audience look for in search engines.
We recommend using Google Adwords’ Keyword Planning tool to help you find words and phrases sought by your audience.
Once you’ve identified the right keywords, use them in the following sections of your article:
- Alt text of images
- Meta description
There are WordPress plugins that can help you optimize your articles and get them to rank on Google, such as Yoast. With SEO, you are helping to maximize the chances of your potential audience finding your podcast in their searches. It’s almost as important as the content itself.
Promote Episodes on YouTube
After Google, YouTube is the largest content search engine — not Yahoo! or Bing. Nearly 5 billion videos are watched on the video-sharing website every day. Given YouTube’s popularity, it only makes sense for you to try to penetrate its market.
Sword and Scale repurpose their podcasts and promotes them on YouTube. Each episode gets tens of thousands of views. In the description of each video, they provide a summary of the show and include a link to it at the bottom.
Later, you can consider video interviews or sharing behind the scenes of your podcast recording so your audience feels a stronger connection to your content.
Promote Episodes on Instagram
Instagram has 800 million monthly users and 500 million active daily users. The social media platform generates a lot of attention, which you want to divert some of to your podcast.
You might be wondering how you can market audio files on a photo-sharing app. TheArtofCharm gives us a good idea how. The personal development website uses an appealing graphic and includes a quote from the podcast on top of it to capture the audience’s attention. Then, they provide the main idea of an episode in the caption along with the episode title. More importantly, they have a call to action that encourages the viewer to click the link on their bio to access the episode.
While not included in TheArtofCharm’s post, many podcasters also use hashtags. These are a word or group of words preceded by the # sign such as #Podcast or #Episode08 that denote a subject, topic, or other themes. Marketers use hashtags to index their posts and amplify their brand.
This is a simple marketing strategy that can increase brand awareness and direct traffic to your website.
Jeremy Slate, Co-Founder at Command Your Brand Media echoes our call to market on various social media platforms:
“In terms of marketing your podcast, it’s important to be on as many social platforms as possible, Twitter and Facebook send the most traffic. It’s also important to fool these platforms where possible as algorithms of most want to keep you on a platform. Sharing things such as links will rank lower on a site than things such as long form text and images. Figure out creative ways to use images and long form text to drive traffic to your episodes.”
Step 6: Monetize Your Podcast
You may be recording your episodes because you love doing it; but, of course, it’s still great to generate some income from your investment in energy and resources. But before you monetize your website, Halelly Azulay, a Facilitator and Speaker at The TalentGrow Show suggest that you should make podcasting your primary objective:
“Podcasting is a craft to be learned and honed, and your audience will build gradually. As a brand new podcaster, you’ll be busy practicing your craft and creating a trusting bond with your audience. Most likely, you will not yet be in the position to monetize your show when you’re in that early phase, and that’s fine if you’re not creating those types of unrealistic expectations for yourself. My suggestion is to start, build, hone, and gradually shift into monetization when you’re ready.”
When you feel ready for monetization, you can pursue various options below:
Just like a radio show, sponsorships can help you pay the bills. Popular podcasts such as Entrepreneur on Fire and Adam Corolla earn thousands of dollars each month through sponsorships. Podcasters get paid using the cost per impression model (CPM), where according to Entrepreneur on Fire:
- A 15-second pre-roll can generate $18 per 1000 impressions or listens
- A 60-second mid-roll can generate $25 per 1000 impressions or listens
To quickly define, a 15-second pre-roll is where the host advertises the product for 15 seconds before the show. Similarly, a 60-second mid-roll is where the host advertises the product for 60 seconds during the 40 to 70 percent mark of the show.
Generating $43 per episode doesn’t sound like a lot. However, if you manage to get 10,000 listens per episode, that’s already $430. If you do it for 30 days a month, that’s $12,900. This is the formula that helps popular podcasters make a living out of podcasting.
You will eventually find products and services that offer value to your listeners. You can monetize that by using affiliate links.
Instead of mentioning sponsors on your podcast, you can create a quick video, audio recording, or article to promote the product or service. Then, include the link at strategic locations in your content. You generate income every time a listener visits your affiliate’s site and purchases a product. Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome earns a lot of affiliate money by promoting BlueHost to his audience. He was so successful that BlueHost created a page on their website to give Flynn’s fans a special offer.
In his November report, Pat Flynn generated an income of $33,075 from his BlueHost affiliate marketing program.
Books and eBooks
As you generate free podcasts, you will eventually create enough valuable content that you can turn into a book or ebook. The creator of HackTheEntrepreneur.com, Jon Nastor, did something similar. He used some segments of his podcasts and combined them with new content to create his book. The book’s journey doesn’t end there. He converted it into an ebook and made it a lead generator for his email marketing campaign, bringing his content full-circle.
Repurposing your podcasts is something to consider for the future, but it helps to plan ahead. Every podcast you create has the potential to make money for you somewhere down the line.
The Bottom Line
Podcasting is a growing field with millions of listeners. Before you start podcasting, however, you must consider costs, licenses, advertising, and monetization. You need around $1,000 to get started on equipment and licenses. In addition, you have to spend a little bit more on marketing so your audience can find you. Keep producing quality content, and you may eventually find sponsors and affiliates to help you generate income. With the help of this guide, you can work on making your podcasting business a success.