First of all, CONGRATULATIONS!
If you’re reading this, that means you want to start a podcast, which also means you aren’t afraid of putting yourself out there and sharing your thoughts with the world.
In my opinion, overcoming self-doubt and fear is the hardest part about starting a podcast. It can be paralyzing to most, but not for you.
You’re here, which means, you’re on the path to fulfill your podcasting dreams! And I’m so freakin’ proud of you.
So, let’s keep this momentum going, shall we? You’ve got this!
Before You Start Your Podcast
Now for some tough love.
Make no mistake, podcasting is a lot of fun, but it’s also a commitment.
You owe it to yourself and your listeners to publish consistently, which requires a lot of time, effort, and creative energy.
So the first step: make sure you’re up for the challenge! If you stick with it, all of the hard work is worth it.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start your podcast:
- Why do I want to get into podcasting?
- What is the purpose of my podcast — to entertain, educate, inspire?
- Why should people listen to my show? Who should listen to my podcast?
- How often will I publish new episodes?
- How will I come up with consistent material?
Branding Your Podcast
Once you have a vision for your podcast, you have to brand it so people recognize it.
Naming Your Podcast
Branding starts with coming up with a name for your podcast. I recommend making it short, relevant and easy to remember.
Then, think about how you will promote your podcast. You’ll likely want to secure a domain name to reflect your podcast title, as well as social media handles. Do your research with a domain registrar like GoDaddy.
You may choose to promote your podcast on your personal website or channels, but it’s still a good idea to lock in these names while you can.
If the domain you want is unavailable, consider different iterations. For me, @makingthebrand was taken, so I grabbed @makingthebrandpodcast and makingthebrandpodcast.com.
Designing Cover Artwork
Good news — you don’t need graphic design experience to create professional-looking podcast cover artwork. There are tons of free tools available!
My personal favorite is a free graphic design website called Canva. Once you create your account, create a new file that is 3000×3000 pixels.
From there, you can browse a variety of templates that you can modify. You can change the colors, fonts, and messaging.
Remember, your cover artwork will appear as a small thumbnail at first. Make sure your text is big and bold, and that your photos are relevant to your podcast’s topic.
Also, unless your podcast is about podcasting, do not use graphics of a microphone or headphones as your artwork. This is a rookie mistake!
❗️CAUTION: A lot of podcast dreamers get stuck at this stage because they can’t settle on a perfect logo or design. Do not let this be you! You can always change your artwork later. If you’re really hung up on it, consider hiring a freelance designer.
What You’ll Need: Equipment and Software
One of the most intimidating parts of starting a podcast is knowing what equipment or software to buy. Plus, you may not be ready to invest in top-of-the-line microphones or other hardware.
My all-in cost to get my podcast off the ground was about $300, but you can get by on a lot less (or a lot more, if you’re willing to splurge!). Since this is a guide for beginners, I’m sharing the basics.
Audio quality is a must when it comes to podcasting. You can’t rely on pretty images or flashy video to uplevel your podcast content. You’ve got nothing but sound, so you need a fantastic microphone!
I purchased the Audio-Technica ATR-2100xUSBfor $63 on Amazon in 2019. The price has since gone up to $99, but it looks like it comes with a better stand, and the overall mic quality may be even better. It’s still a great price! Audio-Technica is a reputable brand.
If you really can’t splurge right now, you can get by recording your microphone using Apple headphones, or recording with your computer in a quiet room. There are editing programs that can help improve your sound quality in post-production.
The lesson here is to use your judgment. Test your sound and ask yourself if you would be able to tolerate it for 30 minutes to over an hour. If it’s unpleasant for you, it will be unpleasant for your listeners. Don’t risk it.
Podcast Distribution: Anchor
With just a podcast name, cover art, and a microphone, you can technically push your podcast live (yay!), so I’m skipping ahead to tell you about Anchor.
Anchor.fm is a free online podcast host that not only distributes your podcast to major streaming platforms, but it also has recording and editing capabilities built-in.
Personally, I like to edit my podcast in a different program, and then upload it to Anchor. But recording and editing natively within Anchor is an option if you don’t want to invest in more software, or if you are not too savvy with audio editing.
When you sign up for Anchor, they will push your podcast live to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play and more with just a few simple steps. They also create a dashboard where you can review your podcast analytics. You can also easily set up episode scheduling, monetization, and sponsorships directly through Anchor.
As a beginner, Anchor is a great option. It’s free and has everything you need! But there are some paid podcast hosts, like SimpleCast or Libsyn, that you may want to consider as your podcast grows.
Recording and Editing
When it comes to editing, it’s all about working with your skill level. Yes, you can use Anchor and get acquainted with their editing platform, especially if you are on Windows. But if you have a Mac, you may have some experience using iMovie or Garage Band. Many podcasters can record and edit audio tracks pretty seamlessly in these programs, and they’re free.
More advanced podcasters may edit in Adobe Premiere. I’ve also heard good things about a program called Audacity, but I use ScreenFlow.
My ScreenFlow plan is $129/year and covers the basics of both video and audio editing. I purchased it so I can create my own video tutorials and record my screen (such a plus!), but it works just fine for audio-only files.
Beginners can easily navigate ScreenFlow. It has simple commands that let you split and cut clips, and options for overlaying a voice recording over music.
My favorite part of ScreenFlow is the “remove background noise” and “smooth volume levels” functions. Simply checking these two boxes drastically improves my audio quality.
If you cringe at the sound of your own voice, know that you aren’t alone! Nailing your delivery takes practice. Just be sure to bring some energy! And if you mess up or stutter over a word, you can just re-record!
Here’s a quick tip to help speed up your editing process: anytime you mess up, clap loudly into the microphone. This will make your audio waveform spike, so you have a visual cue as to what clips to cut.
When you’re done editing, export your file as a .AAC and upload directly to Anchor!
The right music sets the mood for your podcast and is a huge part of its branding. You’ll use music to record your podcast intro and outro, which leave a lasting impression.
You can find a ton of royalty-free tracks online, but I chose to purchase the exact track I wanted from PremiumBeats for under $50.
When you record your intro, make sure you tell people who you are and what your podcast is about. Add this to every new episode, but you should also do an in-depth introductory episode of your podcast to kick things off.
Most importantly, don’t forget to pack in a ton of personality! If you hook your audience early, your audience will keep on listening.
Your outro is a great opportunity to plug other content, such as additional episodes, how to follow you on social media, where to subscribe to your email list, or how to join your Facebook group.
How to Promote Your Podcast
Now for the fun part — finding podcast listeners!
There are countless ways to promote your podcast. Of course, you can share it with your followers on social media, but there’s a catch.
When people are on Instagram, they want to be on Instagram.
When people are on YouTube, they want to be on YouTube.
When people are on Twitter, they want to be on Twitter.
Do you see where I’m going with this? You can’t just dump your podcast episode on social media and expect your audience to drop everything to go listen. This is too disruptive.
Instead, you need to design teasers that are right for the platform.
So don’t just post a graphic saying “new episode!” on Instagram. Maybe you do a Reel that teases one of the topics. Then, once you’ve captured someone’s interest, you direct them to the full episode.
You can also go on Instagram Live with your podcast guests, or share video snippets on LinkedIn, or long-form videos on YouTube.
But all of this is so much easier with the help of a platform called Headliner.
Headliner is a free online tool that helps you create audiograms. An audiogram is a customized graphic that is attached to sound. Here’s an example of one of mine that I shared on Twitter:
Once you log in to Headliner, you can search your podcast and choose from any of your episodes. Then, upload a graphic, choose a waveform style, color, and add captions if you’d like!You can also customize the size of your audiogram to format it for Instagram Stories or other orientations. It’s one of my favorite tools!
Pitching Guests and Interviews
The secret to growing your podcast is simple: collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!
When you interview and feature other people on your show, you now have another person helping to promote it. Most interviewees will share their episode with their own audiences, or at least re-share your promotional announcements.
As you build your podcast, you should also be out there engaging with a community on social media. Keep an eye out for people with interesting perspectives or experiences that would be a great fit for your show.
Then, shoot your shot!
Send them a genuine DM expressing what you admire about their work or expertise, and politely invite them on your show.
You’d be surprised how honored people are to be featured on a podcast. It’s a win-win! You get a new person to help add value and grow your podcast, and the interviewee gains exposure too.
Aim high! You’ve got nothing to lose.
After the interview, make sure you profusely thank your interviewee. I recommend sending a handwritten card. It’s a great personal touch to strengthen your relationship!
I know what you’re thinking… SHOW ME THE MONEY!
If you’re in podcasting just for the money, you need to change your mindset. You first need to focus on adding value and building your audience.
If you want to try your hand at monetizing sooner rather than later, Anchor has built-in sponsorship functionality. You can record ads within the platform and get paid based on the number of listens.
Once your podcast is growing and you have some clear data about your listener demographics, you can put together a podcast media kit and start pitching potential sponsors.
But for now, enjoy the process of being a beginner. Experiment until you get clear on your style and find your voice, and you’ll be making money soon!