How to Start a Podcast – a Beginner’s Guide
In the past three years, podcasting went from an obscure medium to a mainstream tool for listening to audio content. Personally, I’m so jazzed. I’ve been a podcast fan fo eva. The more podcasts there are, the more awesome content I get to listen to.
When I started my show last year I was totally overwhelmed … TGFG (thank god for google) found tons of information. In fact, it was all too much. I didn’t need a list of 30 possible microphones or the pros and cons of 12 different audio editors.
I needed the guide I’m creating now. The quick and dirty. The audio n00bz guide to starting a podcast. My goal was to have the audio be good, but I didn’t care if it was perfect. I love the production on Gimlet Media/This American Life kind of shows, but I knew that wasn’t my goal. I wanted an easy way to get started to see if it was even something I’d be good at.
So that’s why I’m creating this guide. It’s an easy(ish) way to get started using all the tools and techniques I’ve learned over the year. Sometimes it’s nice to learn from people who are only a couple steps ahead, not miles and miles. So that’s where I’m coming from. I’m a year in, and totally loving it. I also get asked for tips and equipment recommendations all the time so here it all is in one lovely post.
Step 1: Choose a Format
So you want to make a podcast. Congrats! To me, podcasting feels like the wild west. The way that blogging did in 2011 and the way that Instagram felt in 2014. If you’re starting in 2018 you’re still pretty ahead of the curve. Even if you’re reading this years later, I’m a big believer that it’s never too late to start.
The first step to figuring out what kind of show you want is to create is to nail down the format.
This means it’s just you on the mic. The pros of this is that you don’t have to worry about scheduling or timing for anyone else. This gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating your content.
It’s difficult because you have to be really compelling if you’re alone. Talking into a mic by yourself also takes some getting used to. It’s not like writing, where you can think while you create. You’re on the spot. If you already create really compelling solo video content then you’ll be able to nail this one.
I find the solo is great for someone with a lot of interesting ideas and actionable tools. You also need to have a ton of ideas because you can’t always rely on bouncing off someone else.
This is probably one of the most popular types of shows out today. For an interview show, you pick a general theme then invite guests onto the show and ask them questions about themselves and your general field.
The pro of this format is that it’s easy to create content because you’re asking questions from experts or interesting people. It’s easier to build chemistry and there are a lot less awkward moments and pauses when you are feeding off someone else’s energy.
The cons are that this type of show is pretty saturated. You have to have a pretty interesting concept or style to really break out in this area. It can also be difficult to find guests and there are a lot of logistics in scheduling guests.
Q & A
Another style of show is the Q&A. This is where you get questions from your audience and either you by yourself or you and a co-host answer the questions. This is a great format if you have a large audience and naturally get a lot of questions.
It’s a little harder if you’re just building an audience and don’t have a ton of questions to answer or ways to have people ask you questions.
This is one of the more difficult styles of podcast and usually requires a team and a group of experienced audio producers. I put this one on the list just so you know what the different formats are but I wouldn’t suggest this for beginners.
Examples: Serial, This American Life, Reply All
This is also a more difficult format to pull off as a beginner because it requires not only storytelling skills but actors and experienced audio engineers. If you’re in an acting community and want to do readings of shows this could be an interesting way to connect with audiences. Otherwise, I’d steer clear unless you have a solid plan and/or team of people with you.
2. Get the Equipment
I think a lot of people are overwhelmed by podcasts because they think there’s a ton of technical expertise and equipment needed. I found that it was actually pretty easy to set things up. I’m writing this guide from my experience as a Mac user and can’t speak to the PC tools and resources out there.
This comes with all Macs. There are tons of great tutorials on youtube for editing in Garageband. I will say I was able to teach myself really quickly how to use the software because it’s pretty intuitive and drag and drop.
This is the microphone I started with. I love it because you can change the settings to just record your own voice or if you’re doing an in-person interview there is a setting for two people. It does a great job at just recording your voice and it doesn’t pick up a ton of the background noise, which I love. I have a loud old fridge that kicks on all the time during interviews and it only grabs my voice. This is an awesome first mic.
You probably already have a solid pair of headphones to plug into your mic so you can hear the levels, but if not here are some that I like.
I record all my interviews using Skype. It’s free and my guess is you probably already have it on your computer.
This is the tool I use to record the audio from the Skype call. It saves as an .mov file then you convert it to an .mp3 then drag that file into Garageband to edit.
3. Choose a Name
Naming anything can be really tough. It feels crazy important at the beginning. I will say, a name is just a name. For example, the word “Google” didn’t mean anything until it became the brand that Google is. It’s more important to have a great brand than the perfect name.
If you already have a blog there are pros and cons of naming your show the exact same thing. The pro is that it’s easy to remember and it’s consistent with the rest of your show. The con is that often the podcast is a unique platform that is a compliment to your show, versus a repeat of the rest of your content. For example, my business and blog is In it 4 the Long Run. I chose to use the title of The Chasing Joy Podcast because I felt it sounded more like a show and captured more of the energy and theme of the show.
Some general rules of thumb:
- Try to pick something unique
- Keep to around four words or less
- You don’t need the words “podcast” or “show” in the title
- Choose words that aren’t already in super popular shows so you come up when people search for you
4. Create a Show Description
Once you know the format, theme, and name of your show you’ll need a two to three sentence description of your podcast. This will be used in the iTunes description and also it will be useful to have when you’re pitching guests or promoting the show.
To create a compelling description make sure to include:
- Topics the show covers
- Who the show is made for
- How the show helps those people
- How often listeners can expect new episodes
- 5. Create a Cover Art Graphic
For the different podcast players like iTunes, you’ll need a graphic for your show. Rule of thumb: keep it simple and legible. Now is not the time to create something super intricate. Make sure the title is really easy to read at a small size. Stick to one or two main colors that will pop out on a long list of shows. If it’s a picture of you, try to have a really clean, simple, one-color background. If you don’t know how to create graphics in photoshop don’t be afraid to outsource. You can use sites like fiverr to get an affordable design.
6. Choose intro or theme music
At the beginning of each episode, you’ll want a consistent quick intro that explains to new listeners what your show is all about. You can use the show description you wrote, or something even quicker. You’ll also want some catchy music to go along with the intro. Make sure the music you use is royalty free or that you buy the full license. There’s plenty of free music out there.
7. Create your first 2-4 episodes
Before you sign up to host your podcast online, I would recommend creating two to four episodes first. You might find that after three, your heart just isn’t in it. It’s great to have a couple shows in your queue because podcasting more than any medium relies on consistency. You just have to show up. People don’t have a ton of patience when the show the subscribed to doesn’t land in their feed when it was supposed to.
8. Set up Hosting
Just like a blog, a podcast has to be hosted on the internet before it’s picked up and broadcasted through a podcast app. Your host is where you’ll upload finished episodes and add descriptions and titles. Your host will create a podcast rss feed which can be picked up by podcast players.
Once you choose a podcast host and create your show, you’ll add the name, show description, iTunes category and graphic.
The host I use is Libsyn. I’ve been really happy with Libsyn so far. It’s the only host I’ve had so I have nothing to compare it to. The analytics are good, they make uploading easy, and there are a lot of resources for podcasting on their site. Again, it is the only host I’ve used but I’m a fan and haven’t had any problems during the year I’ve been podcasting.
9. Submit Your Podcast to iTunes
So you’ve picked the name, the theme, you’ve recorded your first couple episodes, you have a graphic, you’ve set up hosting and you’ve uploaded your episodes. You’re ready! The next step is to submit your show to iTunes.
To submit to iTunes go to: https://podcastsconnect.apple.com/
It will ask for your RSS feed which (if using libsyn) will be: http://YOURSHOWSLUG.libsyn.com/rss
It usually takes a couple days to have your show accepted. When you do, bust out your biggest happy dance because it means you’re a podcaster!
If you are looking to start a podcast and want more help I offer podcast coaching. Email me georgie[at]init4thelongrun.com if you’d like set up a session.
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