How to start a podcast: A step-by-step guide for beginners

27 Oct

The podcasting market is currently booming: it is estimated that 177 million people in the US have listened to podcasts as of 2022.

As the popularity of podcasts continues to grow, it’s becoming an avenue for brands and content creators to cement themselves as experts in their niches while reaching their customer base.

The good news? Whether for the sake of marketing or simply as a side-project, podcasting has a lower barrier to entry as compared to other channels.

In this guide, we’ll explain how to start a podcast from scratch, tips for promoting a new podcast and how to monetize it.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is a form of audio content that features one or more speakers talking about a particular topic. There are thousands of podcast shows across different topics. You can find one about anything you can think of: from movie talks to gardening to marketing—like our Social Creatures Podcast where we chat with some of the most inspiring and unique businesses on social media.

Sprout Social Creatures podcast preview on Apple Podcasts. In the screenshot, three of our most recent episode names and descriptions are visible.

Why you should start a podcast

Edison Research recently found that the widespread popularity of podcasts has consistently grown over the past few years with the percentage of people familiar with podcasts in the US estimated to reach 79% in 2022. Your audience is likely listening and that’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss.

Most content creators want to reach a wider audience and establish themselves as experts. Starting a podcast can bring you these advantages and much more.

A podcast is a more intimate form of content than other mediums. It allows hosts, especially brands and marketers, to deliver effective brand storytelling. By showcasing voices and real people, podcasts can create a personal experience and humanize the brand. This fosters deeper feelings of engagement and loyalty among listeners as compared to other content formats, which appear mass-produced.

When done right, podcasting can also maintain an edge over the competition by staying relevant to your consumers or audience. Constantly producing content around current trends in your niche and interviewing experts, helps your brand gets established as a thought leader.

Starting a podcast can also bring you another stream of income and build your network as a creator or brand. Here’s everything a beginner needs to know to start a podcast.

How to start a podcast in 6 steps

1. Research a podcasting topic or niche

Firstly, you’ll need to define a target audience and research competitors in your niche.

Who is your podcast for? Having a clear idea of your ideal listener will help you create relevant and valuable content. Identify basic information about your target audience like demographics, age, occupation, interests, hobbies and pain points.

Here are some additional statistics from Edison Research to give you an idea of who listens to podcasts in general:

  • 47% of monthly US podcast listeners are aged between 12-34
  • A majority of podcast listeners are active on Facebook.

Use this information about your target audience to create a strategy from content to promotion.

Once you have your topic and niche in mind, do some research on other similar podcasts. By understanding your competitors, you can figure out how you can position your podcast in a way that sets you apart.

With so much competition, it’s almost impossible for generic podcast concepts to gain traction. Ideally, your podcast topic should be specific enough to draw in a certain type of person but broad enough that you can create multiple episodes around it.

For example, what sounds more compelling: a horror movie podcast or a podcast that explores the cheesiest B-movie monsters of the 1980s and 90s?

Go beyond business, politics or film. Get specific. Do your research on what’s missing in the market. Then make a note of what you’re interested in talking about, what aligns with your brand and the skills and expertise you have to offer. Connect all these and you’ll discover your niche.

2. Plan your podcast details and posting frequency

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to podcast, here are a few things you’ll need to plan.

Name your podcast and add episode titles

If you’re working as part of an established brand, you have the benefit of name recognition when it comes to your podcast.

And if you don’t, you’ll need to come up with something that is memorable and distinct from other pods in your niche. You can come up with a descriptive name and use keywords your target audience is searching for around the topic. For example, if a content creator names their show ‘The Content Creator Podcast,’ it’s very clear who that podcast is for and what it’s about. If you want to be more memorable, you can come up with a witty or catchy name.

Here are some examples of non-marketing podcasts with unique names that pique the interest of potential listeners:

  • “Invisibilia”
  • “Brown Riot”
  • “What It Means”
  • “Hidden Brain”
The NPR podcast Invisibilia's unique name, description and cover image are displayed in this screenshot.

Just like choosing a podcast name, choosing episode titles is also important. It should be descriptive enough for people to know what to expect and give them a reason to click. The theme of your podcast and the specific subject of the episode are good sources of inspiration.

Also, remember when I mentioned including keywords? It’s important to keep relevant keywords in mind. Search rankings on podcast directories are based on podcast name, provider name and episode titles. So use the keywords relevant to your topic and that your audience is likely to search for.

Decide on your episode length

There is no such thing as an ‘ideal length’ when it comes to podcast episodes. Episode lengths vary from show to show. The half-hour mark seems to be a happy medium for most pods, although some run slightly shorter (and some significantly longer). However, in a survey, 32% said they “feel put off by longer episodes of an hour or more.” So, it’s better to start with episodes that err on the shorter side and build from there.

Another good rule of thumb is to tailor your episode length according to publishing frequency. If you publish daily, keep it short. If it’s a weekly podcast, stay within the 50-minute mark. If you publish less frequently, an hour per episode won’t seem too long to your audience.

Note that your audience probably listens to a ton of other podcasts (Edison Research found that US podcast listeners listen to an average of five shows a week). Having a shorter show means they can easily squeeze you into their schedules.

Format your episodes: script or not?

Most podcasts are not scripted. Only some highly produced shows are scripted word-by-word. Besides, scripting takes a lot of time and the conversational nature of the podcast might get lost.

However, a little bit of organization goes a long way to keep you from straying too far off-topic. You can have bullet points and specific scripts written out for more formal points, such as introductions and pre-recorded segments.

Sharing basic notes and having an outline of segments is way better than going into a show totally cold.

Create episode descriptions, notes and transcripts

Presentation is a huge part of podcasting.

Putting together episode descriptions can help your potential listener know if a show is relevant to them or not. Similarly, having notes and timestamps is useful for those who want to skim your episode and don’t have time to listen to the whole broadcast.

Episode descriptions also play a role in making your podcast discoverable in search. This is important because 73% of podcast listeners discover new shows by searching the internet. Include the right keywords in your podcast and episode descriptions (but avoid keyword stuffing). Here’s a great example from The Branding Lab by Yvonne Ivanescu:

The description of the Branding Lab podcast.

Bullet points, timestamps and transcripts can be particularly helpful for first-time listeners. Make use of podcasting software that has transcription features to easily capture every word.

Define your podcast aesthetic

So much of figuring out how to start a podcast boils down to your branding strategy. And having cover art and other creatives that carry the essence of your podcast is a part of this. It should visually describe your brand while capturing your audience’s interests. For example, the podcast cover art examples below use color and graphics to convey their brand identity with the theme of their podcast.

Podcast cover art examples

You can create cover art yourself using a tool like Canva. Or work with a professional designer who can help you encapsulate your brand into the right logo.

Ideally, your podcast cover art should be 1400 x 1400 pixels, in JPEG format and under 700 kb in size. Opting for larger formats can cause issues down the line.

3. Build your podcast presence

To build your podcast presence, the first step is to publish your pod through a hosting platform. Then, build your social presence on the right channels to reach your audience.

Select a podcasting platform and create an RSS feed

You’ll need a podcast hosting platform to store audio files online for distribution. You’ll then use this hosting site to deliver content to a podcast directory like Spotify, where your audience will be able to find your podcast.

When selecting a podcast-specific hosting site, consider factors like storage and bandwidth limits, analytics reporting and ease of use. Some options include:

After selecting a podcast hosting platform, you’ll need to create an RSS feed to publish your podcast.

An RSS feed is a medium to carry your audio files as podcasts and make it publicly available on the internet. It contains all your podcast info and the URL can be used to distribute it on channels like Spotify and Apple. Here’s what a typical RSS feed looks like:

RSS feed example

To create an RSS feed, add your podcast audio files to the dashboard of the hosting platform along with a description. You will then get access to the RSS feed URL. You can continue to add new podcast content when they’re ready. Some platforms may have slightly different steps, but this is what you’ll need to do in general.

Another way to make your podcast accessible is by creating a website. Website building platforms like Squarespace and WordPress have tools or plugins to create an RSS feed.

You can then submit your RSS feed URL to distributors to reach more listeners. More on this in the next section.

4. Choose the right podcasting equipment and software

Purchase podcasting equipment

Despite popular belief, starting a podcast doesn’t have to be a huge money-sink in terms of gear.

In theory, you could put together a quality show with little more than a smartphone. The bare minimum gear needed for a professionally recorded podcast is a microphone and a headset. Use a professional-level microphone right from the beginning to ensure consistent tone and volume.

  1. Microphones: Buy a USB mic like the AKG Lyra or an XLR microphone like the Shure SM series. You can get a good microphone in the price range of $70 to $200.
  2. USB audio interface: This is a device that converts your analog audio signals (i.e. your voice) into a digital signal for your computer. The Focusrite Scarlett or Zoom LiveTrak are good options. A USB audio interface costs anywhere between $100 to $200.
  3. Headphones: Quality, comfortable headsets are a must-have for all podcasters. The Sennheiser PC 7 or the Logitech H390 USB Headset are good options. You can get a USB headset for under $70.

Some additional podcasting equipment to consider:

  • Microphone stand
  • Sound-proofing materials
  • Pop filter
  • Cables

This gear is a cost-effective starting point for a small podcasting team. Avoiding complicated equipment in the beginning will let you focus on the most important part of podcasting: creation. Remember, as you grow, you can always invest in more equipment and upgrade.

Get podcast recording and production software

We recommend using audio recording software to record a podcast. There are lots of free and paid options available in the market. Some recording solutions include:

Skype and Zoom are the best options if you are recording from multiple sources.

Apart from this, you’ll also need at least one software to edit episodes during the production stage. Here are three of the top editing software to consider:

  • Alitu: This is a web application that automates audio cleanup and adds music or other effects.
  • Riverside: A beginner-friendly, easy-to-use software that comes with advanced editing tools.
  • Logic Pro X: An advanced editing software that enables total control over audio quality, music production and other sound effects.

Additionally, there are platforms like Anchor which allow you to record and edit your episodes directly from a smartphone.

5. Recording a podcast episode

Start with an outline for the episode

Creating an outline will help you map out what you’re going to say. You don’t have to go so far as to create a script. Here’s a sample outline you can use:

  • Episode intro: 30 to 60 seconds
  • Map out topics you will cover: about 4 minutes each
  • Add talking points for each topic
  • Closing remarks: 2 minutes
  • Closing music: 30 seconds

When you start recording, you might make a mistake: an interruption in the background or you mispronounce a word. Whatever the case, it’s best to record the whole episode without stopping. You can make edits later.

If you do interviews or have co-hosts, it’s best to record everyone on an individual track. You can go about this by using Skype or Zoom to record the podcast. Another option is to use a double-ender call recording tool, which enables you to create studio-quality recordings with multiple hosts remotely, independent of internet quality. This feature is available on some podcasting software like Riverside.

Edit your podcast to fit the outline you had in mind

After successfully recording your podcast, you’re now in the production stage. This is where you edit out mistakes, stitch together audio clips and add in music.

If you’re a beginner in podcasting, you might be wondering how much editing you should be doing. We suggest going for minimal edits to keep your process simple and sustainable. Here’s the Minimum Effective Podcast Editing Approach (MEE) introduced by the Podcast Host:

  • Step 1: Record everything without stopping
  • Step 2: Topping and Tailing: Cut out segments of audio at the very beginning and very end of the recording
  • Step 3: Amplify audio to -2 dB peak amplitude. This step can be automated if you use certain editing software like Alitu
  • Step 4: Export and publish

If you want to take editing one step further, here are a few processes you can follow:

  • Removing periods of dead air
  • Canceling out background noise
  • Adding in sound effects and background music
  • Reducing echo or mic bleed

Remember to strike a balance between respecting the listener’s time and the outline you had in mind when it comes to editing.

6. Promote your podcast

Let’s say you put a new episode online. Now what?

For starters, make sure that your audience knows about it. The concept here is simple: integrate your podcast with the rest of your content strategy by promoting it consistently.

If you have a dedicated email list, start there. Have an active blog? Repurpose episodes into blog posts and embed the episode within them. Here’s an example from the Shopify blog, which makes the episode easily accessible to site visitors and drives traffic to their podcast.

Shopify blog example with a link to listen to the podcast episode
Social media is the perfect place to give listeners a taste of what your latest episode is about. One way is to announce new episodes by sharing snippets of your favorite moments:
https://www.facebook.com/CoachRickSchwartz/videos/396424498966071/

Additionally, find communities on social media where your podcast niche is hyper-relevant and talk about your podcast.

Another way to get more listeners is to reach out to introduce your show to influencers or prominent people in your niche, who would benefit from listening to your show. If they like your podcast, they might suggest it to their audience.

Here are some more ideas to promote your podcast on social media:

  • Announce new episodes with an original meme
  • Share teasers of your upcoming episodes
  • Run Facebook ads on your podcast website

Wondering which social media platforms will work best for podcasts? Here’s what a survey report by Edison Research says about social platform popularity among podcast listeners: a majority of listeners use Facebook (68%) and Instagram (64%), while 45% of listeners use TikTok.

How to set up a podcast

Once you finish recording your podcast and create an RSS feed, it’s time to publish them on distributing platforms. Here’s how you can get your podcast episodes on Spotify and Apple podcasts.

How to start a podcast on Spotify

Spotify has an easy setup process for podcasts. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Log in to Spotify for Podcasters with your Spotify account, or create an account.
  2. Click Get Started.Spotify for podcasters steps 1 (link your RSS feed) and 2 (get stats, updated daily)
  3. <style=”font-weight: 400;”>Paste in your podcast’s RSS feed URL.Screenshot of Spotify's RSS feed where you can add a link to your podcast
  4. You’ll receive a verification email from Spotify. Enter the 8-digit code from that email in the form.Spotify email verification
  5. Fill in additional details such as category, language and countrynclud
  6. Review the info and click SubmitSpotify submission form
  7. After successfully submitting, you’ll receive the Spotify URL for the podcast. It may take a few hours for it to show in the app.

You may need to follow some additional steps to authorize Spotify as an additional distribution platform. Check out the list of their aggregator partners here.

How to start a podcast on Apple

Setting up your podcast on Apple is a more manual process as compared to Spotify. You’ll need an active Apple ID. If you don’t have an existing one, create a new Apple ID. Make sure it’s fully activated and is enabled for two-factor authentication. Then, here are the steps you can follow to upload your podcasts:

  1. Sign up for an Apple Podcast Connect Account and name your account. You can use an individual name or the company name.Apple account set up
  2. Click the Add (+) button.
  3. Choose Add a show with an RSS feed.Apple choose a show type
  4. Enter the RSS feed URL.Apple add an RSS feed
  5. Choose permissions. You have the option to restrict user access. This means only users you choose will see the podcast.
  6. Under availability and rights, choose availability and set content rights.Apple availability (country, distribution, show releases)
  7. Set show release date. You can choose to release it immediately or set a custom date and time.Apple show release with availability highlighted
  8. Add your contact information.Apple podcast content form with show content highlighted
  9. Click Save.
  10. Click Submit for Review.

It can take Apple 5-8 days to manually review your submission. When it’s ready, you’ll get the Apple URL to your podcast.

A few days after approval, people can begin searching and finding your podcast in the Apple Podcasts app.

How to make money with a podcast

Podcast platforms do not directly pay creators like YouTube or TikTok. If you are looking to generate income from your podcast content, it’ll need to come from either your audience (direct monetization) or third-party companies who pay you to promote their brands.

Let’s take a look at these monetization models in detail:

Sponsorships

According to a report, 60% of podcast listeners searched for a product after hearing about it in a podcast. Many brands understand this scope of podcasts and partner with podcasts for sponsorship ads.

Typically, a sponsorship ad is added at the beginning of the show (“pre-roll” ad) or at the very end (“post-roll” ad).

You can do a paid partnership with a company and promote their product or service on one of your podcast episodes. Podcasters take 15-60 seconds out of their script to market the brand. It’s best to approach brands that are in the same niche as your podcast or are relevant to your audience, rather than going for a random sponsor.

Find podcast sponsors by joining a podcast network like Midroll or pitch directly to brands.

Affiliate sponsorships

By being an affiliate, you earn a percentage of each sale made by one of your listeners as a result of your podcast. Usually, sponsors will give you a promo code or a special URL to track purchasers from your show.

The affiliate model is best for podcasts that have an engaged audience or one who will consider your purchasing advice.

Memberships

You can directly monetize your podcast by asking your listeners to pay you. With a membership model, ask your audience for donations to keep the content coming, or to subscribe to get access to premium content.

Adding a Stripe donation form on your site or creating a paid membership tier using Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee are ways you can ask for donations.

Podcasts with a good base of listeners and significant engagement can also sell branded merchandise. The Brain Candy Podcast does an amazing job of offering cute stickers and other merch that their listeners love.

🚨New Merch Alert!🚨 Have you seen the latest designs in our Candy Store yet?! First of all, we’ve got our Classic BCP…

Posted by The Brain Candy Podcast on Friday, August 5, 2022

Advertising networks

A podcast advertising network acts essentially as an agent for your podcast. Advertising networks have connections with brands and can help you land opportunities you may not have otherwise come across on your own. Some networks let you reach out to advertisers directly once you’ve joined, while other premium networks can pitch to advertisers on your behalf.

Some examples of podcast advertising networks include AdvertiseCast, PodcastOne and Megaphone. Keep in mind that you may need to fulfill certain requirements to join an advertising network, such as a minimum subscriber count.

Amplify your brand’s voice

There’s obviously a lot that goes into getting your podcast off the ground, but it can be fun and rewarding.

The success of your podcast will depend on your content and how you promote it. Make sure that social media is the cornerstone of your promotional strategy. Speaking of which, check out our best times to post on social media to ensure that your latest content gets the reach it deserves.

How to start a podcast: frequently asked questions

Is it free to start a podcast?

Yes, it is possible to start a podcast for free. You can get your podcast started with zero costs if you have a smartphone and computer. Also make use of free podcasting software.

How does a beginner start a podcast?

First, decide on the topic of your podcast. What can you speak about with authenticity? Is there a niche you’re passionate about and can provide fresh perspectives on? Identifying all these can set you on the right path to starting a podcast as a beginner.

How much does it cost to start a podcast?

Depending on the software and equipment you use, you can start a podcast for under $200.

How much money do podcasts make?

According to AdvertiseCast, a podcast with 1000 downloads per episode can make an average of $18 per episode. The most successful podcasts earn millions of dollars in revenue.

How long should podcasts be?

There is no hard and fast rule for podcast length. Anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes is a good choice for new podcasts. New listeners are more likely to try out your podcast if it has short episodes.

What equipment do I need for a podcast?

A computer, microphone, a pair of headphones and podcast editing software are some must-have equipment for podcasters.

The post How to start a podcast: A step-by-step guide for beginners appeared first on Sprout Social.

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