How to Start a Podcast: The Complete 5-Step Guide

how to start a podcast

Whether you want to learn how to start a podcast to promote your existing business or launch a podcasting business on its own, this guide is here to help. From developing a concept to publishing your finished product, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start a business in podcasts and prime yourself for success.

How Do You Start a Podcast?

With the explosion of the podcast industry, learning how to start a podcast business may seem as simple as plugging in a microphone and hitting the record button. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. So, how do you start a podcast?

As we’ll discuss below, there are a variety of important considerations to make along the way. Some are conceptual, such as content, and others are technical, such as equipment and setup. Let’s get started.

1. Develop a Plan

In reality, anyone can start a podcast, but it takes much more effort to create one that people want to listen to. The difference between the two comes down to preparation, conceptualization, and planning—in essence, creating a podcast business plan.

Before you begin, consider the following questions:

  • What are your competitors doing in the podcasting space?
  • What is the main objective of your prospective podcast?
  • What theme (or themes) do you plan to explore?
  • How many episode ideas can you come up with?
  • What audience are you trying to reach with your podcast?

These are challenging questions for many would-be podcasters—be they individuals who want to pursue a passion project or business owners who want to try something new.

It’s critical to take a look at what, if anything, your competitors are doing. You’ll also need to establish a one-sentence explanation of the purpose of your podcast—developing a theme as you go along rarely leads to a successful and long-lasting venture.

Most importantly, if you’re creating your podcast to promote your existing business, you want to make sure your podcast is more than a long-form advertisement. Listeners can spot an advertisement from a mile away, so you’ll want to put interesting stories ahead of promoting your business.

2. Map out the Logistics

Once you have an initial plan and theme of your podcast, you’ll want to think more about the logistics.

  • Episode ideas: It’s not enough to merely have the single idea of starting a podcast: The real challenge is finding interesting stories on a regular basis.
  • Podcast format: Will you host the podcast yourself? Will you interview subjects? How will you tell these stories in a compelling way? Often this means investing resources—both time and money—in your efforts.
  • Storytelling: Be prepared to go the extra mile to add color to your stories. Take notes from popular podcasts and personal favorites to see what formats they use (e.g. single host, revolving hosts, one-on-one interviews, or storytelling).
  • Publishing cadence: Many new podcasters start off too quickly and with too much content. It’s tempting to envision a new podcast episode per week, but putting together a successful product takes a significant amount of time. Keeping a frequent publishing cadence is much harder than it may appear, especially if you’re already pressed for time or resources.

The best way to learn how to start a podcast before you begin recording is to put yourself in the shoes of a would-be listener. This means asking yourself if you’d care about the topic and theme of the podcast if you had little to no knowledge about the background behind it. People tend to be very selective with how they allocate their time and attention—you need to make sure that you can draw them in with the product you’re going to create.

3. Record Your Podcast

Once you’ve nailed down the purpose, theme, and format of your podcast, it’s time to start recording episodes. Audio quality can be the deciding factor in whether someone listens to your podcast, so you don’t want to do this halfway.

There are two ways to record your podcast: the DIY route or you can book time at a recording studio:

DIY Recording

Depending on your budget, you can build a rudimentary studio out of household items you already have. Windowless, quiet rooms are a great place to start. Walk-in closets, bathrooms, and basements can offer you a place to record that may not be as susceptible to background noise.

Hanging heavy blankets on the walls surrounding your recording space can help dampen echoes and reverberation, making for a higher-quality recording. If you have a bit of money to spend on your podcasting studio, consider tools like:

  • Acoustic foam paneling: Squares of paneling are usually around $25 for a pack of 12. These work best if they’re mounted to the walls surrounding your recording space. 
  • Microphone isolation shields: These can block ambient noise from getting picked up in your recording, which provides a no-fuss alternative to foam blocks.

Next, microphones vary significantly in price and quality. However, keep in mind that high-quality (read: more expensive) microphones give you better raw audio files to work with.

To this point, it’s always better to work with a high-fidelity audio track than to try to use recording software to improve a poor quality recording. Entry-level microphones that are suitable for podcasting usually cost anywhere from $150 to $200 from well-known brands such as Shure, Blue, Audio Technica, and others.[1] A microphone will be your biggest investment, so don’t be afraid to allocate most of your startup costs toward getting a good one.

Lastly, you’ll need to figure out how to record audio files:

  • Garageband for Mac is a suitable (and free) option. 
  • Audacity is another good option—Audacity is open source, free to use, and supports multi-channel recording (for when you want to have several tracks in one project). 
  • Reaper is another solid pick at less than $60 for qualifying businesses and individuals—Reaper is good if you want a little more versatility and a broader range of audio-enhancing plugins.

Professional Studio

Just about any recording studio can accommodate a podcast project and will charge you an hourly rate in most cases. You’ll benefit from high-quality recording equipment and qualified audio engineers who can help produce top-tier audio files for you to use. Although the difference in quality is demonstrable, it’s more expensive than going it alone.

Phil Feinman, co-founder of Los Angeles-based recording studio Bedrock.LA, says that most podcasters should expect to pay around $250 per day for studio time.

“Most studios will also offer an option to have a sound engineer in the studio to help you produce and edit the audio files, giving you a great, professional-quality set of audio files,” says Feinman.

A studio may be better equipped for recording conversations over the phone or through a video call. Most studios are set up to record telephone calls in the highest fidelity possible, without resorting to tech that splits an audio signal or—worse yet—recording a call on speakerphone. 

The audio quality of FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom calls will vary quite a bit, so having everything a studio can provide in order to give you the best files possible can go a long way. 

4. Edit Your Podcast

A podcast is only as good as its editing. Even the best story can be dull if it’s told in a way that doesn’t grip the listener, and all of this comes down to cutting up source audio files into the best bits of a conversation, interview, or narrative.

Listen to your files with an ear toward what fragments are most interesting to your listeners. It’s typically better to be more discriminating, as your audience will have less of an attention span than you will as the creator.

Editing podcast audio is similar to editing writing: Both require a keen sense of what’s essential and what’s extraneous. Most successful podcasts are roughly 20 to 30 minutes long, but in all likelihood you’ll have hours of audio to sift through. Good audio recording and editing software can make the editing process easier and faster. Ultimately, you’ll want to tell your story in snippets that are on-topic and easily digestible. If you lose the plot, you’ll lose your listener as well.

Additionally, most podcasts incorporate music and promotional plugs to make episodes easier to digest for listeners. Even if you don’t have advertisements to run, taking a break in the narrative to encourage listeners to send you feedback or rate your podcast can provide a welcome break and prevent people from “zoning out” as they get through an episode.

5. Publish and Promote Your Podcast

Now it’s time to get your episode out there for people to stream and download. There are a ton of podcast hosting companies to choose from, which vary in price depending on the amount of bandwidth they offer, the size of the podcast file you wish to upload, and other factors.

Inexpensive hosts will provide less bandwidth, which means less reliable support for playback and longer download times. This shouldn’t be an issue in the beginning—as people begin to discover your podcast—but can be problematic later on if your podcast takes off.

Getting your podcast found by prospective listeners can be a challenge as well. Getting listed on Apple Podcasts should be one of your main goals, as it makes it much easier for listeners to find you. Spotify is another compelling listing option given its popularity and user base.

So long as you use a Spotify-approved podcast hosting partner, you can get your podcast listed with relative ease. Also be sure that your podcast host provides you with an RSS feed, which will enable listeners to access each of your episodes if they don’t use Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Once you’ve settled on a host and gotten your podcast indexed on Apple, Spotify, and elsewhere, you’ll want to focus on promotion. Begin by advertising the podcast on your social media pages and—if you already have an email list, mentioning it in any existing newsletters you might be sending to subscribers.

Again, if you’re creating a podcast for your existing business, don’t hesitate to engage in some word-of-mouth marketing either. When customers visit your business, be sure to mention that you have a podcast out there for them to try.

You can also boost your podcast’s prominence by offering to appear on other relevant podcasts that already have a following. If you have something interesting to say, it’s likely that the other podcast’s subscribers may give your episodes a try too.

The Final Word

Podcasting can be a challenge, albeit a rewarding one. Learning how to start a podcast isn’t for the faint of heart—it can be an expensive proposition with a steep learning curve.

But if you’re willing to get your hands dirty or have the funds to bring in professional help, you can use podcasting to connect with a wide range of engaged listeners. Start small, plan ahead, and invest a little money in your podcasting project, and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success.

Article Sources:

  1. “Best Podcast Microphones

Brian O'Connor

Brian O’Connor is a small business owner and contributing writer for JustBusiness.

Brian is the former director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley, has worked at Foreign Affairs magazine, Student Loan Hero, and is a partner of a small consulting firm. Combined, these experiences allow him to offer a unique perspective on the challenges small business owners face. Brian writes about finance, business strategy, and digital marketing for JustBusiness.

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