If you have a skill or interest you’re passionate about, starting a podcast isn’t a bad idea. Notable podcast hosts like Joe Rogan—who signed a $200 million Spotify deal—are making podcasts even more attractive to creators. A 2022 report by Edison Research found that the number of podcast listeners has reached 177 million—about the same amount as Facebook users—and that number continues to grow.
As Alban Brooke, Head of Marketing at Buzzsprout, says, “As the audience for podcasts continues to grow, there’s never been a better time to start a podcast, whether it be for a hobby, a business, non-profit, or even a church.”
If starting a podcast is new to you, the good news is that there isn’t a prescribed method for doing so. There are, however, some rules you’ll want to keep in mind before hitting the record button. These tips will help you start a podcast that will grow, succeed, and, most importantly, connect.
Continue reading to learn how to start a podcast step by step.
- U.S. podcasts are growing by 13% year-over-year.
- Planning the format, frequency, and branding of the podcast is key.
- With the right monetization efforts, podcasts can become a viable source of income.
Phase 1: The Basics of Starting a Podcast
“I truly believe that in order to truly be great at something, you have to give into a certain amount of madness.”joe rogan
1. Be Clear (and Realistic) About Your “Why”
The very first step in starting a podcast is identifying your “why.” Why do you want to start a podcast? What is the purpose of it? A person’s good reasons for starting a podcast can range anywhere from trying to entertain or educate to promoting another business. Whatever the reason(s), podcasts need to have a clear purpose in order for them to be engaging, relatable, and ultimately, successful. Without knowing the purpose, your listeners will be confused about your message, and they won’t invest their time trying to figure it out. For this reason, when starting a podcast, get as clear as possible about what your reasons and intentions are.
Poor reasons for starting a podcast:
- Trying to get rich
- Trying to get famous
- To boost perceived social status
- To grow followers on social media
Once you know why you want to start a podcast, narrow down the topic. What do you want to talk about? What kind of unique value will you provide? Ask yourself these questions as you hone in on the focal point of your show and which category you want to be in.
Example podcast categories:
According to the 2022 Luminate 360 Podcast Report, true crime, comedy, and news/politics are the top listening genres.
2. Know Your Audience and Their Interests
The second step in starting a podcast is knowing your audience. Without understanding your audience’s unique interests and behaviors, your podcast won’t gain traction. Therefore, before jumping in, ask yourself: “Who am I trying to reach?” “What problem am I trying to solve for them?” and “What does my ideal audience look like?”
If you’re starting a podcast on interior design, for example, research this audience. Are they primarily female? Male? Are there other podcasts they listen to, like on renovating or gardening? When do they listen? Creating an avatar of your target audience is an excellent way to gain this insight.
How to create an audience avatar:
- Using a journal or vision board, envision:
- The location of your listener
- The age range of your listener
- The lifestyle or beliefs of your listener
3. Choose a Name That Allows for Growth
When choosing a name, there are two things you need to consider. The first is that you want to be mindful to pick one that is catchy and memorable without pigeonholing yourself into a narrow category. This is because while you may have a specific topic you want to focus on now, you might want to expand into related topics in the future.
The second consideration is searchability. Alban Brooke says, “Think about what people are searching that you would want your podcast to show up in front of them.” To make your podcast searchable, consider a name that’s clever but descriptive. Leave no room for mystery as to what your podcast is about.
Other things your podcast name should do:
- Be catchy.
- Be on-brand.
- Be SEO-friendly.
- Encapsulate what your brand is about.
If you’re starting a podcast on flowers, it may be wise to widen that concept toward horticulture in general. Doing so will give you space to grow your content beyond just flowers in the future.
4. Select a Style and Format for the Show
This step helps answer the question, “What’s the setup of my show?” Essentially, it clarifies how you want your content to be consumed by your audience. Selecting a style and format will depend largely on what your podcast is about and how much content you anticipate having. If you’re an expert on horticulture, for example, a monologue podcast may be ideal. If you’re a food journalist, on the other hand, an interview-style or co-hosted podcast would be more engaging.
5 Common Podcast Formats
- Co-Hosted: This podcast is presented alongside a friend or partner. These can be fun and entertaining as long as both hosts are on the same page.
- Interview-Style: This podcast relies on experts and other guests for content. If you continually develop your interviewing skills, these podcasts can build an audience.
- Solo/Monologue: This is when you run the podcast solo. This gives you optimal freedom of choice but can also be intimidating for beginner podcasters.
- Panel/Roundtable: This is when there is one anchor host and several guest speakers. This is a great format for big-topic podcasts that call for multiple angles.
- Documentary/Non-Fictional Storytelling: These podcasts guide the listener through a particular event, like a historical feat, a crime, or an amazing accomplishment.
5. Determine the Time Frame and Duration of Each Episode
One of the great aspects of starting a podcast is that there isn’t a required time frame or duration for them. Some successful podcast episodes are 15 minutes, and others are over an hour. Some see success during mid-week mornings, while others thrive on the weekends. When and how long your podcast episodes should be will ultimately depend on your audience and your content.
Tips for determining the ideal time frame and duration:
- Research the behaviors of your audience.
- Compare how long most competitor podcast episodes are.
- See which days and times your competitors are publishing episodes.
6. Schedule Interviews With Compelling Guests
If you’re starting a podcast involving interviews or group discussions, you’ll need a plan for booking guest speakers. Depending on your desired guests, you may also need a budget. Additionally, keep in mind that respected experts may be in demand for their time. For this reason, you’ll need to present a compelling case for them to speak on your show.
How to book compelling podcast guests:
- Do research: What is the subject you want a guest to speak on? Who in that realm is leading the conversation in an interesting way? Does their audience align with yours?
- Develop a formal invitation: The quality of your invitation will make an impression. Be sure to present your request with information, a description, and respect for their time.
- Attend relevant networking events: Meet and book potential guests in person at events they’ll likely attend.
- Use social media: Social media platforms make finding people with shared interests easy. Try a hashtag search to see what leaders and influencers populate on a certain subject. Then, connect with them and send them a direct message.
For more support with finding and booking guest speakers, check out Speak on Podcasts, Call for Content, and Interview Connections. These are just a few podcast booking agencies to consider.
Phase 2: Equipment and Software You’ll Need to Start a Podcast
“Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them.”john c. maxwell
Once you’ve nailed down the content, audience, style, and format for your podcast episodes, it’s time to look at podcast equipment. While podcasts generally don’t require too much, there are a few things you’ll need to establish a connection with your audience.
Podcast equipment you’ll need:
- Editing software
- Good microphone(s) for your specific podcast format
- Studio-level listening headphones
- Audio interface or an all-in-one recording system
- Good microphone cables
- Desktop mic mount (optional)
7. Find a Good Podcast Microphone
You could start a podcast with the greatest content, but without the right microphones and recording software, it won’t grow. Listeners won’t stay for a podcast they can’t understand, so your podcast needs to sound as good as it looks. Words and conversations need to be clear and there shouldn’t be any background noise or interference. Before launching, spend some time researching this step to ensure you’ve got the right microphone equipment.
Some of the best podcast microphones:
- Blue Snowball iCE USB Microphone: $39.99 on Amazon
- Apogee HypeMiC: $349.00 on Amazon
- Shure MV7 USB and XLR Microphone: $224.00 on Amazon
- Rode PodMic Secondary XLR: $89.95 on Amazon
- Rode PSA1+ Desktop Microphone Studio Arm: $129.00 on B&H Photo Video
- Blue Yeti USB Microphone: $139.99 on Amazon
8. Get Headphones to Ensure Quality Audio
Just as quality microphones are important, so, too, are headphones. Headphones allow you to hear details in your recording and editing process that could be missed otherwise. Plus, they allow you to hear your podcasts how your audience does, which is instrumental. Therefore, if you’re hoping to start a new podcast, invest in some quality headphones.
Some of the best podcast headphones:
- Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO 250 Ohm Over-Ear Headphones: $139.00 on Amazon
- Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro Studio Headphone: $469.00 on Amazon
- Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone: $80.99 on Amazon
- Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Professional Studio Headphones: $49.00 on Amazon
- Moondrop Aria High Performance LCP In-Ear Headphones: $79.99 on Amazon
9. Download Software for Recording and Editing
Hardware is only as good as the software it’s working with. Once you have microphone(s) and headphone(s), begin considering the kind of recording software you will need. Factors like level of technical ability, software familiarity, and budget will help narrow down your search.
It’s important to note, however, that not all recording software has editing capabilities. If you want a software program that can record and edit, be sure to look for platforms with both capabilities.
Some of the best podcasting software:
- Adobe Audition: This software is compatible with both macOS and Windows and provides features such as noise reduction and multitrack recording. It is $20.99/month.
- Restream: Great for live broadcasting or videos, this internet-based software provides 100GB of storage and multiple account users. It is $16.00/month for a standard plan.
- Logic Pro: As one of the most sophisticated, yet perhaps overwhelming, tools, this has everything to record, produce, and perfect audio files. It costs a one-time fee of $200.00.
- Audacity: This open-source software is where many podcasters start. Audacity offers multiple file format exporting, editing, and audio effects. Plus, it’s free.
- Podbean: If you want an easy-to-use program that can even be used on the go, Podbean is a good option. With basic recording and editing features and 50 music tracks, it’s good for beginners. It’s free to start, with advanced plans ranging from $9–$79/month.
10. Create a Recognizable Intro
Most of us have hit “stop” at least once when a boring or vague show intro completely zapped our interest. For this reason, if you’re starting a podcast, it’s important to ensure that each episode opens with a catchy, branded intro that a listener will recognize (and remember) right away. The intro is the part that comes before the show’s content, and ultimately, is what keeps the listener around for the episode.
Tips for creating a recognizable podcast intro:
- Write your intro out beforehand; don’t improvise or do it on the spot.
- Lead into the intro with a question; tease the listener about what they might learn.
- Formally introduce the podcast: state the name, episode, and host(s) names.
- Create a tagline that summarizes what your podcast is about.
- Select catchy jingle music to accompany the intro.
11. Add Music to the Show
It may not seem like a big deal, but the right intro, outro, and segment music can bring your podcast to life. Not only does it set the tone for the show, but it also helps the listener engage more deeply.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of free and affordable music available. The majority of these are available either royalty-free (sometimes for a small one-time fee) or through a paid subscription-based platform. However, for either option, properly attribute your music in each episode description. Every music platform has different user requirements (even for royalty-free music), and failure to abide by those requirements can result in steep penalties. For this reason, it’s important to carefully read all regulations before uploading your music.
Best royalty-free sites to source podcast music:
Best subscription-based sites to source podcast music:
Phase 3: Launching Your First Episode
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”zig ziglar
Launching your first episode can be nerve-racking, of course. However, once you have the concept and equipment established, you’re ready to start planning the execution.
12. Use a Podcasting Platform to Host, Manage, and Publish Content
With dozens of podcast hosting sites available, choosing one to host your podcast couldn’t be easier. The hosting site will not only be where your podcast recordings live but may also be home to your website and show notes (episode summaries). Be sure to consider any budget, reporting, or user account needs you may have.
Best podcast hosting sites:
- Buzzsprout: For $12/month, Buzzsprout is an excellent hub for your hosting needs. They offer an affiliate marketplace, reporting, and an easy-to-use dashboard.
- Captivate: For $17/month, you get the expertise and advanced analytics from a hosting site that’s been around for years. Captivate also offers built-in CTA’s and unlimited user accounts.
- Transistor: At $19/month for 10,000 downloads, Transistor is geared toward serious podcasters. If you’re starting a podcast to build a brand, Transistor is a good choice.
- Castos: Also for $19/month, you can get unlimited downloads and volume with Castos. Plus, Castos integrates with WordPress.
- RSS.com: This hosting site is $12.99/month and is one of the longest-running hosts in the market. It offers unlimited episodes, a free website, and analytics.
13. Brand the Show to Attract and Maintain Listeners
Your brand is how your listeners will identify with you. It represents the topic and tone of your podcast and breathes life into your show. Everything from alluring episode descriptions to sleek website design and professional cover art reflects your brand and should work to attract listeners.
When titling the episodes, avoid naming them “Episode 1,” “Episode 2,” and so on. Instead, create a branded naming cadence that is searchable and entices listeners to hit play. If your podcast is a financial interview, for example, the episode name could be: “How to Cut Your Grocery Spending in Half.”
Regarding the artwork, it’s best to wait until the concept for your show is completely finalized. When you’re just starting a podcast, you may find small things you want to change as you go. For this reason, wait until you’re confident with the show’s brand before making artwork, which can be difficult and costly to edit.
Tips for creating podcast artwork:
- Use Canva to create your own logo and cover art.
- Avoid putting any text, besides the show name, in the logo.
- Hire freelance designers on Fiverr or Legiit to develop artwork.
- Keep art at 1400 x 1400 pixels and under 500KB as a JPEG file format.
14. Drive Traffic With Social Media Teasers
It likely goes without saying that social media can be a powerful driver for starting a podcast and promoting one. Beyond simply having social media accounts for your podcast, publishing short teaser reels, audiograms, or podcast trailers can be an incredible way to generate interest.
Websites for creating social media teasers:
- Wavve.: This site enables you to “make your audio snackable.” Create trailers for YouTube, Instagram, and more with a Creator account for $10.99/month.
- Audiogram: This site is for audiograms (an audio clip converted to an animated video). Use visually attractive templates to create animated social videos for $19.00/month.
- Headliner: This site connects podcasts to users of all social media platforms. Use the audio clipper to create custom videos with a Pro account for $19.99/month.
15. Construct a Simple Website
Many hosting sites, like RSS.com and Captivate, offer a built-in website with your host subscription. If this is the case, and you’re happy with a basic design, then this is a great option for you. If, however, you’d prefer more design customization, you may want to go another route. Fortunately, there are a couple of other options.
One option is to create your own website. Platforms like WordPress are great for tech-savvy users because it integrates well with podcasts. If you don’t want to build a complete website yourself, but you want more style options, then a podcast website maker may be a better choice.
Popular Website Makers:
How to Monetize Your Podcast
Of course, most people starting a podcast would like to generate some income from it. Once you’ve laid the groundwork for your show, begin exploring different avenues for potential revenue. A WTHR interview with Crime Junkie host Ashley Flowers revealed the show grew from a small in-home solo venture to a full-fledged business with three dozen employees over the course of five years. Today, the popular crime show has 10 million listeners each week, and with monetization efforts behind it, the show generates massive revenue.
Things to consider when choosing a monetization strategy:
- The number of listeners you obtain
- If you plan to feature guests on your show
- How frequently you plan on publishing episodes
- If you have a separate product or service you can sell
As YouTuber Nick Loper from Side Hustle Nation explains, “Traditional podcast sponsorships are sold on a CPM basis or cost-per-thousand basis, and generally that means between 15 and 35 dollars per thousand downloads.” If your podcast has three advertisements at $25 each, for example, and you do one episode per week to 1,000 listeners, that’s an easy $300 per month. While the average podcast show likely won’t reach the same caliber as Crime Junkies instantly, there are ways to generate a good income stream with your podcast.
Top Strategies for Monetizing a Podcast
- Use advertisements: Ad spots are a great way to generate income. However, many advertisers will only work with podcasts reaching at least 5,000 listeners.
- Use affiliate sponsorships: With affiliates, money generates each time a listener uses a specific referral link to a product you recommend.
- Sell your own products: If you have another skill or area of expertise, podcasts are great for selling your products. This could include online courses, books, art, and more.
- Sell your own services: If you have a service you can sell, like counseling, coaching, financial reviews, writing, and more, make it available to book or sell on your podcast.
- Sell guests’ services or products: If your guests have products or services to sell, direct your listeners to buy them using an affiliate link that generates money back to you.
- Accept listener donations: If you have a show with a lot of support, consider accepting donations. Many podcasts use sites like Patreon to accept donations from loyal listeners.
- Repurpose and sell old content: If you have a lot of solid content from old episodes, take the information and convert it into sellable products, like guides, for example.
- Charge your podcast guests: If you’ve developed an exclusive audience, consider charging guests an “appearance fee” to be featured on your show.
- Make your podcast paid subscription-only: If serious listeners are who you’re after, consider making your podcast subscription-only for a set monthly listener fee.
If passion and purpose drive your podcast, success will follow. Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule and host of The Mel Robbins Podcast, says: “You are one decision away from a completely different life.”
For examples of successful podcasts, read The 10 Best Real Estate Investing Podcasts in 2022 next.
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- “Spotify Bet Big on Joe Rogan. It Got More Than It Counted On.” NYTimes, 17 Feb. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/17/arts/music/spotify-joe-rogan-misinformation.html.
- Podcasting Key Statistics for 2022. 20 Mar. 2022, https://www.edisonresearch.com/podcastings-key-statistics-for-2022/.
- “How to Start a Podcast // Step-by-Step Guide .” YouTube, 20 Nov. 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gejf39h3_IY.
- Luminate Releases 2022 Podcast 360 Report. Luminate, https://luminatedata.com/reports/2022-podcast-360/.
- Swan, Author: “‘Queen of True Crime’ Expands Podcasting Business in Indianapolis.” Wthr.Com, 3 Nov. 2022, https://www.wthr.com/article/news/local/crime-junkie-podcast-ashley-flowers-indianapolis-business/531-01c72a63-24f3-42d0-98e9-db8d72b88439.
- “How Podcasts Make Money 🎤: 12 REAL Ways to Monetize a Podcast.” YouTube, 22 Nov. 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_5udb-kHTk.