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How To Start a Successful Podcast: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

How To Start a Successful Podcast: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

If you're looking to build an audience, share a message, and even make some money, starting a podcast will be one of the best decisions you ever made. Today you're going to learn how to start a podcast step by step, the simple way. Some people think that they're too late to get into the podcast game, but the reality is podcasts have never been more popular, more people than ever across the planet are looking for quality podcasts.

Tech giants, like Spotify, are even making major investments into podcasters themselves. Not to mention brands have never had larger appetites for advertising to podcast audiences. According to a recent study, 51% of Americans over the age of 12, have listened to a podcast. Of that, 32% listened in the last month. So should you start a podcast now? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Now I know the idea of recording, editing, and launching your own podcast can make a lot of people feel overwhelmed. So today I'm going to make it simple by arming you with everything you need to set your podcast up for success. I'm so excited to help you start on your podcasting journey. And if you stick with it, podcasting can help you open up a lot of doors.

➤ podcasting Benefits

One of the best things about podcasting is the intimate connection that you get to build with your audience. You see, these listeners will spend 30 minutes or more with you, at any given time. And in this day and age where social media has shrunk attention spans that amount of attention is pretty unique, giving you the ability to dive deep into topics.

Beyond that, podcasts can be consumed almost anywhere, anytime. And this lets you turn your audiences previously unproductive times like say driving home from work into rewarding educational or entertainment experiences.

➤ Why People Don’t Start a Podcast

Now, despite these clear benefits, here are two of the biggest reasons why people don't start a podcast.

1. They think they're not a great speaker. And the truth is most professional podcasters aren't when they start either, they need to work up the skill. You need to start where you are, also use what you have, and do what you can. It's not enough to have a good idea. To succeed we must act.

2. They think podcasting as a medium is over-saturated. The reality is there are less than 700,000 podcasts, which might sound like a lot, but when you compare that to the 500 billion blogs online, you realize there's a ton of room to grow. And a lot of audiences that are still untapped.

➤ How to Identify a Podcast Theme

Now the first thing you need to do to start your podcast is identifying a theme. It's really important that when you do this, you stress test your idea by writing out at least 20 different episodes ideas, including what you would discuss, and if you were interviewing someone, who you would interview.

This is so crucial because if you can't think of 20 episodes right off the bat, you'll probably run out of ideas before your podcast ever picks up steam. You need to make sure that your idea has legs. For example, the school of greatness by Lewis Howes has over 1000 episodes. Great podcasts, themes have longevity also when choosing your podcast theme.

Take this into consideration

Would you be happy and satisfied making new episodes on this theme two years from now?  Choose something that you're passionate about. Your passion will be your greatest motivator, allowing you to stay disciplined when things feel difficult.

Now once you have a general idea of your theme, you'll want to ask yourself some questions to button up your podcast idea.

How long should my podcast be?
The first is what practical reasons are leading you to start your podcast. Is it to generate leads? Build authority? Make a passive income? 

This is something that's really important to know up front as it will help you monetize later on. Also, what is the way for starting your podcast? how often should I publish my podcast?

In addition to those practical reasons, having a deep intrinsic purpose will really help you stay motivated. What important message or mission are you trying to share with the world?

Next, you need to ask yourself who is this show for? So take some time to create a podcast avatar, and this is simply your ideal listener. So don't skip this step, as it's going to help you better understand how your ideal listeners think, feel, and behave, meaning you can address them directly. This will help your podcast have a more intimate feel that will make listeners feel more connected to the show.

Ask yourself, what are they interested in? What do they believe? What are their activities and their lifestyle? What are their favorite things? Empathy with your listener will empower you to create better podcasts.

The next thing you need to know.
And this one is really important is how your podcast helps your listeners. How are they going to benefit? Are they going to learn how to have better finances? Will they feel healthier and more fulfilled after listening to it? Or will they learn how to have better relationships? This can be anything, not just limited to that list, but make sure it is clear and concise.

The last thing you need to know is how your show will stand out. One of the notable things about your podcast that would cause people to talk about it. A really simple way to stand out is by choosing a niche that is an inch wide, but a mile deep. Niches help you eliminate perceived competition. Another way to stand out is by using style, personality, or an unconventional format or editing style. 

➤ How to Choose a Format

The next important decision you'll need to make is choosing your podcast's format.

Here are some of the most popular formats for podcasts

1. Interviews
These podcasts feature, a single host who interviews, individuals who fit in with a particular theme. Think the Joe Rogan experience, then we have scripted nonfiction, and typically these podcasts have a single theme for the entire season. Think Serial.

2. News
These podcasts give you the news in a really digestible format. Think NPRs up first.

3. Educational podcasts
These scripted nonfiction podcasts, primarily seek to teach something. Think revisionist history.

4. scripted fiction
These podcasts are like radio dramas and are often scripted and highly produced. Think Limetown.

Ask yourself, are you going to do interviews? Will there be more than one host? Will you fly solo? All of these formats can ultimately make a great podcast, but it's really important to have your format nailed down as it will affect the types of equipment and software that you need to invest in to execute. More on that later.

When it comes to formatting, there are two common questions that beginners have

1. How long should my podcast be?
And the answer is really, really simple. However long you need to give your audience value, but not a minute longer.

2. How often should I publish my podcast?
And the answer to this is that consistency, not volume is the key. No one wants to subscribe to a podcast that is unpredictable. So choose a publishing schedule that is easy to maintain because you can always scale up later.

➤ Crafting Your Podcast’s Brand

This is going to be the first impression that potential listeners have of your podcast. So it's important to put some care into this. However, I really want to note here that nearly all of these elements can be changed over time. So don't fall into the trap of perfectionism.

➤ Naming your podcast

Don't underestimate the power of a name. Your podcast name should speak directly to you and your audience. Ideally listeners should know what your podcast is all about just by hearing the name alone. However, don't get too hung up on this as now, a lot of podcast platforms include a hook or short description along with the podcast name.

Make sure to include keywords that make it easier for people to find your podcast, but avoid keyword stuffing, or you could get penalized. Remember podcast platforms have search functions too.

➤ Choosing your category or sub-category

There are tons of categories to choose from, from history to arts, to culture. Now, since listeners browsing these categories for new shows, will do so by interest, it's really important to choose a category that accurately represents your podcast. If your show is listed in a category, that's completely irrelevant to its content. While you're going to run the risk of being removed from sub-directories.

➤ Writing your description

When it comes to your podcast description, take writing it seriously. This is the thing that possible listeners are going to read that will ultimately help them decide whether to listen to your podcast or not. Make it engaging, answering who you are, what you're about, and what value you offer. Also, make sure to include any relevant keywords to help people find you.

➤ Cover art

As your first impression, your cover art needs to be beautiful, stand out and visually communicate your subject. Here are some best practices. Your cover art should be between a minimum of 1400 by 1400 pixels and a maximum of 3000 by 3000 pixels. Compress your files to optimize them for mobile use.

And don't use too many words or your artwork will feel really cluttered. Artwork can be easily created yourself by using Canva. But if you lack an eye for design, don't worry, you can find highly skilled designers on ''Fiverr or 99 designs''.

➤ Gear and software you'll need

Now that we have your podcasts brand down, it's important that we take some time to discuss the tools you'll need to get your podcasts started. The reality is if your podcast doesn't sound great, nobody is going to be listening for long. Most people listen to podcasts in headphones, and bad sound quality isn't just distracting. It's genuinely uncomfortable.

➤ Microphones

When it comes to mics, we have three major categories. First, we have USB mics, USB mics are typically the most accessible for people just starting out, as you just need to plug them into your computer's USB port, open your recording software, and you're good to start recording. While they are the easiest and often most affordable.

They are generally the worst sound quality of the three Mic types. You also shouldn't use two USB mics on the same computer while recording a podcast, as this can cause a lot of potential issues with both USB ports acting as sound input.

Dynamic mics

Dynamic mics reject background noise very well. And as a result, are a great choice when you have two people speaking in the same room. They're also quite durable and don't require external power. One con to dynamic mics is that there is a lack of sensitivity and that means you need to keep your mouth close to the mic to ensure consistent recording levels.

Lastly, we have condenser mics, and these are the most sensitive of all the microphones with the largest frequency range. These mics require 48-volt Phantom power to operate. Condenser mics are much more suited for quiet sound-treated spaces as they're a lot more sensitive.

➤ Interfaces

If you're opting to use a USB microphone, then you won't need to worry about an interface. Simply plug your microphone directly into the USB port on your computer, and then head over to your recording program settings and select that microphone as your audio input. But if you're using a condenser or a dynamic microphone, these will require an XLR connection.

For this, you have three options

1. You can use an audio interface, like the ones from the Focusrite Scarlett series. An interface is a piece of hardware that expands and enhances the sonic capabilities of your computer, giving it the ability to connect to professional microphones. They basically act as a middleman, allowing sound to go in and out of your computer. A major benefit of interfaces is that they have really good preamps, meaning that the sound is extremely high quality.

2. Another option is to hook up the XLR microphone to an external audio recording device. Like the zoom recording series. This means that you can record independently of your computer, allowing you to host your podcast anywhere. External audio recorders will save your audio to an SD card, which you will upload to your computer.

Later, when you start editing, one thing you should really be aware of is these devices often only have one headphone output, so you'll need an external headphone amp if you're recording multiple people.

3. Lastly, we have a podcast machine. Companies like Road have created standalone podcast machines, giving you recording, effects processing, and an intuitive console to control it all. Now, these are typically more on the expensive side and they're probably a better option for experienced people looking to upgrade than for those just starting out. Beyond interfaces and microphones here's some other gear that can really help boost the quality of your production.

➤ Other Gear You Will Need

1. A shock mount
this suspends the microphone mid-air and prevents the vibrations from leaking into your recording.

2. A pop filter
This prevents the sound of plosives, which are really harsh consonant sounds like P's or B's.

3. Over-the-ear headphones
Unlike earbuds over the ear headphones offer noise rejection, better sound quality and more comfort.

4. Desktop microphone stand or a boom pole
Having a good microphone stand means it's a lot easier to keep the mic a consistent distance from your mouth. And this really helps with volume control.

➤ Recording software you'll need

Now, once you have all the hardware, you'll need software for recording and sound editing. For PC users, Audacity is great free recording software. For Apple users GarageBand is an awesome free software, but if you're looking for software that has more capabilities, Adobe Audition is a powerful paid software that works on both operating systems.

Now, due to the fact that you might be interviewing some guests remotely, here are great programs for recording phone calls. ''Zencastr, UberConference, Ecamm call recorder, and callnote.''

➤ How to record a podcast

Now, recording a podcast seems a lot more complicated than it really is.

First, find a room with solid sound

You'll want to choose a space that has minimal noise. Think about things in that environment that might make noise. Is there a fan on your computer? Are the refrigerators running, cell phones, cats, dogs, a television? A cleaner recording will be easier to handle later in the process. The fix it in post attitude is a really big beginner's mistake.

If you have hardwood floors or rooms with a lot of windows, you'll need to try and minimize echo. While it's most effective for professionals, you don't need to spend a bunch of money on sound treatment right off the bat. Echo can be really easily reduced with movers blankets. You see soft objects, absorb sound, and help to create a cleaner recording. Echo can be pretty hard to remove and post-production.

Adjust system preferences to make sure that sound from your microphone is actually going into the computer

If you're using a condenser microphone, ensure that Phantom power is up and running, open your software, and then change bars and beats to time. Since you're recording a podcast, not music, we don't need bars and beats. Make multiple tracks and use one track Per sonic element. You see tracks work like layers. So you'll want to separate tracks from other voices, music, sound effects, et cetera. This makes it really easy to make changes to individual sound sources when editing.

Set a conservative recording level

Never record audio that is too loud. You can always go back and make things louder, but if you record too loud, it's going to sound distorted. To set a good, modest input level, speak at a normal to loud speaking voice and aim to make this around negative 20 decibels or about halfway up, which is yellow on most meters, then test with hardy or emphatic phrase to make sure that the level never peaks above zero decibels or goes into the red.

Record a high-quality audio file

Compression artifacts, which are those noticeable sound distortions, compound over time. So make sure that your initial recording is as high quality as possible. Like a WAV or AIFF file. Resolutions of 24 bit 48 kilohertz are great. Even though you'll probably be uploading your podcast for distribution as an MP3 or AAC file, you want to start off with as high a resolution format as possible.

Be consistent with your mouth placement and tone

Pay attention to where your mouth is in relation to the microphone. You don't want to have wide-ranging volume levels on your podcast. Try setting your microphone up slightly to the side of your mouth. So those bursts of air don't go directly into the pickup, but don't set it at too extreme angle or you'll be working against the pickup pattern if your microphone's directional.

Make sure to make a test recording

When setting up your podcast recording environment for the first time, make sure to make a test recording and listen to it in comparison to other podcasts quality. Make sure to listen to that test recording through headphones, car speakers, cell phone speakers, and a laptop because your listeners might be listening on a variety of devices.

Always remember to record 30 seconds of silence

This helps you capture the noise print, which is kind of like the Sonic fingerprint of a room. It's going to be really helpful in post-production.

Here's a pro tip

1. Don't be self-conscious about your voice. You don't need some crazy thick, juicy radio voice to get people listening. Absolutely everyone hates the sound of their voice at first, and eventually you'll get used to hearing it.

2. even if there are mistakes along the way, there's no need to stop or pause the recording. You can always edit the recording later and get rid of the flubs.

➤ How to outline your first episode

No matter how good your recording is, there's no substitute for great content and a confident performance. You see your podcast can't just sound great, it actually needs to be worth listening to. A key to making this happen is by creating an outline. Unless your podcast is meant to be scripted, you don't need to script the entire show.

You just need to create an outline based on the transformation that you want your audience to have. Start with the end in mind. What's the purpose of this episode? What's the takeaway that you want your listeners to have? Picturing your listener avatar while creating an outline can be incredibly helpful.

Here's a generic episode structure that you can use to fill out your outline.

Hook (teaser)
First, start with the hook, then you'll move into the introduction. Then the welcome slash episode overview, the ad spot, the interview, the call to action and the outro. 

➤ Here's some helpful advice on interviewing

When conducting an interview for the first time, it's really important that you focus on making the guests feel comfortable. Before hitting the record, make sure to warm the guests up and build rapport. Creating a welcoming environment will go a long way to getting more insightful answers.

You want to make sure that you have questions prepared, but don't be afraid to divert from them. Often the real magic happens when the conversation begins flowing naturally. So ask follow-ups to prompt them to go deeper.

➤ Recording an intro and an outro

having a great intro and an outro for your podcast. Not only adds personality, but it can really help catch that listener's attention and ultimately help them take action. Both an intro and an outro include the music that represents your podcast's character.

A great podcast intro will hook your listeners and give them a glimpse into the value your podcast is going to deliver.

It should tell listeners these three things

1. who you are. In one sentence, introduce yourself, highlighting your experience and why your perspective matters.

2. what your podcast is about. In one or two sentences state clearly and concisely what your podcast purpose is.

3. how they'll benefit from listening. This is the most forgotten yet most important part of a great podcast intro.
You need to tell your listeners how your podcast is going to improve their life.

An excellent podcast outro thanks listeners for tuning in includes your tagline and gives them something to do next. This is sometimes called a call to action, and really helps develop a deeper relationship with your audience.

Here's a pro tip 
Only give one call to action per episode. The more things you ask your listeners to do the less likely they are to take action.

Here are some example actions that you might want your listener to take

1. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts
2. Join your email newsletter
3. support your show on Patreon
4. follow you on social media.

➤ How to edit a podcast
For a lot of people, editing a podcast is the less appealing part of the production, but it's definitely not an optional part of the process. And the reasons for this are simple. Often conversations can result in tangents. Less is more, cut the fat, and only keep the good parts of conversations that genuinely offer the listener value.

Poor quality audio can also result in what is known as ear fatigue. And this is when active listening takes too much effort and focus causing the listener to get tired and exit early.

Lastly when use tastefully and in the right context, cinematic music sound effects and transitions can really elevate that listening experience.

Here are some of the most common editing mistakes 

1. Making the music too loud
Make your music softer than you think it needs to be. Then listen to your intro in a variety of different environments with several different devices, like a car stereo headphones, or your laptop. You want to get a good idea of how your podcast will sound in a variety of different contexts.

2. Too long of an intro
Your intro should move at a quick pace, and roughly be 20 to 30 seconds in length. Don't let it overstay its welcome. 

3. Using copyrighted music
Unless you get explicit permission from an artist and the recording label to use a track, you can't use it. However, there are plenty of royalty-free music options that easily solve this problem. YouTube audio library, 909 music on SoundCloud, the free music archive, epidemic sound, and Soundstripe are just a few of them.

When editing, your first pass should be to organize the content and make a cohesive and engaging podcast. Your second pass should be to clean up the audio.

Here are some pro tips to make your audio sound a lot more professional

1. Remove gaps of dead air as they will be highly noticeable to a listener. Crossfade between tracks to avoid any jarring transitions.

2. Use noise reduction- This feature helps you filter out any unnecessary background noise.

3. Use a high pass filter - This allows sounds above a certain frequency to pass through while everything else is filtered out. Because most speaking voices don't generate any fundamental frequencies below 85 Hertz, you can set a high pass filter around 80 to 100 Hertz to help remove rumble and plosives that you don't want your listeners to hear anyway.

4. Use equalization - This helps compensate for certain frequencies that might seem to stick out in a recording. Don't cut or boost anything more than six decibels, as you want to hear the recording sounding natural.

5. Add compression - Compression takes your sound and evens it out. Ensuring that the loudest parts are closer to the average volume of the recording. Well, this is a really helpful tool.

6. Don't use it in extremes- Start with a ratio of two to one.

7. Use a De-esser - A common problem you may run into with vocal recordings is the harsh presence of S and T consonants in words called sibilants. A De-esser gets rid of this unpleasing sound and makes the voice easier to listen to for long periods of time.

Again, less is more. Mix your tracks properly
Ensure that the volumes of each track and voices are at comfortable ranges.

Master your audio

This will bring your podcast to allow this range that is similar to other podcasts. The peak level represents the volume before the sound starts to distort. Generally, a peak level of negative one decibel is good for podcasts. Your RMS level is the average level of your signal. An RMS level around negative 16 to negative 12 decibels is a great range.

Now, if you don't have time or interest in editing your podcast, don't let that stop you. You can hire someone to edit your episodes for you, to our freelancers on Fiverr and Upwork and there's even a professional service for this very purpose called Weeditpodcasts.com.

➤ podcast hosting

One really common thing that people misunderstand about podcasts is you don't upload them directly to platforms like Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Instead, you need a separate host for your audio files. To do this you use a podcast hosting platform like Buzzsprout, Transistor or Podbean. Once you have your podcast hosted, you submit an RSS feed.

An RSS feed is a standardized way to syndicate your content to podcast directories. RSS feeds to ensure that your episodes are automatically placed on all the directories, adding the necessary code to ensure your listeners see the proper titles and descriptions and hear the right audio files.

If your podcast is hosted through Buzzsprout, then you can submit your podcast to all the major directories directly from your dashboard. It's that simple. Google podcast is a little different. Your show will be picked up by the search engines after it's up and running for a while. Which is really just typical Google.

Here's a pro tip

Before launching your podcast, try to have 4 to 5 episodes recorded and edited launch the first three so that your listeners have a few episodes to get to know you better, but keep two to release in your regular publishing schedule that way you're ahead of production and won't ever feel like you're creating down to the wire.

➤ Marketing your podcast

When making a podcast, you need to take time to let people know it exists.

Here are some simple marketing ideas

1. Create a landing page for your podcast

This landing page should give people the chance to opt-in to a mailing list, which you can use to interact with your audience. Use tools such as repurpose.io and wave.co to create little snippets of your audio in video format, then publish it on social channels. You can give incentives to listeners who review the podcast.

Sometimes simply reading the review live is enough. Monetizing your podcast. After you've a few podcast episodes launched and have begun to build up an audience, you can begin to think a bit about monetizing your podcast.

➤ Here are some of the most popular ways that podcasters monetize

1. Sponsorships
This is when a podcast promotes a sponsor during the show, how much you make from sponsorships depends on how many downloads or listeners your show gets. Sponsors will typically pay on a cost per 1000 basis, with rates ranging from $18 to $50.

2. Direct support
Direct support is when a host asks listeners for money to support the show. If people love your content, some might be happy to support you to keep the podcast running.

3. Affiliate sales
Podcasters can also earn money from affiliate marketing. Typically podcasters make a percentage of what they sell for the company they're promoting.

4. Selling products
One of the common ways that podcasts make money is by selling products that compliment the show. We have books, courses, physical products, the options are really endless.

Hopefully, this article has given you everything you need to know to start your first podcast, comment below if you found this helpful.

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