Your Comprehensive Guide to Starting a Podcast

Everything you need to know to start you own podcast — photo by CoWomen

If you have been looking for a comprehensive guide to organize your thoughts and help you start your own podcast, look no further.

The thought-process and components you need are presented here in a logical, easy to follow, step-by-step sequence.

GETTING STARTED

Concept, Style, Format and Schedule

CONCEPT

The first thing you will want to settle on is a concept. What will your podcast be about? Does your concept have enough material to carry an indefinite number of episodes or will it be a limited series podcast?

If your material source is endless, say you live in a fairly sizable city and you decide you want to interview interesting people who live there, chances are you will have plenty of material without going the series route.

Or, if you decide to have a lifestyle podcast, there may be enough subject matter to carry you through for an extended period of time.

If you’ve written a crime novel and you want to turn it into a podcast, this would work better as a series with a limited number of episodes, perhaps breaking it down to one or two chapters per episode. The same would hold true for a comedy series type of podcast where you have the same cast of characters moving in and out of various story lines over the course of a ‘season’, similar to a network television show or Netflix series.

STYLE

Once you have decided on the concept, you will need to make some decisions on style. Some questions to consider are: will you be the only person talking? Will it be an interview show, where you bring on guests? Will it be a hybrid of the two with an interview segment and then a portion where you talk one on one to your listener? Is it completely scripted?

If it is a series with different characters, how many characters are there? Will you need to hold a casting? Will you need to create a schedule bringing the players in one at a time or all together to record their scenes?

FORMAT

Also under the format discussion will be length of show. There are some five-minute podcasts, while others go for over an hour. Take into consideration your listeners time, your guests time (if you’re doing an interview style) and editing time, unless you’re hiring someone to do that for you, which will be covered later in this article.

SCHEDULE

Considering the format also means deciding how often you will generate podcast episodes.

Currently, podcasts come out on all types of schedules: daily, weekly and bi-weekly are the most popular. Style and length of episode may help you to decide how often you’ll be able to release, again, based on how much of the work you’re doing yourself.

Are you hiring an editor? Are you foregoing editing altogether and just putting out exactly what was recorded? These are factors to consider in your decision.

It is also important to consider release consistency. Podcast listeners are extremely loyal and if they are enjoying your material, they will subscribe and be waiting for the next episode. If episodes are not forthcoming on a consistent basis, you risk losing some listeners, even if you release more episodes a few days or weeks later, depending on your format.

When considering how often new episodes will be released, it is important to factor in the time you’ll need to create a releasable episode.

At this point, you’ve made the important decisions of:

1. What your podcast will be about

2. How an episode will be put together

3. The length of the show

4. The release schedule

Now let’s move on to making the actual material.

RECORDING, EDITING and HOSTING

Microphones, Digital Audio Workstation, Hosts

RECORDING EQUIPMENT

This article does not cover the technical aspects of teaching recording and editing, but you will come away with a comprehensive list of the basic equipment required.

Once you have your equipment, you will find there are a number of informative tutorials online from either equipment manufacturers or people just like you, who have learned to use the equipment.

The first thing you will need is a microphone or two, depending on your format and on what equipment you are recording into.

You will need either a USB microphone (easily plugs into a laptop) or XLR microphone (requiring a pre-amp). Performing a search for ‘basic microphone set-up for podcasting’ will return an abundance of suggestions in varying price ranges.

There are also a number of portable, hand-held options on the market with built in microphones. The most known brands are TASCAM and ZOOM.

Headphones are negotiable. If you are typically recording in noisy spaces, it’s a good idea to have a pair for you and your guest to help maintain focus and hear one another clearly. You will also find some headphones include an attached microphone — a more expensive option.

Next, you will also need a digital audio workstation, also know as a DAW. This is the software that will capture the audio and where the editing will be performed.

There are a number of decent free options in this category like Garage Band, Audacity, or you can purchase Adobe Audition for a monthly subscription fee. ProTools is an option, but unnecessary, considering the expense, and the free options work just as well for generating decent audio.

As with the microphone tutorials, there are a number of tutorials to teach the techniques of using the recording software.

For many aspiring podcasters, purchasing and learning to use the equipment may be the most challenging part, so if you feel challenged, know you are not alone.

REMOTE RECORDING

If you have decided to do an interview-style show and some of your guests are not local, you may consider using remote recording software. This will not only record the audio portion of the podcast, but provides an option to record the visual as well.

Two currently popular online recording tools are Zoom Video Conferencing and Zencaster. At the time of this article, both offer a ‘free’ or ‘hobbyist’ version of their software, limiting the amount of time, number of guests and final audio file type.

EDITING

Editing is another component strictly at your discretion. There are some podcasters who record an entire episode and put it out for consumption ‘as is’. Meaning, they do not edit the ‘umms’, ‘uhhs’, ‘so… like’, mouth noises, background noises, rambling content or false start sentences.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some podcasters who farm out the editing to podcast editors — which you can find online or in some social media podcasting groups and even Fiverr. Remember, if you decide to go this route, cost will be a factor for your budget.

And some podcasters do their own editing, and may also add music beds and sound effects.

It is helpful to listen to podcasts in your genre to get an idea of how they sound then make your own decisions about how you want to structure your episodes.

These decisions will be also be based on how much time you are allotting to podcast production, your comfort level with editing and how you want your final product to sound and feel.

Think these items through, make your decisions, keeping in mind you can always change it later– it’s your show. After a few episodes go up, you may even receive some helpful listener feedback to incorporate in future episodes.

HOSTING

Hosting is the last ‘technical’ piece to consider.

In order for the public to find your podcast, you will need to ‘host’ it on a podcasting platform. This is where your RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed will come from, which is how your podcast will become ‘findable’ and available to listeners on all the major podcasting applications.

Two things you’ll need to consider in this process are the length of your episodes and your budget.

While you will find some free platforms, most platforms will charge for their services and those charges are based on how much ‘space’ or ‘time’ you will need each month.

For example, one very reputable podcast hosting platform has four different levels of hosting based on amount of mb (megabytes) of your audio file. In order to determine the number of mb for your podcast, search, ‘how many mbs is a XX-minute podcast?’ A 30-minute show runs at about 26 mb. If your podcast is weekly 30-minute show, you will need at least 104 mb. (26 mb x 4 weeks = 104 mb)

In some cases, your budget may dictate your episode length. Review and compare the offerings of free versus fee platforms, select the one that meets your needs and sign up.

Now that you have your equipment, have learned how to use it and have signed up for a podcast host, it’s time to help listeners find your show.

PUBLICIZING YOUR PODCAST

Website, Newsletter and Social Media

In preparation of launching your podcast, you will want to consider having a web and social media presence. This allows people to find out more about the podcast, it’s mission, the host, guests as well as engage with the host and the guests.

WEBSITE

Depending on your podcast host, you may have an opportunity to host your website on their platform or you can create one on any of the well-known free, DIY website platforms.

The website content need not be overly robust — two or three pages, if that, will be plenty. You will want to consider including:

· A synopsis of the podcast, what they’ll hear or learn, who you are and why you created the podcast

· A page where they can access episodes

· Blog

· Contact information, links to social media, a button to subscribe to your newsletter

NEWSLETTER

If you create a newsletter for your listeners, be sure it offers value. Perhaps one is sent each time a new episode is released and includes more information on the guest or the subject matter of the episode.

As with creating a website, there are a number of email campaign providers who will allow you to use their platform for free up to a certain number of subscribers.

SOCIAL MEDIA

When setting up social media for your podcast, you’ll want to consider the platform your audience engages with the most.

In the beginning, that may be difficult to gauge, so it doesn’t hurt to be on the three majors: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Your handle will be your podcast name — if that name is taken, you should be able to add ‘podcast’ to the end of it. If you already have personal accounts on these platforms, you will be able to create podcast handles and link them with your current accounts. You will find a number of tutorials online to assist in the set-up and linking of your social media.

After six or eight months of consistently releasing episodes, you will have a better idea of where your listeners prefer to engage and at that point can make a decision about which one or two should command most of your attention.

Once you establish your accounts, you’ll want to begin posting about your new podcast with ‘coming soon’ types of posts and also begin following accounts that are relevant to your podcast and typical listener and start engaging with them, by liking, sharing and commenting on posts. Be sure to engage with the comments you receive — engagement is key to building that loyal relationship only you have with your listeners.

You will also want to use social media to promote each episode release, using photos of your guest, of you with your guest or other appropriate images.

Use relevant hashtags for discoverability. Tag your guests and ask them to share via their own social media.

It is very likely that the majority of your listeners will come from being discovered via social media — make the most of this free marketing and promotional platform.

With the structure of your podcast in place and equipment at the ready, it is time to begin recording episodes.

PREPARING FOR YOUR FIRST RECORDING

Intro/Outro, Recording Preparation, Guest Preparation and Helpful Hints

Now that you’ve decided on your format, have worked with your equipment, selected a podcast hosting platform and set up your website and social media, it’s time to record your first show.

INTRO/OUTRO

Create a basic ‘intro’ welcoming listeners, describing the show and let listeners know where they can engage with you and other listeners. The intro may or may not have music and should be no longer than 30 seconds — listeners want to get to the meat of the episode quickly. Usually they coordinate their listening time with a particular activity like a commute to work or their 30 minutes on the treadmill.

The basic ‘outro’ may include thanking your guest, thanking listeners who engaged with you by signing up for your new episode newsletter, leaving a review or rating or just reached out to give you feedback or encouragement. Acknowledging your listeners is a great way to build listener loyalty. You may want to tease your next episode or let them know about an event of interest. The ‘outro’ is also a place for one ‘call to action’ or CTA. You will want to ask them to:

· subscribe to the podcast and share with a friend

· write a review on the podcast platform they are listening from

· sign up for the newsletter

· make a donation/be a sponsor

Switching one out for the other each week will give you a month’s worth of calls to action.

EPISODE RECORDING PREPARATION

Even if you’re going for an informal feel, preparation is key.

If you are the only speaker on your podcast, you’ll want to prepare an agenda or outline for each episode.

Having an outline does two things:

1. Helps you stay on topic

2. Helps you stay under your allotted time

Moving forward without an outline you run the risk of going off on tangents, getting off topic, which leads to rambling and before you know it, you’ve been talking for 45 minutes for your 30-minute show.

This may be a choice, if you know you’re going to edit out any irrelevant information or conversation. Even the most ‘organic’ sounding morning radio shows run from some type of script or outline.

If you are an interview style show, there is a little more work involved.

You will want to research, contact and book guests.

It is helpful to set up some email templates for booking, confirming and sending the final episode link to your guest.

You will want to collect their bio, a photo or two (for promotional purposes on social media) and their website or other social media handles.

You will need to send them directions to the studio or provide links or instructions for using online recording tools. You may also have a specific question list you send to them ahead of the interview, giving them an idea of what you’ll be covering.

Preparing yourself and your guest is very helpful and will give your podcast a more polished and professional sound and feel.

GUEST RELEASE

You may want to have guests sign a basic and standard release. These releases are easily found by searching, ‘free podcast guest release form’. Read it over, make any additions or changes and have one ready for your guest to sign in person or send it ahead of time for them to review and sign prior to their appearance.

BLOCK INTERVIEWING

You may also find the technique of ‘block’ recording useful. This means you record multiple episodes on the same day, thereby having enough material to see you through the week or month, depending on your release schedule.

RECORDING MULTIPLE LAUNCH EPISODES

A good industry practice for new podcasts is to have five to six episodes ready for the initial launch. If a listener enjoys the first episode, they don’t have to wait for a new one, because you have given them several to listen to, presenting more material from which to make the decision to subscribe to your podcast right away.

Congratulations! You have completed your first recordings. Now you want to find some listeners.

PROMOTING YOUR EPISODES

Social Media and Scheduling

Once you have created, edited and uploaded the episode to the podcast host, it is time to promote the episode to get listeners.

If you have an interview-style podcast, send an email to the guest with the episode link and ask them to share it as they wish.

It is also useful to set up a social media scheduler to push out posts with the link to the episode on various days or times of day. This helps to limit the time you will spend on this activity to less than 30 minutes to set up the posts.

There are a number of social media schedulers offering free accounts, which are decent even with the limitations of the number of social platforms and number of posts per month. Scheduling social media is a time-saver so it is worth looking into these schedulers.

MAKING MONEY

Listener Support, Advertising and Sponsors

Unless you are a celebrity or influencer with a large following whom advertisers want to reach or a maker of a product or service people will purchase as a result of listening to your podcast, it is not likely you will make a living podcasting. However, you may have an opportunity to break even on the costs associated with the hosting, editing and the website or covering the cost of the equipment. There are a few ways of doing this:

1. Set up a Patreon account and offer exclusive content or other benefits to patrons

2. Put a Paypal or Venmo button on your website and request donations as a call to action at the end of your episodes

3. Court businesses whose products or services align with your listeners for 15, 20 or 30 second mentions

4. Court a business who is willing to sponsor the podcast

CONCLUSION

According to Edison Research’s Podcast Insights website, any reports on the actual number of podcasts being produced is likely outdated. However, they do say there are over 750,000 of them with over 30 million episodes as of June 2019.

You now have a comprehensive plan to start your own podcast, bringing your particular interests, talents, thoughts and maybe even products or services to the table and building a community of like-minded listeners.

Dawn Davis is a freelance writer, voice over, actor and podcaster. She hosts and produces the Desert Lady Diaries podcast, a weekly conversation with women who found their home in the Mojave desert. Find out more at: www.dawnpdavis.com

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Dawn Davis

Dawn Davis is a creative hyphenate. Freelance writer, voice talent, podcaster and award-winning actor. You can learn more about her at: dawnpdavis.com