6 steps to creating and launching your own podcast
Femke van Schoonhoven, co-host of Design Life, explains how you can create your own podcast, from defining the reason for its creation to launch
If it wasn’t Serial, maybe we have Invisibilia or The Tim Ferris Show to thank for the recent boom of podcasts. What was once the underdog of content is now front and centre. Whether you’re into the web, farming or parenting — there’s a podcast for every niche you can imagine.
Podcasts relating to the web in particular have become a staple resource for anyone wanting to get ahead in design or development. There’s an abundance of web-related shows ranging from discussions around news and trends to self-improvement and discovery.
Perhaps you’re thinking about jumping on the podcast bandwagon, but don’t know where to start. Here are six steps to creating and launching your own podcast.
1. Define your why
Why do you want to start a podcast? Establishing your why is key to a successful podcast. Whether you intend it to or not, it’s going to shine through in every episode. Is your why to help others? Learn something new? To have fun?
A great podcast isn’t created on a whim. There’s nothing worse than getting halfway through your launch only to discover you had no idea which direction you were going in.
Your why is something you’ll be coming back to when the going gets tough and you’re wondering why you started podcasting in the first place. Your why is your fuel, your reason for turning up each week and pressing record.
Take the time to define your why — don’t rush it. Once you’ve defined it, it will make decision-making much easier and provide you with the momentum to keep going.
Let’s talk about money for a second…
If your why is ‘to make money’, be warned that podcasting is unlikely to turn you into a rich entrepreneur overnight. While earning revenue from podcasting is possible, it’s a long road. Most sponsors only express interest in podcasts that have a minimum of 5,000 downloads per episode. Also — do you really want to make money by selling/disrupting people’s attention?
2. Choose your niche
Imagine there’s one person that tunes in enthusiastically each week to listen to your podcast. They look forward to your show and are constantly refreshing iTunes to see if the new episode has dropped.
Who is that person?
Knowing exactly who is listening to your podcast and what they need will be extremely helpful when it comes to creating valuable content for your episodes. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your audience as this will help you create quality content for them that will keep them coming back for more.
Hoping that people will tune in each week isn’t sustainable. Once you’ve defined your niche create content for your audience. Why do they listen to your show? What are they hoping to gain when tuning in? How can you help them?
3. Create a plan
If you want your podcast to be a success, there are a few things you’ll need to plan before recording your first episode.
When will a new episode be released? Everyone has habits. Just like tuning in to Game of Thrones every Sunday night is a habit for millions of people, so can tuning into your podcast. Habits are formed by consistency. To encourage your listeners to come back for more, establish a consistent release cycle. This helps create expectations which on the flip side can help keep you accountable.
What will the format of your podcast be? There are three main formats I’ve seen used repeatedly throughout many podcasts; interviews, story telling and teaching. Will your podcast have intro and outro music? How long will each episode typically be?
Do you have enough to say? A good podcast is engaging and valuable, especially over time. Make sure you have enough ideas of what to say before you begin recording. Write down a list of topic ideas and see how far you can go. When we were preparing for Design Life we had 27 topic ideas — that’s six months worth of episode ideas already in the bank. Now, you don’t need to know what every episode for the next six months will be, but you should have a rough idea of your first five. A strong start is critical for a successful launch.
Who is going to be involved? A solo podcast can be a lot of work (and require a large dosage of confidence) but when pulled off can be effective and engaging. Alternatively, perhaps you’re considering having a co-host. Choosing a co-host is a hugely important decision. Make sure you choose someone who shares your passion and commitment to the show.
When will you make the time? Don’t underestimate the time it takes to produce a thirty-minute episode. The pre-production can feel quick, but the post-production can be time intensive. If you’re someone with a full time job or don’t have much time on your hands, you might either want to keep your podcast short and concise, or hire an editor.
4. Get prepared
Preparation is key to a good podcast. Lack of preparation in an episode is obvious. There’s nothing worse than listening to a show where the host rambles to fill in the time, or stumbles awkwardly throughout the episode.
For each episode you should have a rough idea of:
- The topic
- A brief outline of the episode
- The main takeaway for the listener
It’s important to practice. Before the launch of Design Life we recorded three practice episodes that will never see the light of day. Your first episode is always going to be awkward, so make sure you record a few times before recording your launch episode.
You don’t need to have invested in the fancy equipment before practicing. Using any headphones with a microphone will do. In fact, I recommend using what you’ve got in case you discover early on that podcasting isn’t for you. At least you’ll have spared yourself from investing in expensive equipment.
Eventually however, you’ll want to invest in some gear such as:
- A microphone
I’ve been using the low-cost Blue Yeti microphone for 18 months and love it. This is my go-to microphone for all of my audio recording work.
Last year we purchased a Samson Meteor mic for when we’re on the go. This microphone is small and light making it perfect to bring with me when I travel and still need to podcast.
- Pop filter (recommended)
- Recording software
I use GarageBand for recording which comes on any Mac.
If you’re interviewing someone, software like Zencastr is easy to use.
- Audio editing software
Software like Logic Pro X or Adobe Audition will do.
Don’t stop practicing at recording — practice editing too. You don’t need to be an expert sound engineer but does help to know the basics of podcast editing. Some will tell you they don’t think editing isn’t worth it, but it absolutely is. There’s nothing worse than hearing a baby crying in the background or someone coughing while the host is talking. A professional sounding podcast is going to stand out ten-fold.
Lastly — you’ll also want to prepare your brand. Your podcast is going to need a name, artwork and a website. If you’re not a designer yourself it pays to hire one so you can focus on the other important pieces.
5. Start recording (for real)
Time to press record on your first actual episode!
Recording takes patience. There will be times during a recording when you make a mistake or are interrupted by uncontrollable background noise (cue the garbage truck or plane passing by). That’s OK. Stop, take a breath, backtrack and repeat yourself clearly. Fumbling through it is only going to make it harder to edit during post-production.
If you don’t discover your annoying ability to say ‘ummmmmm’ or ‘uhhhhh’ at the beginning of every third or fifth sentence, well done! It’s not uncommon to have bad habits like this. Soon you’ll become hyper-aware of them and over time learn to stop them entirely.
Before pressing record, there are a few things I recommend doing to prepare for a smooth session:
- Turn off streaming services (Dropbox, Backblaze etc)
- Close heavy-usage apps
- Turn off notifications or enable do-not-disturb mode
- Silence your phone if it’s in the room
- Do a quick test recording to make sure your sound is good
Before launching your podcast, I recommend having a few episodes ready to go. A buffer is going to make it a lot easier over time. You’ll be thanking yourself on those weeks when you’re sick, unexpectedly busy or off on vacation.
Podcasting doesn’t stop at launch. Whether you’ve started podcasting in order to earn some extra cash on the side, grow and connect with an audience, or document a project, you’ll be repeating these four steps every time you produce an episode:
- Pre-production (recording)
- Post-production (editing)
Remember, podcasting is a commitment. It’s not quick nor easy. You’re going to make a bunch of mistakes, but it’s important to keep going. As you get into a routine, rhythm and find a process that works for you, it will become easier and you’ll find yourself streamlining your process.
Check out Femke’s Design Life podcast, which she co-hosts with fellow designer Charlie Marie to talk about how they balance side projects on top of a full-time job. Also don’t miss this list of 15 podcast recommendations in web design and development, written by Pixel Pioneers’ founder and captain, Oliver Lindberg.