Podcasting has exploded over the last fifteen years and podcasts now reach around 73 million listeners in the US alone. It’s a popular way to explore a topic or hear insights from interesting people without interrupting our existing routines. After all, you can listen in the shower, while driving, doing the dishes, or just dozing on the couch.
Podcasts also reach an incredibly engaged audience. Podcast listeners are, on average, college-educated, active on social media, and tend to be younger with disposable income. No wonder more and more brands are wondering how to start a podcast business.
Whether you’re an individual looking into how to start a podcast or an existing brand hoping to build up a new content channel, we’re taking a deep dive into everything you need to know to get going— from deciding on your topic, to choosing the right podcast hosting, recording high-quality audio, promoting your show and beyond.
Let’s start with a high-level look at podcasting as a form. Then we’ll dig into the nitty-gritty of learning how to start a successful podcast.
How to Start a Podcast: A Complete Guide for Business
1. Set Some Goals for Your New Podcast
2. What Software Do You Need?
3. Getting High-Quality Audio for Your Podcast
4. How to Create Bumpers
5. Just Go for It
6. Starting a Podcast: Get it Live
How to Start a Podcast: A Fresh New Medium
Podcasting originally developed alongside the RSS feed as a tool for sharing information online. The medium as we know it has only been around since about 2004, which means that there’s still a ton of unbroken ground and opportunities to try new things.
One of the most exciting things about learning how to start a successful podcast is the range of content you can create. There are podcasts focused on interviews between a host and a subject, narrative-based storytelling and journalism podcasts, how-to podcasts, and so much more.
So with so many options out there, what will your podcast look like? How will you stand out?
Start broadly. Pick out a few favorites in your niche to draw inspiration from, and take notes on the elements that you want your podcast to emulate.
Brainstorm topics you would like to cover and find the connective tissue between the ideas. See if you can get to the point where you can summarize your podcast in a single sentence. This is doubly helpful because you’ll need a description for the site where you eventually host your podcast.
Next, decide how you’ll get across the information that you’re covering. Is it feasible to conduct regular interviews for this content? Do you want to rely on conversations within your team? Is a monologue or more narrative approach a better fit for your needs?
Spend some time looking at your team’s skillsets and connections, and nail down what each of you can bring to the table. You’ll need a host that can dedicate the time to recording the episodes and conducting interviews. This is a niche skillset, so think long and hard, and don’t rule out hiring someone new.
You’ll also want to think about your audience here. What questions do they need answered? How much time are they willing to dedicate to getting those answers?
Look at the average length of other podcasts in your niche and try recording a proof-of-concept to see how you’d like to pace your podcast.
Set Some Goals for Your New Podcast
What do you want your podcast to do? Depending on the style and production process of your podcast, the answer can be really different.
For a lot of people learning how to become a podcaster, it’s an exciting opportunity to share ideas and bring your passions into a new space. That’s great, and a lot of podcasts in this vein choose to monetize at some point by including advertisements once they’ve grown enough.
Merch is another way that many podcasts monetize. T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other branded items are popular, especially with diehard fans.
It can be really easy to start selling branded merch. If you already have a website, you can add buy buttons and widgets, or you can choose to build a dedicated online store. Selling on social media has never been easier. It’s a great way to get your products where your customers hang out.
For most businesses, starting a podcast is a chance to build brand awareness. A business podcast can also drive connections with other complementary brands. Generally, business podcasts don’t advertise other companies directly- after all, this distracts from the overall message, and can make the whole experience feel a little too sales-y.
Starting a podcast for a business is more of a content operation, similar to a blog or YouTube channel. It’s about establishing your business as a thought leader, though there are still plenty of opportunities to make sales.
How Do You Track Success?
Regardless of the kind of podcast that you start key metrics to track include:
- Ratings on iTunes (and anywhere else that you host your podcast)
Pay particular attention to the episodes that generate the most buzz. Break down what you might have done differently on these, and why they might have resonated so much with your audience.
It can be helpful to look at social media and see who shared particular episodes, and what they had to say about the content.
How to Record a Podcast: What Software Do You Need?
One of the great things about learning how to become a podcaster is the relatively low startup costs. It doesn’t take much in terms of equipment or money to get going, and you may already have some of the tools.
So what are the necessities for starting a podcast?
First thing’s first: if you’re an Apple user (Mac, iPhone, or iPad), then you have free access to GarageBand, which is a phenomenal “pro-sumer” recording and editing studio. It’s pretty user-friendly once you get over the initial learning curve, and has plenty of tools for cleaning up audio and cutting out dead air.
Working with multiple layers is really easy too, so you can play with your intro “bumper” music, multiple voice overs, and other audio in a single workspace.
Not an Apple user? It might look a little less user-friendly on the surface, but Audacity is a free, simple-to-use software available for both Mac and PC users. If you need a tool that you can learn quickly, Audacity can be a good bet.
If your audio demands are a little higher, Ableton is a software for both recording and performing music. It’s popular with DJs and it can also help you create your podcasts. The lower-tier options offer a lot of functionality and at a relatively affordable price compared to other similar software.
If you’ll be recording interviews over the phone or video chat, you’ll also need a call recording software.
Finally, you’ll need some basic recording equipment.
Getting High-Quality Audio for Your Podcast
While a lot of modern devices have pretty good built-in microphones, chances are you’ll want to buy one specifically for use on your podcast. This is because the built-in mics on most devices are omnidirectional.
These mics pick up audio generally from the surrounding space, including any humming (from a heater, say), breathing, and other ambient sounds. For crisp, clear audio, you’ll want to choose something that you can set up in a single location. This means that you can move closer and farther from the mic as you need and only pick up the sound that you actually want to include.
Luckily, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a good-quality microphone. This list breaks down some of the best options out there for under $200. Just keep in mind the device you’ll be connecting to when you record and make sure you have the right cords to make everything work. For example, if you’re recording into your laptop you’ll need a USB connector.
Other Podcast Audio Tips
In general, you’ll want to keep your microphone in a single place as much as possible. This makes it easier to have a consistent sound quality for your show, which adds another layer of polish. Consider marking out an ideal spot on your desk with tape so you can set it there every time.
Choose a quiet space and consider setting up some foam around the mic. These are called baffles and are helpful for cutting additional noise.
Don’t worry too much if your audio isn’t perfect when you first record. Everyone stumbles at times while speaking.
You’ll probably get a better, more consistent voiceover tone if you wait for a moment when you make a mistake, breathe, and continue without ever stopping the recording.
Your editing software will allow you to cut these sections out, as well as shortening moments of dead air. If ambient noise does get picked up on your microphone, you can apply a noise gate. Essentially, this gets rid of all sound under a specific threshold (which you can set) so extraneous sounds don’t make it onto the recording.
How to Create Bumpers
Bumpers are the intro that plays at the beginning of most podcasts. Usually there’s a little music, maybe an introduction to the host, episode, or brand. Sometimes bumpers will also feature a clip or two of audio from the episode.
Bumpers set the tone and feel of the show, and they’re important for catching your listeners’ attention. Often, they’ll mirror the tone of the host. For example, a more relaxed, measured vocal delivery from the host (think Terry Gross from NPR) generally sounds great with a mellower musical tone.
On the other hand, hosts that lean toward a more energetic and dynamic approach vocally will balance better with fun, upbeat music.
Spend some time listening to different podcasts and nailing down the tone that you’d like to have for yours. Some of our favorites bumper examples include Hubspot’s Growth Show and the eCommerceFuel Podcast.
If you have a musician on your team, working with them can be a great starting point. On the other hand, freelancers can also get the job done. There’s also tons of royalty-free music out there- just make sure to check that the license allows for use in the context you have in mind.
The most important thing here is to know exactly what you want going in. Without clear direction, it can be easy to get into an expensive back-and-forth trying to narrow down a sound.
Prep a standard voiceover for the opening and get a sense of how much space you want before and after to be filled by music. It can be helpful to create a design doc that explains and showcases the style and overall feel of the podcast.
How to Make a Successful Podcast: Just Go for It
With any creative process, there’s always the temptation to prepare indefinitely, to get caught up in the feeling that you’re almost ready to start. And, as with any other creative process, your best chance of making it happen is to do it imperfectly.
So break the cycle. Pitch the idea to your team and refine it, put together your design doc, then record a test episode. Exploring the process is the best way to start, and you’ll learn a ton by listening back to your initial project.
From here, you can start building toward launch.
Teaser clips for social media can be a great way to build interest. Headliner is a simple tool that lets you create videos highlighting moments from your podcast, complete with stylish design tools and the ability to add captions for potential listeners scrolling through social media.
Starting a Podcast: Get it Live
Experts generally recommend releasing three episodes of your podcast simultaneously for your initial launch. Basically, this creates more connection points with your potential audience and lets them binge-listen from the very beginning.
Having a better sense of the style and content of your podcast also makes it easier for customers to hit the subscribe button. It also gives them more reasons to rate and review your podcast.
How to put a podcast on iTunes
When you launch your podcast, you’ll likely want to host it on one site, connect the RSS feed to your homepage. Wondering how to put a podcast on iTunes? Most host sites let you upload your podcast to iTunes and Spotify as well. This gives you the most potential touchpoints with your audience.
Your podcast will need cover art to stand out everywhere that it’s hosted. It should be a square JPEG or PNG (ideally 3,000 pixels by 3,000), set to RGB colors. Again, consider working with a freelancer, and make sure they have access to your brand colors and typography so the final product is clearly recognizable as part of your business.
You’ll also need a quick description that gets across the topic and style of your podcast in an engaging way. Make sure to include a couple of keywords related to your niche so it’s easy to find in search queries.
Most important- be concise. Draw the reader in, then let the podcast speak for itself.
And that’s it! Your new podcast is ready to go.
One upside to learning how to start a podcast is the fact that this format tends to release in seasons, like a TV show.
Focus on putting together a great first season, then take a couple months to regroup, evaluate, and plan for the future. You have a great opportunity to look at how it all went and streamline your processes and craft exciting new ideas.
Moving forward, there are so many opportunities to explore and learn while still maintaining the heart of what makes your show unique. Maybe you’ll put together live sessions with questions from an audience. Maybe you’ll co-sponsor episodes with other podcasts.
This guide is a great resource for looking at the second season of a podcast and figuring out how you want to grow and change to keep things fresh.
The most important thing when you’re learning how to start a podcast is to keep learning, growing, and experimenting.
Best of luck getting your podcast out there, and enjoy the process! Your listeners will know when you’re having fun.