Podcasting is my pick for the #1 content marketing channel right now. Follow along with me as I launch the Six Figure Grind podcast and assemble the ultimate tutorial for how to start a podcast.
I’ve been very successful with podcasting. I’ve had podcasts in the top-15 in iTunes for popular, competitive categories and I’ve had podcast that simply did very well at attracting a strong listener base and turning those listeners into leads and sales.
In short, I know what I’m doing when it comes to podcasting. I’ve recorded and published over 250 hours of podcast episodes and I’ve been interviewed by other people on dozens of shows.
Since Six Figure Grind is all about helping you and showing you the behind the scenes of how I build my businesses, it makes perfect sense to walk you through the process of how I’m creating the Six Figure Grind podcast.
There are a lot of “how to start a podcast” tutorials out there. This one is unique because it doubles as a case study. I’m not just going to cover the how-to, I’ll also talk about the why-to. And I hope to cover some things that the other tutorials don’t cover.
So, let’s get started…
How to Start a Podcast Step 1: Name Your Podcast
The first thing I always do is come up with a name for the show.
Sometimes this is very easy. If you already have a website/brand, the first option you should consider is just using the brand name. That’s what I’ve done with pretty much every podcast I’ve launched.
This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Ebay recently worked with Gimlet to launch a podcast called “Open For Business.” You’d never know by the name that it was from Ebay. It’s not a problem. The benefit of podcasting is that you build a dedicated listenership. They’re going to know, like, and trust you if you create good content.
What you definitely need to do before you settle on a name is a quick Google search and then an iTunes search. Make sure that name isn’t already being used. Also, make sure it’s easy to remember and easy to spell.
How to Start a Podcast Step 2: Pick a Format, Length & Schedule
Your format isn’t set in stone, but it helps to decide on what format you want to start with.
Here are some of the traditional formats that you should consider:
- Interview format – You bring guests on your show and interview them.
- Cohost format – You and a cohost will go back and forth on topics.
- Storytelling format – You will produce a documentary-style show.
- Solo format – You talk about your topic by yourself.
- Roundtable format – A small group discusses topics.
- Variety – You combine multiple formats into one episode or you switch the format depending on the goal of the episode.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what you do. The content is what matters. For most of my shows, I switch up the format. I’ve done every single format on that list with the same podcast.
As a podcast listener and fan, I tend to like variety. Joe Rogan has one of the most popular podcasts in existence and he switches it up as well. He’s primarily an interview format, but he also has a cohost. He switches to the roundtable style often. He’s even recorded some solo shows.
Podcasts are living, breathing things. Nothing is set in stone with them, so don’t sweat this part too much. There are some other things to consider, though:
- The interview format is the easiest for most people (as long as your decent at interviewing people).
- If you’re not awesome at interviewing people, get a cohost. You can bounce back and forth during the interview.
- Getting a co-host adds scheduling and editing complexity.
- The solo format is a lot harder than it looks.
- The storytelling format requires extensive editing for solid production.
While we’re on the topic of format, it’s also important to think about how long you want your shows to be. Some people stick with the same time frame. You’ll see that their shows are always 30 minutes. Or 45 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Others vary their show length (as I do).
Let’s get one thing straight: the length of the show has no bearing on the success of the show. There are very popular podcasts that are 10 minutes long, just as there are very popular podcasts that are three hours long (like Hardcore History or Joe Rogan). In fact, most of the biggest shows are long format.
Everyone asks, “How long should my show be?” The only correct answer is, “as long as it needs to be.”
The same is true of your release schedule. You can do a daily podcast, a weekly podcast, a monthly podcast, or anywhere in between. Personally, I recommend the weekly format. If you’re doing shorter shows, you can consider doing multiple shows a week.
Speaking from experience, if you’re new to podcasting I would start with weekly. It’s a great schedule to keep you consistently learning and growing, but it’s not an overwhelming schedule. And you can always change the schedule later. Some people go gung-ho and try to do a daily show or a multiple-episode-per-week show. This is risky as it can create overwhelm and drain your passion.
How to Start a Podcast Step 3: Get some podcast equipment.
You don’t need high-end stuff to produce a decent show. I’ll show you what I use and then I’ll tell you what I recommend.
Here’s the basic list of what you’ll need:
- A computer with a USB input (pretty much a given).
- A microphone with a USB cable.
- Something to hold the mic.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need if you want to use a higher-end mic:
- A computer with a USB input.
- A microphone with an XLR cable.
- Something to hold the mic.
- A signal booster.
- A USB audio interface.
Here’s a list of what you’ll need if you want to produce a professional show with a more people or effects:
- A computer with a USB input.
- Microphones with XLR cables.
- Something to hold the mics.
- A signal booster for each mic.
- A USB mixer.
- 1/4″ audio cables.
Let’s talk about this stuff.
Computer with a USB input.
Whatever you prefer.
Something to hold the mic.
How the mic is held is important for two reasons. First, the position of the mic determines the sound quality in a big way. Second, mics are notorious for picking up vibrations from hands (if you’re holding it) or tables (if it’s on a stand improperly).
I personally use the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones. But, I recorded the first 100 episodes of my career with iPhone headphones plugged into the ATR2100.
These take the audio from the mic to the audio interface or to the mixer for higher end mics. This one will do you just fine.
An Audio Interface or Mixer
If you don’t want the complexity of a mixer, just get an audio interface. Since you can’t plug XLR cables into a computer, you need to run them through an audio interface. Then the audio interface hooks up to the computer through the USB port.
I had a lot of success with the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4. It will support up to two mics.
I currently use Mackie 8-Channel Compact Mixer.
A Signal Booster
Higher end microphones usually need “phantom power” (provided by the audio interface or the mixer). But they also tend to need a mid-line signal boost (especially true of the Shure SM7B). A signal booster goes between the mic and the mixer or between the mic and the audio interface, providing “clean” gain (more volume without distortion effects).
I really like the Cloudlifter for this.
Once you have the equipment (start minimal if you’d like), you’re ready for the next step.
How to Start a Podcast Step 4: Record Your First Podcast Episode (And Then…)
If you’re new to podcasting, your first episode is going to suck. So, here’s a great approach for getting off to a strong start.
Everyone sucks in the beginning. Even if you manage to record a decent show, I can guarantee that it still sucks relative to what you’ll eventually be capable of.
For this reason, it’s important to get the first run out of the way.
Record your first podcast: Software & Room Setup
I use Adobe Audition as part of Adobe Creative Cloud. I’m a huge fan of Creative Cloud and highly recommend it.
If you’re looking for a free solution, you can use Garage Band on a Mac or Audacity on PC.
Record straight into the software once you have all your equipment hooked up. But before you start recording, take a moment to check your recording space. If you’re in a room that produces significant echo (do a test recording if you need to and listen back using headphones), you’ll want to move to a different room or find a way to optimize the room you’re in a little.
If you can’t record in a different area, consider hanging a couple heavy blankets (moving blankets work well). Putting one behind you (seems counterintuitive) is very important. If you have two, put one in front and one behind.
Once your podcast is successful and you’re getting more serious, you can treat the room professionally.
Recording your first podcast: Editing Tips & Tricks
I’m not going to go into a full editing tutorial here. That’s something you’re going to have to learn over time. I will, however, show you some quick tips and tricks.
To be honest, I don’t do much editing on most of my shows. I keep it very simple. There are just a few things that are very important…
Record your first podcast: Exporting
If you’re using Audition, here’s how you’ll want to export your podcast…
That process is going to be different in every program. What won’t be different, however, are your export settings.
Here are the export settings I use…
I highlighted the important areas.
- Export to an MP3 file format.
- Sample type should be 44100 Hz at 16-bit.
- The bitrate (Kbps) will greatly determine the final audio quality as well as the file size. I like higher definition audio, so I export at 128Kbps. You can go as low as 64Kbps. I wouldn’t recommend going any lower than that, though.
Okay, now that you’ve exported it, take the file and put it in the trash.
I’m serious. Just trust me. Put that file in the trash and then go record that same episode again. It’ll be better the second time around.
Once you’ve done that, proceed to the next step.
Record your first podcast: Getting Feedback
Once you’ve exported the second version of your first episode, send it to a few people. Make sure that at least one of those people is a podcast listener or a podcast producer.
Don’t just ask, “What do you think?” Ask them to criticize it. Ask them to tell you what they thought about the audio quality. Ask them to scrutinize the content. Ask them if it sounded awkward.
It’s okay if they destroy it. Take whatever they offer as feedback and use that to make your next show better.
Here’s the kicker: You must publish that first episode regardless of what they say. Why? Because it’s too easy to get discouraged and trash it and never record another episode again.
Put that first episode out into the wild and move on…
How to Start a Podcast Step 5: Publish Your First Podcast Episode
Step five is where a lot is going to happen all at once. Hang on your seat.
Publishing your first podcast: Hosting
Now that you have your first podcast recorded and ready to go, you need somewhere to put the file.
When people download a podcast episode, they’re basically making a transfer request for a file on a server. As your show gets more and more popular, the server is constantly being bombarded with download requests.
This is why hosting your podcast is not free. And if you try to use some janky hosting method, like putting your shows in Dropbox, you’ll quickly rack up a huge bill. It’s better to host your files with a dedicated podcast host. They have fast servers and can handle the traffic.
I have two that I recommend:
I switched from Libsyn to Fireside recently. I can’t stand the fact that Libsyn’s interface looks like it’s from the early 2000s.
Petty? Sure. But I prefer to use beautiful things. Fireside.fm has a much more modern interface and the pricing was a little better (because I have multiple shows).
Create an account at either place and then upload your first episode.
Publishing your first podcast: Artwork
You need some sexy podcast artwork for iTunes and other directories so you stand out from the crowd. The required artwork is a 3000 x 3000-pixel image.
It’s important that your artwork is clear and well designed. Keep in mind that when people are browsing iTunes, they’re going to be looking at thumbnails of the artwork. You should be able to read the show title when it’s thumbnail size.
I designed this artwork for Six Figure Grind…
It’s okay. It feels temporary to me. I will eventually have one done by a professional. The good news is that it doesn’t matter. Shipping your shit matters. Everything can be changed later.
Publishing your first podcast: Publishing on your website
Here’s where I think a lot of people make a big mistake. Should you publish to your website or just to your podcast host?
In order to explain why I think many people are making a mistake, we have to talk [quickly] about RSS feeds.
You can think of an RSS feed as a dynamic list of content. When you publish something online (like a blog post, podcast, or video), the meat of it can be published to an RSS feed. This is a web address where a list of your content lives.
This web address can be accessed by people, programs, etc. This is how iTunes knows you published something new. You’re submitting your RSS Feed to iTunes and they “crawl” your feed every so often to look for new content. Or, your site can “ping” iTunes when something new is published so they know to pull the new data.
Most podcast hosts will create an RSS feed for you. However, if you’re using WordPress as your website framework (as I recommend), you’ll also have the ability to generate one there.
Because most people who start podcasts don’t really understand RSS feeds, they tend to use the one supplied by their podcast host. This can be a problem because you don’t own your feed address.
Let’s say you decide to switch hosts (like I did). Guess what? That feed you submitted to iTunes way back when will no longer get updated. You have to resubmit your feed to iTunes and iTunes is a bitch when it comes to updating and changing things. And if any errors occur along the way, good luck getting support from iTunes.
If you use a feed generated by WordPress, it lives on your own domain. For example, the Six Figure Grind feed is https://sixfiguregrind.com/feed/podcast/
If I were to use the one from Fireside, it would have Fireside’s URL in it.
So, how do you get a feed for your own domain? You install a plugin called Powerpress. This will allow you to configure all of the proper settings for your podcast, publish to your site, and create a separate podcast feed for you to submit to iTunes. If you want our tech team to do all this for you, get in touch.
Publishing your first podcast: Submitting to iTunes & Other Directories
This part is boring and you have to wait for approval, but it’s a necessary step.
iTunes recently released Podcast Connect. This is where you’ll need to submit your podcast for approval to the directory. You must have your first episode published to your RSS feed before you can submit.
iTunes is critical because many of the other podcasting services and apps pull directly from the iTunes API. So if your podcast is in iTunes, it’ll automatically be most other places as well.
Publishing your first podcast: Installing an audio player on your website
Most people listen to podcasts on their mobile devices. However, it’s still important to create a great user experience on your website for those that will choose to listen there (often first-time listeners).
If you’re using Powerpress, they supply an audio player automatically. The player will show up on every episode you publish through Powerpress.
The problem with the Powerpress player is that it’s ugly and lacks features. For that reason, I turned off the default player and use a plugin from Patt Flynn called Smart Podcast Player.
You have to insert Smart Podcast Player manually for each episode, but it’s very simple. It will allow you to drop in a player for individual episodes as well as for your entire show.
How to Start a Podcast Step 6: Publish Two More Episodes As Soon As Possible
Think about being a first-time listener. Don’t you want to binge a little?
Publishing your first episode is a great step, but now is not the time to rest on your laurels. Even if you’ve decided on a weekly or semi-monthly schedule, you need to set your schedule aside until you have at least 3-5 episodes.
That’s right, it’s time to record and publish again for at least two more episodes. When you have 3-5 episodes in the bank, you can default over to your preferred schedule.
This little bank of early episodes is enough to entice your viewer to subscribe and stick around. If you only have one episode for them to listen to, it’s not enough for some people.
How to Start a Podcast Step 7: Promote & Capture An Audience
Podcasting is a long-term game, but that doesn’t mean traction and success need to take longer than necessary.
Sitting back and just waiting/hoping for your podcast to grow organically is crazy-making. That’s what novices do. I much prefer to get out there and promote it.
Here are some quick strategies to consider:
- Social media. Publish an announcement and then publish every episode.
- Email. If you have an email list, send out an announcement and ask people to subscribe and share.
- Work your network! If you do an interview show, find other producers and ask them about swapping appearances. If you do a solo show, work your way onto other shows as a guest. The best way to grow your show is to appear on other shows (you’re appearing in front of people who are known to listen to podcasts!)
Getting downloads is only the first step to growing and capturing your audience, though. The next step is to get those listeners to stick around.
Getting people to become recurring listeners requires a proactive strategy. You can’t just assume people that listen will subscribe. You must tell them to subscribe! In fact, you need to give them clear instructions on how to subscribe, repeatedly, over the course of many episodes.
Ask them to subscribe in their favorite podcast app (so they’ll keep listening), but it’s also important to ask them to subscribe on iTunes.
Even if people don’t listen on iTunes, they need to subscribe to your show there. iTunes is the most popular podcast search engine. Their algorithm ranks podcasts by how many people are subscribing in a given timeframe. If you want your podcast to climb in rank on iTunes, you need subscribers there (not ratings & reviews as most people think).
While they’re there, ask people to rate and review the show as well. While this won’t do much for your ranking, it does provide important social proof that helps people confirm that they should subscribe.
Lastly, make repeated calls to action on your show for people to subscribe to your email list. You can even allow them to text (SMS) opt-in to your show using a service like Textiful. Textiful has a really powerful integration with ConvertKit to make this very easy.
When a podcast listener joins my email list, I consider them to be somewhat of a “super listener.” They’re much more valuable than casual listeners.
Bottom line: Promote, promote, promote. Be proactive. Don’t sit around hoping for success to come to you.
Now you know how to start a podcast. But none of this means anything if you don’t take action!
I understand that starting a podcast can be a daunting task. If you’re feeling stuck, whether it’s content & idea issues or technical issues, reach out for help. I’ve done podcast consulting for a bunch of people and I have a tech team that can jump in and take care of whatever dirty work you don’t feel comfortable with.
If you have any quick questions that others might find value in hearing the answer to, drop them in the comments below.