Have you ever wondered how to start a podcast? You’re in the right place! In this article, we’ll walk you through the 14 critical steps to start your first podcast. There’s no fluff here! Just actionable steps to get you started.
How to Start a Podcast in 14 Steps
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you don’t need to be convinced to start a podcast. You’ve already decided to become a podcaster. Now you need to know how to get started.
Let’s dive in!
Step 1: Choose a Topic
Choosing your show’s topic is your most important decision, so it give it some serious thought. It will define everything you do going forward.
Your topic should be something you can speak about intelligently. Yes, you will perform research for each episode, but it helps to have a foundation of knowledge before you start. Your listeners will know right away if you don’t seem comfortable with the topic.
Even if you already know what you want to podcast about, take a bit of time to explore your choice. You will have to talk about this topic every week. You will have to interact with people who love the topic. And you will have to find unique and interesting things to say about the topic regularly.
That said, keep in mind is that your topic can change or evolve over time. It’s okay if your podcast narrows or expands in scope.
For example, you may start a world history podcast, but later choose to focus on a single time period. Similarly, you might decide to focus on a single event, like World War II, but later broaden your topic to include all wars.
Which topics do people want? Here’s the breakdown according to Edison Research.
There is a trade-off between narrow and wide topics. Narrow topics appeal to fewer fans, but those fans are typically more dedicated to the show. It’s also easier to find fans of narrow topics because there are only so many ways to reach them.
Broad topics appeal to more people, but they aren’t as sticky because people can get their needs met in lots of places. They’re also harder to reach because you have to compete for their attention.
More information: Podcast Topics: How to Choose the One That’s Right For You
Step 2: Choose a Co-Host (Optional)
If you like working with other people, you may find it helpful to have a co-host. If you ask veteran podcasters how to start a podcast, this is often their first piece of advice.
A good co-host is an invaluable resource. They can split tasks with you, help you promote, lend ideas, and give you feedback. A co-host can also keep you accountable. It’s harder to delay and give up (“podfading”) if someone else depends on you.
Co-hosts also help you create more engaging content. A podcast conversation is far more organic than a lecture. This is why most podcasts bring on guests. With a co-host, you can have that same natural feel even when you don’t have guests.
But of course there are downsides.
First, you won’t be able to make all the decisions. You’ll undoubtedly have to compromise on some things.
Second,there’s a possibility your co-host will drop out at some point. This could lead you with more work than you can handle, or force you to scramble to replace him or her. It might even cost you some fans.
Not using a co-host doesn’t mean you’ll always work alone, however. There are plenty of content creators who hire people to help them as they grow. Podcasting doesn’t have to be lonely!
Step 3: Choose a Name
You have a lot of freedom here. Your name can be anything you like. If you look at the top podcasts on iTunes or Google Play, you will see all kinds of different names. Some names include the name of the host. Other names mention the podcast’s topic.
Here’s some criteria you should follow when choosing a name.
1. Relate to your topic at least a little bit. This will help drawn in potential listeners. If you want to start a fishing podcast, you don’t have to call it “Fishing with Brian,” but you might call it “River Adventures” or something that alludes to the aquatic nature of the topic.
2. Choose a name that’s slightly broader than your topic. This will give you some leeway if you decide to host an episode that’s slightly outside your topic. “River Adventures” could have an episode about rafting or boating and no one would find it odd.
3. Make sure you can get a similar domain name and social media handles. You’ll want these assets to mirror your podcast name as closely as possible.
4. Don’t get too clever. If you have to explain your name’s meaning before anyone understands it, potential listeners won’t know what it’s about when they scroll past your show on a list. Choose something simpler and more obvious.
Step 4: Choose a Format
Your next step is to choose a format. Like your topic and name, you probably already have a good idea of what you want to do. Most people think of these things right away when they start to consider how to start a podcast.
Here the most popular format options:
- Solo show (also called the monologue) – You are the voice of the entire show. Every word comes from your mouth. This is an intimidating style for beginners, but it cements you as an authority figure early.
- Co-hosted show – Recording episodes can be easier if you have a co-host to carry some of the weight. Conversation is often easier than reading a script.
- Interview show – This format gives you the ability to leverage the comments and insight of other experts. You also gain exposure to your guests’ audiences. Interviewing is a skill that takes time to learn, however.
- Roundtable – A group of people participate in each episode. Sometimes it’s the same group of people. Sometimes there is one regular host and a different group of guests.
- Documentary – You narrate a story that includes interviews, clips, and conversations. The format of the content depends on the story you tell.
Here are a few more points to consider about your format.
Length: There’s plenty of data that explains the “ideal” length of a podcast, but none of it matters. What’s important is what your fans want. They might prefer quick 15-minute blasts or three-hour deep dives. Choose a length you’re comfortable with that makes sense for your show. Try to make each episode a similar length.
Style: Will you interview guests? Have conversations with your co-host? Go solo? You don’t have to produce every episode the same way, but it helps to be consistent. This gives your readers something to look forward to.
Structure: Break down the individual components of each episode. Here’s a typical structure:
- Pre-roll ad
- Teaser (“On today’s show…”)
- Intro music
- Welcome message
- Mid-roll ad
- Call to action (“Please leave a review…”)
- Outro music
- Post-roll ad
You don’t have to structure your podcast like everyone else, however. You might have a “Phone an Expert” section, or a “Favorite Tool” section. Lay out these blocks with estimated timestamps if you can.
Step 5: Create Cover Art
Your cover art is the first thing potential listeners see as they browse podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google play, Spotify, or their favorite podcast app.
Your artwork should communicate the subject and tone of the podcast. Listeners will use them to evaluate whether your podcast is worth their time. If your podcast is about Formula 1 racing, your artwork should have a race car or race track imagery.
Yes, your podcast is an extension of your business or organization, so don’t be afraid to use your logo in the cover art. Notice how Nike includes their switch logo on all of their podcast art.
If you already have a recognizable face, don’t be afraid to use it too.
It’s important to design your podcast cover art as big as possible. Make it 3000 x 3000 pixels. This way it will look great anywhere because it can always be scaled down based on whichever platform or device it’s shown.
Here are some more tips for designing quality cover art:
- Don’t use more than two fonts. Any more is distracting and messy.
- Don’t use silly, hard-to-read, or gimmicky fonts.
- Limit the number of words you use. Your artwork needs to be readable in small sizes, so don’t try to pack in a paragraph (or even a long sentence).
- Stay away from overused images like microphones or headsets unless your podcast is about podcasting.
- Make your cover artwork consistent with the rest of your branding. Use the same copy, images, fonts, and colors.
- Use high-resolution images. since your cover art will typically be displayed small, you want it to be as clear as possible.
Designing your own cover art is hard. If you don’t have creative skills, it’s best to spend a little bit of cash on a proper design. Hire a designer you trust or use a service like Podcast Designs or 99designs.
Step 6: Get Podcasting Equipment
Technically you could record a podcast with just an iPhone, but we don’t recommend it. The audio won’t be professional and clear. Fortunately, podcasting gear doesn’t cost a lot.
The Audio Technica ATR2100 ($79) is one of the most popular podcasting microphones. It has a solid depth of voice for such an affordable mic. It’s also very forgiving in imperfect environments. You can connect it with an XLR connector to plug into a mixer or a USB cable if you want to plug it straight into your computer. No additional gear necessary.
If you’re prepared to spend some money, we also recommend the Shure SM7B ($399). This microphone gives you additional depth and character of voice. It’s a forgiving, easy to use mic.
The SM7B is an XLR-only microphone, so you’ll need to use it with a preamp or interface to get the audio to your recording device (your computer). We recommend the Scarlett Focusrite 2i2.
We strongly recommend that you pick up a pop filter like the PEMOTech Microphone Mask ($9.99). A pop filter dampens the sound of your plosives – those harsh P, K, and T sounds – so they aren’t so drastic in your recording. This will give you a smoother, richer sound that doesn’t irritate your listeners.
When it comes to headphones, almost anything will do in the beginning. You might opt for a sophisticated set later, but don’t spend hundreds of dollars right away. Whatever you use to listen to music is usually fine. If you decide to buy something, pick up over-the-ear headphones like the Sony MDR 7506 ($79.99).
You can upgrade your gear over time, but that covers the basics for now.
Step 7: Create an Intro and Outro
Intros and outros are easy ways to add polish and personality to your podcast. You don’t need them, but they’ll help you compete with other podcasts who grapple for your audience’s attention.
Intros are short voice overs with background music. They generally last less than a minute. They introduce the podcast (as a whole, not the episode) and the host. Outros (sometimes called bumpers) are usually a simple “thanks for listening message” over music.
If you decide to use music in your intros and outros, it’s important not to use copyrighted music unless you pay for it. Alternatively, you can use royalty free music. Here are some resources:
If you browse those paid from sources, you’ll notice that they are fairly inexpensive, especially considering you will use them over and over. Some only cost about $10. They are definitely worth the money.
Step 8: Record Your First Episode
Now that you have everything you need to record your first podcast episode, it’s time to get down to business!
First you’ll need some recording software. It’s likely you’ll do some local recording (by yourself or with other people in the same room) or remote recording (with people who are somewhere else in the world). So you’ll want to have software on hand for both situations.
For local recordings, go with Audacity. It’s a free audio editor for PC and Mac. It’s a great tool for starters. It can be used to record live audio, cut, splice, edit, and convert files into different file formats. There are numerous effects to add to files and plenty of installable plugins. We can’t say anything bad about this software. It’s free, functional, and well established.
You have a couple options for remote recordings. Skype and Call Recorder used to the standard, but we have better tools now.
- Zencastr – This is a web-based recording tool with paid tiers and a free option. The free plan does most of what you need to start. It achieves one of the things you absolutely need in podcasting: multi-track recording. It records each person’s side of the conversation separately and syncs them together. This way you can edit them separately and produce a superb overall recording.
- Zoom – This is a free conference calling tool that’s great for conducting interviews. It’s free, but there are paid options. Zoom is great because the connection is reliable. Whereas Skype cuts in and out, Zoom always delivers a great recording, even if your connection isn’t the most stable.
To learn how to record your first audio segment, check out our video tutorial.
If you’re recording your episode alone, you can do it all on a single track. If you have a co-host or guest, you’ll want to record on multiple tracks. This will give you the most flexibility during editing.
Before you sit down to record your first episode we strongly recommend writing a script or at least putting some notes together. You don’t have to write complete, word for word essay, although some podcasters like to work that way.
If you’re recording alone, pretend you’re having a conversation. It will sound more intimate and natural to your listeners.
There is no need to stop or pause a recording as you go, even if you make mistakes along the way. You can always edit them out later. Sometimes it helps to make a verbal note in the recording so you remember to cut something out. You might just say “delete that.”
What will you talk about on your first episode? That’s entirely up to you. Think about the type of audience you want to reach and what to hear. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself since it’s your first episode.
And if you’re nervous, just remember that your recording isn’t permanent. It’s not like speaking publicly in front of an audience. If your podcast recording doesn’t go well, you can always adjusted during editing or record it again.
Oh, and if you hate the sound of your voice, you aren’t alone. Everyone does at first.
Step 9: Edit Your First Episode
Editing your podcast is when you put everything together. You splice in your intro and outro, remove gaps of dead air, cut out your mistakes, and eliminate background noises and those impossible-to-ignore pops.
There are lots of audio editing tools you could use, but again we recommend Audacity because it’s free, simple, and has all of the features you need.
Since it’s easier to show than tell you how to editor audio, we put a video together to show you the basics so you can get started podcasting.
Once you finish editing your podcast episode, save it as a .MP3 with a 128kbps bitrate and 44.1Mhz sample rate. This is the file you’ll upload to your podcast host.
You will also want to edit the ID3 tags of the file. This gives MP3 players and devices more information about the file, like the name of the artist (that’s you, the podcaster), the name of the episode, the year it was produced, etc. You don’t need to do this for podcast aggregators like Apple Podcasts or Google Play, but people who download your episodes to listen later will appreciate it.
It’s possible to hire someone to edit your podcast episodes, but we recommend learning how to use the editing software yourself. Doing your own editing is cheaper in the long run. It also gives you more control over your content.
For instance, you may adjust the pacing of an episode during editing by adding pauses, which is something a paid editor wouldn’t know unless they were intimately familiar with your content or you gave them specific instructions.
Step 10: Build a Website
Technically you don’t need to do this right away, but any lesson on how to start a podcast wouldn’t be complete unless we told you to create your own website.
Your first step is to sign up with a website hosting provider like Bluehost, 1&1, HostGator, GoDaddy, etc. Make sure you choose one that has user-friendly reviews.
We recommend building a website on WordPress. It’s cheap, easy, and you maintain complete control. You won’t have to do any custom coding if you choose the right WordPress theme. Your host should have a one-click WordPress installation button. If not, follow this guide to install WordPress and a theme.
However you build your site, make sure you can create blog-type posts. You’ll want to create a unique post for each episode to embed your podcast players and add show notes.
WP Beginner has a superb guide on creating your own WordPress website.
Step 11: Choose a Podcast Hosting Service
Now that you’ve recorded and episode, it’s time to think about where you’ll put it. Your episodes need to be hosted somewhere online so podcast directories know where to pull from.
Full disclosure: We’re a little biased here.
Castos is a podcast host. We help thousands of podcasters publish their content and make it available all over the web – on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and anywhere else that accepts an RSS link. We even help republish podcast content on YouTube.
You could also use our plugin – Seriously Simple Podcasting – for your WordPress website. This lets you manage your episodes right from your WordPress dashboard.
If you want to know how to start a podcast easily, we recommend using a simple host. There’s no need to use a tool that’s bigger – and more expensive! – than you need. Castos is perfect for new podcasters because it integrates with your WordPress site. This means embed your podcast player on a web page is remarkably simple.
Most importantly, you need a host that can provide you with an RSS URL. You’ll want this URL so people can follow your podcast. You’ll also want to submit it to podcast directories.
Step 12: Upload Your First Episode
Once you’ve chosen a podcast host, follow its steps to upload your first episode.
If you use Castos, navigate to the Episodes area of your account and click “Add New Episode.”
The episode editor will open. This is where you can enter details, like your episode title and description, and upload your audio file. Make sure to complete all the optional fields as well. These will make your give listeners on different platforms more information about your show. Lastly, choose a featured image and publish date and time.
If you use a different podcast host, you will have to find the steps to upload your podcast in their documentation.
Step 13: Embed Your First Episode
It’s smart to build a unique page on your website for each episode you publish. Give this page the same name as the episode (e.g., “Episode 021: Price Modeling and Evolution with Monetization Expert John Doe”).
Embed your podcast player code at the top of the page. Users shouldn’t have to scroll to start listening. After all, that’s probably why they came to the page.
Every time ProBlogger publishes an episode, they create a new page for their show notes and podcast player.
You’ll want to add “show notes” below the podcast player. it’s important to put written content on the page so Google and other search engines have something to read. Written content improves the SEO value of the page, making it more likely that people will find it.
Show notes can be anything you like. You could simply drop a few bullet points about the episodes main topics or write a detailed summary of the entire show. Here are some items to include in your show notes:
- Main points of the episode
- Links to outside studies, articles, or resources
- Bios or Twitter accounts of people you mentioned
- Places for listeners/readers to get more information
- Memorable quotes
Make sure to include timestamps with each note!
Alongside your notes, we recommend including a complete transcription of the episode on every page. This makes you are content accessible to people who don’t want to listen to the entire episode. It also gives search engines plenty of content to evaluate.
If you host your podcast with Castos, you can use the automated transcription service to generate a transcript of every episode you upload. If you use another podcast host, you’ll have to pay someone to transcribe each episode. There are plenty of quality transcribers on Fiverr.
Step 14: Submit Your RSS URL to Directories
We recommend waiting to complete this step until you have published at least three episodes, but we didn’t want to leave it out of this guy. No resource on how to start a podcast would be complete without this stuff.
It’s important to submit your podcast do as many podcast directories as possible. This will make your podcast accessible to everyone, no matter which platforms they prefer to use.
Fortunately, this step is easy. All you need to do is make an account with each podcast directory and submit your RSS link. You only have to do this once. Each podcast directory will update whenever you publish a new episode. (If you use Castos, finding your RSS link is super easy.)
Now that you know how to start a podcast, continue publishing episodes on a consistent basis. Use a podcast editorial calendar to keep yourself on track. Focus on producing the best product possible you can.
Once you become comfortable producing episodes, turn your attention toward promoting your podcast. Follow the strategies we explain in our full guide: How to Promote a Podcast: 2019 Ultimate Guide.