Podcasting is a great tool to get your message to millions of people. Because I’ve done well in the podcasting space, I’m asked frequently by listeners and clients how to start a podcast. With all the sophisticated easy-to-use web tools surrounding us today, you may think there’s a single platform that does it all, but it’s a bit more complicated than you might think.
First, let me share some background on my two podcasts. My podcast began out of my spare bedroom in June of 2016, quickly hitting iTunes New & Noteworthy list and in 2019 it became one of the top %1 of podcasts in the iHeart Radio app’s entire 250,000 podcast catalog. The whole idea was to feed myself business in the emerging tech PR communications space. I had no idea how far it would go.
I’ve had the great honor of interviewing Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks; Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy; Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com, Presidential candidates including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and Andrew Yang, plus a giant list of others.
How To Start A Podcast.
Instead of replying directly to a listener’s questions about how to start a podcast, I asked her permission to share our Q&A publicly, so everyone could benefit from her questions. She agreed, sending me 11 questions.
(Thank you, Keerthana for these thought-provoking questions on how to start a podcast.)
Q1. Is it possible to start a podcast using only a phone?
The short answer to this is yes. Yes, it’s possible to start a podcast using only a phone. Tools like Anchor combine common podcasting steps into one slick easy-to-use mobile app. These tools suffer, however, when you want to use professional microphones or customize your podcasts in ways that the app doesn’t allow. Because a professional sounding podcast grows your audience, Anchor might not be the best fit, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great way to start out. Go back and listen to my earlier interviews and you’ll agree it’s quite terrible.
Q2. Is there any particular app that I need to use to make a podcast?
Anchor is only one app and one solution. If you want more flexibility to use your own tools, you will need a podcast host. In the same way a website needs a host or server, podcasts do as well, and this is the critical first step on how to start a podcast.
Many assume podcasters simply record a file and upload to Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Google Podcasts, but that’s not how it works. Those entities are platform creators and require you to submit an RSS feed that contains your audio.
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Q3. How much do podcast creation apps cost?
While there are tools/services that offer free plans and limited functionality, “pro” hosting plans can cost around $16 per month as long as you use the service. Keep in mind, there are other costs associated with producing your podcast, making it sound professional.
I use Adobe Audition to put my podcasts together, make an intro and outro. Although I don’t generally edit podcasts outside of coughing or odd sounds, I do edit at guest request as well.
Q4. What preparation goes in before interviewing a podcast guest?
A more prepared interviewer makes a better podcast, especially if you’re interviewing higher-profile people. High profile people tend to get the same questions all the time. Even professional journalists fail to do the work researching because they believe they’re too busy—don’t make this mistake. Your guest’s network can bring in a substantial amount of new listeners, but only if they feel you ask great questions.
If they have a book, read or skim it and make notes. Think of intriguing questions they haven’t been asked yet. Do web searches on them and their past accomplishments. Truly try to connect them to your audience. One of the easiest methods is to ask them “what are 5 fascinating things most people don’t know about you.”
Q5. Can I start a podcast while having a full-time job?
Absolutely! You can start a podcast while holding down a full-time job. Obviously, you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t conflict with your job or subjects you to unnecessary criticism or exposure. A podcast about your bizarre workplace, for example, might be really funny but if it’s discovered by employees in your company, that could end your job.
As far as time, a podcast can certainly be a hobby. Many guests have no problem with conducting interviews later in the day or after work hours, after all, that’s when a lot of news and radio people do interviews anyway. Just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew because a podcast can easily take over your life. Start out simple, and keep it simple until you’re confident you can take more on.
Q6. How do I market my podcast to gain more visibility?
This is the #1 question every podcaster wants to know about how to start a podcast. Certainly, someone could write a book on how to market your podcast. There are a few tricks however that can help you right out of the gate.
Although we can’t know for sure how podcast tools filter results, many podcasting services like iTunes feature certain podcasts, and if you can get on one of those lists, more listeners find you. The rumored way to get on iTunes New & Noteworthy list, for example, is simply to get more listens in a shorter amount of time. There’s a funny trick here.
Instead of launching one podcast on launch day, smart podcasters launch five, or an entire “season” at once. More podcasts episodes translate into more listens. Consider one person listening to one podcast is one total listen. But one listener listening to five podcasts is five listens. Higher numbers increase your likelihood of hitting coveted lists. This strategy worked for me.
The other trick is to post on social media often, making sure each unique podcast has a unique web page that people can actually find online. Make sure guests have the proper link to promote their own interview, and it’s ok to send them links to your own social posts promoting the interview.
Creating a web page for each podcast is vital. Not only can people find your webpage and interview when doing a web search for your guest, but it gives one unified location for guests to share the interview. Here’s why this is key.
Why do I need to create a unique web page to share my podcasts?
If you don’t have a webpage you will have a hard time sharing your podcast on social media like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn because the only links you will have to share will be individual podcasting tools. That can kill your reach and growth.
If you share an Apple Podcast link, Android users can’t listen to it and vice versa. If you share a Stitcher or Google Podcast link, Apple users likely can’t listen. It’s for this reason every episode needs its own web page. Ideally, one that has great photos of your guest or topic. (Great photos MATTER)
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Q7. Once I start a podcast should the frequency of posting be the same?
It’s generally recommended to keep a set schedule of posting your podcast. For one, it keeps your listener numbers up, which in turn attracts new listeners. But also, why wouldn’t you want to give subscribers what they want? People have patterns, so fit the pattern.
For the first several years, I maintained a good clip of one per week. Today, I only update my Cultcast when great opportunities present themselves. Would I see more listeners if I posted more regularly, sure. Would my listeners like it if I posted more often, maybe? But as I’ve produced more content elsewhere, I have decreased my posting frequency and focused on other goals.
All that being said, it depends on what your goals are. If you are simply using a podcast to document great interviews, like me, post whenever the heck you want to!
Q8. If the podcast guest being interviewed does not open up, any specific tips to make them open up?
A critical component of how to start a podcast is to understand your guest’s performance depends on your comfort level and your preparedness to some degree. If you have prepared and done your homework on your guest, they are more likely to open up and provide great answers to your questions. If questions are odd, or they don’t know how to answer them, they may shut down, making it even harder on you.
Not every guest is a good one, however. Some people just suck at being interviewed. Here are 3 methods to do your best.
Offer A Kill Switch
One method I use on my Cultcast to help guests open up is a kill switch. I give them the option of not publishing the audio if they don’t like how it turns out. I tell many up front if they don’t like the interview, I’ll delete it. No questions asked.
It’s rare that anyone has asked for this, but it has happened a few times. There are several guests that I interviewed and prepped for, and they bombed, or they didn’t answer my questions. Some have even lied about their experience and crumpled when I pressed them.
Another guest was nervous about an upcoming meeting and choked during the entire interview. For this person, I offered to redo the podcast. They agreed and it was an incredible interview.
I want my guests to feel like heroes and have a great time. Obviously, if they have a great time, they are also more likely to promote it.
Give Them A Heads Up
Another easy way to make sure guests open up is to give them an idea of which questions you will be asking ahead of time so they can think about answers. Oddly, having people more prepared for their conversation with you makes it sound more natural.
Keep in mind, you really don’t want your podcast to be a natural conversation. In a natural conversation, there is lots of silence and some small talk that may not be interesting. On a podcast this sounds awkward, so it’s important to keep things moving. You can do this by helping them plan for their interview as well.
Talk TO Your Listeners
One more thing on this, it’s important to make your listener more comfortable too. Imagine they are on the interview too, and make references to them occasionally. Instead of “listeners” you can address them as “you” “y’all” or “every one joining us” for interviews. If you’re monologuing, address them as “you.” Assume they are sitting on the other side of your desk and talk to them.
Q9. Should my podcast be specific to a target audience?
Yes. When considering how to start a podcast, your podcast should be for a specific target audience. In fact, the more niche you make your podcast, the larger your audience may grow. Some people worry that because their idea for a podcast is currently not represented, that must mean there is no need, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I tell people often, the likelihood your podcast idea is so unique no one else would be interested, is unlikely. Although you are unique as a person, your ideas aren’t as unique as you believe. There are likely 5,000 people or more that are ready for your unique niche no matter how bizarre it is.
Podcasts focused solely on car tires, urban home gardening, loneliness or social awkwardness probably have massive untapped potential listeners. Go try it out! Heck, please start Socially Awkard with Jane Doe, if it’s good maybe I’ll link to it here.
Q10. Do I need to be in the same room as the person being interviewed or can I record a phone conversation and publish a podcast.
Your podcast guests don’t have to be in the same room. Many of my guests have been on the other side of the world. For in studio-guests you will need a quiet room, and ideally two microphones. For guests at a distance, however, I recommend Skype. Skype is free and it can call landlines and cell phones if needed.
While Skype can record calls for you, making it fairly easy, the call quality is terrible. Recording higher quality, at least on your end, can be tricky. In my case it required the use of software called LineIn to control my audio source, and more software called Soundflower to split up applications as separate audio sources. It was a nightmare to set up especially if you want all your audio in separate tracks. (Separate tracks are NOT WORTH IT, Trust me. Pro radio stations don’t even do this.)
The technical side of how to start a podcast is the most irritating, but don’t worry it’s also the most written about. The web is littered with tips on how to set up your podcasting equipment. So, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail as most setups are driven around personal preference and which OS you use.
Today, I just rent a studio that can record 4 microphones, a phone line, and Skype all into Adobe Audition.
Q11. Are there any free podcast editing apps?
Outside of Anchor, I don’t know of any, but that’s where you come in. If you are aware of any great podcasting tools, please let me know by tweeting to me at @JustinBrady You can also hit the menu button at the bottom of your screen, then “contact” to message my phone directly. (Yes, it really works)
Read my Twitter Podcast tidbits.
I wrote a Twitter thread on some surprising lessons I’ve learned over the course of my podcast. Read the full thread here >
— Justin Brady (@JustinBrady) March 10, 2020
Last Things To Know On How To Start A Podcast
Outside of these tips, it’s vital for your podcast’s ultimate success, to have fun and have a genuine interest in what you do, and make sure it’s entertaining. This isn’t just happy pixie dust fodder, having fun is important because it translates to your guests and listeners.
People want information, but they also want to have fun. You need both. Make sure to constantly refine your podcast by listening to your own shows, critiquing them, asking others for critiques as well.
Do not hold back your personality and true self. People can smell fake a mile away. Be yourself. Remember, you can always delete the podcast if you sound like a moron.
I realize I’ve only scratched the surface, so please reach out if you have more questions, or as experience problems creating your own podcast. I’d even love to be your first guest. (and watch the “ummmm” and “uhhhhh” words, ok?)