According to recent podcast statistics 52% of Americans are listening to podcasts, 22% listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, and the average listener subscribes to seven shows.
That said, podcasts are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to consume content and there’s never been a better time to start a show.
While the number of podcasts has nearly doubled in the past year, podcasting is not a crowded market – there’s still plenty of opportunity to carve out a niche and build an engaged audience.
After reading this guide, you’ll have everything you need to choose the right podcast host, brand your show, record engaging episodes, grow an active listener base, and even monetize your podcast.
The menu below shows the topics we cover. If you need help in a specific area, just click on the heading to jump directly to that section in the guide.
Building a successful podcast takes passion and commitment. Having the right motivation can propel you through the inevitable lulls and challenges.
Here are a few reasons to start a podcast:
- You want a fun hobby
- You crave new and exciting projects
- You want to make money off your podcast
- You want to build a following and engage your community
- You want to build your current brand and set yourself up as an expert in your field
- You have a passion for a subject that you want to dive deeper into
- You have a story or message that you want to share with the world
It’s important to identify what drives you, and write that down to inspire you throughout the process.
We’ll discuss effective ways to make money from podcasting later in this post, but will say now that launching and growing a successful podcast can be a lucrative endeavor. There are popular hosts making as much as six and seven figures annually from their shows!
Before launching your own show, you might try to become a guest on a few podcasts, or apply to be an assistant on an established show. This way you can learn how more seasoned podcasters run their shows which will provide you with tips and ideas for your own podcast.
Becoming a guest on other shows can help you create a fanbase before you record a single episode.
💡 Pro Tip: When first starting out, come up with a few goals for your show. This will provide you with milestones and something to work towards.
Developing Your Podcast Topic
Before you invest any money in your podcast, first invest time in planning and brainstorming. Ask yourself these questions:
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you know about?
- What can you bring to listeners that they can’t get anywhere else?
- Who is your audience? Who will be interested in your show?
The more specific you can be as you answer these questions, the better prepared you will be to find your audience and connect with them.
The best shows have one solid topic that all the episodes revolve around. Mining your own interests, passions, and expertise is a good place to start.
Once you’ve narrowed down your topic, make a list of possible subtopics you could cover in individual episodes. If you can come up with a list of at least 10 subtopics, you know you have a good topic.
Don’t be afraid to be super-specific with your topic: the more specific you can be, the less competition you’ll have for listeners and the better positioned you’ll be to monetize your podcast (if that’s your goal).
Let’s explore how to niche down on a broad topic for the best chances of success.
Narrowing Down a Broad Topic
This topic will have a large potential audience. The trouble is that someone who loves golf but hates baseball will likely avoid any episodes related to baseball. Let’s get more specific.
We’ve removed a lot of sports, so potential listeners who don’t care for contact sports won’t even bother showing up. This is good, but we can do better.
It’s a full contact sport, and there’s a lot that can be discussed about MMA. Believe it or not though, we can niche down even more to get you to your ideal listeners.
Eureka – you just struck gold!
After narrowing your topic down to a specific niche, a good test for how viable it will be is to make a list of possible episode topics.
A list of episode ideas for a UFC Fighting podcast could look something like this:
- The fighters of the UFC
- Each episode could feature a different UFC fighter and their backstory
- Training for UFC Fighting
- Equipment needed for training
- Best tips for nutrition and exercise
- How to go pro
- Best fights of the UFC
- A breakdown, or play-by-play if you will, of the most popular UFC fight events – who fought them, who won, what could have been done differently?
- Could be an opportunity to chat with the winners/losers, promoters of the fights, and even fight sponsors.
Equipment You'll Need to Launch Your Podcast
Two of the most frequently asked questions we get are “How much does it cost to start a podcast?” and “What equipment will I need to get started?”
Total cost depends on a few factors including:
- What service or company you choose as your podcast host
- The types of equipment you use
- Editing software
- Custom show art/logos
You can start a podcast for less than $200, but if you have a larger budget we can help you know where to save and where to spend.
For a basic setup, you’ll need:
- A computer
- USB or XLR microphone
- Software to record and edit your podcast
- Artwork for your podcast (logo, cover art, etc.)
- A podcast host for hosting your episode files
How to Launch a Podcast on a Tight Budget
Can you launch a show for less than $200? Assuming you already own a Mac, PC, or cell phone the answer is yes!
While buying more expensive equipment and accessories can improve sound quality, you may still need to spend a fair amount of time in the beginning on editing and working on the moving parts of your show.
To give you an idea of the breakdown in costs, here’s a cost-effective setup used by an RSS.com podcaster:
- They used their smartphone to record the audio with an app that came on their device.
- Rather than buying a microphone and headphones, they used their cell phone’s headset.
- They didn’t create a website for their podcast, but instead used the free podcasting website that came with their hosting.
You can launch a show for less, but is it worth it?
There are some important things to note with a cost-effective setup. First, you may need to spend more time editing your audio.
The sound quality from using their cell phone and headset wasn’t the greatest. From background noise to echoes, dips in sound levels to stereo issues, there was a lot of time spent adjusting the audio to sound more professional and clean.
By not having a website, they missed out on some great opportunities to build their audience and grow their following. For starters, they could have been building an email list.
Another thing you miss out on without a website? SEO opportunities that could yield new listeners, sponsors, and advertisers.
One of the smartest things a podcaster can do is create show notes and/or transcription posts on their websites for each of the episodes they release. These keyword-rich posts are an effective way to drive new visitors from search engines like Google.
📘 Related Reading: Learn how to transcribe your podcast episodes for free.
How to Start a Podcast with a Budget of $250-$500
Assuming you already own a Mac or PC computer, here’s what a startup budget of $250-$500 could look like:
- You can purchase a domain and website hosting for a year for about $50 depending on the provider you choose.
- Although hosting and a domain for the first year might be as cheap as $50, this rate can as much as double with some hosts – be sure to read the fine print!
Launching a Podcast with a Budget of $500+
If you have the funds, you could purchase a more expensive microphone for upwards of $500 to $1000. You could also purchase high-quality headphones that are in the same range.
Some podcasters spend thousands of dollars on full studio setups, boom microphone stands, soundboards, logos, custom websites, and more. The reality is it’s easy to spend a lot!
Here’s an example of what a $500-$1000 budget might look like.
- For $300 you can get a one year subscription of Adobe Audition. Pros use Adobe Audition for better sound quality, the ability to easily eliminate unwanted audio elements, and access to more features to enhance your audio.
- Until you’re in a position to pay for a website designer to develop a website from scratch, we’ll just assume you’re going to be DIYing most of this on your own.
- If you purchase a theme and paid plugins, you’re probably looking at between $100-$350 for your website costs assuming you do the work yourself.
- Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress are all popular options that offer custom templates and various features for podcasters.
- Using a service like 99Designs, or by hiring a freelancer, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1300 for a custom logo. Your logo can be used as your podcast art as long as it fits the specs of 1400X1400 px, is a square shape and is in a JPG or PNG format.
- Imagine being able to set up your new podcast and RSS feed in less time than it takes to order your favorite cup of coffee. RSS.com makes podcasting easy, and you don’t need any technical skills to launch. Get started for free today.
Keep in mind that whichever budget you choose, you can always upgrade as you get more experience.
Visualizing Your Audience
Once you have a solid list of episode possibilities, you need to spend some time thinking about who is going to listen. Much like you want a very specific niche to speak about, you want a very specific listener in mind to speak to.
Try creating a persona of your ideal listener and define things like:
- Their age
- Their interests
- Where they are most likely to live
- Their gender
- Their socioeconomic status and so more
You can even give your ideal listener a name to help you remember who you are speaking to. As you get a better understanding of who your audience will be, coming up with ideas for new episodes just gets easier.
Branding Your Podcast - From Names to Logos
Settling on a topic and understanding your audience will make developing your brand much easier.
If your show is being created for your business, it will likely be an extension of your current brand. You’ll use the same fonts, colors, and logo designs for consistent branding.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want to think about things like your podcast name, logo, colors, graphics, and typography that will tell potential listeners enough about you at a glance to spark their interest.
Think of your favorite brands. What comes to mind when you think of them?
Odds are you can picture their logo, repeat their slogan, and even tell when something is “on-brand” for them.
These are the types of things you should be thinking about to brand your podcast. What do you want your show to look and feel like? Is it friendly? Informative? Aggressive? Calming? Entertaining? Mysterious? Conversational? The answers to those questions will help you develop your brand.
How to Choose a Name for Your Podcast
For many podcasters, the first thing they want to do is decide on a name.
If your show is related to an existing brand or business, your podcast name selection could be easy. For example, suppose your business name is Coaching with Jenny. Your show could be called something as simple as The Coaching with Jenny Show.
Some podcasters choose to use their name as their company name, and subsequent podcast name. New York Times bestselling author and entrepreneur Marie Forleo is known for her YouTube show MarieTV. When she launched her podcast, she simply called it The Marie Forleo Podcast. It was an extension of her already known brand.
Then there’s fitness and health guru Chalene Johnson. Calling her show The Chalene Show made sense because it fit with her brand that was already established.
However, you don’t have to use your brand’s name, to have a “branded” show. Here are just a few examples of branded podcasts that have completely different names:
- “.future” by Microsoft
- “The Distance” by Basecamp
- “TRAINED” by Nike
- “The Sauce” by McDonald’s
- “Houston, We Have a Podcast” by NASA
If you choose not to use your first name or your business’s name, start by writing down all the keywords related to your topic. Consider what your show is about, and what would make sense to refer to it as.
The best podcast names are:
Establishing Your Online Presence
Building an online presence takes time and strategy. Two of the most effective avenues for establishing an online presence are to have a separate website for your show and a strong presence on social media.
Do you need a website for your podcast?
It isn’t necessary to launch a website for your podcast right away, but we do recommend it for a few reasons – especially if you are planning to monetize your podcast:
- You can use a website to reach new potential listeners
- It’s great for branding
- If you mention any products that you could sell (either your own products or affiliate offers) your website is the perfect place to share the links for listeners to click and buy
- You can collect email addresses for a newsletter, which can help you keep your audience informed of what’s happening with your podcast
Should you secure social media handles for your podcast?
Yes! In the event you already have branded handles and will be using a branded podcast name, you can use your current social media profiles to promote your branded show.
If you’re creating a new name from scratch, you should secure your social media handles as soon as you can so that they are ready when you are.
Try to grab a handle that is the same on every platform. If you can’t get the same handle on each platform, make sure that you include the name of your show in your username or bio.
How to Choose a Format for Your Podcast
As you are developing your podcast, one of the first things to think about is the format for your show. Some ideas include:
- Solo shows: Just you and a microphone. People who run shows on their own, even if they have guests, are responsible for everything. That is at least until they can afford to hire a team for tasks like editing, uploading the show to the host, writing show notes, etc.
- Interview series: You interviewing others
- Co-hosted shows: Two or more people working on the show together – Think “The View,” “Kelly and Ryan,” or “The Doctors.” There is not one star, but instead there are multiple people sharing the spotlight. These types of shows are great for friends that want to start a show together.
- Fiction/non-fiction: Yes, you can have a show that is complete fiction. Just make sure your audience is in the loop as to whether or not what you’re sharing is fact or fiction. It’s better to be honest about your intentions up front.
- Education series: Your show can be filled with how-to guides and lessons on your topic. Think documentary series or tutorial shows.
The format you choose could depend on a lot of things: your personality, your time restraints, your interests, how scripted or spontaneous you want the show to be, etc.
If you’re not sure which format to choose, feel it out until you find what works for you. You might record a few solo episodes and then decide you would rather do interviews. Or maybe you get tired of being alone and want some co-hosts to share the workload and air time with.
Remember, audiences like consistency, and want to know what they are showing up for. If you keep making changes, your listeners could lose interest.
How to Start a Podcast with Friends
Many podcasters develop co-hosted shows with friends or colleagues. Not only does going this route give you something fun to do with like-minded people, but it allows you to split things like the costs and workload.
Items to discuss with your potential co-hosts include:
- Who’s in charge of each task?
- Who will be responsible for the equipment? Will you each buy your own microphone and headphones or will one person own it all?
- Where will the recording setup be located? Will you record online via a platform like Zoom or does everyone need to come to one person’s house/office to record?
- Is everyone going to be listed as a host of the show? Or will there be one host with rotating guest hosts?
- What’s the plan for the costs associated with the show? (Equipment, web hosting, advertising, etc.)
- If the show starts making money – who gets paid? What’s the split?
- What happens if one of you moves or loses interest in the show?
Be as clear as you can about things like costs and division of labor right from the start to avoid disagreements in the future.
If your show becomes a huge success, you don’t want it to end abruptly, jeopardizing both your show and friendship. The more you can plan ahead, the better.
Finding Guests to Interview
If you decide you’d like to conduct interviews on your podcast, where can you find guests to talk to? The great news is that there are multiple ways to find and connect with guests including:
- Your own network of friends, family, and coworkers
- YouTubers who share the same interests and audiences
- Other podcasts whose work intersects with yours
- Bloggers who share the same interests and audiences
- Call outs on social media platforms such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
- Online podcasting groups
- Past guests on other shows
- Conferences such as Podcast Movement or Podfest
- Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – This website allows you to sign up as a publisher and post queries for experts on a wide variety of subjects.
- Other platforms like PodcastGuest.com or MatchMaker.fm
📘 Related Reading
How to Create a Podcast Editorial Calendar
Before you start recording episodes, it’s a good idea to have several weeks or even months of content planned.
Creating a podcasting editorial calendar ensures you’ll have things to talk about each week, or multiple times a week depending on how frequently you’ll be releasing new episodes.
A podcasting editorial calendar is similar to one for blogging, where you’ll keep your titles, topics, notes and release dates.
When creating your calendar, you’ll need to know ahead of time what your publishing schedule will look like. Audiences like consistency, so if you promise new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday, you’ll want to have a calendar with new episodes planned and in production ready to release Tuesday and Thursday for 3-6 months in advance.
How to choose your episode topics
To start filling out your editorial calendar, you’ll want to begin with a brainstorming session. Start thinking about all of the subtopics related to your niche. If you will be doing an interview series, write down a full list of everyone you’d like to interview.
You’ll want to start scheduling interviews and adding those dates into your calendar so you’ll have plenty of time to record and edit your shows before they go live.
We’ve created a podcast editorial calendar you can use for your own show. To get started, click the link below the calendar and make your own copy.
Outside of the editorial calendar we’ve created, there are plenty of options for creating your own editorial calendar.
You can use a paper calendar that you physically write information into, an Excel spreadsheet, even a simple Word or Google Doc will work great. The point is you want to have an overview of 3-6 months ahead of time so you can stay organized and on-track.
How to name your podcast episodes
Many episodes will inevitably name themselves. If your show is an interview series and you’ll be chatting with Dr. Smith about the health implications of smoking, your episode title could be something like “Dr. Smith Explores Why Smoking is Bad for Your Health,” or “Smoking and Your Health With Dr. Smith,” or even “A Conversation with Dr. Smith On Smoking”
The goal of each podcast episode name should be to focus on what the episode is about. For best results, you want to stick to 60 characters or less, and 12 words or less – just like a blog post title.
You want your episode titles to include your primary topic or keyword, generate curiosity, evoke emotion, provide a solution, etc. You get the idea!
Recording Your Episodes
As you start recording the first episodes of your podcast, you’ll want to consider things like sound quality and time spent editing and importing. If you record with an application such as Zoom or a video camera, you will have to extract the audio. You can also use a smartphone application or one on your computer to record as you talk.
Recording your audio directly in Garageband or Audacity will likely yield the best sound quality and cut down on importing and editing time.
10 Tips for getting the best podcast audio quality
- Listening to yourself while you record can help you hear if any adjustments need to be made to dampen ambient noise or adjust your vocal levels. You can also evaluate your audio quality by recording, listening, and adjusting as needed.
- A pop filter can help you lessen those pops.
- Some podcasters get so nervous they speed through their shows and are hard to understand as a result.
- To avoid unwanted noises, use a boom mic stand (also called a boom arm) to help reduce shock noise and keep the microphone out of your way as you talk.
Be mindful of the language your use in your show
While you are recording an episode, it’s important to be mindful of your language. Why?
According to this post on Spotify, the language you use and how positive you are, directly impacts the amount of engagement a podcast receives.
In their study, Spotify analyzed vocabulary, distinctive character, mood, and syntax, and how they influenced the number of listeners a show has.
What the researchers at Spotify found is that the language you use in your podcast is one of the most crucial things a podcaster should focus on when developing their show’s style and personality.
High engagement episodes tend to have longer descriptions, use diverse vocabularies, have a positive outlook, are conversational, include personal narratives, and have less swearing.
Intro and outro music
Using intro and outro music can make your podcast feel more professional, and if you use custom music, it can help you brand your show as well.
For example, an intro announcing your show name and the name of the host can help your audience in becoming familiar with who you are. And it signals to them that this is the beginning of the episode.
An outro signals to the audience the show is coming to a close. It provides an auditory clue that either another track is about to come on, or that they can turn off their music player. An outro is also the perfect place to include a call to action, replug your show name, and mention your website or social media handles.
Where can you get music for your podcast?
While you can certainly look for royalty-free music, it’s important to note that some “royalty-free” music requires paying a licensing fee that may only cover a specific number of downloads. If your show goes viral and hits a million or more downloads, you might have to pay more for the right licensing.
Podcast Intro Music Example
The Bloggy Friends Show Intro Music:
Editing Your Show
What is the best podcast editing software?
Audio editing tutorials
Here are some of the best tutorials we found for each of the software options we mentioned above:
- Studio One
- Music Maker
- Power Sound Editor
- Adobe Audition
- Hindenburg Journalist
How to Launch Your First Podcast Episode
Step 3. Once you confirm your email address, you’ll be redirected back to RSS.com. Click “New Podcast” and enter your podcast’s details including your show’s title, description, and RSS feed address.
Click “Next” and add your author details, podcast art, and categories.
Step 4. Click the “New Episode” button and enter your episode’s title, and description. You can also choose the season number if applicable, and add an episode number.
Step 5. Next, you’ll choose what date to publish the episode (you can choose to publish immediately or to schedule for a time and date in the future), add any relevant keywords, and upload your podcast audio file. Then, click “Publish.”
How to Find Your Podcast's RSS Feed
On your RSS.com dashboard, you’ll see a button that says “RSS Feed.” Simply click that button to copy your RSS feed – easy right?
Below is a quick video that walks you through each step in creating an RSS feed for your podcast.
💡 Pro Tip: You’ll need at least one episode before you can submit your show to most podcast directories.
Submitting Your Podcast to Directories
Submitting your show to the major podcast directories is the most effective way to get in front of millions of potential listeners.
Here are step-by-step guides to help you submit your show to the most popular directories:
A Website for Your Podcast
We highly recommend creating a website for your podcast. Many podcast hosts have WordPlugins that automatically publish new episodes to your website. Both Wix and Squarespace also have templates and features created specifically for podcasters.
Having a dedicated website for your show allows you to create new pages or posts for each episode. On your episode pages, you can include:
- Show notes / transcripts
- Embeddable player so visitors can listen to the episode
- Embedded video of your show assuming you filmed your episode
- Any relevant external or affiliate links
- Option to subscribe to your newsletter / email list
✔️ Why show notes are a good idea
Show notes or written posts dedicated to each of your episodes should include the main episode highlights, affiliate and product links, sponsor shout-outs, relevant links to your podcast guests, and more.
Having show notes on your website allows your listeners to comment (assuming you have comments enabled) on individual episodes and can be an invaluable source of feedback.
If you decide to sell anything, show notes pages increase your “know, like and trust factor” that might make listeners more likely to buy the products and services you recommend.
SEO tips for your episode titles and show notes
Your podcast titles should include relevant keywords to increase visibility in Google. But there’s more to SEO than a good title. Additional SEO tips include:
- Mention your target keywords a few times throughout your show so they are present in transcripts and highlights
- Break up your show notes with images that are optimized – add alt text and keywords to your image names
- Create pinnable images to easily add posts to relevant Pinterest boards
- If you have videos associated with your show notes, embed them into your post
- Add a summary to the top of your show notes that includes an overview of the episode, and include your relevant keywords there too
- Add relevant keywords and a call-to-action to the meta description of your episode pages.
Monetizing Your Podcast
Many people who start a podcast do so to make money. If you create a monetization plan from the outset, you could start earn money almost immediately. As your listenership grows, you can adjust your plan to increase the ways to make money.
Ways to monetize your show include:
- Selling products and/or services – You would sell these offerings either as an affiliate or developing something for yourself or your business. For example, if you sell photography services, you could mention your business in every episode and share how people can hire you to take pictures and buy prints. Many podcast hosts sell merchandise – t-shirts, tote bags, pins, prints, etc.
- Advertising – This is usually in the form of an ad placed somewhere in the show. These can be as short as 15 seconds or as long as a minute. It’s up to you how you handle advertising, but keep in touch with your listeners to make sure you aren’t using too many ads per episode. The last thing you want is for your audience to abandon ship because they’re tired of hearing ads.
- Sponsorships – Some podcasters have worked out deals to get a large brand to sponsor an episode, a season, or even their entire show. You can begin your show with a statement about the show being brought to listeners by the brand, and include sponsor information on your show notes pages.
- Crowdfunding – It’s become commonplace to set up a GoFundMe or Kickstarter account to get the “seed money” to launch a show. While it may take a significant amount of work in promoting your crowdfunding campaign, it can be a great way to start your show in the black.
- Membership model – By using Patreon for Podcasters, show creators can charge a monthly fee that allows their fans to contribute to the production of the show. Listeners can pay varying amounts to have early access to shows, private Q and A sessions with hosts, extra content, and more.
- Charging guest fees – This is probably not a good business model if your show is brand new, but for shows that are known to get millions of downloads, some hosts are now charging guests for the chance to appear on their program.
Marketing Your Podcast
Marketing your podcast is essential to growing your listener base. Even before you launch your show, you need to be thinking about promoting your show.
Before you launch ...
Before the first episode goes live, secure your website’s domain and social media handles. Start putting out teasers on social by creating graphics announcing the release date, and the name of the show.
If you already have a fanbase, hopefully this will yield your first listeners. If not, we recommend trying to get on as many podcasts as a guest as you possibly can before your first show goes live. Direct these listeners to your website and an email signup page to get notified when the first episode launches.
It may also be beneficial to start blogging and vlogging about your experience preparing for launch. Start a narrative with your audience detailing who you’re interviewing, equipment you’re buying, and even your recording setup.
We’ve seen some podcasters create countdown posts on their website and social media profiles that work to generate buzz.
Once your first episode is live ...
Share it everywhere! Post it on social media, on your website, to your email list, etc … write a blog post about it announcing that it’s live and what you plan for the future of your show. This can either be combined with your first episode’s show notes, or can be a separate post.
Write a press release and send it to your local media outlets. Who knows? It could get you on radio stations and local news.
Create Audiograms with quotes from your episode. Develop mini videos with images and sound bytes to share on social media.
Ask people to share that first episode and subscribe. If you haven’t already made it onto the various podcasting directories, continue applying and registering your show.
After a few episodes drop ...
Keep the buzz going. Continue trying to become a guest on other people’s shows to grow your audience. Write guest posts for blogs, Medium.com, and news outlets to promote your brand and show. Keep growing your email list and sharing on social media.
As you hit milestones, announce it to everyone. For example, “We just hit 10 episodes!” or “We’re celebrating 2,000 downloads.”
Ask your listeners for reviews, and when they come in – share them! Post them to your website. Create graphics of them and share them on social media. Ask people to write reviews.
With every episode you release, make sure that you are asking your listeners to check out your website, join your email list, and to follow you on social.
Once you hit 10 or 20 episodes, release a post on your blog such as “10 Lessons Learned From Releasing 10 Episodes,” or “5 Truths Revealed From Our First Guests.”
Add your podcast link to your email signature too.
Have you secured a really prominent guest? Send out a press release announcing the show and why it’s such a big deal.
Host an event celebrating the one year anniversary of your show. Or host meet and greets with fans. These can be digital or in person.
Keep releasing episodes. The more quality content you release, the more opportunities you have to get found. Basically, never stop promoting. Get on shows, invite guests to be on your show, and keep telling the world about what you’re up to.
🎁 That's a Wrap
We hope you have found this guide useful and that you are feeling inspired and motivated.
We wish you the best of luck with your show. Happy podcasting!