You’ve got topics. You’ve got themes. You’ve got ideas. You’ve got an itch to share your message. And starting a podcast is a great way to do just that.
However, you shouldn’t simply dive into podcasting without thinking about a few important things ahead of time. After all, even if it will be only a hobby for you at first, odds are you want your show to have the best chance of being successful.
A little planning before you launch can be the difference between a show that has no listeners and one that is on track to have a rabid fanbase. Now let’s get down to the details of what you need to know before you start your podcast.
We made an infographic that covers all seven steps - to view it, just click the graphic below.
1. Know Your Audience, Define Your Niche
What is your topic?
The first thing everyone is going to ask when you start promoting your podcast is, “What is it about?” You need to be crystal clear on this answer if you hope to grow a loyal fan base.
You’ll want to choose a topic that you already have some knowledge of and/or interest in. Then ask yourself, what unique insight do you have to offer about it? Before you jump into recording a single episode, understand exactly what your focus is.
Another important question to ask yourself is, is this a topic that you’ll be able to produce enough content on? Some topics may seem exciting at first, but when you start considering what episodes you could create around them you may realize they don’t have enough substance to them.
Finally, can you narrow your topic down? It’s important to niche down to something specific, rather than keeping it broad. For example, talking about parenting is fine, but it may be too broad to capture — and keep — an audience.
Niche down to something more specific to create the most loyal fanbase. When you niche down your listeners will feel as though you’re talking directly to them. They don’t say “the riches are in the niches” for nothing. Put another way, the more specific your niche, the easier it will be to create episodes that are perfect for your ideal listener.
For example, instead of using the broad topic of parenting, niches for this subject could be: parenting children with special needs, parenting without yelling, parenting abroad, managing your own passions while parenting … you get the idea.
Take a moment to think about your topic now. Is it broad, or is it specific? To help determine whether or not it’s too broad, grab a pad of paper or open a word processing document and start jotting down a list of subtopics related to your current subject.
If in doing so you see that there are far too many subtopics coming to mind, it may be a sign that you need to get even more specific with the main topic your podcast will be about. On the other hand, if you can’t come up with any additional subtopic ideas, you may need a subject that is slightly broader.
Get clear on your ideal listener
Who are you talking to? Why? Just like a business owner wants to determine their ideal customer, you need to figure out who that one perfect person is that you want to share your message with.
When you consider one perfect person instead of a group of people, it simplifies the process of catering content to them that they would want to listen to. Things to ask yourself as you create your ideal listener persona are:
- Is this listener male or female?
- What age group do they fall into?
- Are they self-employed, an employee, unemployed, etc…?
- What’s their social life like?
- What are their hopes, dreams, and challenges?
- What would they want to know about the topic of your podcast?
The more specific you can get here, the better because the answers to these questions could turn into your material for your first several episodes. Which brings us to the next section …
2. Create Episode Subjects
Niche - Parenting abroad
- Schooling while living abroad
- Spotlight on different countries – could make for a multi-episode interview series
- Learning more than one language
- Dual citizenships for parents and their children
- Becoming an expat
- Medical care abroad
- Visas and passports
A great place to start when thinking about your episode subjects is looking at books and blogs on the topic. Specifically, look at the table of contents in books on your subject. They are great for inspiration.
3. Pick Your Format and Hosting Style
There are several formats a podcast can have. Your format might be educational, storytelling (nonfiction or fiction), conversational, or interviews. You can host your podcast yourself, or you can have multiple hosts as well.
Podcasting with friends
A trend we’re seeing these days in the world of podcasting is that people are creating shows with a friend or even a group of friends. What’s great about starting a podcast with friends is not only can you split the startup costs, but it can add a lot of variety to your show too.
Having multiple personalities that are hosting can add interest and pull in a wide range of listeners. It’s why shows like The View are so popular. Audience members all have their favorite host, and each one brings something different to the table.
Perhaps you have a friend, family member, or even a work colleague that you have a lot in common with. Starting a podcast could be a fabulous way to explore your interests together, and potentially even make some money along the way.
If you choose to start a podcast with friends, here a few things to consider:
- Who will be listed as the show hosts? You could list multiple hosts, or just one “main” host.
- What happens if one of you loses interest? Will you put the show on pause or will you have a rotating guest host?
- Have a plan in place for how you will handle the finances. Include everything from how you will divide the costs to how you will split the profits. If your show starts making money, you’ll be glad you thought of this ahead of time.
- Consider what happens if one of you moves, or you just want to produce the show from your own homes. For this, you’ll need additional equipment and software to record your episodes remotely.
- Who will be in charge of what? One can edit and one can promote, for example. Think about all the tasks involved with producing a podcast, and agree on a plan for how you will divide the work.
Podcasting alone - just you and the mic
You don’t have to have anyone else on your show to be successful. Your show can be just you sitting in front of a mic telling a story, or teaching your audience something new.
To host a podcast by yourself, the work will all fall on your shoulders in the beginning. That is unless you have a company backing your show from the outset. You’ll need to come up with all the show ideas, create the content, and then market them.
This format is wonderful for podcasters who want to dip their toes into the world of podcasting before jumping in with both feet. Then again, fiction and nonfiction storytellers alike can produce dozens of episodes by themselves and grow a rabid fanbase.
If you decide to use the interview format, think about who you can interview, and create a list of people to reach out to.
If you want to do an interview-style podcast, make an interview wish list. Think of all the people who might have something to say on your topic, and start compiling their contact information.
By the way, go big with your interview wish list! You never know who will say yes to you, and the bigger the guest the larger the potential audience you’ll have to promote your show to.
Pro Tip: Four great places to start looking for guests are other podcasts, blogs, YouTube, and HARO.
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out, and podcast hosts can sign up as a journalist on the platform to seek out guests for their upcoming shows. This is still a largely untapped source podcasters that isn’t yet saturated with hosts, so it could be a wonderful place to find experts to interview.
Network with other podcasters, bloggers and vloggers to hone in on who the best guests would be for your show. One thing you can do while networking is an attempt to become a guest on other people’s shows. Not only will this help you stay on the radar of other podcast hosts for those moments you’re looking for potential guests, but it’s also a great way to promote your own show.
Consider what subjects they can talk about, and begin designing your show around those subjects. Once you’re up and running, begin contacting and scheduling your interviewees.
A few things to consider if you will be doing a lot of interviews:
- First, you’ll need to make sure you have a podcast guest release form (download one for free here) for every guest that will appear on your show. This document will protect you from things like copyright claims, edit and payment demands, potential lawsuits and more.
- In the beginning, you can probably get away with using a template online, but as your show grows it may be a good idea to consult with an attorney for this and all legal forms related to your podcast.
- Schedule interviews well before you plan to launch. It’s no secret that people are busy, and you don’t want to find yourself scrambling to find a guest at the last minute so you can keep up with your posting calendar.
- Have a launch date in mind when you start interviewing guests. This doesn’t have to be a firm date, but guests like to know an approximate date as to when their episode will be live.
- Batch several interviews at a time so you’ll have plenty of content even if someone backs out or has to reschedule. Besides, when you batch interviews, all your equipment will already be set up giving you the ability to get more done in less time.
- If you can have your guests market your show, it will help you grow your audience faster. Therefore, ask your guests if they will help you promote once their episode is live. Most people are willing to do so, but it helps to put the ask out there ahead of time anyway to keep it top of mind. Then, once the show is live, be sure to give them the tools to make promotion easy.
- If you’re completely new to the interview game, you may also want to practice with friends and family before interviewing a guest for your show. While your first shows may still be cringeworthy, practicing as much as you can prior to recording the real thing never hurt anyone. Even seasoned actors do dress rehearsals and dry runs.
4. Get the Right Equipment
Sound quality is critical in a good podcast. If people hear too much background noise or if your voice isn’t crystal clear, they’ll navigate away.
There are far too many podcast fish in the sea. You need to make sure you make it easy for people to listen. While you technically can record a podcast with your computer’s built-in microphone, you’ll get better sound from a high-quality microphone and headphone set.
Additional podcast equipment you may want to consider includes, but isn’t limited to:
- A computer
- Pop filter
- Boom stand/microphone stand
Don’t forget to purchase podcast hosting as well. Believe it or not, to get your podcast episodes on iTunes, Google Podcasts, and other outlets, you’ll need a host for your episodes.
5. Get Recording Software
There are many free and paid options for recording and editing software. Your computer may already have Record It, or if you have a Mac,you have iMovie or GarageBand.
Alitu is also a great option as it takes care the processing, branding, publishing, and editing for you.
Tips for Recording and Editing Your Episodes
- Practice makes perfect
Before your first interview or recording session, you’ll want to practice with your recording and editing software. Look for tutorials online and learn everything you can about how it works. Then, record practice episodes both alone and with friends or family.
Remember, these practice sessions don’t have to see the light of day. Although it could make for some fun bloopers if you ever want to create an episode like that for your fans. The goal is to get comfortable with speaking and recording, as well as editing. That way when you’re ready for the real thing, it won’t feel as scary.
- Choose a sound-friendly recording location
While it’s true that you can clean up your sound in the editing phase, finding a sound-friendly location for recording is better for audio quality. Let’s face it though, odds are unless you have a big budget or a company backing your show, you won’t have a soundproof podcasting studio for recording your first episodes.
Choose the quietest place in your home or office to record your episodes. Some podcasters choose to record in their closets, others under blankets, and others still just try to use a place with minimal background noise and echoes.
- Take your time
Becoming a good podcast host is a marathon, not a sprint. At first, recording and editing may take you a while, and that’s okay. You can worry about speed later. In the beginning, you should focus more on getting it right. Quality over quantity as they say.
As time goes on and you get familiar with your tools and the act of recording and editing, it will get easier and faster to produce episodes. In fact, at some point, you may even be able to hire help to scale your podcast. But, don’t feel like you have to rush to get to the big leagues.
- Accept that there will be hiccups
If you go into this knowing that it won’t be smooth in the beginning, you’ll be less likely to get frustrated when things inevitably go awry. It’s important to know that even the most seasoned podcasters have trouble from time to time.
Episodes accidentally get deleted, guests bail without warning, entire episodes are recorded with the microphone off – it all happens, and it’s completely normal. When things go wrong, you have two choices – 1. Give up, or 2. Dust yourself off and try again. We sincerely hope you’ll always choose the latter.
Intros, Outros, and a Name
Oh my! While we’re discussing recording, now’s a good time to mention that you should also start thinking about your intro and outro, as well as your podcast’s name.
An intro is usually a 15 to 30-second audio byte introducing/opening your show. A typical intro will include music and mention the name of the show as well as who the host is. Some hosts choose to use the same intro for every episode, whereas others will change them up by season or even use a new intro with each episode they produce.
The outro is the show’s wrap-up and indicates to the listener the show is ending. In this segment, you can add a call-to-action, mention your show’s social media handles, or include a website where listeners can learn more about you.
If you’ll have music in the intro and/or outro segments, you’ll need to find royalty-free music, or create some original pieces. If you’re not using original music, do your homework about the music you’re choosing before adding it to your podcast.
It’s important to make sure that whatever music you use is not copyright protected to avoid lawsuits, fines, and having your entire podcast shut down.
What’s in a name?
You might be wondering why you need to think about your name now. As you begin promoting your show and seeking potential guests, not only will they ask you what it’s about, they’ll want to know what it’s called. It’s also a good idea to start building brand awareness as you prepare to launch so that people will already be familiar with it when it comes time to go live.
Having a name in place sooner rather than later will help you with other branding decisions you’ll need to make soon as well. For example, you’ll need the name to include in your intro and outro, to purchase website name or develop a podcast page on your current website, and to snag social media handles.
We cover how to choose a name for your podcast more in-depth here, but a few tips you may want to keep in mind when thinking about your name are:
- Unless your show is based on a geographic location, you might not want to include cities, states, or countries in the name
- Use caution when naming it based on current trends or it might feel obsolete when the trend fades
- Don’t rush to make your name choice, but don’t take too long either
- Podcast names should be easier to remember
- Finally, just because you choose a name doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it forever. You can always create a completely new show under another name later if you really want to.
6. How to Turn Your Recording into a Podcast
Once you’ve recorded your show, find a host that can store your audio and make it available to your listeners. Your podcast hosting service will walk you through the process, and you can then place your audio files on their website and/or on your own website.
Submit your podcast to directories, like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and TuneIn, so you can be found and listened to. Don’t forget to use your own webpage to list the URL.
Before you officially launch, there are a few more things you’ll need
It’s probably getting exciting now, but you’re still not quite ready to share all of your episodes with the world. Before you can launch, you’ll need:
- Graphics for your show: Podcast cover art as well as social media images for Facebook, Twitter and any other social platforms you choose to promote on
- A description of your show: It should be short and sweet, and tell your listeners exactly what your niche is. You’ll use this description when sharing your podcast on all platforms such as iTunes and Google Play.
- A podcasting schedule: Consistency is key to growing a fan base. How frequently will you release your episodes? Will you upload them weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc? Or are you planning on creating seasons and releasing them all at once for people to binge like Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming services do?
- A marketing plan: How will you promote your show? If you have some ideas in place prior to launch, you’ll be that much further ahead of the game once your podcast is live.
7. Manage Your Transcripts
You’ve recorded and edited your podcast episodes. By now you may have already loaded a few episodes to your media host and shared on iTunes. Next, to make your podcast more accessible and interactive, add your transcripts and show highlights to a dedicated website or page on your existing website for your podcast.
Sharing the transcripts and/or show notes helps with SEO, encourages people to share, gives your audience a place to comment, and is also a good place to provide any links to anything you talked about in your show. It’s also a great space to share any affiliate or partner links to products you may have mentioned in your episodes so that your show can start making money even with a small audience.
You want to always keep your audience in mind, and consider how you can make the listening and interacting experience valuable to them. Show notes and transcripts are a great way to give more value to your listeners, and get feedback from them as well.
From here, your next steps are to keep learning and working on developing and growing your podcast. Record and load more episodes, promote them, schedule more interviews, record and promote as much as you can.
Remember that the more effort you put into your show, the more you will get out of it. Your show has the potential to be a raging success, and RSS Podcasting will be here to help you along the way.
7 Steps to Starting a Podcast Infographic
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