How to Start a Podcast
Recently, I was guest on a podcast called Mess to Success, hosted by the awesome JordanKCreative.
One of the questions Jordan asked Nic (my co-host on Wtf is happening) and I was: “What tips do you have for somebody who wants to start a podcast?”
It’s a question I get a lot. “How do I start?” “Where do I start?” “Is it expensive?” “Is it difficult to edit?”
My answer is always the same, but no one ever believes me: It’s extremely easy to start a podcast.
So here’s the proof on just how easy it is.
Planned or Unplanned
Now, in my opinion, there are two main (and broad) types of podcasts. Those that have planned episodes, and those that don’t. As somebody who has a podcast in each category, I feel like I can nominate myself as an authority on this topic. 😉
Whether you fall in to the planned or unplanned category is more than likely dependant on what your podcast is actually about. If you’re here reading this, you probably already have a bit of an idea on what you want to talk about. My advice, cliche as it is, is make it something that you’re passionate about.
Podcasting can be a lot of work, and it’s almost always a lot of time, so if you’re not genuinely enthusiastic about your topic, you’re likely to run out of the will to podcast before you make any real headway with your audience.
Now, using my own podcasts as examples, here is the (very simple) difference between a planned and unplanned podcast:
- An unplanned podcast is one where, while the host/s will go in knowing what they’re going to talk about that day, it’s unscripted and largely happening on the fly. There’s probably no outline, and likely no research done. WTF Is Happening is an unplanned podcast. Nic and I take note of pop culture news and events that happened during the week. Literally just on our phone – a recent example of a note I took is just “Rust set”. Then we sit down to record and discuss our opinions on those things. The above “Rust set” note prompted a ten minute discussion on the dangers of filming on location, and how film crew members are taken care of on set. Because the both of us have pre-existing knowledge on pop culture, we always have something to say. If the topic is complex, the person who brings the topic will also always be able to explain it to some degree.
- A planned podcast is one where the host/s have either got a set script or more detailed notes, and/or something that has to be researched. This doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about: for example, I have a degree in International Relations. I know the theory, and I know what I’m talking about. I could easily pick a topic. However, I would almost always have to read up on said topic, to make sure I’m being appropriately detailed and informative. Harness Creation: The Podcast is a planned podcast. I have one single topic for an episode, and I have to plan what I’m going to say. Usually, I write the blog post out first, because then it’s all already organised in a concise way. With the knowledge I have on a topic, I can plan something out pretty much down to the last word. Most hosts won’t write a full script, but I have a tendency to babble. I don’t usually have to do research, but that’s not always the case.
Most types of podcasts are going to fall into the planned category. Unless you’re an expert in your topic – and you can make your podcast structured and concise on the fly – then, in order for your podcast to be informative, it will be planned.
The First Episode
Your first episode is going to be the hardest! It’s when there’s the most to consider, when you have to make the most decisions, and when you’re the most unsure.
But, now you have your topic. You know whether you need to plan your episode, and if you do need to, then maybe you’ve already done so.
So where to next?
You need equipment, you need something to edit with, and you need somewhere to upload.
Now, I’m the type of person that likes to try before I buy.
Particularly when it comes to hobbies. I’m too much of a gutless flip-flopper to properly invest in a hobby, especially before I know whether I like it (and how quickly I can become proficient …)
There are two ways to get around this.
1) Go to a small studio like Harness Creation for a one to two hour session and record your podcast. If you find a studio that’s reasonably priced, it’s a no brainer to go there.
(A handy tip – unless you have absolutely no skill on a computer, you don’t need an editor, or a producer. You should be able to just go in a do it yourself, which, in most cases, will give you a cheaper hourly rate.
Later on, if you’re getting serious about podcasting, if it’s for your business and you don’t at all feel confident editing yourself, or if you find you simply don’t have the time to worry about it, then you can consider bringing in an editor and/or producer).
2) Buy cheap equipment to test. If the podcast studios around you are really expensive, or you don’t have any, it’s certainly the way to go.
The biggest drawback here is that if you like podcasting, if you decide you want to be serious about it, the best way to do so is to have great equipment . . . which likely means better than you originally bought. Of course, at this point, you can simply find that studio close to you and go there, or you can invest in the good stuff – though this means that you’ve doubled up on equipment.
The equipment here at Harness Creation is about as good as it gets – all up it’s worth about 2000AUD. You definitely do not need to go that far – a Yeti mic will do – but there really is a difference between a $50 set up and $2000 set up. For a medium that is purely audio, you should definitely aim to invest in the best you can get.
To be fair though, a lot of the cost of my set up came from the RodeCaster – and while a mixer is great (and allows you to use a mic with an XLR cable, which is what is typically going to get you to best audio quality) it’s not necessary. A Yeti mic is a USB mic, and has amazing quality.
Don’t take that the wrong way, though – if money is a significant hurdle, then do whatever you need to do. If that’s a $40 Kmart USB mic, then that’s what it is. Podcasting on that is better than not podcasting at all.
So now you’ve recorded, and it’s time to edit.
If you’ve used a USB mic, you’ll likely have had to record straight into an app like Audacity or GarageBand. If you’ve gone to a studio, or you’ve bought and are using a mixer (like the RodeCaster), then you’ll have a file that is likely to be a MP3.
Your recording will either be one single file, where all the inputs/microphones are all on the same track, or there will be different tracks, so all the inputs/microphones are seperate. I can talk about this more in depth another time, but for now, you really only need the single track.
If you feel confident in your skills, by all means, have different tracks. It allows you to edit all the inputs separately, which is mostly useful if you have one host who’s really loud and one who’s really quiet.
Either way, now you have your file/s.
The most important thing is this: you do NOT need to invest in editing software. You just don’t.
Audacity (a free recording app you can download from the internet) or GarageBand (a standard Apple app which is also free) will do fine.
You can change your levels, you can cut long silences out, you can move audio around if you need, and you can easily add your standard intro and outro. All you need to know how to do is splice the track, which is all the effort it takes to press a button on your keyboard.
Export your edited file and ta-da. That’s it.
(Another handy tip – try not to edit too much. It’s a big time suck. No one really cares if you stumble over a word – you don’t need to do multiple takes. If it makes you feel more comfortable, then by all means, go for it. But it’s not necessary, and certainly not the be all end all. It will be time consuming enough just to get rid of the long silences – which I do recommend doing – you don’t need to add more to your pile).
When you have your final edited and exported MP3, it will be time to upload.
Of course, yet again, there are many choices here on how to do it. My recommendations are this: if you need a free host, use Anchor. If you have the money to spare, then use Acast.
And, trust me, Anchor is perfectly adequate. You don’t need to use Acast, even if you do have the money. Acast does have a free subscription, which you can also use if you’d like. I use Anchor, mostly because it’s what I’m familiar with.
If you have a producer, of if you’re part of a network, they will likely have a preferred host. It might even be a requirement. Don’t shy away from that – they’ll know what works best for them. And, ultimately, it’s really easy to switch.
Uploading is extremely easy. They’ll give you the instructions when you sign up. You pretty much just put in your podcast’s name, upload the file, fill out the episode info, and away you go. Anchor is owned by Spotify, so your episodes automatically upload there. You can easily add any podcast listening app, so that your episodes will automatically upload in those locations every time (definitely add Apple Podcasts, at least). The how-to is just one Google away (though I can detail it more clearly another time).
The only other thing you need to upload your first episode is cover art, which you can design for free on something like Canva.
And that is it. Your first episode is live, perhaps in a matter of hours.
Jumping Over the Hurdle
So, you’re clear on the technicalities of it. You know your topic, you probably have an idea of what equipment you’ll use, but you’re not feeling confident. You’re just not sure it’s for you.
Well, my question to you is: how are you ever going to know, without doing it?
When Nic and I were asked for tips on starting a podcast by Jordan, Nic said something he found really useful was reading through other people’s experiences online. See what software they used for editing, how they uploaded, what equipment they got . . . and he’s right. Having that reassurance is useful. Really, you wouldn’t be here, reading this blog, if it weren’t.
But, ultimately, at some point you need to stop researching and just do it. Honestly, you don’t even need to use the episode you record. Put together something shoddy! Half-ass your plan, just get into a studio, or buy a $10 microphone, and do it.
Being in front of that mic will give you a better indication on whether you like it than research ever will. You have to take that first step – it will probably be more fun than you think it will.
So did I convince you? Do you believe me now, that podcasting is easy?
It doesn’t even have to be expensive, really. You don’t need to pay to host it. And you certainly don’t need to pay for the information you’re sharing – that’s already there.
All you really need to invest in is the equipment, and again, finding a local studio like Harness Creation is a great way to start.
If you ever have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, send me email at email@example.com, or a DM on Instagram @harnesscreation.
Good luck to everyone on their podcasting journey!