How to start a podcast in 2021

Thousands of people have been starting podcasts over the past few years, with hundreds of thousands more tuning in to listen. Podcasting has seriously been crushing it lately, especially with lockdown after lockdown leaving a lot of people with little to do but to have a listen. There is no reason that those swarms of people looking for new voices won’t listen to you.

If you think you have something interesting to say, then chances are there is someone out there who will listen. You just need to follow some important steps and take the time to find and connect to your audience.

It’s true you might have to learn some new skills. But why let that stop you? Jumping into a new hobby can really expand your horizons, not just in terms of personal development but also in job development. And who knows, maybe you’ll be able to quit your boring 9-to-5 and end up in a career of podcasting, or doing something related to what interests you in the first place. That’s some kind of advantage.

In this post, we’ll cover the 5 steps to starting your podcast.

  1. Plan your podcast
  2. Set up your podcast
  3. Record your podcast
  4. Edit your podcast
  5. Publish your podcast

How to start a podcast

The difference between a successful podcast and an unsuccessful one isn’t always the quality of the podcast and the show. It’s often the marketing, if people know about it, and if it’s made to be engaging. You can have the most informative show in the world, but without thinking about those three things, then your mother might be the only listener that you have (like with my podcast).

With a bit of time and energy though, you can navigate your way to success. But I can’t promise you that it will be easy.

1.   Plan your podcast

What’s the subject of your podcast?

This is easily the most important question to ask yourself. Though it is possible to have a variety show, they tend to be a lot harder to pull off. Think of something that you’re comfortable talking about, something that you have some expertise in or are willing to develop some expertise in. You don’t necessarily have to be an expert: If you have an interview or investigative show, then part of the process and engagement is in following your discovery.

When you’re thinking of a topic, make a list of 20-25 episode titles related to your topic. If you can’t come up with that many, then perhaps it’s not a good topic for you. Remember, your topic needs to be something you can revisit over and over again, while keeping it interesting every time. That’s the real challenge to a podcast.

Of course, that’s not a hard-set rule. If you have an investigative show that switches investigations every time, then your topic might be more malleable. Keep in mind these kind of shows are often much harder and more time intensive to produce. The best in that category, shows like This American Life or Cold, have entire teams working on their content. This isn’t to say you can’t settle on that format, but I’d advise starting smaller in scale.

Who’s your audience?

Define who you picture listening to your show. Then talk to that person. Whenever you’re on the mic, imagine speaking to them. When you’re thinking of your content and how to shape your stories, keep your imaginary target persona in mind. Never forget them. That way, when someone is listening to your podcast, they feel as though you’re addressing them, that the content is made for them, and it’s not just you talking into the air.

When thinking of a target persona, ask yourself some questions:

  1. What do they do?
  2. What do they like?
  3. Where are they listening?

What’s your podcast called?

We all know those sayings that try to say titles and names aren’t important. “What’s in a rose?” “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, and so on. But that’s baloney. Names are important. They show who you are, or what your show is about, and they show if you’re light-hearted or serious. They can also help your placement in search engines.

There are generally three ways to come up with a name.

  1. Use your name

The advantage here is it’s simple. It’s also pretty good for SEO, depending on your name recognition. You can just tell people you meet at bars (or online chat rooms, etc) your name and to find you on Google. Easy-peasy. The consistently top-money making blog, the Joe Rogan Experience, is of course, the name of the host, so it’s clearly not a bad way to go. Other examples include: 4 Things with Amy Brown, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah; The Hank Haney Podcast.

  1. Be clever

Clever titles are great. They’re catchy. But they’re also ambiguous. What is it about? Of course, if you can come up with something both clever and revealing, that’s even better. Some examples here include: Fake Doctors, Real Friends; Stuff You Should Know. 

  1. Be descriptive

You can of course, just say the topic of the blog. And this doesn’t mean you can’t be clever with it. Moms and Murder sounds clever, and we know what it’s about. This is probably the all-time best for SEO, because whenever, for example, one wants a blog about motherhood and homicide and they Google it, then it’s pretty clear what the result is going to be. Be sure to not “keyword stuff” though, like when you just make a string of incoherent keywords as a title. Companies like Apple have been known to de-list blogs that do that. Some examples: Missing In Alaska; Ridiculous History; This Day in History.

What format will your podcast be?

Some podcasts are the same format all the time. Others like to switch it up depending on the style and feel of their podcast. Principally though, you have a few choices:

  1. Solo show – This is with just you speaking your mind.
  2. Co-hosts – Featuring one or a few co-hosts. This style of course has become a bit complicated to carry off with the pandemic, but there are some technological options that have actually made it easy to even co-host across the continent (more on that later).
  3. Interview – You have a guest and do an interview.
podcast interview

Podcaster conducting an interview

Must a show always stick to one format? It doesn’t have to. Many times a solo show might feature a guest, and that guest might be interviewed or might play the role of a co-host even. It’s all up to what fits your show and your topic. But it’s definitely something to consider.

How often should you release your episodes?

The general wisdom is that you should release your shows as often as you can. Set a schedule though. If you think you can only do one podcast a month, then do one a month. For growth, the best schedule though is once a week. Enough to get your listener engaged, but not too much for them to be overwhelmed or bored.

How long will your episodes be?

This is a similar answer to the last. As long as you consistently can. You should try to keep your podcast within some stretch of a consistent period. That’s not to say that if you have a really interesting guest you can’t go over your set time, or if you don’t have a talkative guest you have to fill it up with fluff. At the end of the day it’s your podcast and you should go with the length that makes it good. However, people do like to know the length to expect, even if there are some outliers.

They say most work commutes are a bit more than 20 minutes long, so generally that’s the optimal length of a podcast. According to firstsiteguide.com, 79% of people listen to podcasts while commuting, so keep that in mind. Most podcasts tend to be from 20 to 45 minutes, probably for that reason. And also because more than 45 minutes can mean a heck of a lot of editing.

2.   Set up your podcast

You’ve got to make sure that your podcast is ready to roll and be found. Ask yourself these questions:

How to make your branding?

Your branding needs to define your show and serve as a visual signal to both find and identify your show and give some idea of what kind of content it has. Look at these logos from these popular shows. How do they make you feel?

podsafe music

What do these logos and titles tell you about the shows?

Choose one or two colors and stick with them through your ad content and any other extra-podcast material like Instagram or Facebook. Do the same with an image as well. If you need some more advice on branding, check out our blog on it. Keep in mind also the standard (according to iTunes, but works everywhere else) is to have an image that is a minimum of 1400×1400 and maximum of 3000×3000 pixels in jpeg or png.

Should you use a script?

This is a hotly contested issue in the podcasting community. But when preparing for a podcast, you do have to have some idea of what you’re going to say. I’ve found that preparing an outline–whether on your computer, using flashcards or post-it notes, or whatever–is a good way about it. On the one hand, you don’t want it overly scripted, since then it will sound as though you’re just reading from a script, since you are. On the other, you don’t want to be blabbing away and constantly getting sidetracked, or just lose your train of thought and fall into silence. You should have some notes ready that can spur you forward when you get derailed.

How to choose your host?

Another thing you need ready before starting your podcast is choosing a host. A host stores your podcast and gives you an RSS feed link which you’ll use in delivering your content (more on that a bit later). I’ll look over a few solid options in later posts, but for now keep these things in mind as you shop:

  1. Storage capabilities – How many podcasts can you store on them for what price?
  2. Website integrations – How easy is it to play your podcasts on your webpage?
  3. Audience analytics – Can you see who’s listening and when?
  4. Monetization support – Do they make it easy to sell stuff on your podcast?
  5. Social sharing features – Is it easy to share your podcast on Facebook, Twitter, and so on?

3.   Record your podcast

Now that you’re all set up and ready to go, let’s do the most important part. Record!

What equipment should I use?

This is always a tricky one to answer, since so much is subjective. Starting out, you’d do good to have a USB mic – many people swear by a Blue Yeti – and a computer. If you want to get a better set up, you’d graduate to a dynamic or condenser mic, a mixing board or interface, some headphones, and perhaps a digital camera if you want to post your podcast to YouTube.

To help with your decisions, check out some of our past blogs:

  1. How to choose a mic: The basics
  2. Podcasters Speak: About mics
  3. What should I get, an interface or a mixer?

How do I record an interview or co-host who’s not in the same room with me?

I’ve seen some people recommending the Skype or Zoom functions where you can record a call. And actually, this works really well. With Zoom, for example, you’ll get the mic input of each side. You can then combine those in your editing program and have a solidly recorded podcast. Another safe option is to have both sides record their own audio and send to the person doing the editing.

4.   Edit your podcast

Are there any programs that I should use?

You should first familiarize yourself with a Digital Audio Workstation. We’ve prepared a list of 7 free/low cost ones that can record your podcast and give you some ability to easily edit it, also we have a short tutorial about setting up Reaper for podcasting. Though it’s about Reaper, the steps are pretty similar for any DAW.

How should you edit your podcast?

Editing is another hot issue in the podcastosphere. Do you cut out your ums and ahs, or don’t you? Some people think you should, others think it sounds better au natural. But what everyone does agree with, is that you should try to get your background sound minimized so that it’s not distracting to the listener, and you should cut down any long silences.

For the more advanced users, there’s a program by Izotope called RX which will even detect any background hums or other sounds and will remove them for you. Likewise, if you find yourself in a heaven full of birds and other squeaky subjects, BOOM Library offers their De-Bird program.

What music should you use?

Lucky for you, you’re at the right place. Create Music has thousands of songs to choose from, and they’re all completely customizable to fit your podcast perfectly. Just upload your podcast to the browser and match up all the sounds that you need. Get your search started here.

Also be sure to check out our handy guide on using music in your podcast.

5.   Publish your podcast

What feed provider should I use?

You’ll want to submit your feed to as many directories as possible. A directory is a website where people browse for podcasts. It doesn’t host the podcast (though a few do), it only allows people to click on an RSS feed, which will then bring them to where the podcast is actually hosted (or it will stream from the host to the directory site).

A list of the most popular directories:

  1. iTunes
  2. Spotify
  3. Google Play
  4. Stitcher
  5. Blubrry
  6. SoundCloud
  7. Pocketcasts

Where should I post my new podcasts?

Everywhere you can. On Facebook, Reddit, LinkedIn… the more places you post it, the more likely someone is going to listen, like it, and share it.

# Tips and Reminders for new podcasters

Know your limits

It’s of course, possible to do everything here by yourself. But it might not be easy and it certainly is time consuming, especially if you don’t have the skillset yet. One way about it is to hire someone off a freelancing website to do the jobs you need done. This is an especially good idea for a logo if you don’t know much about graphics design.

Don’t spend too much at the beginning

Look, podcasting isn’t for everyone. And you don’t really know if it’s not for you until you get started. That’s why it’s generally not a good idea to spend all your money up front. Test the water first. Get a 60 USB mic instead of a 700 condenser mic. Opt for the 100 dollar recorder over the 300 dollar interface. It’s okay at the beginning to not buy the best of everything.

Did you find this blog helpful? Then why not share it with the world? And also be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter to stay tuned for more blogs full of tips, tricks, and new stock music.

2021-04-02T14:12:32+00:00May 3rd, 2021|Podcasting|

About the Author:

Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA, after a long bout of traveling the world, Shawn Basey finally settled down in the fantastic town of Tbilisi, Georgia in the steps of the Caucasus Mountains. Working as the main blog and content writer and editor for Create Music since February 2020, he also plays accordion, makes electronic music, writes novels, and helps bars, podcasters and YouTubers in the behind the scenes during his free time.