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How to Start Your Own Podcast: A Creator’s Guide

From the proper equipment to how to get your podcast on iTunes, this is everything you need to know about getting a podcast off the ground.

Human beings are storytelling animals, to paraphrase novelist Salman Rushdie. Creative professionals know this innate drive better than anyone. It’s a truth universally acknowledged—and not just by writers. Stories create meaningful connections, and nothing is clicking with audiences more than listening to podcasts.

Artists are makers. It’s time to learn how to make a podcast.

The 21st century’s most innovative and wildly popular content platform actually harkens back to the ancient days of oral storytelling. Advancements in technology have only helped make podcasts easier to create, more accessible, and more addictive than ever. The most essential podcast equipment you need? Your brain and a vision.

If you want to delve deeper, reach farther, curate better, and give yourself a (literal) voice, you need to learn how to start a podcast. Many successful photographers, illustrators, and designers are already familiar with engaging with their audience through visual storytelling; it starts with their work and creative portfolio and then extends to social media, brand narrative, and beyond.

Now it’s time to get people actually listening.

Why Should I Create a Podcast?

Here are four simple reasons to get podcasting.

Staying Power

There’s a lot of talk about how quickly things move in the digital age. New trends are here today, out tomorrow. Not so with podcasts.

Podcasts, or “audioblogging” as they were once known (R.I.P.), have been around in some shape or form for nearly 40 years. Podcasting began to find its stride in late 2004 thanks to the iPod and wider access to broadband internet. In 2005 “podcast” was The New Oxford American Dictionary’s “Word of the Year”, and the world’s appetite for podcasts has been steadily growing ever since.

It’s safe to say that the podcast is firmly entrenched in the cultural zeitgeist and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon. The podcast’s longevity has even outpaced its namesake (iPod + Broadcast = podcast). September 30th is International Podcast Day, yet how many friends of yours still own an iPod? Exactly.

Steady Growth

Current podcast statistics don’t lie. Numerous survey attest to the continued rise of podcasts; one 2017 survey estimates a whopping 42 million Americans over the age of 12 listen to podcasts on a weekly basis.

How people make money podcasting is also changing for the better. Ad revenue from podcasting has more than tripled since 2015, rising to an estimated $220 million in 2017. That’s growth to the tune of 85%.

What about how we listen to podcasts? The near-ubiquity of mobile devices and the rise of smart home technology means that people can listen to podcasts anytime, anywhere. The podcast’s popularity is nowhere near reaching its zenith.

Deeper Connections

Podcasting is a great way to create personal content that will elevate your brand, build trust, add value, and create deeper, more meaningful connections with both new and familiar audiences.

There’s something intimate about listening to a podcast that really resonates. In response, research shows that podcast listeners are incredibly loyal. In fact, 85% of them listen to the entire show. Take that, short attention spans!

Podcasting is a wonderful, under-utilized supplement to the visual content generated by photographers, designers, illustrators, and other creators.

Grow Your Audience

While once thought to cater solely to niche audiences, podcast blockbusters like Serial (the fastest podcast to reach 5 million downloads and streams in Apple’s iTunes store) have debunked this myth. It’s easier than ever to find your people and turn them into a fanbase.

The best part? You can direct that crowd (or horde!) back to your website, portfolio, social channels, and more at the end of each episode so the engagement continues.

Cater to Convenience

People love podcasts in part because they are so easy to consume. In an increasingly mobile world, podcasts allow you to reach your audience anywhere—during a commute, cooking dinner at home, at work, and more.

Statistics show that the majority of people are listening to podcasts on the go; 69% of Americans listen to podcasts on a mobile device. That percentage is way up from 55% in 2015.

Common Podcast Misconceptions

Let’s get some quick debunking out of the way, shall we?

1. Podcasting is too expensive

FACT: Podcasts are free to create and listen to.

You probably already have a computer. High quality podcast equipment doesn’t need to break the bank. Audio editing software like Audacity is free. Free podcast hosting options abound. Your funds aren’t endless, but the possibilities are.

2. You have to be a tech person to podcast.

FACT: Podcast resources are available to anyone.

Our smartphones are smarter and our lives are easier thanks to convenient advancements in technology. So much can be done with the push of a button. Creating a podcast is more accessible and seamless today than it’s ever been. Plus, there’s a ton of support and guidance available to get you started (you’re here, aren’t you?). Read on for some actionable advice.

3. Podcasts have to be radio quality.

FACT: Imperfections can add to the intimacy of podcasts.

Worried about the hours of rehearsing and thousands of dollars of podcast equipment in your future? Don’t. Audiences value authenticity over slick production value. Letting your personality shine, quirks and all, trumps “radio voice” every time.

4. You have nothing new to say in a podcast.

FACT: Podcast topics don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

With over 21.2 million (and rising) hours of daily listening, there are endless opportunities to capitalize on your specialized knowledge. A quick scan through the vast sea of categories and subcategories on iTunes should inspire you.

If you cover a new or underserved niche you might be able to position yourself as an industry innovator. But if not, that’s okay too.

Remember that your secret weapon is that no one sees the world quite like you. Tons of podcasts about art exist, for example, but Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson’s podcast about art A Piece of Work successfully conveys her own unique point of view.

5. You don’t have time to podcast.

FACT: There is always time to podcast.

There are no excuses! Think back to your art school days and check out Rookie Mag contributor Kendra Yee’s guide to schedule-free productivity when you’ve got a lot on your plate.

1: How Podcasting Works

Whether you’re familiar with the podcasting basics or you’re exploring new territory, a firm grasp on how podcasting works is important.

Here’s the what you’ll need to create your own podcast:

  • Buy a podcasting microphone
  • Research and procure additional podcast equipment
  • Plug the microphone into your computer
  • Install audio recording and editing software
  • Make a podcast recording and save the audio file
  • Upload the file to a podcast hosting site
  • Submit it to a podcast directory like iTunes

Here’s how it will work for your listeners:

Podcasting site or feed reader

Listeners can stream or download the podcast directly from the website where the podcast is hosted (SoundCloud, Simpelcast, and Buzzsprout are a few popular options).

iTunes Apple Podcasts and other players

A completely mobile-friendly option, listeners load the RSS feed into a podcast player (such as Apple Podcasts) to play the feed on their smartphones and tablets.

Wondering how to upload a podcast to iTunes? Meet the requirements. There are artwork, feed, and content specifications when uploading your podcast to iTunes, but it’s worth the additional effort. According to 9to5Mac, 85% of mobile podcast listening happens on an iPhone through the native Podcasts app.

What’s even better is that it is now possible to measure how well your podcast is performing and make changes accordingly using Apple Podcasts. Apple has finally activated its podcast analytics feature, giving podcast creators access to aggregated information on how people are engaging with their content.

2: Visualization

Before getting down to the nitty-gritty of creating your own podcast you need a blueprint. Coming up with a solid concept includes the following elements:

  • Podcast Topic
  • Podcast Name
  • Podcast Format
  • Podcast Length

Podcast Topic

Trying to come up with a podcast topic or theme can feel overwhelming. Ask yourself the following questions to narrow things down.

“What am I passionate about?”

Passion is an essential ingredient for any podcast. You can get people excited about literally anything if you’re passionate enough about the topic. You’re also likely to have more fun, be more consistent, and engage with your audience on a more human level.

“What’s my niche?”

Think about your areas of expertise or the specialized knowledge that you have to share. Can you position yourself as a trailblazer and capitalize on an underserved niche in your industry?

People love to learn new things, especially if you’re both an expert on and passionate about the subject matter at hand.

“Can my topic have a wider appeal?”

Make sure the podcast topic is not so narrow that it’s only accessible to a very limited audience. Try to avoid alienating listeners by limiting your use of jargon and providing enough context.

Another way to make your podcast more approachable is to pick a topic that allows for a variety of content that will unify different audiences.

Check out this list of podcasts for better creative thinking to get a sense of how photographers, illustrators, designers, and fine artists have created inspiring podcasts not only for fellow artists and art appreciators but for anyone who appreciates adding some creativity to their day-to-day.

“Is my podcast topic meaty enough?”

If you want to create content on a consistent podcasting schedule (trust us, you do), make sure your topic can sustain itself beyond one or two episodes. You don’t want to stretch your podcast topic too thin—it’ll be noticeable.

Try to map out what you will cover in the first 10 episodes. If it feels like you’re grasping at straws, don’t commit to the topic.

How to Name Your Podcast

What’s in a name? It depends. Take some time to brainstorm a list of podcast names, taking your own personal preferences, voice, and branding into consideration. Are there any popular words or catchy phrases related to your topic?

When choosing a name you also want to make sure a podcast doesn’t already exist with a title similar to or—worse—exactly like yours. Do your due diligence and save yourself a lot of future hassle. And if you’re really stuck for ideas, there are even tools to help spark inspiration or generate names for you.

Podcast Format

The structure is important and there are a lot of options when it comes to podcast format. Consistency is extremely important so that your audience knows what to expect from you, so choose wisely. Here are a few popular podcast formats along with some pros and cons to help you decide.

Interview-style

An interview-style podcast is a format that most people are familiar with. Interviews typically feature the same host (or hosts) each episode and introduce listeners to a range of interesting people relating to the podcast topic.

Pros:

  • Minimal editing required
  • Generally unscripted, free-flowing, and authentic

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of lead time to secure guests
  • Scheduling conflicts with guests can be tricky to navigate
  • Oversaturation of interview style podcasts; you’ll need a unique spin

Check out WorkLife with Adam Grant and NPR’s Fresh Air for examples.

Multi-host & Panel

A podcast with more than one host or a panel of guests can be extremely lively and entertaining. This format allows the audience to feel as if they’re eavesdropping on an amazing conversation (without the guilt!).

Pros:

  • Less pressure, as the responsibility of generating interesting conversation is distributed
  • Different personalities mean more variety

Cons:

  • Requires more equipment, as everyone should have a microphone
  • A little more technical know-how required to record successfully
  • Coordinating multiple schedules can be a struggle

Check out Slate’s Mom and Dad are Fighting and This Week in Photo for examples.

Solo

Monologue or solo-casts are creator-focused. The host usually delivers a different monologue or tells a story each episode. Solo podcasts come in a variety of tones and styles from humorous to educational.

Pros:

  • Logistically easy and no scheduling constraints
  • Easy to create an intimate one-on-one connection with an audience
  • Potential to bring on an occasional guest to mix things up

Cons:

  • You are solely responsible for generating all of the content
  • Relies heavily on the capabilities of the host
  • Potential to feel monotonous or overindulgent

Check out Lore and Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History for examples.

Non-fiction Narrative

Non-fiction narrative storytelling podcasts tell true stories from the world around us. The aim is to pique the listener’s curiosity. They can range from commentary on current events to in-depth, highly researched investigations.

Pros:

  • Easy to get your audience hooked if they enjoy your storytelling style and are intrigued by the subject matter
  • Lots of creative leeway with editing and production

Cons:

  • Research can be time-consuming
  • Since this format usually involves some combination of archival audio clips, interviews, narration, and more, it requires a lot of editing and post-production.

Check out The Art Detective for an example.

There are dozens of more formats out there to research. Or why not create your own hybrid of some of the formats mentioned above?

Podcast Length

It’s important to be realistic and to remain consistent when it comes to podcast length. You don’t want one episode to last 15 minutes and the next one to last 45 minutes.

Respect your audience’s time and take into consideration that they might be listening on their daily commute or between activities. Generally, 20 minutes is the sweet spot for podcast length.

3: Podcast Equipment and Software

What is the best equipment for starting a podcast? Which podcast software should you use? It depends on your podcast’s requirements and your individual needs. The good news is that podcast equipment and podcast setup don’t have to be complicated or costly.

Essential Podcast Equipment

Microphone(s)

A decent external microphone is essential to any podcast. USB microphones are the most cost effective options as you do not have to buy an audio interface to power your microphone. By simply plugging in your microphone into the USB port of your computer, you will be ready to go. Here are four options to fit different budgets.

  1. Smartphone (free, sort of): Yes, you can technically record your podcast on the iPhone or Android device that you already own. Your smartphone has a microphone to record audio, but the sound quality will likely be subpar.

However, there are apps available for iOS and Android that can help elevate your podcast audio quality, such as Spreaker or iRig Recorder. Most apps are very cost-effective or offer basic functionality for free.

  1. Samson Go Mic ($39.99 USD): Just as easy to travel with as it is on your budget, the Samson Go Mic is the perfect inexpensive microphone for podcasting. Featuring both cardioid (directional) and omnidirectional pickup, you can clip this mic to your computer or set it on your desk. PC compatible and no drivers or installation required.

  2. MXL990 ($74.95 USD): With a slick vintage look, the MXL990 condenser microphone has excellent professional sound quality at a reasonable price. The only downside? The MXL990 requires an XLR cable, so you’ll need an XLR-to-USB converter.

  3. Blue Yeti USB Microphone ($126 USD): An Amazon bestseller, the stylishly retro Blue Yeti microphone provides great audio quality with both directional and omnidirectional patterns (great for interviews and panels). It also has a plug for headphones and features built-in audio output.

Audio Recording & Editing Software

Professional-level audio recording and editing software can be a major investment. Programs like Reason, Adobe Audition or Protools can be overwhelming and easily cost you hundreds of dollars. It’s also complete overkill if you’re a podcast beginner. Try these instead.

Audacity (Free)

Audacity is a podcasting holy grail—and it’s free. Open source, simple to use, and compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux, Audacity will give you the best value and get you on your way immediately.

GarageBand (Free, Mac only)

GarageBand is another useful option for recording and editing your podcast. While it comes free on every Mac computer and is extremely user-friendly, it may be limiting as it’s not compatible with Windows.

Reaper ($60 USD)

Fully loaded with a wide range of audio editing tools, Reaper’s functionality is on par with an industry standard like Protools for just a fraction of the price. You can test it for 60 days before purchasing. It’s an especially valuable option if music is an important element of your podcast.

Bonus Equipment

Call recording software

If you’re planning on interviewing out-of-town guests or your podcast setup space can’t accommodate several people, you might look into software to record your Skype or Google Hangout calls.

Software like UberConference and Callnote are free (or have free options) and are easy to use.

Pop Filters

Pop filters (the little round mesh attachment in front of the microphone) are an inexpensive way to record crisper, clearer audio. Pop filters help to mute any plosives or clicking noises when speaking too close to the mic.

No room in your budget? You can make your own pop filters for free.

Quality Headphones

Comfortable headphones with minimal sound leakage can be a podcasting game changer. It’s especially important to wear headphones if you’re interviewing a guest so that their voice doesn’t come through the speakers. No one likes an annoying echo.

Portable Digital Recorder

Plan for the unexpected and record your audio to a portable digital recorder like the Zoom H1 Handy Recorder. If your computer crashes, gets damaged, or you suffer a power outage mid-session, you will always have a backup if you use an external recording device. It’s also handy for traveling! Also don’t forget to buy some SD cards to save the audio on your recorder as they often do not have built in memory!

Boom Arm

Buying a boom arm will help keep your hands free and allow you to position the microphone at a level that lets you speak and record your podcast comfortably. It will also help reduce any sort of shake in the microphone, making sure you get the highest audio quality possible.

4: Execution

You’ve got your blueprint, you’ve got your podcast equipment, now it’s time to actually start recording and hosting your podcast!

How to Record a Podcast: The Basics

  • Organize your podcast setup in a quiet area free from interruptions
  • Plug in your USB podcast microphone
  • Launch your audio recording software and make sure your mic is the default input device
  • Click 'record’ and being your podcast episode
  • Keep going even if you make mistakes; that’s what the editing software is for
  • Save your podcast once you’re finished [MP3s are the most widely supported and highly recommended)
  • MP3s should be saved as a fixed bitrate; the bitrate range for podcasts is typically 96 to 128kbps (lower end for podcasts that feature mostly talking, higher end for podcasts with a lot of music or effects)

Tips for Creating Your First Podcast Episode

  • Introduce yourself to your audience; provide some context for the journey ahead
  • Listen to the first episode of podcasts you enjoy or are similar to yours
  • Don’t let nerves get you down; it’ll get easier as you go
  • Have some water nearby to stay hydrated
  • Be yourself, let your personality shine, and do not read from a script
  • Embrace your mistakes as learning experiences
  • Don’t rush; take a second to regroup or compose yourself since any silence can be edited later

How to Edit Podcasts

A podcast is more than just someone talking. Even seemingly subtle things like clear audio, consistent volume levels, no long gaps or pauses, and minimal background noises can elevate your podcast.

More ear-catching aspects like sound effects or immediately recognizable intro music can go a step further in setting your podcast apart from the rest.

All of this magic happens in your audio editing software. We’ve already mentioned our suggestions above, so check out these amazing YouTube tutorials on how to edit podcasts in Audacity, how to edit podcasts in GarageBand, and how to edit podcasts in Reaper.

Podcast Metadata and ID3 Tags

Simply put, metadata is information about your podcast. It makes your podcast searchable and its cover art accessible, especially if your listeners are downloading episodes to play on different devices.

After saving your podcast as an MP3 your audio file will contain embedded track data, such as episode title, artist, and more. You should optimize the embedded metadata by adding tags in an ID3 format.

Try free ID3 editors like EasyTAG for Windows, DataONE’s metadata editor, or ID3 Editor ($15 USD) for Mac.

Editing Extras: Adding Theme Music to Podcasts

Want to create a next-level podcast? It’s all in the details. Adding music to each episode of your podcast is good branding. Not only does it make your podcast memorable and easily identifiable, it sets the tone for what’s to come.

How do you add theme music to your podcast?

  • Ask a friend with some musical or recording chops to create a personalized theme (if you don’t have the skill to take a crack at it yourself, of course)
  • Commission a freelancer to create your podcast theme music on a website like Fiverr
  • Browse the Free Music Archive for downloadable tracks that are free for anyone to use (don’t forget to credit the creator in the podcast description!)

Editing Extras: Adding Intros and Outros to Podcasts

Get your podcast started off the right foot by adding intros and outros to each episode. An intro doesn’t need to be anything more than a short voiceover (music optional) that introduces you and your podcast by name.

You might also include the episode number, an overview of the topic or theme, and an intriguing hook that compels your audience to continue listening. Buzzsprout breaks down a variety of podcast intro formats and provides a ton of useful information to get started.

Editing Extras: Adding Chapters to Podcasts

Including podcast chapters put your listeners in the driver’s seat and allow them to navigate episodes more conveniently. Adding chapters to your podcast can be especially useful if your podcast is on the longer side (30+ minutes), if you cover a range of topics, or if you feature a different guest in each segment.

Your listener can skip through sections of the podcast to suit their needs. Podcast chapter-adding software is recommended to facilitate this process for you. Try the Podcast Chapters ($19.99) app if you’re using a Mac (check out this handy Podcast Chapters walkthrough.

How to Host Your Podcast

After all the recording, saving, tagging, and exporting, here are a few of the best places to host your podcast. Hosting allows you to get your podcast to show up on podcast directories and apps. Think about how many podcasts you will be publishing monthly when considering bandwidth needs.

Host Your Podcast on SoundCloud

  • Free podcast hosting with scalable options
  • Allows distribution via RSS feed
  • Easy to share of social media and personal websites

Host Your Podcast on Libsyn

  • One of the oldest and most trusted hosting sites
  • Low price ($5 per month)
  • Unlimited bandwidth

Host Your Podcast on Podomatic

  • User-friendly for beginners
  • Free hosting with moderate bandwidth
  • Paid upgrade available for increased bandwidth

Other podcast hosting options

5: Growing and Promoting your Podcast

Congratulations! You now know how to start a podcast! Now it’s time to launch your ship into the vast ocean of the internet and distribute your podcast. Here are some tips to make waves with your podcast.

Generate Buzz

Use your social channels and professional networks to start building momentum before you launch your podcast. Create a landing page on your website, compile a mailing list, change the description in your social media bios, start posting teaser content and cover art, and use hashtags to get the conversation going.

It’s time to leverage all of your creative faculties (and the support of friends)!

Have an iTunes “New & Noteworthy”-Caliber Podcast

Now you know how to get a podcast on iTunes. But are you familiar with the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” list? It used to be a great way to get your podcast in front of new audiences for eight weeks. But rumor on the street is that as of March 2018 iTunes no longer updates their New and Noteworthy list.

Regardless, have the same game plan for your podcast launch—list or no list. In addition to creating buzz, launch with more than one episode, create high-quality podcast cover art, and leverage your connections for podcast reviews.

Also, check out this amazing YouTube guide on getting your podcast on the New & Noteworthy list on iTunes (just in case). It’s only a two-minute investment.

Reward Engagement

You want your audience to be listening to, commenting on, and sharing your podcast widely. Encourage engagement and show your appreciation by creating rewards for listeners who participate. The reward can be a social media shout out, a small giveaway, or something related to the topic you’re podcasting about.

To drive business to your website and draw attention to your skills and services, you might consider offering a free design tutorial, portrait photography session, or personalized illustration as a reward to some of your loyal and engaged listeners.

Now that you know what you need to do to start a podcast, it’s time to get out there and record! Tag @useformat on Instagram or Twitter to keep us updated—we can’t wait to tune in!

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