How to Start a Podcast: A Step by Step Guide

March 26, 2021

What is a Podcast? 

To begin, let’s define what a podcast is. As stated by the Cambridge Dictionary, a podcast is “a broadcast that is placed on the Internet for anyone who wants to listen to it or watch it.” Podcasts started to come into our lives in 2004, and since then, they have been a game-changer for individuals and companies everywhere. 


How to Start a Podcast 

But when it comes to starting a podcast, the question really comes down to: “where do you even begin?” It can be pretty daunting looking at The Daily, The Tim Ferriss Show, The Joe Rogan Experience, and all of these podcasts that have really popularized the medium. But that’s what this article is here for. We’re going to break down the 15 steps needed to bring your podcast to life. 

how to start a podcast


Podcast Planning 

The first 5 steps are all focused on planning for your podcast. All of this would happen before you hit the record button. 

Step 1: Set a Goal 

This step often gets overlooked but truly it’s your first step in the process. What is the goal of your podcast? Is it for awareness, sponsorship, lead generation, thought leadership, conversions? There are endless goals and they’ll all influence how you move forward with your podcast. 

For example, if you’re creating a podcast for lead generation, an interview series is best to bring on leads rather than something like a narrative series. You’ll also want to figure out where your leads live vs. where your basic podcast listener lives. 

Make sure to sit down and think about what your goal truly is for the podcast. For some assistance, we broke down how to set podcast goals for further reading. 


Step 2: Choose a Topic

Next up, let's choose your podcast topic. What category or genre do you want to live in? 

If you’re a brand you’ll probably choose a topic that you’re an expert in that relates back to your business, or maybe you’ll choose a topic that you want your brand to be aligned with. If you’re an indie podcaster, maybe you’re talking about one of your hobbies or having conversations around topics that you’re interested in. 

There are so many potential topics out there for you to choose from. One thing that you should always do is explore what podcasts currently exist in the topic/category you’re interested in getting involved in. This gives you an idea of how you can set yourself apart and be unique compared to them. 

Earlier this year, we discussed how you can discover your podcast’s unique value proposition.

Step 3: Pick a Podcast Format 

What will the flow of your podcast be like? What’s the structure? Identifying a consistent podcast format will assist you in preparing for every episode and also lets listeners know what to expect from your series. When you select a format, you’re not necessarily tied to it, but it’s a general guideline for you to follow.

Podcast formats include narrative, multi-story, interview, storytelling, and many more. We identified 8 of the most popular podcast formats for you to get a deep dive into each.

Step 4: Name It 

Every great podcast needs a great name, so what’s yours going to be? There are some basic rules you can follow such as ensuring that the spelling of your show is correct and straightforward, and therefore, easily searchable. For example, if you start a show about cooking and name it “Kooking with Kate” (it’s crucial that your name starts with “K” for this example), when users are searching for your show they may not know to spell “cooking” with a “K”. Thus, they can’t find your show and end up listening to “Cooking with Chris.” 

While the above is a general guideline when it comes to SEO around your podcast, there are many shows out there that have unique names that we wouldn’t assume fit the content. But those shows are usually already backed with a pretty big following. It’s best to think of a short, clever name that relates to your content and podcast topics. 


Step 5: Design Your Icon 

Now it’s time to whip out your inner graphic designer. Podcast artwork really comes down to making yourself stand out and there are numerous ways you can do this. 

  1. Try using bright, loud colors that will make your icon pop on listener’s screens. 
  2. Don’t put too much information on your icon, make sure you use minimal words.
  3. Some say icons with faces on them tend to perform better (but this hasn’t been proven). 
  4. Make sure it makes sense with your podcast topic. 

99 Designs broke down a great guide to creating your podcast icon.

how to start a podcast

Podcast Set Up 

The next stage when it comes to how to start a podcast is getting your setup ready. You can definitely podcast on a budget but there are some investments you should consider making. 


Step 6: Podcast Microphone

The first and most obvious -- you’re going to need a microphone. Thankfully you don’t need to be an audio expert to pick the right microphone as there are plenty of resources out there to assist you in your purchase. Buzzsprout has created a great guide breaking down 30 microphones for all budgets

You want to invest in a good microphone because at the end of the day that’s all your listeners are going to be hearing. If you’re shooting a video, you want a great camera because viewers will be watching you. For podcasts, you want a good microphone because listeners will be hearing you and quality truly does matter for the listener experience


Step 7: Find a Recording Software 

So how do you record your podcast? The podcasting world has shifted majorly from studio recordings to remote recordings with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although studios will always be an incredible option for high-quality recordings, we understand that it just isn’t possible for everyone. 

That’s where remote recording software comes in. Quill has personally tested many (and we mean many) of these. Currently, we’re using Riverside. We’ve found it to be the best quality recording with minimal technical glitches (usually caused by internet issues). This is an important thing to note when it comes to remote recording. Having good internet connectivity is crucial for you and whatever guests you may have on. 

In early 2020, we broke down 6 remote recording softwares as well as the pros and cons of each to help you make a decision. 


Step 8: Pick an Editing Software 

Next up, you need to find a software to edit in (or hire a freelancer/agency to help). As there are plenty of editing softwares out there for you to try, it really comes down to budget, skill-level, and how much editing you’re actually looking to do. 

At Quill, our team loves Adobe Audition. We love how much control you have over your files and the level of editing and mixing & mastering possible. Adobe Audition does come at a cost ($29.99/month) but if you’re looking for a higher end software, it’s definitely worth it. Some other popular softwares are Pro Tools, Audacity, Descript, and many more! 

If you’re looking for some budget friendly options, check out our list of free editor tools

how to start a podcast

Production 

Now we enter the production stage of how to start a podcast. Magic is happening in all stages but this is really when that magic comes to life. 


Step 9: Record Your Intros/Outros 

Obviously, you need a good intro and outro. We always say that your intro is the first thing listeners will hear and your outro will be the last, so make them amazing. It’s no surprise that humans don’t have long attention spans, so you need to spark interest fast. And if you want them to tune in to your next episode, keep them hooked with your outro. 

For your podcast intros and outros, you can record one set and continue to reuse that recording throughout all of your episodes. This keeps the experience consistent for listeners, to the point where they may end up humming your jingle. 

Make sure to not overlook creating an effective podcast intro and outro


Step 10: Select Your Music 

Your music is key. When choosing music for your intro, outro, transitions, or just music beds, you want to select music that matches the overall feel of your podcast or the emotions that are being felt during conversations. 

Music can really change the feel of your podcast and help to guide listeners through what their experience should be when listening. For example, if someone is telling an inspiring story about a hardship in their life, add points of powerful and hopeful music quietly playing under the clip to boost emotions. 

Your intro and outro music is also key too. As we mentioned, you want your listeners to have your jingle stuck in their head even after the episode has finished. Pick music that matches your tone and the feeling that you’re trying to get your podcast to convey. 

There are plenty of music libraries that you can try out. A few that we’ve used in the past are Artlist, Audiio, and Epidemic Sound


Step 11: Podcast Recording

You’ve done all of the preparation and have all of the software ready to go. Now let’s record. When it comes to the actual recording there are some things to keep top of mind. The first one is to speak clearly. There’s nothing worse than turning on a podcast and having the host mumble in your ear. Ensure that you’re speaking clearly, confidently, and also slowly (try not to get nervous and talk a mile a minute). 

A good rule of thumb is to make a “hang-loose” sign with your hand and put it up to your face. That’s how far away your mouth should be from your microphone. This ensures that you’re not so close that the recording comes out muffled or you peak the volume (when your levels are too high and it messes with your audio) but also not so far away that it makes your sound grainy or quiet.

Specifically with remote recordings, it’s easy to do things like shift around while sitting, move in and away from the mic, or move things on the desk. We’re here to tell you to - don’t do this. Your mic is going to pick up on all of that and it won’t be a fun listen. 

And lastly, if you’re recording in your office or home, record in a room that is small and with the least amount of echo so your voice isn’t bouncing off the walls. Recording in a room without any windows is great for avoiding outside noise but we understand that’s not always possible. Although this may sound odd, recording in a closet often produces the best quality audio because the sound is closed into a small space. You can also put a blanket over yourself and make a mini “recording tent” that closes in the sound. 

how to start a podcast


Post Production 

The next stage is to get your recording into the editing stage. Editing is a crucial part of creating a podcast.


Step 12: Edit Your Podcast 

Put that editing software you grabbed into action. If you have no knowledge around editing it might be a good idea to work with a freelancer or agency to help make sure your show sounds top-notch (specifically if you’re looking for some help when it comes to mix and mastering). But if you’re just looking to have very basic content cuts and editing, there are many resources and YouTube tutorials about how to edit your podcast. 

The Podcast Host put together a resource for the ultimate guide to editing your podcast to help you out!


Step 13: Add Sound Design 

As we discussed earlier, you’ll want to add some music to your podcast. The music can be used to bring out the emotions of some of your conversations or as transitions throughout the show. 

Having a musical transition gives your listeners a break and a chance to take in what they just heard. Normally, if we’re editing a 30 minute podcast we’ll add 1-2 musical transitions throughout the show. That means we have roughly 10 seconds of music fading in and out before we move onto the next section. 

how to start a podcast



Distribution 

Now let’s share your podcast with the world. The final step to bringing your show to life is to distribute it across all major listening platforms (i.e. Spotify, Apple, Google, etc.). 


Step 14: Choose a Podcast Hosting Platform

A podcast hosting platform is a software that you can use to manage and upload your podcasts. The platform will then upload your podcast to all the major distribution channels (Spotify, Apple, Google, Stitcher, etc.) so you don’t need to manually do this. 

I think every podcaster should be using a hosting service as it makes the management of your podcast so much more efficient and also provides podcast data. There are plenty of podcast hosting platforms out there and they vary in offerings so you should choose one based on what’s valuable to you (storage, number of listeners, number of episodes, extensive analytics, etc.). 

Another bonus to using a podcast hosting platform is that the vast majority of them will create RSS feeds for you. RSS feeds are basically your universal podcast link -- it’s the link that all distribution platforms will use to gather information about your podcast and know when a new episode is ready to be published. 

We listed 10 of the best podcast hosting platforms to help make your decision a little easier. 


Step 15: Launch Your Show! 

And now, we’ve reached the 15th step - launching your show! Possibly the most exciting step, this is when your show finally becomes available to the public. 

One thing to note is that when you first upload your podcast to a hosting platform and launch it, the process is not instant as the distribution platforms need to approve your show. It may take a couple of days for your show to finally show up on all the distribution platforms. 

It’s also smart to launch your show with multiple episodes. The reason for this is that it lets listeners have multiple pieces of content to get hooked on and tide them over until your next episode release. 


How to Start a Podcast: Continued 


Podcast Marketing 

We decided to add podcast marketing as a bonus step because it truly is a necessity BUT it’s not an official step because it’s not technically a requirement for bringing your podcast to life. That being said, if you’re looking to build a successful show and grow your audience, podcast marketing is crucial. 

We recently released our full step-by-step guide to podcast marketing with 10 tactics you should be trying. Definitely give this article a read to gain some inspiration around how you can market your podcast. 

 

 

Quill Inc. is your branded podcast marketing and production agency. From working with brands such as RBC, CIBC, TD, Axway, The Globe and Mail, and many more, Quill’s goal is to facilitate connections between brands and trusted resources to better inspire, educate, engage, and of course, entertain audiences everywhere.

If you’re looking for expert help for producing and growing your podcast, get in touch with us here


Platform
Price
Pro’s
Con's
Anchor

Free

  • Easy to use
  • Automatically distributes your podcast to major platforms.
  • Embed media player.
  • Great if podcasting is a
    side hobby
  • Very basic editing
  • Since it’s a free tool, you don’t have full control over the monetization of your podcast.
  • Not the right platform for people taking podcasting seriously
Buzzsprout

Free for 2 hours of content per month

$12 for 3 hours per month

$18+ for 6 hours and up

  • Very user-friendly
  • Caters to both long term and beginner podcasters
  • Advanced analytics
  • Easy distribution of your episodes
  • They measure their size requirements to hours not megabytes
  • Bonus: get a free $20 Amazon gift card when you sign up for any paid hosting plan!
  • Advanced features like dynamic ad insertion need some work
Libsyn

$5/month for Monthly Storage 50mb

  • Oldest podcast hosting site.
  • Easy distribution to major platforms and great for scaling once your podcast gets bigger.
  • Hosted over 35,000 podcasts.
  • An iTunes Podcast partner.
  • Allows you to publish your podcast to specific directories.
  • Embed media player.
  • Price is based on storage
  • 50mb storage for $5 won’t be enough if you are publishing weekly so you’ll end up with a higher price point
Podbean

Unlimited audio package: $9/month

Storage space:

Unlimited

  • Great support & customer service features
  • Unlimited audio.
  • Pages are easy to customize
  • Can schedule podcast release dates.
  • Easy to use.
  • Uploads and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions are automatic to Spotify.
  • Embed media player.
  • Simple Analytics
  • Analytics aren’t as advanced as other platforms
  • Upload and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions take a day to change on iTunes.
  • Not an iTunes podcast partner.
  • The process to send a podcast to iTunes is more tedious. But, you will still be able to get on the platform.
Blubrry

Classic

$5/month

Monthly Storage

50mb

  • Podcast Wordpress plugin and management.
  • If you want to record a new introduction or conclusion, add in a sponsored ad or upload a new version of a podcast, it doesn't count towards your storage usage per month.
  • Blubrry allows a 25% storage overage each month
  • Prices are based on storage.
  • Usability is okay.
SimpleCast

Starting: $15/month

Recommendation: $35/month

Monthly Storage: Unlimited

  • Hosts your audio files no matter what the size!
  • Dynamic insertion for podcast ads or edits.
  • Incredibly detailed analytics including number of episodes completed and listener location tracking.
  • Embed media player.
  • Easy to use.
  • Great distribution! Easy access to all major podcast platforms.
  • Customizable podcast
    website.
  • Prices are slightly higher than other platforms, but well worth it especially if you have a branded company podcast!