If you wanted to know how to start a podcast ten or fifteen years ago, you’d have needed to be a pretty technical person to make it work. Fortunately, that isn’t the case these days. Tools, software, and gear have all become much more accessible. In years gone by, fiddling around with the tech stuff was part and parcel of podcasting. But now, technology is simply a means to an end.
Let’s imagine you’re a hobbyist, connoisseur, or enthusiast, who’s interested in making a good go of podcasting. You’re passionate about your topic, and you want to talk enthusiastically about it in your episodes. You want to reach an audience, grow your reach, and see what happens from there.
The one big obstacle is that you’re not a technical person. You can just about manage to navigate your way around social media. But the thought of recording, editing, and publishing audio seems like it’ll be way too complicated. Your big fear is that the good content you know you can create is going to be ruined by bad sounding audio, due to your lack of tech know-how.
If this all sounds uncomfortably familiar, then you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’re going to learn how to start a podcast that sounds great, when you’re not a technical person. Before long, you’ll be publishing episodes that sound professional, even if you never know the difference between an XLR cable and a Digital Audio Workstation.
Let’s dive in:
A good starting point is realizing that the most important aspects of podcasting have nothing to do with tech. If you want to learn how to start a podcast, then what mic you use is way down on the list of importance.
The big picture questions of the planning stage are:
A hypothetical answer to these questions might be something along the lines of:
“I want to start this podcast to share my experiences of trying to become a published author. My podcast is for aspiring writers who were in the same position as I was 3 or 4 years ago. They’ll listen because they can learn a lot from the mistakes I made, as well as the actions I took that really moved the needle. To me, success would be running a Patreon account to supplement my day job income, as well as having an engaged audience who offer feedback and discussion on my content.”
These big picture statements can act as a sort of compass or anchor if you ever feel confused, disillusioned, or tired of running your show in the future.
Next, I want to take a look at some frequently asked questions about how to start a podcast. These are focused on things like podcast names, show formats, release schedules, and episode lengths.
Picking a name for your podcast can be tricky. For starters, the name you had in mind might already be taken. While you don’t need to look hard to see examples of multiple shows using the same (or very similar) names, this can confuse potential listeners and hamper your growth. It’s advisable to pick a name that isn’t already being used by another podcast.
As for what that should be, “descriptive” names are the best option from a discovery and growth point of view. “The Vegetable Garden Podcast” leaves little to the imagination, and listeners searching for that type of content will have no problem spotting it, “Clever” but obscure names, on the other hand, may struggle to show up in search. Even if they do, they’re not immediately obvious about their subject matter.
A final word on podcast names is that it’s best to avoid simply using your own name, unless you have a sizeable pre-existing audience. Would you subscribe to “The Jane Smith Show” if you’d never heard of Jane Smith, and had no idea what subject she was podcasting on?
Running an interview podcast is the default choice for most new podcasters these days. Interview podcasts have their benefits, and with Alitu’s call recorder feature, it’s never been easier to record conversations with remote guests all over the world. I’d caution against running an interview show by default, though. There’s a lot to be said for going solo and having conversations directly with the listener, especially if you want to position yourself as the expert, rather than various interviewees.
There are other formats too, ranging from having a regular co-host, to highly-produced ‘documentary’ and audio drama-style shows. If you’re a non-techy person, it’s unlikely you’ll want to dive into doing one of those latter options from day one, though. Think about what best fits your big picture goals. Solo, interviews, or regular co-host? Whichever route you choose, Alitu makes it easy to record your episodes. We’ll talk more about that in a bit, but there are a couple of other FAQs to tackle first…
The ideal podcast episode length is as long as it needs to be to get the content across. If you’ve said everything you need to in 15 minutes, then why stretch it out to 45? Likewise, if this particular conversation is an hour of gold, why chop it down?
That said, it’s good to have a loose level of consistency around episode length. A five-minute episode one week, followed by a 2-hour behemoth the next, is jarring for your listener. A common ‘sweet spot’ for podcast episode lengths is between 25 and 45 minutes, but that should be seen as a guide, nothing more.
As for frequency, another assumption when it comes to how to start a podcast is that you need to release a new episode every week. If you can do that, then great. You’ll build your way into the weekly habits and routines of your listener, and that’s a powerful thing. There’s nothing to stop you releasing new episodes every 2 weeks though, or even every month.
You might decide to podcast in seasons, so you’d work on creating a ‘themed’ block of 6-12 episodes, then you can take a break in-between. Ultimately, you need to settle on a release schedule that’s sustainable, otherwise, you’re going to become overwhelmed and quit. Fortunately, Alitu’s simple recording, editing and production tools will cut hours from your workload so you can spend most of your podcasting time on the content itself.
So far, you’ve probably been nodding along to each of the points we’ve hit in this ‘how to start a podcast’ guide. But now we get to the tech - the stuff that’s been holding you back from getting started. Don’t worry though, this is all going to be much easier than you might think. Let’s kick off with the gear…
Quite simply, a USB mic that plugs directly into your computer. There are 3 very similar mics I recommend to the majority of new podcasters: the Samson Q2U, the ATR2100, and the Maono AU-HD300T. The one you buy should just be whatever’s available and cheapest in your particular region. It’s as easy as that.
The great thing about these mics is that they also work via XLR. This means that if in the future, you decide to upgrade your gear to a mixer or digital recorder, you won’t need to buy a new mic. Of course, you might never want to do this, and that’s absolutely fine. You can stick with the simple USB setup for the entirety of your podcasting life.
The only other piece of equipment you “need” is headphones. You can buy a decent pair of over-ear ‘cans’ for about $30. To be honest, even the simple earbuds you use on your phone will get you by. Plug your headphones into your mic when you’re recording remotely with a guest or co-host, and that prevents them from hearing their own voice echoing back at them.
So you’ve got your USB mic and plugged it in. Now you just need some software to capture your first recording. The good news (for simplicity’s sake) is that this is usually the same software as you’ll do your editing and production in, too.
I’m going to offer 2 options here. One is free, but has a steep learning curve. The other is a paid monthly subscription, but makes recording, editing, producing, and publishing a podcast as simple as possible.
If you have little or no budget, then Audacity could be your best option. It’s a little clunky looking, but it essentially has all the tools you need to make a great sounding podcast. If you’re completely new to audio, Audacity will take a bit of learning. But, you’ll find plenty of tutorials free on YouTube.
One thing Audacity won’t do is record remote calls with guests or co-hosts. If you want to do this, opt for the free tier on Zoom, then just drag your recordings into Audacity once you’re ready for the editing and production phase.
For $32 per month (get a 7-day free trial and save 2 months if you pay annually), all of your podcasting recording, editing, and production worries can be smoothed out by our ‘Podcast Maker’ tool, Alitu.
You can record solo episodes or remote calls with co-hosts or guests, so all of the audio creation happens in one single easy-to-navigate interface.
I mentioned already that Audacity has all the tools and functions you need to produce a pro-sounding pod. It’s just going to take a bit of time to learn it all if audio production is completely new to you. The editing and production phase contains a few different parts, from chopping out mistakes to handling EQ, Compression, Noise Reduction, and mastering overall volume levels.
With Alitu, this has all been streamlined and automated for you. You still need to manually cut out any unwanted sections (mistakes, interruptions, etc). But, this is made easy with Alitu’s clean and user-friendly interface.
As for the Noise Reduction, EQ, Compression, and overall loudness: if you’re a non-techy person these are probably the last things you want to spend time trying to learn. Alitu will handle it all for you, automatically, behind the scenes, and optimize your episodes to podcast industry-standard levels. You don’t need to know a thing about how it all works; just let Alitiu do its job.
Building your episode is straightforward too, in Alitu. It’s a simple drag and drop interface where you can arrange the various segments of your show, from intros and CTAs, to promos and full interviews. Enhance your episode with some music too - there’s even a free-to-use music library inside Alitu!
Now that you see how easy it is to create podcast episodes, there are just a couple of other things we need to do to get your show out there and available to the world.
Your podcast needs a logo in order for it to be listed in directories like Apple/iTunes and Spotify (more on that shortly).
There are a few rules and best practices around podcast cover art.
Design your podcast artwork in a way that it still looks nice and clear when viewed as a thumbnail on a phone. Ideally, the only text on there will be the podcast’s name. Aside from that, try to capture the mood and tone of the show within your artwork. Many listeners do judge a “book” (your show) by its cover.
You need to sign up to a podcast hosting service to create your show and start publishing episodes. There are loads of great hosting options out there, all of which work on the same principles. Hosting costs around $10-$15 per month, depending on who you choose. The good news is that you can easily link Alitu up with any top podcast host, so you can publish new episodes directly from within the Alitu dashboard.
Inside your hosting account, you’ll enter details like your podcast’s name, its description, and upload your cover art.
All good podcast hosting services want to make your experience as simple as possible, so you’ll find a ‘Distribution’ or ‘Directories’ tab within your account. There, it’ll show you the various places podcasts can be submitted to and listed in. Most popularly, these are directories like Spotify and Apple/iTunes. A lot of podcast directories list you automatically once you’re in Apple. Submitting to directories can often be done with a single click inside your hosting account, and is a one-time-only task.
So you’ve done the hard bit (which wasn’t really that hard) and published your first podcast episode. Your show is out there everywhere podcasts are consumed, ready to be listened to and subscribed to. Now, you just need some listeners!
The most important thing in the early days is to set expectations about your download numbers. The good news is that your new episodes just need to get about 26 downloads within the first week of their release to statistically put your show in the top 50% of podcasts. Ignore all the figures you hear mentioned when it comes to the most popular shows in the world, many of which have been running for a decade or longer. Also, never compare podcast download numbers to social media followers or even YouTube views: they are completely different things.
So, what are the low-hanging growth fruits for brand new podcasters with no audience? Descriptive and compelling episode titles make your show easier to find in search by folks looking for content on your topic. Many podcasters overlook or waste their Calls to Action at the end of each episode, too. “If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with someone else you think might like it” is worth a million “support me on Patreon” or “buy my product” CTAs, when only a handful of people are listening.
Just remember to make your podcast simple to share. This is where having your own website comes in handy, because you can put all your subscribe links to places like Apple and Spotify on one easy-to-find page. If you’re a non-techy person you might panic at the thought of this, but it has never been easier. Once you’ve created your show in your hosting account, there’s a service called Podpage that’ll automatically generate a great looking website for you in seconds.
Like anything else, you can fast-track podcast growth if you have an advertising budget. There are loads of options when it comes to advertising a podcast. One of my favourites is Overcast because it’s a podcast listening app, so 100% of the people who see your ad are actively listening to podcasts at the time.
Hopefully, you feel a lot more confident about starting your own podcast now. As I’ve mentioned a few times, any tech you use is simply a means to an end, and you don’t need to know or learn how it all works. There are tools out there that can simplify the entire process (like Alitu handling the recording, editing, and production!) so lean on them, and focus the bulk of your time and energy on creating great content your listeners will love.
Going forward, here are some resources you might find handy. Essential, even…
The first is The Podcast Host Planner. This is a physical journal you can use to plan and organise your show, from big picture goals, to edit notes on individual episodes. There are also regular reflection pages where you can look back on lessons learned, as well as celebrate your wins.
The second is Podcast Growth - the ultimate manual for growing a dedicated audience around your content. In this book, we walk through every growth tactic we know and provide clear how-to instructions and checklists for each one. Some are big tasks that’ll take many months, whereas others will only take you a few minutes. Combine it with your Podcast Host Planner and it’ll give you superpowers.
Finally, be sure to check out our 7-Day Bootcamp. There, we’ll walk you through the process of getting your 1st episode out there in one single week!