Although podcasts have been around for over a decade, now is the best time to start one if you haven’t already.
Podcast hosts are standing out from the crowd in their niche. Brands are getting more reach and building bigger, tighter audiences. Coaches are getting more clients, and new entrepreneurs are using podcasts to launch their new businesses, or power-up their existing one.
As with any content platform, when it starts to go mainstream, a lot of people rush into it and fail to have the proper expectations and strategies to make that time worthwhile. Podcasting is an incredibly powerful medium, and these top 10 tips for brand new podcasters come from my own experience hosting several of my own shows, and helping thousands of others create their own.
1. Push the Fear Aside and Just Get Started
In December 2008 when SPI was only three months old, I published a blog post announcing my new, upcoming podcast. I even published my first audio file online, just to test my new microphone equipment.
Here is that audio file below. It’s . . . well . . . not my best work:
So that was December 2008. My first episode didn’t come out until July . . .
. . . of 2010.
Yes, that’s a year and a half later. I waited that long because, more than anything, I was scared. I was scared of recording my voice and putting it out there in the world for everyone to judge. I was scared about what people thought about my show, or me as a person, because unlike a written blog post, a recorded audio file (even though you can edit), is a lot harder to “hide behind.”
Eventually, I got over the fear, and thanks to the encouragement of dozens of other supporters, I published the first episode of The Smart Passive Income Podcast in July 2010.
Looking back, I truly wish I had started earlier.
2. Don’t Worry About the Sound of Your Voice
One thing in particular I feared was how people would respond to the sound of my voice. I didn’t like the sound, and I would always cringe when listening to my own recordings.
I still do.
Honestly, I don’t think anyone likes the sound of their own voice.
The truth is, the sound of your voice doesn’t matter. It’s the information and inspiration you share with that voice that matters. So, if you have an accent that you think is “too thick” or a voice that’s high and piercing, it doesn’t matter. You should be podcasting anyway.
And even if people didn’t like your voice for whatever reason, those aren’t the people you’re meant to serve anyway.
3. You Don’t Need a Super Expensive Setup
The most important tool a podcaster has, besides their voice, is the microphone that captures that voice.
A lot of beginners think they need a setup that costs over $1,000 to get started, which includes not only the microphone, but also the mixer, decompressor, and other metal boxes that have a ton of dials and switches that really just makes things more confusing. Perhaps that was the case back in the day when professional broadcasters were the ones starting podcasts, but nowadays, with the progression in microphone technology over the years, all you need is a quality microphone that plugs into your USB.
Professional audio engineers may cringe to hear that, but let me tell you something about pro audiophiles: they hear everything. They are so talented and involved in what they do, they can notice the difference between two microphones just like a car enthusiast could name a car just by hearing the engine.
Us regular-eared people can still hear the difference between bad audio quality and good audio quality, but with the mics available to us today, most of us can’t tell the difference between an $80 microphone and a $350 microphone.
I paid over $700 in equipment I never used when I started, which is why I was happy to find this bad boy: the Audio-Technica ATR-2100. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
I remember when I found out about it too. Big thanks to Father Roderick who mentioned it on Facebook over seven years ago.
This will run you about $70 on Amazon, and it plugs directly into your computer’s USB port. This, and recording software like GarageBand or Audacity, and you’re good to go. [This link leads to Amazon. Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
You may want to upgrade later on when you start to generate an income and make a business out of your podcast, but you may find that even then, you won’t need to upgrade.
4. Plan Your Future Content. Please!
For the first few years of the life of my podcast, I had the same thought every Wednesday morning after hitting publish on that week’s podcast episode:
“Woohoo! [Small celebratory dance.] Okay, now, let’s figure out what next week’s episode is going to be about . . . UGH.”
In the beginning, those thoughts about next week’s episode came rather quickly. But over time, the minutes spent thinking about what to do next turned into hours, which turned into days until eventually I began to miss publication dates for my show.
If you allow yourself to “wonder what’s next,” you can be sure that eventually you’ll wonder what happened to your show. Taking time upfront to plan your content calendar will save you so much stress and anxiety when it comes to the production of your show.
Please, no matter where you’re at in your podcasting journey, plan ahead. At the beginning of each quarter, my team and I get together and brainstorm blog post and podcast episode topics for the next quarter. Yes, things change sometimes, but it’s so nice to have an idea of what’s coming next.
If you’ll be inviting guests on your show, it’ll make it easier to schedule. If one of those episodes requires some research, you’ll actually have time to do it. And if you’re planning a launch of a product or some special event, you can plan around that as well and have your podcast episodes support your business better.
For the beginner who has yet to launch their show, try to write down fifteen topics, ideas, or guests you could have on your show, and try to put them in order starting from episode one. Don’t worry about the titles yet; fine tuning that can always come later.
And if you find you can’t list fifteen topics or show ideas yet, that’s a sign that you need to put a little more research in before you light that fuse.
5. Launch Your Podcast with at Least 3 Episodes
I remember my first one-star review for my show. It was harsh, and it came almost immediately after my first episode came out.
Not a great way to begin.
The reviewer commented on the the fact that I spent time in that first episode sharing my vision of what the podcast will become.
Kind of harsh if you ask me. But it taught me a valuable lesson.
First, an introductory episode (episode #1) that shares what’s coming and gives nothing else to chew on is really just a big fat tease . . . and some people don’t like to be teased. This person had to wait an entire week to finally get the goods, which is not ideal. I should have launched with more than just a “here’s what you can look forward to.”
The launch of your show should be treated like an event, so give your listeners something to bite into! Launching with at least three episodes gives listeners more of an opportunity to dig deeper with you, and it gives them a sense of really what the show is going to be like moving forward.
For you, that means increased downloads, more calls to action inside of people’s ears, increased subscribership, and potentially even more ratings and reviews than you would have received otherwise.
A single episode alone may not resonate with a person, but if there are three, it’s much more likely one of those episodes will hit the mark.
6. Pick a Date and Make It an Event
I’ve already mentioned this in a previous tip, but it’s worth mentioning again. Before you launch your show, and even before you begin recording your first episodes, pick a launch date in the future, put it on the calendar, and make a commitment to stick to it.
Beyond that, the date you selected should be treated like it’s the day of a big event because it is!
Think about an actual in-person event that someone might host. Do they, without any notice to anyone else, open doors on the day of the event and hope people come in? Not usually!
Typically, there is quite an effort that goes into letting people know that the event is happening, and that date and the location are always mentioned. You could even set up a contest of sorts, get your friends and family involved, and make this day something fun and memorable for you and all of your new subscribers.
7. Understand the Truth about A-listers
A-listers are the top people in your space, and in terms of people to interview for an episode, they are the ones most podcasters always shoot for.
Having A-listers on your show is great. They can definitely drop some amazing knowledge for you and your audience, and the credibility that comes with interviewing an A-lister is very real. I definitely recommend trying to make that happen, but there are a number of concerns that I need to bring up, especially for the beginning podcaster:
- A-listers are not always easy to convince to have on your show. They are typically being asked by many other people for their time, and most A-listers want to make sure their time is well spent. If you don’t have a relationship with the A-lister already, the answer is almost always an immediate no.
- If you do happen to score a lucky interview with an A-lister, congratulations! But now you have the challenge of making sure that interview becomes something unique. Like I said, other people are probably asking this person for an interview too, so how are you going to make this one better than the rest? It can be very challenging, especially if this person is saying yes to many people.
For beginner podcasters, I recommend interviewing the following three groups of people:
- B & C-listers: People in the same space who can contribute to your show and add value to your podcast. These people are potential up-and-comers, and are far more likely to say yes to an interview because they are looking for exposure too. They are bloggers, podcasters, and video content creators who are consistently coming out with great stuff. And generally, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate than an A-lister would.
- Success Stories You’ve Created: This is one of the most underutilized groups of people to potentially interview in the podcasting space. That is, people in your audience who have found success because of you! There’s no better way to prove your expertise and ability to help others than to showcase a student of yours who took action. Unlike an A-lister, these people are far more relatable, and only a few steps ahead of your audience, so this will fire up your listeners like nothing else.
- Success Stories that Haven’t Happened Yet: Instead of interviewing successful people and experts in your space, what about people who are on their way? This likely represents the top percentage of listeners of your show, so if you invited a person on and coached them through a specific pain or problem, that immediately demonstrates not only your knowledge and expertise, but also your love and care for your audience. If you offer any coaching, this is one of the best ways to get new clients, because your audience gets to taste test exactly what learning from you is like!
8. Use Royalty-Free Music and Audio
Lots of new podcasters have questions about using music and audio clips in their show. Even if it’s just a clip, even if that clip is only one second long, you are putting you and your business at risk by not getting permission to use other people’s intellectual property in your show.
Yes, a podcast is cool because it’s your show and you can build it and structure it in any way you wish, but you still have to follow the rules when it comes to legal stuff, or else you could get in trouble.
Not all podcasters follow the rules though, so just because you hear an audio clip or a song on another podcast doesn’t mean you can use one too. You don’t know if the other podcast licensed the use of that clip or song, which is also possible (but typically very expensive).
The best practice, especially when starting out, is to create the music yourself, hire someone to do it for you (and you own the song), or use a service that has royalty-free audio that you’re allowed to use in your podcast.
Here are a couple of resources I’m excited to share with you that may help you here at the start:
- Music Radio Creative: Mike and Izabela created this service to help those who want professional, royalty-free music and voiceovers done for their show. I’ve used it for AskPat, and several other podcasters have been completely happy with their service. Even some new students of mine in the founding group for my online training course, Power-Up Podcasting®, enjoyed using their services. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
- Artlist.io: This is my latest find when it comes to royalty-free music, and there are actually some decent tracks on here I could imagine myself listening to in the car. I use this mainly for music that goes into my live streams to accommodate Facebook’s strict rules. But you can download, edit, and use these in your podcast episodes as well.
9. Put the Numbers into Perspective
I once asked a friend of mine how often he checked his podcast downloads stats. His answer?
At least ten times a day!
Ten! That’s a lot, but I don’t blame him. One of the funnest parts of podcasting is seeing exactly how many people are on the other end listening. At the same time, it can also be one of the most depressing podcaster rituals, because those numbers may not be as big as you want them to be.
It’s always good to want to grow, and so you should always strive for bigger download numbers, but at the same time, I want to help you put into perspective what these numbers actually mean.
A podcast with only 100 downloads an episode may seem like it’s not going anywhere. But imagine this:
A room filled with 100 people, and you’re up on stage at the front. People came there to watch you and take in every word you said. For many people, that imagery scares people to death. Why? Because that’s a lot of people to stand up in front of and deliver a message to!
To me, a podcast is no different. It’s your message, on a digital stage, that people have chosen to listen to. You may only start with small numbers, but remember those numbers represent actual human beings who are interested in you and your message, and could potentially share your message with others too.
Is there no wonder why I prefer podcasting over speaking on stage? It’s not because I don’t have to travel and I can record straight from home. That’s a plus, yes, but the amazing thing is that in order to get in front of hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of people, each week, all I need to do is record an episode from the comfort of my own home.
Imagine trying to hold a real-life event each week with that many people, and how much that would cost.
10. Create Your Podcast SOP
An SOP, or standard operating procedure, is a written list of steps or requirements that you (or another person) can use for a repetitive task. When you have one for your podcast, it makes life SO much easier! After you get started, creating an episode from start to finish starts to become second nature. In the beginning, however, it’s almost like you’re learning how to walk for the first time.
As you create your episodes, write down the steps you take. Every little thing matters, from where you drop your files in the host that you choose, to your show notes and even how you promote your show on social media.
The benefit of writing this down is you don’t have to waste time thinking anymore, and you could even hand that off to someone else to produce most of it for you in the future so that all you have to do is record content, and everything else is taken care of.
A Free Checklist / SOP for Starting a Podcast
I’ve helped thousands of people start their own podcast, and I want to help thousands more. Like I said, it’s the number one content platform available to you for sharing your message in the most impactful way, and if you’re hoping to build a strong rapport with your audience, there’s no better way to do it.
I created a free Podcast Cheat Sheet for those of you who are interested in starting your own show. This free download will help you keep track of all the steps to setting up your podcast, and it comes with a free three-day video series to walk you through getting started.
Click the button below to download your copy of the Podcast Cheat Sheet, and I look forward to seeing your show up on iTunes soon!