So You Want to Start a Podcast in 2020?
Starting a podcast is a super exciting idea. The idea of spreading a message to a greater audience, saying what you want to say, or putting a creative vision to life is motivating for many people, but before you start, I want you to think about these 3 key points.
1. Imagine you never make any money from the podcast, now ask yourself if you would still be interested in having a podcast.
2. Always finish what you started. When it comes to building a brand, a legacy, etc, you want to be sustainable long term, and consistent. It builds on your integrity, and integrity is all you have. With that being said, if you are going to start a podcast, be prepared to release episodes regularly in a way that can suit your life in the busy times AND the slow times.
3. Make sure you are doing this podcast for YOU and nobody else. Expectations can crush momentum. Sometimes we start projects expecting lots of traction with listens and charts and we hear crickets. You have to enjoy doing this no matter what size your audience is.
If you've made it this far, you're ready to get started, you might be wondering what the first step is in making your podcast. First of all, you have to pick a podcast hosting service. I'm going to list three options for an audio-based podcast.
1. Podbean (the paid version) has served me really well for the last 15 months. The cost per year is roughly $150 depending on the exchange rate (they're US based). If you are wanting to have control over your content and not run into road blocks, it's good and competitive option. You also get the ability to have a customized landing page (http://thelifestylechase.podbean.com) and it has very intuitive analytics, and no limits to how much you upload - that is a BIG deal.
2. Anchor is a great option for someone just wanting to get their feet wet. I look at this from the standpoint of two things. First thing is, easy come, easy go. It's easy to start a podcast on Anchor, easy to afford a podcast on Anchor, but there will be more clauses in the fine print that you have no control of due to the fact that it is free. This meaning Anchor can advertise all over your podcast or be listed as the owner on iTunes. Second thing is, as far as sustainability goes, Anchor allows you to record a podcast straight from your phone - so if you just want to talk and keep it simple, they can help.
3. Third option is SoundCloud Pro. Their pricing is competitive with Podbean depending on whether or not they are running a promo and they also offer unlimited uploads. There is a lot to compare but overall, with Soundcloud being a website that many people are already going to for content, that would be a good reason to use their services.
At the end of the day, my best advice is to make sure that your podcast has your name on it and not the host website's name or branding, make sure you aren't going to run into a roadblock with content uploads, and make sure you have an .rss feed that you can use to connect with iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, etc.
What about a name for the Podcast though?
I go through quite a process when it comes to naming things. I'll explain why. When it comes to a brand, or a podcast, you have to realize how many times you're going to say that out loud. Other people are going to be saying it too. It needs to be something that is easy to say, and hard to make fun of. It needs to be something that represents your mission statement.
Here is a five step process for how I've chosen names in the past.
1. Get a notepad, and write out some words that you'd use to describe your podcast. List off as many as you can, you're going to want to have more than 20 words.
2. With you being the host of your podcast, you want those words to match with who you are. The authenticity factor is key in choosing something that makes sense over the long term. If you need help, get a few close friends to describe you with some words, or get them to describe what you have to offer with some words. Add those to your list of words.
3. Google "Wordle". It's a tool that scrambles words around creatively. List off all the words (including duplicates) into your "Wordle" and click generate. It's like those posts you see on social media. Our brains are more likely to recognize the words we associate with, so scrambling them helps.
4. If this process has helped you find a name, you're going to have to make sure that nobody else has it. Try a domain search, search for it as a Podcast on Spotify and Apple Play, and Google it.
5. If you're in the clear, say the podcast name out loud. Are you able to say it without mixing up your words? Is it something you'd be proud to tell your partner about or your best friend or your mom or dad or a grandparent? If so, enough thinking, get to work.
As far as technology and software goes, you don't need to over complicate it. You can use the voice memo feature on your cell phone as a microphone in your beginning stages. I feel like if you want to have a podcast you'll probably want to have a microphone though. My favourite microphone manufacturer is Blue as they are very easy to set up with most computers and very user friendly. Microphones will average between $150 and $250.
For software, you can use Audacity or Garageband. It just depends if you have Windows or Mac. You don't need to pay for any software.
If you are recording with a guest remotely, you can pay for a service like Zoom that captures the video conference, or you can use a free service such as Skype or Google Hangouts in conjunction with OBS. The alternative to OBS would be to have a soundboard. Lots of podcast hosts might enjoy having all the toys, but I like to keep it simple. For me, just my laptop and a mic. Makes travelling to guests easy.
OBS is going to capture your video call in audio and export it into a video file. Just make sure you have your channels set up where one is picking up the default computer noises which would include your guest, and the other is strictly the usb microphone. Also, go into settings to turn off any of the notification noises you may have. You will also be able to adjust the volume of each channel independently if needed. You won't be able to make adjustments independently after very easily. If you are wanting to convert that to audio and don't have a video editing software that does that, I recommend installing Shotcut. It's free and simple to use. This way, if you didn't already have a video editor, now you do. Once you import the video file from OBS, you export it as an audio file via Shotcut, then import it into Audacity.
You're going to want some kind of intro jingle. I usually do a search of royalty-free music and try to read all the fine print. If you're feeling brave, look for a instrumental cover or remix of the music you want to use. Being that it is an intro, using 20-30 seconds of an instrumental cover will hopefully not get you in trouble. I do not recommend using audio that has the lyrics in it or that is easy to identify as at some point there will be copyright dispute. Fair is fair.
My opinion with intros is that you don't want your jingle to take up too much space, you want to get to the point, especially if the jingle is going to be on every episode. It's like on Friends how they started to shorten the intro after the show got popular. People were there for the new episode, not the intro.
Make sure you have a good file organization. On my computer, I have all of my video captures from remote guests in Videos, and then the converted audio files go there too. I have another folder called Podcast Material, where I have all of the edited, finalized episodes, I have the predone intros, and I have all of the cover photos from past episodes as well as Audiograms for most of the episodes. All the Episodes have a naming structure (e.g. The Lifestyle Chase - Episode 1 - Blake Fillion), then they're easy to find and you kind of get a rhythm as you compile more episodes.
Here are some handy tips as you are publishing your first episode. It's never a bad idea to create custom cover art for each episode. My apps of choice are Snapseed and Canva. I like to create Audiograms for my social media posts, a great tool for this is www.headliner.com.
So let's say you have some episodes uploaded, here is a checklist of podcast directories to add your podcast to:
1. iTunes/Apple Podcasts
3. Google Podcasts
That's just the tip of the iceberg, but it's a great start. As you get more content, you'll benefit from taking the time to get your .rss feed connected to more podcast streaming services.
In addition, www.headliner.com can also do full podcast Audiograms which you can then upload onto YouTube. The alternative would be to capture your episodes in video as well - which is really cool, but a HUGE time commitment - so I always encourage simplicity first and build up from there.
When your podcast is up, and you want to see how it's doing, check it out at www.chartable.com. Here you will be able to see if you are ranked (in any country) and it will also notify you of any new rating you receive. The most accurate listener analytics will be via your podcast host website in most cases. So for me, I would get my listener counts at www.podbean.com, and I would see if I was a top ranked podcast at www.chartable.com even though Chartable lists some of the listens, it is never a complete selection and usually most just listens via the integrated platforms.
I'm really excited to see where you go with your new podcast. Here is my advice. Be yourself, don't try to be anyone else, it's easier to say "that's me" and let that attract your audience than it is to deal with the consequences of being inconsistent in how you show up in the world.
Secondly, talk to other podcast hosts, see how they do what they do. You are likely to learn something.
Lastly, don't partner with a brand that you wouldn't personally buy from on a regular basis. Nobody wins if you're a 27 year old single male advertising ladies tampons on his podcast for a couple bucks of yearly ad revenue in the middle of an episode talking about lifting and farts. Just being real, it'll take a lot of patience. Don't ask out the first advertisement that smiles at you.
Give this article a share to any of your friends that might be wanting to start a podcast in 2020.