How To Start, Edit, and Grow A Podcast For Beginners
Everyone and their mom has a podcast these days. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts filling the internet at the moment, leaving few subjects untouched.
Unfortunately, most of these podcasts fade out of popularity.
This happens because the podcaster has a great new idea, and tries to start a podcast, but isn’t great at growing it.
In this article, I’ll be taking you through the process of successfully starting a podcast, pulling from my own experience.
I’ll talk about what gear you should have, provide tips on audio editing, and show you how to get the word out.
The Golden Tip: Avoid Analysis Paralysis
Before we go any further, keep this in mind: nothing will get done if you don’t do it.
Developing the idea and content of your podcast is important and having the proper recording equipment is great, but try not to get hung up on those things. At some point, you’ll have to take action.
Your podcast can’t start itself.
The Gear And Software You will Need
First and foremost, you’ll need a decent microphone. The audio quality is a big factor in whether or not people will listen.
Our Top 3 Mics
Here’s a quick note on the difference between USB mics and XLR mics: USB mics plug right into your computer via the USB port, while XLR mics (those with a three-pronged connection) use an audio interface that plugs into your computer.
In short; XLR mics require you to purchase an audio interface, while USB mics do not.
Blue Snowball -- USB
This little mic sits on a mini tripod, is perfect for placing on your desk at mouth height, and comes with the necessary USB cable.
You can plug it in and start recording right out of the box.
Audio Technica AT2020 -- XLR
When it comes to the best deal, for both your wallet and recording quality, the Audio Technica AT2020 is the top recommended microphone.
While you’ll pay a little more than the Blue Snowball, it’s a condenser mic with a wide frequency response (fancy words for “high-quality”), which means you’ll get a more professional sounding podcast.
Note: because it’s an XLR mic, the AT2020 requires an audio interface, which is an additional piece of equipment you’ll need to purchase.
Blue Yeti -- USB
Like the Snowball, the Yeti is a plug-and-play mic. However, this one is unique in its ability to record in multiple pickup patterns:
This mics versatility gives you the option to record quality audio from almost any source (speech, musical instruments, nature sounds, etc.).
The Yeti also has a zero-latency (meaning no delay) headphone output and a mute button. This allows you to have live monitoring -- to make sure you’re getting the sound you want while you’re recording.
The General Workflow
When it comes to starting your podcast, follow this workflow outline:
1. Create a show plan
First, come up with a title and a description. This will be the first impression people have of your podcast. The title needs to give the listener an idea of what they’re getting into, while also being unique and memorable.
Some prime examples are Radiolab (“weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries”), This American Life (stories of the American life), and Beautiful Anonymous (“Beautiful Stories From Anonymous People”).
Second, create (or have a graphic designer create) an eye-catching logo that captures the idea of your podcast. This is also going to be part of people’s first impression.
Third, write a clear and creative description. It has to have lots of keywords and describe what the listener will hear in the average episode.
Lastly, plan out the first few episodes so you can stay ahead of your schedule (daily, weekly, monthly, or whichever is best for you). This is what I did with my podcast, Musicateur, and it was extremely helpful.
2. Record the episode
Using a microphone (see above) and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), record all the audio you can in advance -- the intro and outro, narration, commentary, and interviews.
Depending on the type of podcast you’re running, you may have to leave your recording space to capture audio. Examples of this could be interviews or B-roll (audio that helps set the scene).
3. Edit the episode
Using your DAW, edit the audio you’ve recorded, cutting out unwanted sections, mistakes, and then enhance the audio quality with EQ and compression (see below for specific editing tips).
Structuring your episode is going to be a large part of the editing process. If it’s a storytelling podcast, the editing process will take longer than a conversational-style podcast.
4. Promotion, promotion, promotion
Promote the heck out of your podcast (more on that below).
You might also enjoy: Social Media Marketing For Musicians. The concepts apply to podcasters too.
Useful Software For Podcasters
When you’re recording and editing a podcast, you don’t need super expensive or complicated software. You need something simple yet reliable.These are the DAWs we recommend:
Audacity is a free audio editor and recorder. It’s as simple as a piece of editing software can get, which is great if you’re just starting out.
It’s compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Check out their website for all the features and specs.
Attention Mac users: this is the DAW you’ll probably want to use! Sorry, PCers, it’s only compatible with Apple products as it’s made by Apple.
It comes preloaded on every MacBook and is a super simple DAW with a lot of cool features.
For an in-depth guide on how to get started with GarageBand, check out our GarageBand tutorial or take some tips from podcaster Pat Flynn.
Adobe Audition is built for editing audio for videos, podcasting, and sound design.
I t offers features that allow you to be precise in your editing while letting you apply the same effects to multiple tracks at once.
Audition’s pricing is different from most DAWs in that it charges a monthly subscription fee because it’s an app rather than a piece of software.
Other DAWs to mention
Obviously, these aren’t the only DAWs to choose from -- you can do free trials until you find the one you want!
But the most popular DAWs are Pro Tools, Ableton, Logic Pro X, and FL Studio. Reaper is also an affordable, easy-to-use option.
Unless you’re someone who prefers to handwrite everything on a piece of paper, you’ll need a reliable word processor.
If you have a PC, you’ll automatically have Microsoft Word. Just make sure to backup all of your Word documents to an external hard drive or online storage.
If you’re like me and you’re obsessed with anything Google, Docs is definitely worth checking out. It’s similar to Microsoft Word, but completely online. It autosaves your content every few seconds to your Google Drive, and you can export your documents to .docx, .pdf, .txt, and other file formats.
What makes LibreOffice unique is that it’s a free and open-source office suite. This means that every line of code is made completely public and anyone from around the world can contribute features to this piece of software. It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux
Evernote is a simply designed app that helps you organize your writing into notebooks and attach other files to your notes. This is all on the cloud, so you can seamlessly switch between a computer, a tablet, and a phone.
There are many apps out there that allow for distraction-free writing -- a mode that removes distractions from your screen.
Some of these apps take up your entire computer screen and some have an eye-friendly, minimalist design that helps you focus on your writing.
Here are the ones we recommend checking out for planning your podcast:
If you’re more of a visual person, you could look into doing some mind mapping, the process of “note-taking and note-making that literally ‘maps out’ your ideas,” according to MindMapping.com. The point is to keep your ideas as structured as possible.
If you can’t interview someone in-person, you’ll need a way to record the audio of your conversation. These two programs are designed to help you do just that.
Just keep in mind you will probably have to ask the interviewee for permission to record, depending on your state’s law.
Skype, as you may know, is a video and voice calling program that requires wifi rather than phone plan. Skype offers the ability to record the audio and/or video of a call, making it a great way to conduct podcast interviews.
When I interview people over the phone, whether for my podcast or as a music journalist, I use ACR Recorder; an app for Android phones. It works well, the audio quality is excellent, and it’s easy to navigate.
This is your standard calendar, but it’s so easy to use and you can make it send you reminders. It’s an underrated program, to say the least.
Todoist allows you to create and manage tasks and projects with ease. The app has a simplistic design, which is all on the cloud, so you can access it anywhere.
Social Media Management
Social media will probably be the primary way people discover and share your podcast. It’s also a great way to engage with your fans.
You can schedule your posts to nearly every social media platform and then view the analytics to see how people are responding.
6 Audio Editing Tips That Will Make your Podcast Sound More Professional
Follow these tips to make your podcast quality go from amateur to pro.
1. Rough Cut First, Clean Up Later
Just get the gist of the podcast edited down first. Arrange all of the clips where they should be relative to other clips.
With my podcast, I basically “lay out” the structure of the story I’m telling during my first editing session. Once that’s done, I go through and clean up the clips and piece everything together.
Unless you think an “um,” “uh,” or a false start fits the context of what a person is saying, cut it out. You want speech to sound real, but you also want to get right to the point and not waste people’s time.
Crossfade blends two clips together by fading out the end of the first clip and fading in the beginning of the second clip. This is a tool you’ll need, especially when putting together two audio clips of someone speaking.
Most DAWs have this feature, but some will apply it automatically when you drag the two clips together.
4. The Music And Speech Should Work Together
If you listen to any professional podcast, (see point one under “The General Workflow”) you’ll notice the music and speech blend perfectly with each other.
The music gets quieter when someone starts to speak and louder when there’s a break in conversation. Don’t forget to do this if you’re editing music into your podcast.
EQ is the most important sound-shaping tool you can use when editing your podcast. You can use it to emphasize certain frequencies and move others to the back.
Here are some basics to remember:
And then adjust accordingly.
What I love to do is choose an EQ preset that makes the audio sound better, then I tweak the settings until the audio sounds exactly how I want.
6. Go With Your Gut (Ears)
Ultimately, it comes down to what you think sounds the best. Instead of memorizing a set list of editing steps, just take these tips, try them out, and let the final decision be your gut (or ear) instinct.
And don’t worry -- you’ll get better at editing the more you do it.
Promoting Your Podcast
If you're starting a podcast from the ground up and don't have a big budget or an existing audience, chances are your podcast's success is not going to happen over night.
With marketing, you will always have to focus on improving and learning new things. Technology advances fast and opens new doors to opportunity frequently.
With that said, here are our favorite resources/articles on podcast promotion:
- We Didn’t Know How to Promote a Podcast. So Here’s All We Learned - Buffer
- Reaching your target audience and the top 5 ways to promote your podcast - EOFire
- 10 Fresh Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Podcast - Buzzsprout
Our biggest takeaways:
- Release a video version of your podcast to instantly create a second piece of content that is more sharable when uploaded to YouTube.
- To gain some additional income to grow when your podcast is still small, outreach to various companies to get sponsored. Make sure to share your idea in a way that shows your passion and drive. You could experiment with outreaching to small mom & pop companies vs medium to large companies. Make an effort to email 5 companies a day no matter what.
- If you have a guest on, email them after the show goes live that you'd appreciate if they'd share it.
- Do well on iTunes, do well everywhere else! According to Buffer, iTunes is responsible for 70% of a podcast's downloads. However, I wonder if this statistic still stands true as Android has the majority marketshare on smartphones.
- Share unique social media content - sound bytes, behind-the-scenes, photos, quotes from guests, upcoming show announcements, polls for listeners, etc.
Hope that gives you an idea of what you can do to get the word out! Remember, marketing doesn't have to be a boring corporate task. The best marketers know that marketing is an art that involves creativity just as much as strategy.
We think you should check out EOFire’s Podcaster’s Paradise Course.
Free Sounds, Images, And More...
As for music, I’d suggest using Soundcloud or Bandcamp to find indie artists who make music you’d like to use for your podcast. That’s how I got all of the music for my podcast.
I’d send an artist an email and tell them how they could benefit from letting me use their music (exposure to new audience, link back to their website, mention them on social media, etc.).
The worst that can happen is they say “no”. But if they “yes”, you’ll have awesome music that costs $0.
I really hope this guide helps you get your podcast up and running -- no, sprinting. Good luck!