1. Start with the What
First, what makes a good podcast?
One that knows the essentials from the beginning: what it’s about, how to get the message across, and why it matters.
What’s your topic? Don’t start a podcast just because you think it’d be cool to chat with your friends into a microphone. Having a clear idea of what your show is about will help keep you grounded and consistent from the beginning.
2. Then, Think about the How
Similarly, decide on your content’s style, structure, and tone before beginning. The more you know about what your podcast will be like and how you’ll get it done, the less bumpy the road will be as you get started.
And while it’s certainly allowed to make changes as you go, the more consistent you can be, the easier it will be for your audience to stick with you.
3. Find Your Why
And, of course, ask yourself why you’re doing the show.
If it’s just to mess around with your friends or hustle up some sponsorships, you may want to rethink this project. Without a deeper goal or purpose in mind, you could find yourself floundering or petering out not long after you’ve begun.
4. Know Your Target Audience
Next, take a minute (or several) to determine who you’ll be speaking to. Don’t try to appeal to everyone; if you do, you’ll end up appealing to no one. After all, there’s a reason why a buyer persona is so commonplace among marketers.
Ask yourself the following about your ideal listener:
- How old are they?
- What are their interests or hobbies?
- What kind of job do they have?
- Where do they live?
- What are their goals in life?
A clear and detailed understanding of your ideal listener can help you create consistently entertaining and relatable content that they’ll love.
5. What Value Do You Provide?
Once you know your target audience, ask yourself what needs your listeners have that your content fulfills.
Whether it’s simply providing great entertainment for their commute, giving actionable advice for their professional goals, or anything in between—make sure you have a solid idea of how your show fits into your audience’s lives.
6. You Don’t Need "That Voice"
Many people think they don’t have the right voice for a podcast. Especially if you’re a woman or part of another marginalized group, it can feel intimidating to join the predominantly white-male-dominated space of podcasting.
Many new podcasters—consciously or unconsciously—use a different voice while recording than they would in real life. Whether you’re tempted to avoid the social connotations that might come from your voice’s pitch, upticks, accent, or slang, know that you’re not alone.
But you can be an excellent podcaster regardless of what your voice sounds like.
The best thing podcasters can do is be authentic. Don’t sound like your regional radio broadcaster or an uptight professor delivering a dry lecture; just talk in a conversational voice.
Part of that comes down to the script, so be sure to write your podcast script like you would speak in a normal conversation (leave out the big words or flowery sentences).
And if you’re wearing headphones (which you should absolutely do), you’ll get an immediate feedback loop of how you sound in real-time. That’ll let you modulate your talking speed, pitch, and other characteristics on the fly. The more you practice, the more natural you’ll sound.
7. Find the Right Structure—and Stick With It
You’ll want to decide on the regular segments of your show before you start. It’ll make planning episodes so much easier, and your audience will know what to expect from each one.
A common podcast structure looks like this:
- Intro: The start of the podcast, where you introduce yourself, your co-hosts, and any guests. You’ll give your listeners an idea of what you’ll be talking about in the episode.
- Main Content: The main body of your show, whether it’s the guest interview, primary monologue/conversation, or audio drama.
- Outro: The conclusion of the episode. Wrap up and give key takeaways, and don’t forget to include a call to action (CTA).
8. Don’t Forget About Ads
Interspersed between episode segments should be your ads. Most podcasters include some combination of:
- Pre-roll ads between the intro and main content,
- Mid-roll ads in the middle of the main content, and
- Post-roll ads between the main content and the outro.
When you start, you probably won’t have any sponsorship deals. But as you gain subscribers, make sure to start reaching out to potential sponsors. For more information and a free pitch template for when you’re ready, check out our guide: How to Get Podcast Sponsorships.
9. Decide How Long Your Episodes Should Be
And don’t forget to think about your average episode length. How long will you shoot for?
Average podcast episode lengths range from the bite-sized podcast of 10-20 minutes to a medium-length podcast of 30-45 minutes to a “long” podcast of an hour or more.
10. Organize Your Workflow
All the best podcasters have an established structure for each podcast and an established structure for how they produce an episode. Creating a podcast episode takes several steps, including:
- Booking guests
Then there’s the post-publication work, like sharing the episodes on social media and sharing podcast transcripts or show notes to your blog.
Decide on the steps for your specific workflow, which will make it as easy as possible to streamline your work.
11. Stick to a Consistent Release Schedule
Decide how often you’ll produce episodes, whether that’s daily, weekly, or every couple of weeks. The right release schedule for you depends on several factors, including how frequently you can (sustainably) create new episodes.
It also depends on what kind of show you’re producing; if you’re discussing politics or news, being timely is more important than if you’re producing a fictional audio drama.
Regardless of the frequency that works for you, stick to the schedule you choose. You may want to use script templates, checklists, and project management software like Trello or Asana to make sure everyone is on the same page.
12. Get The Tech You Need
If you don’t have the right equipment, there’s a limit to how good your podcast can be. You’ll need to invest in:
- A video camera
For our recommendations of the best podcast equipment, check out our article: The Essential Podcast Equipment Checklist for Every Budget.
13. Focus on Putting Out Episodes with High-Quality Audio
And it’s not all just about the hardware, either. Your listeners will be able to tell the difference between amateur recordings compared to ones with high audio quality, which is why you need recording software that’s made to produce the best results.
Look for quality recording software (such as Riverside.fm) that’s easy to use, records in lossless WAV audio and 4K video files, and saves each file locally to each participant’s device so you don’t have to rely on your internet connection.
14. Start off Strong
You shouldn’t slap your first podcast together for the sake of “publishing something.” Don’t fall prey to the temptation to just get started and hope you figure it out as you go along.
Create your first podcast episode with purpose. Introduce yourself and welcome your audience to the show. Give a little background about what inspired you to start this podcast and how you expect it to impact your audience’s lives. (Will it educate them on something important? Provide a place for fun conversations? Teach them a new life skill?)
And don’t forget to acquaint your new audience with what to expect going forward. What will your release schedule be like? What will each podcast episode’s structure contain (including recurring segments)?
The more you can prepare your audience for what to expect, the better—which is why it’s essential to answer all of these major questions before hitting “upload” on your first episode.
15. Choose the Right Day to Launch Your Podcast
Then, set yourself up for success publishing at the day and time that’s most popular for podcast listeners. Best practices dictate that it’s usually a good idea to publish podcast episodes on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday mornings Eastern Standard Time (EST).
16. Find Guests You’re Really Interested In
If you’re doing an interview podcast, you’ll want to book guests that you’re actually excited to speak to. Don’t book people simply because they reached out to you or have an impressive resume; if you’re not interested in the guest, that will likely come through in the recording.
For the most vibrant and entertaining conversations, your heart needs to be in it.
To find interesting and relatable guests, start by researching other podcasts in your niche. Who have they interviewed? (Of course, if you invite someone who was already interviewed by a similar podcast, be careful to ask different questions so that your interview isn’t just a carbon copy of the first one).
Other ways to find guests include using social media, in-person networking, and guest directories like PodcastGuests.com.
17. Learn from Master Interviewers
Once you prepare your list of guests and start booking interviews, you’ll need to learn the right skills to become an engaging interviewer.
The pros don’t just listen to speak; they listen to understand. Practice active listening to show your interest in what the guest has to say.
Don’t be afraid to let the conversation veer from your list of questions—instead, let the conversation flow naturally. Ask follow-up questions as you think of them.
18. Do Your Research
Learn as much as you can about your podcast guests before you interview them. Peruse their website’s About page, scroll their social media accounts, and listen to previous interviews they’ve done. That way, you can dig deeper than surface level and get an engaging and unique discussion.
By researching and learning about your guests, you can prepare interesting questions (and avoid asking the obvious ones that your guest has probably heard a million times before).
19. Use a Pre-Interview Process
Once the guest appears (whether in-person or in the virtual studio), take a few minutes to chat before the recording begins.
Familiarize your guest with what your show is about and who your audience is. Tell them what the post-publishing process is like, including when you expect the episode to be live and where you’ll be promoting it.
And finally, ask if they have any questions for you. The more you can put your guest at ease before pressing “record,” the more they’ll be comfortable enough to open up and give a really great interview.
20. Produce in Batches
Batch recording podcasts can help you save time, get more done more efficiently, and avoid missing a scheduled release day. Simply plan out your next batch of episodes, then record and edit them in one sitting.
Of course, if you talk about the news or current affairs, you can’t record ahead of time. But if your content is evergreen, you can record multiple episodes at once.
When done right, batch recording can mean creating content for an entire month in a single day.
21. Determine and Track Your Key Metrics
The world of podcast analytics can be confusing and overwhelming. Depending on the podcast hosting platform you choose, there’s a lot of raw data at your fingertips.
But when correctly utilized, podcast analytics can help you make strategic decisions about your show that let you learn about your audience, measure your growth, and determine your potential for monetization.
Choose the metrics you’ll track based on your own goals and what matters to you. Possible metrics to track might include:
- Audience demographics
- Average consumption
- Highest-performing episodes
Once you’ve chosen a few metrics to consider, measure them over time to see what’s working, what isn’t, and what you should change as your show progresses.
To learn more about finding and tracking key metrics for your podcast, check out our guide to Podcast Analytics.
22. Give Your Podcast a Distinct Brand
Finally, your podcast will be more successful when you take the time and effort to give it a distinct brand.
Branding your podcast is simply the process of creating a distinct image of your podcast. You do this by creating a certain set of emotions, memories, and connections that your audience automatically associates with your show.
Your brand is your audience’s perception of you—and they’ll have one whether you design it or not.
So if you’re intentional about designing your brand, you’re more in control over how your audience perceives your show. And you’re more likely to build a consistently loyal base of fans.
Take a moment to consider your target audience, your overall vision, and your goals. Then, decide on what style and voice would best match those things. Let your personality shine through!
23. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
If you’re not on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity for podcast promotion. Social media is a free and easy way to reach a huge audience.
Get creative with your posts. For instance, you can:
- Use an online video editor to repurpose your podcast episodes into sharable clips
- Ask your guests to share the podcast episode on their social media channels and tag you (and don’t forget to retweet/re-post it to your feed)
- Post regular updates for your followers, such as the next episode’s release date and/or topic
- Post memorable quotes from your latest episode
- Ask for audience questions (that you’ll answer on your next episode, of course)
- Interact with others in your niche by following them, liking their posts, and making friendly comments where appropriate
24. Provide Consistent Value To Help Grow Your Podcast
Finally, keep your focus on the value you provide to your listeners. The more valuable content you can create, the more likely you’ll be to expand your listener base and reach your goals.
The research on your target audience shouldn’t end after you’ve begun your podcast. You should be continually learning what your audience is interested in, what they want to hear, and their reasons for listening to you.
Ask for feedback and ideas in the form of emails, social media mentions, direct messages, and survey responses. The more you can relate your show’s content to your listeners’ interests, the more likely you will develop a growing—and loyal—audience base.