I remember the day when I knew I had a deep interest in exploring some form of storytelling into my life or work:
I was on a drive listening to one of my favorite podcasts and thought to myself, “I could totally do that.” As soon as the initial burst of belief wore off, I was already doubting myself. It couldn’t actually be that easy to do, right?
A quick scroll through the more than 500,000 active podcasts on Apple quickly suggested that yes, it might be THAT easy.
The problem was two-fold: not only did I have no experience hosting anything, I also I had no idea where to start, let alone what equipment and services I would need. Thankfully, podcasting seemed accessible and exciting enough for me to dig a little deeper.
What I found was a process that was actually pretty straightforward.
I rode that wave of ambition and pitched an idea to Jake around something I thought could value the creative entrepreneur community we serve. 15 episodes of our very own Dubsado podcast later, I can say that the experience has been so worth the leap.
The whole point of that is to say that if Corrin and I can do it, you absolutely can as well. In fact, there couldn’t be a better time to believe that you can.
That’s a pretty big chunk of people you could be reaching potentially with your brand, product, or message. So what’s stopping you?
Contrary to what you may believe, hosting your own podcast is not only easy but pretty affordable as well. That’s why we’re walking you through our very own “Do It Yourself" guide to podcasting! We'll take a look at:
Focus on Value
No matter what kind of show you start, the important part is that you provide value while doing it. This can mean all kinds of things.
Maybe value is getting people to laugh. Maybe value is teaching them something. Maybe it’s sharing an interest of yours in a way that provides insight or perspective they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Maybe it’s encouraging or inspiring through storytelling.
As you start to formulate your thoughts on what kind of show you want to create, you have to ask how you provide value at every turn.
Now, I’m not talking about monetary value. Podcasts can be a lucrative source of income or a nice little check on the side, but that isn’t what we’re focusing on. In fact, our show “The Creative Leap by Dubsado”, has no monetization model.
Just a desire to provide stories of meaningful value to people we feel could use them.
As I was starting a podcast already attached to a business, I had the luxury of not having to worry about sponsorships or monetizing it right away. That might not be the case for you, and that's ok. It doesn't change the idea that value, separate from what you hope to earn, has to be at the heart of whatever you do.
It doesn't matter if your show is about interviewing famous Pugs or if you’re doing hardcore investigative journalism: value to your community comes first. The second an audience starts feeling as though VALUE is no longer at the heart of what you're creating, they'll be gone.
Do Some Research
Even though the process as a whole isn’t too scary, you need to be intentional at every step. That means doing enough research before you begin to get an understanding of what the common threads and emerging trends are.
To do that, you’ll have to (you guessed it) listen to a bunch of podcasts. Now, this is really great because there are again, over 500,000 podcasts. Whatever direction you think you're going, there are podcasts you can look to for inspiration.
A quick Google search should pull up a ton of relevant shows and from there, you can find more options via the related sections on iTunes, stitcher and other podcast listings. I took TONS of notes during this process. We were starting an interview-style podcast, so when I listened to other interview type shows, I asked:
After listening to enough shows and taking copious notes, I started to catch onto consistencies, as well as formulate my own ideas. It may take some time, but it’s important to get confident enough with the right structure before you play off of it.
Choose a host (site)
Now we get to the first part I truly dreaded in the process: figuring out what to do about podcast hosting.
Most people, myself included, assume that because we all listen to our podcasts on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher, podcasts are uploaded directly to those platforms. In reality, this isn’t the case.
Instead, you upload the Mp3 recording of your podcast to a host website. This site, in turn, submits, it via an “RSS Feed” to various podcasts libraries (iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, Overcast etc) on your behalf.
Sound scary? It did to me.
The good news is that this process is relatively painless and automatic. There are a wide variety of sites that offer podcast hosting services, each with its own features, advantages and price points. That means that while the options may be overwhelming, you are definitely going to find something that works best for where you are.
There are many of host sites to choose from. Here are the three we considered, but feel free to explore any other option:
Libsyn has been around since 2004, so they are arguably the most trusted name in Podcasting. They have all the features you would need, the ability to customize your RSS feed and iTunes features, and recently, some nifty Spotify and smart device (Alexa, Google Home) functionality.
Prices start at $5/month with an upload limit of 50MB. This is small but might work perfectly for you if you’re only planning on really short episodes to start. Realistically, you’ll need to look at the $15/month plan which provides 250MB of upload and some statistics.
Blubrry is regularly mentioned at the top of podcasting recommendations and with good reason! Besides all the features you would expect, they also offer easy integration with Wordpress thanks to their “PowerPress plugin.” They also offer a surprising amount of statistics for no additional charge.
Plans start at $12/month for 100MB of upload a month. This should accommodate you if you aren’t uploading multiple episodes a week!
Soundcloud is the service we ultimately went with, if only because podcast hosts I love were using it themselves. Some people would recommend migrating off of Soundcloud onto other, more podcast specific platforms and that seems totally reasonable.
Setup is simple, prices are fair (though you will have to pay more for advanced statistics) and the Soundcloud provides an easily embeddable player to share your podcast anywhere!
It’s free for the basic plan, while unlimited uploading runs $135/yr.
Next, it’s time to gear up. Like anything with technology, you’re going to have a ton of options here, at every conceivable price and quality. Rather than trying to rough it with a pair of iPhone headphones, I would highly recommend opting for simple and effective setup, right out of the gate.
If you want to go with a flashy $500 condenser mic and audio interface, more power to you. Thankfully, splashing a ton of money on podcasting equipment is hardly necessary.
A quick list of things you might want to start:
I listened to dozens of in-depth reviews of every type of mic. Double checked what every level of podcaster was using. Ultimately, I came to a surprising conclusion:
My favorite mic in terms of sound and quality was also the cheapest option by far.
When we were done, we had put together a pretty respectable podcasting rig for far less than I imagined it would take. Again, there is better equipment out there; mics that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars usually are.
Until you get to that place, however, the barrier to entry isn’t as scary as you think it is. You can ever use your iPhone headphones, though I could not recommend investing in the Audio -Technica mic highly enough. The difference in quality from iPhone headphones to an entry level mic is substantial and your listeners will thank you.
That doesn't even take into account the emergence of FREE apps that allow you to record and broadcast podcast bits from one place! No matter what direction you go, there is a way to put out quality content, that doesn't break the bank.
Engage your community and be consistent
Last but not least, get excited about what you’re doing. This is still a fresh enough medium that people will be excited that you’ve taken this initiative. Don’t be afraid to lean on your community for support, engagement and even content!
Drive some excitement by posting some teasers. Share a release date with an announcement. Upload a minute or so intro episode to announce the show and when it’s launching. Get people excited and bought in early.
Most important of all: be consistent.
You may not see the subscribers, plays or ratings you’re hoping for right away. That’s ok. Consistency is the great equalizer in this field.
If you listen to entrepreneurial guru Gary Vaynerchuk (GaryV) talk about his early attempts to grow his family’s wine business, he shares something that has stuck with me throughout his process:
“People are always messaging me like “Man, you’ve been on Conan, and Ellen, and the Today Show, and CNN, and FOX. How do I do that?” and I’m like, “Well, I also did 2 thousand interviews on videos, and blogs and podcasts that got one or 19 or 137 views.
..I mean hell, I did wine library TV shows every day for an entire year before anyone said a thing!”
It’s that last part that we need to focus on. Would you put in the work to release consistent content daily, weekly, if you knew that after a year of nothing, you would blow up?
What about 2 years? 3 years?
Consistency is one of the biggest parts of engaging your community. People like to know they can count on you. Count on your for service. Count on you for content. The minute you drop the ball with your consistency, you risk losing them. So stay on top of things!
After wrapping up an interview for "The Creative Leap" that I was particularly proud of, I sat down excited to begin the editing process. To my horror, I found that the settings on my laptop had been switched and our interview didn't record on the mics, even though our headphones were playing back audio from them.
I started to tinker with every conceivable way of adjusting the quality, knowing full well it was nowhere near acceptable quality; especially since it's an extension of Dubsado.
At every step of this process, you need to ask yourself if the decisions you are making: with the show title, art, concept, host, equipment, structure, everything - reflect your worth. If you slack or cut corners, do you want that to be a reflection of your business? Of yourself as an entrepreneur? Let what you create reflect the best of yourself.
At the end of the day, podcasting should be a fun way to provide new value not only to yourself but to your community. Hopefully, this guide has helped make the path to starting one, a little more clear.