Want to start and launch your own podcast? Here are the top 10 podcast tips you need to know before hitting record for your first episode.
Bonus Material: Ready to launch and grow your own podcast? Download the podcast resources with the production checklist, interview preparation sheet, email templates, and more.
A podcast is more than a microphone and 4 hours of chatting.
You have planning, guest outreach, production, marketing, making sure your listeners are happy and growth: starting a podcast is like building your own media company! Where do you start?
Don’t worry, I’ve got ten powerful tips to help you start your own podcast and launch it with a bang! Here are the best tips on how to start a podcast the right way. These tips apply to every podcast no matter the topic, though some are geared towards interviews:
- Start with the What, How, and Why
- Know Your Target Audience
- Prepare a List of Guests Upfront
- Get the Tech You Need
- Pre-launch and Start Reaching Out to Guests
- Launch with a Bang
- Have Checklists For Everything
- Do This When Interviewing
- Spread Your Reach Through Every Channel
- Don’t Be Too Rigid With Your Show
1. Start with the What, How, and Why
Think of these three words as questions from your fans.
What will I get from listening to your show?
Answer this simply, and it will be your pitch to every potential listener. They’re looking for keywords, certain topics, or experiences when testing out a new show. If you can articulate that well in this first question, you’re off to a great start.
A good example is The Next Big Idea. As in the name, The Next Big Idea “brings you the most groundbreaking ideas that have the power to change the way you live, work, and think.”
Source: The Next Big Idea
It’s right in the name too: a very clear message. We know what to expect from both the title AND the description.
How will I get it?
Listeners prefer certain formats when hearing their favorite topic. It could be an interview with an expert, a conversation between two co-hosts who are leaders in their space. Maybe it’s a narrative perhaps.
Choose your format and stick to it (minimum one season), so people know what to expect.
Why should I get it here instead of somewhere else?
Your unique selling proposition (USP) sets you apart from other shows.
Here’s another angle: what makes you different from others? Why should I listen to you? We can justify this through factors like star power (are you a celebrity?), personal brand (do people know you from somewhere?) or do you have exclusive insight?
There is no right answer to this, don’t worry. It’s just that deciding on your angle now helps with knowing what to do next.
Rework does this really well. A podcast about “the better way to work and run your business,” it’s the show by Basecamp, a well-known startup advocating against startup hustle culture.
Source: Rework Podcast
Spearheaded by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, co-authors of REWORK and It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work, fans know Basecamp and what they believe in. They choose to listen to their podcasts because of this.
They are hard questions, yes, but this is a Master Plan: don’t skip this and start a show. This helps with direction, priority, and action: you wouldn’t switch from a serious conversational podcast to a comedy-drama, right?…right?
2. Know Your Target Audience
Imagine getting an email from your favorite listener. What would you imagine them say? What would put a smile on your face?
One of my shows, Podlovers Asia, covers the Asian podcasting space through conversations with producers in various countries. Through that show, I want to set the example for Asian podcasting: that we are out here creating amazing podcasts. I built this to encourage other Asian podcasters to start! This put a smile on my face when I saw it:
I became acquainted with one of my listeners because she found confidence through my show! She took the time to reach out, give feedback, and shared her story.
These are signs of a listener you’re most willing to engage with, and remember engagement is the most important metric in podcasting.
You might like someone who has the same sense of humor or someone who works in the same industry as you. They’re adding into the latest episode, cracking a joke halfway through their email. We laugh, we cry, you reply, and through that relationship, we grow the show together.
These are the listeners you want to reach out to when starting your show: who are they? Where are they from? What do they do?
Most podcast listeners fall on a spectrum of engagement. Some will listen to an episode, enjoy it and move on to a different show. Others listen religiously, while more and more podcast consumers only read the shownotes to get what they want.
Your job is to serve the target audience: the ones who listen to every episode and reach out to you after. It helps to write these descriptions in your master plan as a reference. That way, you know who to focus your marketing on.
3. Prepare a List of Guests Upfront
This is important for all interview shows: you need a list of tiered guests to start the show with. Guests are tiered into different levels of star power, scale, availability, and timing.
Those with high star power and scale are the Tim’s and Joe’s: with millions of followers, known all around the world in their field, and are too busy to reply. Write these in your guest list, and put them at the top. Have them there as inspiration: once your show can prove itself useful to their plans, that’s when you can strike.
Guests with less should not be underestimated: they’re also experts and can bring a great conversation if you’re up for it. These have a higher chance of replying to your cold outreach, so land them when you can and build your body of work over time.
I’ve made a quick template on Notion for you to copy here. As a reference:
- Level 1: The Tim’s and Joe’s, those with high star power and are hard to reach
- Level 2: Experts with not as much of a following, but still highly insightful. Reaching out is easier but will still need time
- Level 3: Those in your immediate network/circle, who you know would be up for a conversation.
You want to have a mix of Level 2 and 3 guests, and find what I call ‘opportunistic spikes’: episodes with a Level 1 guest which can lead their followers to your podcast. These are opportunistic because you have to consider timing: is there a potential guest with a book coming out?
I landed the author of Dr. Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work on my show AntiFool to prepare for the launch of his book, Personality isn’t Permanent. AntiFool was (and is still) an unknown podcast, yet a small body of work was enough to land a slot on his schedule.
Source: That’s the Norm
If he wasn’t promoting a new book, I wouldn’t have been able to connect with him. Have a robust wide-ranging list of guests in a Google Sheets or Notion database, and pitch your show to serve their plans. They’ll be happy to talk to you!
4. Get The Tech You Need
Get the equipment, hosting, and software out of the way and you’ll avoid headaches. When it’s time to start recording, have all the tech ready so you can jump right behind the mic.
If you’re starting out, a beginner’s remote podcasting setup would be:
- Microphone: Samson Q2U (Please don’t get a Blue Yeti! It’s an editor’s nightmare to clean that audio up)
- Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), aka. your recording/editing software: Audacity
- Video Conferencing Software: Zoom or Skype. Ideally, Zoom to get separate recording tracks (you want to edit out those coughs!)
- Hosting platforms: Captivate, Buzzsprout or Whooshkaa
Or you can check BounceCast which is a deal AppSumo has for podcasters like you.
BounceCast is an intelligent digital audio app for recording, enhancing, and mastering audio files on desktop and mobile platforms — and it costs only $59 per year when you get it through the AppSumo deal.
Be careful about using Anchor. It’s free, but it doesn’t give you the chance to put in 3rd party analytics. You can’t tell how good or bad you’re doing. We’re here to make a SUCCESSFUL podcast. Part of that is seeing the numbers.
5. Pre-launch and Start Reaching Out to Guests
It’s pre-launch time. There are three things you need: Your first episode, your RSS feed, and your first few guests.
Your first episode is a great way to attract potential guests and listeners. We call it intro episode or trailer episode where we voice out a modified version of our ‘What, How, Why’.
It normally works out to be a great intro! Here’s an example of mine:
Record an introduction episode to your show and get ready to publish it.
We need at least one episode published to make good use of our RSS feed. Think of this as a key that every distribution platform (eg. Spotify, Apple Podcasts) needs to pull episodes from your host. To get it, sign up for one of the hosting platforms and create your show:
Fill these in, choose the categories that fit your show, and tada, your show is made! It should come with an RSS feed like so:
Next: publish your episode 1. Don’t worry about not having any other episodes. Upload your recorded intro and publish it! I’ll explain why in a sec.
Now what you need to do next is to copy your RSS feed over to register AT LEAST the following directories:
For Apple Podcasts, you should see something like this in your inbox once you’re accepted:
You need your episode 1 as a placeholder. Apple Podcasts, the largest podcast distribution platform in the world needs at least one published episode to consider a new RSS feed. Not only that, depending on timing, Apple may also take up to 3 weeks to accept your RSS feed. If you want to launch a show on a strict deadline, keep this in mind.
That’s why most new shows start off with a placeholder episode (ie. a messy intro ep), add their show on Apple Podcasts, and once accepted, they replace episode 1 with a cleaner, stronger introduction episode.
Land your first few guests to get the train going. One way that worked for me was a landing page for incoming guests. I can easily send the URL to those who I think would be a great guest.
Here is the post I made to land over 15 guests for one of my shows, AntiFool:
- The conversations I’m looking for
- What I will give them as a guest
- My body of work and experience as an interviewer
All I needed was a good guest landing page and trailer episode! More than enough to give you a headstart.
6. Launch With a Bang
Have a date for launch? Check. Guests recorded? Check. Episodes ready? Check. Here’s what we need to do:
At 30 Days before Launch, publish your episode 1 and guest landing page as above. Start your outreach to potential guests. Share your launch date with interested listeners everywhere you can find them (Twitter, LinkedIn, and more).
Hot tip: Have a pre-launch mailing list set up so you can get your first listeners BEFORE starting a show! I’d use Sendfox for this 😉.
Once you’re at 14 Days before Launch: Have episodes 2-4 primed and ready to be published. Keep reaching out to guests. Build your marketing materials
These are pieces of micro-content from each episode to lead followers to the full episode on your website. I tend to do the following per episode:
- 3 Quote images made in Crello with accompanying social media copy, repurposed across social media platforms. They are images of a quote by the guest on the podcast.
- 3 Audiograms using Headliner. You know those audio snippets you see around Twitter and Instagram? Yeah, those! Audiograms are videos with audio snippets from the episode.
- 2 Prompts for discussion: These are questions on social media to invite engagement. Mostly done on Instagram Stories (“What’s your favorite bit from this week’s episode? Reply here!”) and on Facebook Live.
They also serve another purpose: to remind us that the episode exists. It helps us stay relevant on our audience’s feed (they might have missed it!). As podcasters, we market to share and we market to remind!
7 Days before Launch: Have the episodes 5 and 6 recorded, edited, and ready to be published. This is a growing backlog that works as a safety net, to give yourself some room to breathe while preparing for the next few episodes.
This is a good time to ask your pre-launch audience what they are looking for. Send out an email to them and ask for expectations, what kind of guests would they resonate with, and more. Here’s an example of podcast onboarding:
Launch Day: Publish episodes 2-4 in one go! Blast out an announcement to your mailing list to let them know they can listen now.
Limit your email CTAs to ‘LISTEN NOW’, it’s up to the episode page to convince listeners to hit the play button at this point. You’re running a podcast now, and you need to have everything done in advance.
You can get both of the above examples in the Email Examples resource page here.
Every week is consistent marketing: share your marketing materials once a day on your chosen social media platforms until the next episode comes out. Do this regularly and now you can call yourself a podcaster!
7. Have Checklists For Everything
Streamline your post-production: this is REALLY important so you can get straight to working on something else without wasting time. Have checklists/SOPs for:
- Production templates: What plugins do you use? What order? What about post-processing? Do you have templates for building your episode?
- Marketing templates: What dimensions and color schemes for each social media platform? Who’s in charge of them? Should you focus on images or audiograms? If you’re good, you can make up to 10 marketing pieces from one long episode.
- Interview templates: Do you have segments for questions? Is there a game halfway through your recording? Do you hand questions to guests beforehand?
I’ve built an entire Notion page of checklists and examples that covers all this. Check it out!
Checklists are a lifesaver because they help with keeping up the golden rule of podcasting: Never break the chain. Listeners expect episodes at the schedule you declared. You can’t break their trust: Consistency requires efficiency.
A little note on interviews…
8. Do This When Interviewing
Here is where you don’t want to mess up: getting the guest on the line and talking to them. If you’re up for some podcast interview tips, write these down:
The pre-show is the show. This quote from Lewis Howes, host of the popular School of Greatness podcast, rings true for ANY podcast. Preparation is everything to a show. Nothing gets done until you’re prepared to a certain extent. Know as much as you can about the person, especially from other interviews they’ve been on. That’s a great angle, because you can ask questions that no other show has never asked before.
I’ve made an Interview Preparation Sheet for you to use for your show.
Humanize the guest. You’re there to have a conversation, not a QnA. It’s okay to ask questions to deep dive into certain topics, and it’s okay to be curious about something. All of this is footage you can use later.
When I interviewed Dr. Hardy on his book, we talked about the meaning behind the book and the different definitions of trauma. That’s expected as it was the point of the book.
Out of nowhere, I asked him what his father meant to him, and he gave me such a golden answer:
34:24 What his father means to him, and how context shapes the meaning of content: pic.twitter.com/gPqgcd1Ors
— Norman Chella (@NormanChella) June 18, 2020
You won’t be able to find that in any other podcast, article, or video. Hearing the author of a powerful book speak in great detail about their close ones. You can imagine him smiling as they said it (and he did!). Granted, he did mention his father in the book, but I asked the question out of curiosity and to give him the chance to show how human he is.
Stay quiet. Only speak when necessary. Listeners are there because of the guest most of the time, not the host. As podcasters, we are mediators, not stars. We act as the audience tapping into a guest’s experiences. So all of us want to hear what they have to say. Make sure that happens 100% of the time.
Here’s an exception: Intercept if you need to. If you have burning questions about a story your guest just told, don’t let go of it. Cut them off politely to ask more on that point. Chances are, another listener may want that same question answered too.
9. Spread Your Reach Through Every Channel
Even if you have your podcast on every platform (eg. Castbox, iHeartRadio, Stitcher), people still need to know about your show first. Marketing is a podcaster’s bane, so let’s get it right the first time.
Build your marketing checklist based on the following questions:
- How many quotes, images, and videos per episode do you want to make for every social media platform?
- Will you explore other formats? Tweetstorms, YouTube summaries, and more?
- Who’s moderating engagement? Is engagement on social media more important than listens?
- Do you have proper URL slugs and show notes on your website?
- Do you have a Chartable Smartlink to create an all-in-one subscribe link for your show?
For a full version of this with checklists, I have a Notion page outlining this here!
It’s always good to visualize all this out on paper. Some great tools to help you are Headliner for audiograms, Sendfox to get your listeners on a mailing list, and make quote images on Crello for Instagram.
One tip: explore different formats of marketing, and not just handing out your podcast URL to everyone you meet. A lot of podcasters market in the same manner. Think of an angle in marketing that only you can do, and you might see an uptick in listens that way.
For example, not everyone will consume your show through a podcast app. They might want good show notes!
One of my guests chose to share not only the entire episode but also the timestamps included. When I asked her about it later, she felt it would entice her followers to check out specific parts of our conversation.
Evo Terra of Podcast Pontifications also does it differently: as Podcaster No. 40 in the world (it’s true!), he knows what works and what doesn’t in podcasting. For every episode, Evo records a live first BEFORE turning it into an episode! This invites people to engage with him first (a boost to marketing!), and from there he repurposes it into podcast form. It works as a great funnel for his personal followers to engage with him, and he’s creating two pieces of content in one go.
But really: checklists are your friend. Build one for this so you don’t get lost by making everything.
10. Don’t Be Too Rigid With Your Show
Having a niche is a double-edged sword for a podcast. When it’s time to get creative, you might be constrained because you picked only one niche.
Listeners are forgiving though, so if you’re going to get creative on your podcast, focus on the mission, not the topic. It’s hard to provide refreshing content if you’re stuck in one place!
One way to help with this is a Resonance Calendar. Coined by YouTuber Ali Abdaal, it’s a growing database of information that you’ve resonated with throughout your days. Though it includes books we read, podcasts we listen to and more, it can serve as a place to store your ideas.
For podcasters, a resonance calendar can be an inbox for new angles, spin-off series, or a different topic to explore in a show: as long as it serves the mission, not the content itself. Notion is a good place to build one.
Podcasters are always experimenting with their show. It’s in our instincts to test new ideas out. And you don’t have to worry: your listeners love you as the host of the show. They see the world through your lens, so they understand if you explain it to them. As long as you don’t betray your listeners, all is well!
Change Your Definition of Podcast Success
Your definition of a successful podcast is unique to you. The only criteria I ask is that you think long-term: What kind of numbers do you want? What do you want measured? Do you want to lead listeners to somewhere else? Would the number of downloads matter then?
Yi Jing Fly of Pikkal & Co. encourages using a different metric: growing an ecosystem around your brand and boosting your credibility as a thought leader. For example, she highlights complementary podcasts in Netflix made to deepen fan engagement beyond binge-watching content (which has a high turnover rate).
Dell has their own podcasts (I’m serious), and these shows are purely made for B2B: there is no greater testimonial than hearing client success and praise for Dell’s efforts by CTOs and other higher-ups in MNCs. Plus points for Dell!
Source: Dell Technologies
These are definitions of success unique to Netflix and Dell’s cases. For us solo and small-team podcasters, Here some suggestions:
- Do you sell your products through a mailing list? Measure the success of your podcast by the number of mailing list sign-ups, not listens per episode.
- Sales calls or consultations a core part of your revenue stream? Measure your podcast in leads, not listens.
- Want to create a community around your brand? Build consistency around your show to measure engagement, not download numbers!
What’s your success?
There is no secret to successful podcasting. Most of these tips apply even if you’re 5000 downloads/episode in. It’s just hard. You have to keep pumping episodes out, reaching out to guests, marketing your podcast, AND be interesting. It’s hard but rewarding.
Skyrocket Your Podcast Success with AppSumo Deals
To help with that, AppSumo has all these amazing podcast tools to help you out.
No better teacher than getting your show out there though. You’ll know what works once you start. So choose your tools, get behind the mic, and build an awesome show!