In this guide, you’re going to learn how to start a podcast in nine easy steps.
You’ll also find in-depth answers to the questions most frequently asked about starting a podcast. So you can launch a successful podcast that helps you sell online courses and run your online business.
Like Amy Porterfield, a Kajabi Hero who has successfully used podcasts as part of her marketing strategy. She now makes millions of dollars a year on her digital business.
Here’s everything you need to know to start a successful podcast that puts your business on the fast track.
What is a podcast?
A podcast is an audio show on a niche topic that’s relevant to the host’s business or interests.
Like a talk radio show, a podcast is aired in seasons and episodes. Like a blog, a podcast is produced by you, not a traditional media company.
Your listeners find you, then listen on demand or subscribe to know when new episodes are available.
Here’s a high-level view of how your podcast connects you to your audience:
- You record episodes and upload them to a podcast hosting site.
- The hosting site creates your podcast feed and stores the show’s MP3 files (just as YouTube stores a YouTuber’s MP4 files).
- Listeners subscribe to the podcast on audio sites, such as iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
- Once subscribed, listeners are automatically alerted when new episodes go live.
Let’s explore the business value of a podcast.
How can a podcast help grow my online business?
A podcast can boost your business in four areas: credibility, branding, marketing, and revenue.
The fact that you can put on a show week after week validates that you’re an expert in your topic.
Podcasts are unique from other types of content because your audience gets to hear your voice - sometimes directly in their ears through headphones. That creates a sense of intimacy. It helps your listeners feel like they know you. This builds trust and credibility.
Financial adviser Pete Matthew credits his podcast with launching his media empire. He started the MeaningfulMoney Podcast in 2012. Within two years it was his number-one driver of clients for his business.
Pete now has a book, a video library, and a learning center, in addition to his library. His financial advising services aren’t the focus of his business anymore. They’re just one stream of income.
Matthew explained it this way:
“People are understandably nervous [when they approach financial advisers]. Putting something of yourself out on the internet [is] a great mechanism for breaking down initial barriers, when it comes to considering doing business with you.”
A brand is a name, symbol, or design that develops a strong association with a company. Think Coca-Cola’s iconic bottle shape or red color.
For smaller businesses, the owner of the company often becomes the brand: Your face. Your voice.
A podcast is a strategic way to boost that brand. While you discuss interesting ideas related to your business, you let people hear your voice and understand how you think and engage with the world.
That humanizes you, which makes them feel like they know you.
Studies have found that podcasts have higher listener engagement than streaming video or social apps. They’ve also identified a distinct group of podcast fans, known as super listeners.
These people are Americans over 18 years who listen to at least five hours of podcasts each week. In 2020, they spent an average of 10.5 hours per week listening to podcasts.
Your goal is to attract these super listeners, because they’re highly responsive to brand mentions and marketing on their favorite podcasts.
According to them, “Advertising on a podcast is the best way for a brand to reach you.”
Even more to the point, 54 percent say they’re more likely to purchase a product if they hear the ad on a podcast.
But super listeners aren’t the only ones who respond favorably to promotions on podcasts. According to the DMA, most listeners feel the marketing they hear on podcasts is relevant to them.
That being the case, you can use ad spots and product mentions to send traffic to your Kajabi website. There, your listeners can see your offers, learn more about your business, and even subscribe to your email list.
You can drive revenue on your podcast both directly and indirectly.
Marketing and product promotions help you monetize your podcast directly. To do marketing on your podcast:
- Get sponsors
- Run ad spots
- Sign up for advertising networks
- Ask for donations
- Promote your own products and services
- Promote and sell affiliate products
- Productize your podcast by selling access to back issues
- Create premium episodes for paid subscribers.
But podcasts can also drive revenue indirectly.
Your fans will look for your website to learn more about you. And because they trust you, they’re likely to call on you when they need your services or products.
Similarly, your podcast will lead to business opportunities and speaking engagements. That puts you in front of an even larger audience, building your credibility even further.
This infographic from Podcast Magazine shows different ways podcasters are monetizing their podcasts.
Aren’t there too many podcasts already?
No, there’s always room for a great podcast that connects with your audience and provides value.
Yes, there are a lot of podcasts. As of 2021, there are 1,750,000 podcast series, with more than 43 million podcast episodes.
To put that number into perspective, there are over 2 billion websites and there are over 31 million YouTube channels. Those big numbers don’t mean there are too many website or that you shouldn’t start your own YouTube channel. It means people are getting value from these channels.
It’s the same story with podcasts. Podcasts are helping businesses achieve the reach and exposure they need to grow their business.
What equipment do you need to make podcasts?
To start your podcast, you only need a microphone, software for recording and editing your podcast episodes, and hosting.
You should aim for the best microphone you can afford because podcasts are an audio channel.
The Blue Yeti is an excellent USB microphone that provides studio-quality audio at an affordable price. This is a versatile mic that has four distinct recording modes:
- Cardioid – records from the front of the mic. This is your best option when it’s just you.
- Bidirectional – records from the front and back of the mic. This is perfect for in-person interviews.
- Stereo – captures the left and right channels to capture a wide, realistic sound image. Good for recording live music or a three-person podcast.
- Omnidirectional – picks up sound from all directions. Perfect for conference calls or meetings.
For a less expensive option that provides an excellent audio sound, consider the Blue Snowball.
With the same audio technology as the Blue Yeti, the Snowball gives you a good audio recording. Its lower cost is a result of having just one mode, the cardioid. If you don’t plan to record live interviews, this may be all you need.
If you aren’t ready to invest in a microphone yet, you can still get a good audio file from your smartphone. This video by Buzsprout explains how to record and edit your podcast from your phone.
Recording and editing software
You can use any recording software for your podcast.
Zencastr, for example, lets you record your podcast from your computer or your phone. The audio file is studio quality and publish-ready, so you have less production work on the back-end. It also lets you insert your intro, ad, and other audio as you record.
Here are some other popular podcast recording softwares:
But you may already own software that you can use to record your podcast.
Zoom is a good option, especially if you plan to do interviews. When you end a recording, Zoom automatically saves your files as separate audio and video files.
Upload the MP3 to your podcast host. Then, if you want to publish a video podcast, you can upload the MP4 to YouTube.
Video recording software can be used to record an MP3. Good video recording software includes:
Note: Don’t be afraid to turn on the video when you record your podcast. You can download the MP3 and MP4 files separately, and publish your podcast on YouTube and through podcast distribution channels.
Transcribing your podcast recording can help speed up the editing process or make it easier to upload captions to Youtube videos of your podcast. Check out a service like Otter to speed up transcription.
How much does it cost to start a podcast?
Compared to other high-impact marketing channels, podcasts are incredibly affordable.
For your microphone, expect to spend $70 to $125.
Audacity and GarageBand are available for free. If you prefer paid options, here’s what you can expect:
- Zoom runs about $15 a month. As a bonus, it gives you a meeting room for conducting your interviews.
- Video recording software costs $100 to $250.
- Audio recording software is similar, starting at $95 for Hindenburg and costing $20 per month for a Zencastr subscription.
How to start a podcast
Starting a podcast is no different than starting a blog or a YouTube channel. Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you have a strong start.
1. Choose your topic
Half of the success of your podcast is simply from picking the right topic.
Don’t pick the first broad, high-level topic that comes to mind. Choose a topic that relates to your business and can help you build your brand.
It should be broad enough that there’s a lot you can talk about. But it should be narrow enough that you can attract a niche audience. The best podcasts focus on a specific concept or perspective within their chosen topic.
For instance, the Sales Hacker Blog doesn’t just talk about sales. It focuses on sales leadership in B2B companies. So the host only interviews VPs of Sales and CEOs of B2B businesses.
Similarly, the Profit from Legal™ podcast aims at small- to medium-sized businesses who may not realize the value of working with a lawyer. It doesn’t talk about litigation in enterprise companies. It shares tips that help SMBs grow their business.
Here’s how you know you’ve chosen a good topic:
- There’s enough to say about your topic to support at least 50 episodes a year.
- The things you talk about will attract your target audience.
2. Research your competitive market
Before planning your podcast, research the podcasts that are already being produced around your topic. Study the different podcasts your audience listens to.
If other podcasters are covering the same topic, look at:
- How are they approaching it?
- What’s the format?
- How many listeners are they attracting?
- Do you agree or disagree with the things they’re saying?
Don’t get discouraged if your topic is “taken.” The more podcasts that exist in your niche, the more confident you can be that there’s a hungry audience.
Having a lot of competition isn’t a bad thing. It forces you to do better work and to be more strategic.
3. Look for a gap you can fill
Look for ways you can stand out from the competition:
- Can you take a unique or contrarian perspective?
- Do you have a different way of approaching the topic?
- Can you use a different format for your show?
- Is there a subtopic no one is covering?
4. Choose your format
You can format your show in a variety of ways. Here are four formats that are easy to produce and can keep your audience engaged.
Interview format. This is one of the easiest and most popular formats because you don’t have to come up with topics or create unique content for every show. You only need to schedule interesting guests.
Come up with a series of questions that you ask every guest. You may also let your guests give you the questions they’d like you to ask.
Then schedule a Zoom meeting, and record your conversation. You can extract the audio for your podcast and use the video for your YouTube podcast or other marketing purposes.
Chat show. With this format, you’ll co-host the podcast with one or more other people.
Similar to the interview, you don’t have to create a lot of content for this format. But you do need to come up with interesting topics you can discuss with your co-host.
Mark your calendar with recording dates and the topic for each. Each co-host is responsible for coming up with their perspective on the topic, including news bites, statistics, and stories.
You may choose to record your sessions in a Zoom meeting. You may also choose to meet in person for recording sessions.
During your show, one co-host will introduce the topic. Then you’ll have a lively conversation and hopefully butt heads, disagree, and laugh out loud. It’s the real human interaction that will attract loyal fans.
Expert format. With this format, it’s just you, sharing your thoughts, ideas, news updates, and stories.
The expert format is easy to produce, because you don’t have to coordinate your calendar with guests and co-hosts. All you have to do is pull out your microphone and start recording.
The challenge with this format is that a one-person show can easily sound like a dry college lecture. To keep your audience engaged, you need to choose interesting topics and present your information in an entertaining way.
The expert format works well if you’re comfortable letting your unique personality shine.
Variety show. With this format, you can use several different formats both within episodes and between them.
Each episode can be formatted to suit the topic you’re covering. It might be you sharing your expertise. Or it might have you chatting with another expert in the field.
Alternatively, each episode may contain a series of small segments:
- A monolog, with you sharing your thoughts on a topic
- An interview with an expert
- A game
- Q&A, with you answering questions your audience has asked
- A product showcase.
5. Choose your length and frequency
A successful podcast can range from 15 minutes to 60 minutes or more. The right length depends on how much time you have to create and edit your shows, and what your audience likes.
Most podcasts publish an episode at least once a week. Some produce a show every day.
You may choose to adopt a strict publishing schedule, dropping a new episode, say, every Monday and Thursday.
But some brands are adopting a Netflix approach. They record a handful of episodes and publish them all at once. A week or two later, they record another batch.
Here’s how one podcaster describes his approach:
6. Create your podcast brand assets
You don’t need a lot of assets to start a successful podcast. Here’s what you do need:
- A good name. Make it unique. Make it memorable. Make sure it’s easy to say.
- Description. This is the reason you’re producing a podcast. In a few short paragraphs, describe your show, who it’s for, and why people should tune in.
- Cover art. You need a square image that meets these requirements:
- Size: 1400x1400 minimum, 3000x3000 maximum
- Resolution: 72 dpi
- Color settings: RGB
- Format: JPEB or PNG
7. Choose a hosting company
Here are ten podcast hosts to choose among.
- Designed for professional podcasters
- They set up your distribution channels for you
- Unlimited episodes
- Custom podcast pages
- Branded players
Cost: Starts at $29 per month.
- Compatible with all of the top directories
- Advanced analytics
- Unlimited storage
- Dynamic content
- Episode scheduling
- Unlimited team members
- Podcast website for paid plans
- Custom embed players
- 90-day free trial
- Free for 2 hours each month
- Paid plans start at $12 per month
- App for recording, editing, and publishing from your phone
- Publishes audio and video podcasts
- Integrates with your branded domain
- Unlimited hosting
- Scheduled publishing
- Includes free podcast website
- Mobile podcast publishing
- Integration to social media and email
- Detailed analytics
- Live streaming
- Free for 5 hours total
- Paid plans start at $9 per month
- Compliant with the top podcast directories
- Mobile compatible player
- Branded podcast page
- Premium content subscriptions
- Detailed audience statistics
- Custom smartphone apps for your show
Cost: Starts at $5 per month
- Distribution to top podcast directories
- Basic analytics
- Podcast player that you can embed in your blog or social media
- Show website with custom domain
- Permission levels for your team
- Podcast sharing and discovery tool, for sharing custom clips of your episodes
- Free 14-day trial
- Plans start at $15 per month
- Distribute to top podcast directories
- Professional statistics and analytics
- Free WordPress website
- Powerpress plugin for publishing on your website (free)
Cost: Starts at $12 per month
- One-click distribution to top podcast directories
- Audio inserts for your calls to action
- Optin options for your podcast, newsletter, or premium content
- Display your podcast on your own domain or subdomain
Cost: Starts at $15 per month
8. Plan your content
Create a content calendar for your podcast. Then plan your episodes either quarterly or annually.
For instance, if you plan to produce one episode per week, brainstorm 52 ideas for your podcast, and plug them into the calendar.
Tip: Create show notes or write the script for each episode in advance. That gives you time to find interesting stories or statistics. It also gives you time to practice, so recording is easier.
9. Start recording
Once the prep work is done. Producing your podcast is easy. Just turn on your microphone and start recording.
Create an introduction that you can use with each episode, introducing your podcast and letting new listeners know what the show is about.
If you choose to edit your podcast, you can do that with your video or audio editing software. But many listeners enjoy a show that’s only minimally edited. Small mistakes and asides help listeners feel they’re seeing the real you.
What makes for a good podcast?
As popular as podcasts are, you may find yourself competing with hundreds or thousands of podcasts that cover your topic and have a similar format. You need to think about how you’ll stand out.
Fortunately, it isn’t as hard as you might think. These six tips will ensure you not only stand out, you’ll attract your own loyal fans.
Focus on one big idea in each episode
Each episode should have a single focus. And the tighter your focus, the better. Otherwise, you can end up rambling and making no point at all.
Rob Rosenthal, host of the HowSound podcast, recommends an “animating question” to keep your episode on track. This is a single question that brings it to life.
For example, for a baking podcast, you might ask one of these questions:
- Why do cookies made with butter flatten out when you bake them?
- How do you make a flaky pie crust?
- What’s the best-tasting icing that’s good for decorating?
The animating question keeps your discussion tightly focused on a single topic. It also introduces a “mystery” that needs solving.
How do you find questions or big ideas that are worth covering in your podcast?
- Ask your audience what they want to hear.
- Research the keywords related to your topic that your audience is already searching for.
- Treat your podcast as a serial TV show. In each episode, the question you answer leads logically to another question that begs to be answered.
It can be scary to put yourself out there. If you put your authentic self on your podcast and no one listens, it can feel like a failure.
Newbie podcasters sometimes play it safe by imitating another podcaster or celebrity.
But that’s no way to grow an audience. Instead of imitating someone else, step into your unique personality. Be yourself. And yes, that includes your quirks and flaws.
Realize that we are all weird in our own way. Be yourself, and know that that’s okay.
Don’t bore your audience
To keep your listeners coming back, you need to create an engaging show. There are two ways to do that.
First, talk about things your audience cares about. Invite interesting guests for interviews. Tell fascinating stories. Adopt a contrarian point of view.
Second, as you speak, vary your tone of voice and your pacing. Slow your speech when you’re saying something important. Pause every now and then to let a new idea sink in.
Entertain as well as inform
According to Statista, podcast listeners’ top two reasons for tuning in to a podcast are to learn new things and be entertained.
So don’t focus solely on teaching your audience or sharing your knowledge. Try to be fun and entertaining as well.
That doesn’t mean you have to tell jokes or do stunts. But it should push you to treat your podcast like a show.
Each of the tips we’ve shared in this section will help you do that. But don’t be afraid to experiment. Push your limits. Have fun with your podcast. Your audience will feel the difference.
Have a perspective
The same old message shared in the same old way won’t help you stand out. To break through the noise, you need to have a unique perspective on your topic.
- Stand for or against something
- Adopt a contrarian viewpoint
- Have a mission that supports your actions and words.
With a strong perspective, you may repel people who disagree with you. But that’s okay. You’ll also attract your true fans.
Many podcasts fizzle after a few months. This trend is so common, it’s earned a nickname: podfade.
There are many reasons for podfade. After a few episodes, the host runs out of ideas, time, or passion. But they may also become discouraged because they don’t see the results they thought they’d get.
Here’s what you need to remember: It takes time to generate a loyal following. You must be consistent, even when you think no one is listening.
The best podcasts are often the ones that outlasted all the others.
Where can you distribute your podcasts?
To attract listeners, you need to distribute and promote your podcast everywhere you can. Here are some ideas for doing that.
List your show on popular podcast directories
This is the easiest way to reach new listeners. People who enjoy podcasts will search for new podcasts on their favorite audio site. This is an easy way for your podcast to be discovered.
Top directories include:
- Google Podcasts
Publish your podcast on YouTube
YouTube is now the number-one site for podcast engagement, beating even iTunes and Spotify. When you publish an audio and a video podcast, you capture subscribers who prefer video as well as people who prefer audio formats.
Republish on your blog
Publish episodes from your podcast on your business blog. That puts your podcast in front of your existing website visitors.
Share on social media
When you release a new episode, announce it on social media.
- Thank your guest publicly.
- Share a quote or interesting nugget.
- Create a short sound bite that you can post on your favorite channels.
How to market and grow your podcast?
Just as you do with your text content, you must promote your podcast. Here are four simple ways to do that.
Talk about your podcast
In speeches, articles, and interviews, casually refer to episodes where you discussed a similar topic.
Create a page on your website that introduces your podcast and links to it in the top podcast sites.
Get other people to share your podcast
Invite fascinating people to appear on your podcast, and then encourage them to help you promote their interview.
Ask your listeners to help you get the word out. At the end of each episode, remind your listeners to subscribe and share.
Create partnerships with other podcasters
Podcasting communities are designed to help you find podcasters who cover topics that would interest your audience.
The idea is to trade guest appearances. Each of you interview the other for your own podcast. Then both of you share the podcast with your audiences.
To develop partnerships, join podcast communities like at Audry.io and Spot a Guest.
Livestream your recording sessions
This is as simple as recording your podcast publicly. When you do this, you create multiple pieces of content in one session.
- Your recording session becomes social media content.
- Your audio file becomes your podcast.
- Your video file can be uploaded to YouTube for video content.
It’s also a way to engage your followers and turn listeners into raving fans.
Examples of successful podcasts
Here are some of our favorite podcasts:
Amy Porterfield’s podcast has been key to her success as a digital entrepreneur. She uses it to build a loyal following and to generate leads for her training programs.
Anyone searching for her podcast will see a link to the “Amy Porterfield Podcast” page on her Kajabi website. There, she tells her listeners how they can learn more from her.
- Business Insider
- Fast Company
Length: 30–45 minutes
This podcast began as a series of episodes with Gabriela chatting about writing and interviewing a few authors. The interviews were so popular, they ultimately became the focus of her podcast.
Today, the podcast helps Gabriela grow her digital business, Blog That Converts.
Length: 45–60 minutes
This podcast goes off topic. It’s verbose. Most notably, it’s boring. Instead of shutting down his podcast after negative reviews, though, Drew Ackerman repositioned his podcast as a sleep aid.
- The New York Times
- The New Yorker
- Mental Floss
- Dr. Oz
Frequency: Twice weekly
Length: 1–1.5 hours
Kajabi Hero Vanessa said the podcast and the guests on it adds credibility to her business. She writes all the recaps and records all the episodes herself. She does lean on a virtual assistant for booking and publishing of podcasts, which help to keep up with the twice-weekly publication schedule.
Year started: 2020
Frequency: 2X a week
Length: 30–60 minutes
How to use your podcast to boost your digital business
As you can see, a podcast is a strategic way to build your business. It builds your authority as an expert in your space. It also gives you a platform for selling your digital products on your own channels, like your Kajabi website.
As a digital entrepreneur, you’ve already got a message you want to share with the world. Your next step, if you haven’t already, is to talk about your message on a podcast.
Of course, you can use your podcast to boost your digital business on Kajabi. We make it easy to embed podcasts on your Kajabi pages. Heroes like Amy and Vanessa show how powerful a podcast can be as part of your digital marketing efforts. You can monetize your podcast directly but you can also use the podcast to grow your brand and followers, then get people to visit your website. You can then do things that are beneficial to your bottom line like sell online courses from your own website.