What do I need to start a podcast?

Podcasting using Zencastr and Rode Podcaster USB Microphone

“Hey Steve, What do I need to start a podcast?”

“Well, I’d love to tell you but…”

“But you want to keep the secret to yourself”

“No, I’d love to tell you, but a plate of cakes is right in front of us and the next session is about to start - tell you what, I’ll write a blog post about it…”

—————

Because I’ve been doing the Being Freelance podcast since January 2015, people think I must know what I’m doing when it comes to podcasting.

As with everything, there’s many ways to podcast - but here’s my answer to those that ask ‘What do I need to start a podcast?’

At the end of this post you’ll find a ‘short’ version of my answer; essentially a list of all the links/tools/services so you don’t have to keep trawling the post to find them. Handy. You’re welcome.

Oh! And if you end up starting a podcast, let me know! I’d love to give it a listen.

What do I need to start a podcast?

USB Microphone

A high quality microphone that plugs straight into your computer. No ‘mixing desk’. It couldn’t be simpler.
Well apart from figuring which way up the USB thing goes - EVERYTIME.

For years I used the Røde Podcaster. It’s what you see me using in that gif at the top and all my YouTube videos. Amazing sound quality, but doesn’t come with an inbuilt stand so you’ll also need a stand and a cradle/shock mount. Shock mounts stop noise vibrating through a stand into the mic - even a laptop humming away can be picked up. That can make it a little pricey so…

Slightly less expensive and used by a lot of podcasters are the Blue Yeti or Røde NT-USB (I have one of these too - it includes a stand). You can save more money and try the Blue Snowball but that’s probably better if you’re an occasional guest rather than a regular host.

By the way, if you’re doing an in-person podcast (where the guest/co-host is next to you) you’ll want something else like this digital audio recorder. I can’t vouch for that particular model but there are lots available. They usually have built in mics and the option to plug mics in (not necessarily USB ones - check compatibility with whatever mic you buy).

Even with a great mic you still need to think about where you record. You want to find a quiet place with little echo. A small room with lots of furnishings (to dampen the sound). Also start becoming aware of noises. Washing machine, dishwasher, loud clocks… shut the window, take off rattling jewellery, etc


Recording software

If, like me, you’re planning on interviewing other people online, I recommend Zencastr.

It’s like a Skype for podcasters. So it lets you chat online and records. You set up a (FREE) account and send your guest(s) a link. They log in (no sign up needed their end) and here’s the great bit, Zencastr records quality audio at both ends of the call. So it doesn’t matter if the bandwidth of the call is a bit shoddy, it will record at their end, meaning the sound quality is only dependent on their microphone and surroundings. It then uploads your guest’s audio to your Dropbox.

PS. I always recommend recording a backup of your audio using your editing software and asking your guest if they can record a backup too (for example QuickTime on a Mac actually lets you record audio!). Call it a healthy sense of paranoia.

Tip: Always double check the computer has actually selected your shiny new microphone and isn’t just using the internal one (it’s easy to be fooled!).

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to hit record! In the excitement to get talking, it’s easy to forget.


Editing software

I use Adobe Audition. Admittedly, it has way more power than you need but I worked in radio for years so was used to this kind of thing. It’s a monthly subscription. It’s brilliant.

If you’ve not edited before, I recommend Mike Russell on YouTube to help teach yourself.

Lots of people use Audacity for Mac/PC - it’s free software.

Garageband is also an option on the Mac. I started out using this but personally find it a bit clunky and remarkably (at the time at least) it didn’t have an ‘auto save’ function which was very frustrating.


A podcast host

Your ‘host’ is the company you will upload your audio to. They then process it and keep it on their servers to deliver your podcast to whoever wants to stream/download it. Your host creates the ‘RSS feed’ that you submit to Apple Podcasts (iTunes) etc. (Don’t worry - all ‘hosts’ have instructions on how to get your podcast listed in these places).

I use (and highly recommend) Simplecast. Mainly because it’s, well, simple.

Simple to create your podcasts, simple to view your analytics. Simple to get started (as it will even give your podcast a website if you want it to). They also have an amazing, responsive support team. AND they’re putting a lot of energy into pushing forward creative ideas that help you when sharing your podcast. A lot of new features due in 2019.



A transcription service

Okay, so you don’t need this one. But getting your podcast transcribed has many benefits. For a start it makes your content more accessible (to people who can’t listen). Secondly, it makes it more SEO friendly. Finally, it helps you ‘repurpose’ your podcast: for social media or blog posts for example.

I recommend using Rev. They use real human freelancers to transcribe your podcast quickly (same day). I’ve tried the automated robotic services and honestly, you’re better off with Rev. You just spend more time correcting things otherwise. If you use this link you can get a $10 credit to try it out, see what you think (Rev is just $1 a minute).

Honestly, I wish I’d started transcribing the Being Freelance podcast from the very beginning. $20 a week is one thing. But decide to start 50 or 100 episodes in… gulp. So my advice is not to put it off.

A Format

Have a think about what you want your podcast to sound like.

Is it an interview? A co-hosted conversation? A documentary where you piece together pieces of audio and interview to tell a story? Are you discussing topics? The news? Answering questions? A ‘solo’ show where it’s like an audible version of a blog post? A ‘magazine’ style, where you start with news and chat, then have an interview, then take questions?! How long will it be?

Don’t worry, you can always change it later, but in general listeners like a regular format. People like to know what to expect week on week.

Think of your favourite podcasts (or ask friends for their’s) - how do they work? What is it you like? Start to analyse podcasts instead of just listening: figure out the recipe. Then go invent your own dish to serve.

An audience

It helps if you already have an ‘audience’. Your social media following, your email list…
Whatever, you need to know ‘who’ your audience is. Who are you aiming it at? Clients? Peers? What will they get out of it? What will you get out of it?

Don’t worry though. When I started the Being Freelance podcast, I had zero audience. It grew episode on episode based on me and my guests promoting it.
Also, I’m not saying you need a ‘big audience’ listening - don’t get hung up on the numbers.

Guests

If you’re relying on guests for the format of your show, I’d suggest getting ahead of yourself. Book lots in advance and record ahead, so if people drop out, you still have episodes ready to publish.

Use a scheduling system like Calendly to avoid email ping pong. It also eliminates doubt over time zones and can even be used to send reminders to your guests.


Ears

Listen to your guest. Don’t talk more than the people you’ve invited on. Don’t just have a list of questions. Make notes as you hear things and come back to them.


A schedule

There’s no golden rule. Do what suits. Having a set day that you release episodes will help you stay on track when other things are distracting you. And remember doing a podcast in ‘seasons’ is pretty common place, so you can always plan in breaks.

A Name

You will mull this over for ever! Hahahahaha.
Above all, just like with a business name, double check it doesn’t already exist. Are the url and social channels available?


A Tagline

Okay. You don’t need this. I don’t have one. But it is a good idea.
It should explain neatly what your podcast is.

Ever heard Sara Tasker say “This is Hashtag Authentic, a podcast for creatives online…”?
Or Femke & Charli: “Welcome to Design Life, a show about design and side projects for motivated creatives…”

It helps tell your listener what the hell they’re listening to. That also gets drummed into them, so when they’re telling a friend/colleague about your podcast they will be likely to repeat those words. If you can’t summarise your show in a sentence, you’ve probably not thought about your podcast enough.

Artwork

For iTunes you need 3000x3000 pixels, 72dpi, JPEG or PNG.
It’s worth considering hiring a designer to do this for you. It matters.
Bare in mind what it’ll look like when it’s small on a phone, or social media. Can people see your face? Your text?

Take a look through the Apple Podcasts lists of top podcasts and see what you like design wise. What works? Why? Don’t copy, but get a feel for it.

A Category

Do a bit of research into Apple Podcast categories. You can choose a few to be listed under.
Take a look at podcasts that you might think are your ‘competition’ (not that we’re in competition right?) - what are they listed as?

A website

I mentioned earlier that the podcast host Simplecast includes a site (if you want it). Whatever, you’re going to want to have somewhere that your podcast can call home.
Each episode can have its own page and you can embed your Simplecast audio player on it for that episode (don’t worry, its’ easy).

Will it be on your own site? If it’s to do with your business, that’s not a bad idea: adding quality content to your site regularly makes Google happy.

I built my Being Freelance site using Squarespace. Great news: you can also buy urls via Squarepsace. It couldn’t be easier.

And when you’re doing your ‘listening to other podcasts’ research I can guarantee you’ll hear someone give you a promo code to save money on Squarespace! Finally time to use that deal.

Promotion

Honestly… for me, creating a weekly podcast has been the (relatively) easy thing. It’s the promotion which is another job in itself. Be prepared for putting in the work to build your audience! The great thing about a podcast is it’s a goldmine for ‘repurposing’. It should be easy to create social media posts and blogs from quotes. Some people even create a video of their whole podcast episode for YouTube.


A smile

Put a smile on your face. Speak to ‘you’, instead of ‘listeners’. Enjoy creating that personal connection with your audience as they get to you know YOU. It’s a brilliant thing!

——————


Steve, are you doing a talk on podcasting?

Actually, yes! If you’re at National Freelancer’s Day in London this June come say hi and ask me questions in person. Unless it’s by the cakes in the break. In which case, save it.


THE SHORT VERSION

USB-Microphones for podcasting

Røde Podcaster*

*It’s amazing but you also need some kind of stand and cradle/shock mount. I use those ones.

Less expensive USB microphone alternatives (that all have built in stands):

Røde NT-USB

Blue Yeti

Blue Snowball

Recording software

Zencastr. It’s like a Skype for podcasters that records both ends of the call in high quality audio.
Perfect if you have guests online.

Note - you can also record using your editing software if just yourself.


Editing software

Adobe Audition

Free alternatives:

Garageband

Audacity


A podcast host

Simplecast


A Transcription Service

Rev


A Scheduling System for Guests

Calendly

A website

Squarespace
Simplecast (you get a site with your podcast hosting to help you get started)


A note: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means I may get a small bit of money from the company if you click through and purchase. However, I’ve only listed what I believe in and I’ve been recommending these products/services for years without affiliate links (because I’m rubbish at making money online, but thankfully good at making podcasts).