How to start a podcast: These 6 steps will make it happen!

You like listening to podcasts and now you want to make one yourself? But the topic of how to create a podcast is still a blur for you? Don’t worry, it’s not that complicated. At least if you consider the podcast basics. It’s all about finding a topic that interests you and in which you are, in the best case, an expert. You’ll get the basics on equipment, (post) production, and marketing here. Have fun!

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How to start a podcast What it really comes down to!

  1. Come up with a concept and know your own “why”.
  2. Equipment? A USB microphone and headphones are all you need for now.
  3. Record in a furnished rooms (don’t forget the microphone check!).
  4. Post-production: Less is more! The main thing is that your recording isn’t too quiet and is in the WAV format!
  5. Audience, where are you? Without podcast hosting it will be hard!
  6. Marketing? Focus on 1-2 social media platforms and word of mouth!

Perhaps the most important rule when starting a podcast: Just do it!

How do I create a podcast? A step-by-step guide

Step 1: Create a podcast concept and know its why

The concept is the most important element when you create a podcast. Especially as a beginner, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of work involved in creating a podcast. Because then many to-dos want to be checked off. Researching topics and target groups, deciding on a format, branding and marketing, podcast SEO, buying or testing equipment and software, possibly making appointments with interview guests, writing scripts for the episodes, recording, and uploading to the host, promoting on social media — a podcast is a lot of work. But if you write down a concept at the beginning, you will work in a structured way, achieve your goals, and also have fun doing it.

Tip

For optimal time management, it’s best to set goals that work according to the SMART Method.

The podcast concept also includes the following aspects:

  • Go for the format that works for you (solo recordings and/or interviews, episode length, and publishing frequency).
  • Find an overall theme: Comedy, knowledge, news, fitness, and true crime are very popular.
  • It’s best to occupy a niche (ideally, one you’re an expert in).
  • If you are not an expert, you can convince listeners and inspire them with your personality and a new perspective on a topic or problem just as well.
  • Content with value: Your content should inform, explain, entertain, be exclusive, and relevant (and never boring).
  • Create an editorial plan.
  • Podcast branding: Consider name, logo, and sound design.
Tip

You can create your podcast logo in just a few steps and then download it for free.

Keeping all this in mind can be overwhelming in the beginning. The important thing is to create a realistic schedule, implement the podcast basics, and don’t get lost in too many details.

Step 2: Buy (and test!) the right equipment

Once the concept is in place, you can start looking for the right equipment. The crucial question you should ask yourself here: Does the equipment serve its purpose? After all, there’s little point in trying to get to grips with technical details right at the start of your podcasting journey. When it comes to audio technology, there are simply too many aspects that can (theoretically) be relevant to a professional podcast setup. Whether a podcast is or sounds “professional” doesn’t necessarily depend on the price tag of the microphone. Rather, it’s about being able to handle the technology properly — that’s what makes a podcast professional and guarantees good sound quality.

The good news: You don’t need expensive high-end equipment to create a podcast! There are countless reviews on the web about the “best podcast equipment” — the recommended gold standard is usually an XLR microphone with audio interface. But as basic equipment for podcast beginners this setup is only conditionally suitable. Don’t make things too complicated for yourself at the beginning. Get good headphones and a USB microphone from one of the leading manufacturers such as Shure or Rode. Connect both to your favorite device for recording and post-production of the podcast episodes. A notebook is best for this, but there are also podcast apps that enable podcasting on tablets and smartphones. If you decide to use your cell phone for mobile recording, you should get an external clip-on microphone. That’s basically all it takes to create a podcast for now. If you want to create a webinar, even a headset will do.

Fact

XLR vs. USB microphone which is better? It depends! The difference lies in the cable connection. An XLR microphone first goes via an XLR cable into a so-called audio interface, which acts as a converter or “interpreter”. The interface converts the analog audio signal into a digital one and amplifies it. Only then is the audio signal passed on to the end device, e.g. notebook, via a USB connection. USB microphones are connected directly to the end device for recording or post-production. For beginners, this is much less complicated, even though it gives you less leeway in audio quality during recording.

Once the basics of audio technology are in place and the first podcast episodes have been published, you can gradually move on to more advanced topics. The following questions might be of interest then:

  • What are dynamic microphones and what are condenser microphones?
  • Which microphone type is suitable for which room environment? (Keywords here are e.g. reverberation, acoustics, directional characteristics, background noise)
  • Which microphones require a preamp? (Keyword FetHead)
  • What is important for audio interfaces? (Am I recording alone or with guests? Type and number of inputs, are features like direct monitoring or a level meter included?)
  • What is available for mobile audio interfaces to create a podcast on the go? (Keywords: Zoom recorders, podcast apps like Anchor or Podbean).

Once the equipment is in place, it’s time to test! The importance of test recordings is often underestimated, especially among beginners. If you think watching one or two unboxing or how-to videos on YouTube is enough, you might be thrown off by the technology involved in recording. As long as you’re only planning solo recordings, it may not make much of a difference. But at the latest when others are guests for a podcast interview, you should know how the microphone and other equipment works.

Step 3: Learn what matters when recording.

Now it’s time to get serious! The setup is set up, you’re familiar with all functions and have tested them, and now it’s time to record. To make your first recording session a success, keep the following aspects in mind:

  • Record in a small, soundproof room if possible.
  • Do not forget to charge batteries or bring a charging cable for the notebook.
  • Switch cell phone to flight mode or mute.
  • For remote recordings, you need a stable Internet connection.
  • Level the volume before recording (target: -6 decibels, “dB” for short).
  • Instruct podcast guests (mouth-microphone distance, posture, flow, etc.).
  • Always test listen (check if there is any noise).

If the audio track contains too much noise or your voice sounds too quiet, possibly even overmodulated, this is not necessarily due to the podcast setup, but to the incorrect distance to the microphone. If the microphone is too far away, the audio signal (especially with USB microphones) is too low; if you get too close to the capsule of the microphone, the risk of clipping increases — the audio signal is distorted by the audio level being too high. As a rule, this problem can be avoided by leaving about a hand’s width of space between your mouth and the microphone. Since USB microphones are somewhat more susceptible to clipping, you can also place the microphone slightly below the direction of speech. This way you minimize annoying breathing and popping noises at the same time.

Tip

Podcasting in the closet? Sounds like a joke, but it is a proven principle among podcasters to get reverb-free sound. To minimize interference and background noise as much as possible, a small, furnished room is recommended. Anything that minimizes room noise — this includes couches, carpets, murals, ceilings — serves its purpose: namely, to produce a clear and reverb-free audio signal. A similar result as in the storage room is achieved with an open closet.

Which is better: Create a podcast episode online or record it locally?

In principle, there are two options to record a podcast episode: Either you use a software — in technical jargon this is called Digital Audio Workspace, DAW for short — with which you record locally on your own PC, or you rely on web-based recording tools. The latter are divided into programs that record the audio signal via the Internet connection (e.g. Zoom and Skype) and those that are web-based but still record locally. This may sound confusing at first — and it’s also a hotly debated topic in the podcast scene. While some podcasters decry programs like Zoom and Skype because of their (too poor) audio quality, others use and recommend them.

Tip

For remote interviews, it’s helpful to see facial expressions and gestures of the guest instead of just hearing them. If your favorite recording software only records the audio track but doesn’t offer a video option, you can parallelly use video conferencing software like Zoom. If you don’t want to use Zoom, there are several Zoom alternatives to choose from.

So, what to do now?

The advantage of web-based tools that record locally.

Fact is Zoom, Skype, etc. are called video conferencing software for a reason. They were developed to allow meetings to take place online without taking up huge amounts of data. In short: Audio quality can’t be superior. That’s why web-based recording tools that record independently of the Internet and thus guarantee (or are supposed to guarantee) consistently high, lossless audio quality have been around for a few years.

The alternative for solo recordings: Record locally via a DAW

As mentioned at the beginning, however, you can also record your podcast locally via an installed DAW. Unlike the online tools just mentioned, these have the advantage that they are often free and still offer the most important audio optimization features. If you’re recording solo, this is the better way to go. For interviews, either both of you would have to use a DAW or you just rely on web-based tools.

But back to the local DAW method. In practice, Audacity (Windows, iOS, Linux), and GarageBand (iOS) have proven most useful here. If you have a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, you can also check out Adobe Audition. Without the subscription, however, it is not really worth it — one of the first-mentioned freeware programs will do.

Step 4: Post-production — what really matters in post-production

Once the podcast episode is recorded and the audio track is saved, it’s time for editing. Again, the tip is to always record audio tracks separately (a so-called double-ender recording) so that post-production does not take an unnecessarily long time. Load the audio file(s) into the DAW, for example, Audacity. There are many helpful tutorials on YouTube for this, so post-processing the soundtrack shouldn’t be too much of a gray area. At first, the many functions and effects can seem overwhelming — so it’s best to concentrate on the basics. These include:

  • Cutting off the start and end of the audio track and replacing them with intro and outro sound effects.
  • Avoid pauses in speech that are too long.
  • Make the audio track louder (if necessary) to give you more room for post-production — Audacity has a “Boost” effect for this.
  • Optional: The audio signal should be free of noise and reverberation — for this purpose there are the functions “Noise Reduction”, “Equalizer”, and “Compressor”.
  • It is best to save the edited audio track as a WAV file — this is an uncompressed, high-quality audio format.
Note

Many podcast beginners wonder how loud a podcast episode should be. For this, you can use the LUFS specifications of streaming services like Spotify, TIDAL, and Apple Music as a guide. LUFS is a new unit of measurement for standardized measurement of audio volume and also a kind of guideline for podcasters. The target volume should be -16 LUFS. To find out how loud your podcast episode is, the free online tool Loudnesss Penalty Analyzer helps.

Step 5: Why you should have a podcast host

Simply put, a podcast host brings your episode(s) to your audience. In principle, this can also be done manually, but the podcast hosting saves a lot of time and provides many features that help with distribution and marketing.

If you would choose the variant without a host, you would have to create a creator account with each streaming service and upload each episode individually — this is tedious and not very useful. Hosting works like this: You sign up with the hosting platform of your choice and upload the audio file there. All audio files are stored on the server and a so-called RSS feed of your podcast is also generated. This is passed on to the streaming platforms, also called “podcatchers”, so that the podcast feed is updated at the respective streaming service with every new episode.

Which of the numerous hosts is the right one depends on the specific use case and your own preferences. You should ask yourself the following questions when searching for the right podcast host:

  • How user-friendly and intuitive is the service?
  • If the host is fee-based, what features are available?
  • Do I want my audio file to be automatically encoded according to the hosting guidelines?
  • Does the host limit the monthly upload count (in episodes or hours)?
  • What marketing features are provided? (e.g. Audiogram generation tools or collaborations with external crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon
  • What analytics tools are available to evaluate podcast statistics?

The most popular podcast hosts are Libysn, Anchor, Buzzsprout, Captivate, and Transistor.fm.

Step 6: Marketing — how do I promote my podcast?

The podcast is ready and the first episodes uploaded to the host. And lo and behold: They appear on the streaming platforms. But what now? How do others find out about your new podcast?

You can’t avoid beating the advertising drum. But this doesn’t mean paid advertising. Running paid ads can be an effective marketing tool for getting more audience, but it doesn’t need to be at the beginning of your podcast career. Instead, word of mouth helps — and it’s completely free! For example, you can share your podcast project in advance with your friends, co-workers, and family. If it’s well received, they’ll likely automatically share your podcast with others.

Also, since you’ve already thought about your target audience, you should promote your podcast exactly where they hang out. So find out which social media platforms potential listeners are active on. For example, if you’re creating a podcast about photography or fitness, Instagram is probably the ideal platform for self-promotion. With the story function on Instagram you can share your podcast episode and, since recently, directly place the link to the streaming service.

On the other hand, if you’re covering a business topic, LinkedIn might work better for marketing. It can make sense to focus on one or at most two platforms in the beginning — even though there is often talk on the web about being represented on as many social networks as possible. The reason for this is quickly identified: the lack of time!

And here’s some food for thought on marketing:

  • Use distinctive episode titles, e.g., "How to," "7 Tips for", "How to start a podcast?" (the keywords here are podcast SEO and evergreen content.
  • Collaborations with other podcasters can increase your own reach.
  • Community building via social media (consider listener requests and feedback).
  • Produce snackable content that teases key messages of the podcast episode.
  • Create a custom website so you show up in search engine rankings.

Make the podcast even more popular with a website and your own email address.

Sure, having your own podcast website means a lot of work again, of course. But especially if you don’t have a reach at the beginning and thus nobody knows your podcast, an SEO-optimized website can be useful. It is important that it provides information about your person and mission and that the podcast can be subscribed to on subpages for the various streaming services. For this, there are numerous WordPress podcast plugins that can help you better integrate your podcast content into your WordPress website.

If you decide to set up a podcast website, then it should definitely comply with the mobile first approach and thus be optimized for mobile devices.

Tip

At IONOS you can register your own domain. Optionally you can set up your website professionally with the website builder. Bonus Tip: With your own email address you radiate professionalism and seriousness in interview requests and (advertising) cooperations.

Conclusion

You now have all the relevant information to create a podcast yourself. You don’t need to be a sound engineer to do this and it doesn’t require high-end equipment. It’s much more important to have content with added value and that you’re passionate about your topic. And perhaps the most important rule: Keep it simple! It’s best to start today! Your first episodes are allowed to be flawed, striving for perfection tends to hinder podcast creation — so headphones on, microphone on and go! We’re on air!