Podcasting 101 – How to start a podcast during quarantine?
Podcasting 101: The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Podcasting during Quarantine
Whether you are trying to make the most out of being stuck at home during quarantine or have fancied the idea of starting a podcast for quite some time when the COVID-19 catastrophe happened, one of the most pressing questions you’d have is, “How to start a podcast during quarantine?”
How do I know this?
I had the same question when I launched The Takeaway Club™ during the quarantine, and it has been a wonderful experience!
In the last 3 months, I’ve spoken to about a dozen guests on the podcast and many other interesting professionals and one of the most frequently asked questions to me is, how to start a podcast – while I’ve tried to answer this in ad hoc fashion, I thought I’d write a mega-post covering every detail I know that will be more than sufficient for you to get started.
While I am no podcast expert, the fact that I started a podcast very recently (my first episode was out April 2020) means a lot of what I know and went through will be highly relevant for anyone who is trying to embark on the podcasting journey, especially in the near future.
- #1 Question to Ask when starting a podcast
- What should my podcast be about?
- How long should my podcast be?
- How much does it cost to start a podcast?
- What tools do I need to start a podcast?
- How to find guests for my podcast?
- A step-by-step guide to creating your first podcast episode
- Podcast Analytics: What to measure and from where?
#1 Question to Ask: Why do you want to start a podcast?
The first and the most important question to ask before starting a podcast is, why you want to start a podcast.
At the moment, there are more than 850,000 active podcasts and more than 30 million podcast episodes worldwide. There is no shortage of competition should you decide to start a podcast – this is not meant as a discouragement but rather a caveat of what you are getting into.
Because podcasting is a hard grind – right from guest hunting to recording to promoting; it takes a lot of work and patience to reap the rewards.
If you are not in love with the medium, it can be a little tougher to do this in the longer run. Besides, podcasting is just one of the many, many mediums to share your content.
It’s important that you find the one that suits you the best.
Podcasts vs. Other mediums
One of my friends Kaushik Kannan runs a YouTube channel with his friends where he shares amazing content on SaaS in Tamil. Mukil Ganesan is a growth wiz who writes insightful pieces on growth, marketing that he distributes through a newsletter. Surya runs a website where he exclusively writes about fantasy football.
I even know folks who exclusively create content on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, even Instagram – so there are abundant platforms (all with their own upsides and downsides vs. podcasting) where you can share your thoughts.
For me, podcasting made a lot of sense because it was right at the intersection of
- Getting to have candid chats
- Get to know smart folks
- My aversion to appearing before the camera
Before you settle on podcasting as your modus operandi for content creation, put some thoughts into the trade-offs, long term implications, etc. which would save you a lot of headaches in the future.
All said, if you are confident and excited about your podcasting journey, read on.
What should my podcast be about?
Great, you’ve decided on podcasting as your weapon of choice 😉
The next important question that you might have is, what your podcast would be about. Of course, you’d already have some idea of the topics you want to cover in your podcast.
But now it is time to double down and settle on a ‘genre’ – are you going to talk about investments? Cryptocurrency? Design? Product management?
Identifying your ‘genre’ is important because this is what your podcast will be known for – think 5, 10, 20 episodes down the road. What will be the first thing that comes to your audiences’ minds when they think of your podcast?
To give a personal example, when I was thinking about starting The Takeaway Club™, I was fortunate to have amazing people like Srinidy in my network who I could reach out to when I first had the idea.
However, being in the SaaS industry meant, anyone in my immediate network that I reached out to, for advise and suggestions, were folks who were running a podcast in and around the ecosystem – SaaS, technology, startups, etc.
While I was obviously a fan of all those topics ( and had easier access to potential guests/mentors to turn to), I realized that I was more passionate about the people, thinking processes, and habits vs. their products, systems, and frameworks.
This realization + having listened to people like Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, and Sam Harris gave me the clarity to mold how The Takeaway Club™ will look like.
If you want to start a podcast where you talk to inanimate objects, understand their feelings, even that is absolutely fine. As long as you enjoy doing it. You will eventually find people who enjoy listening to your content.
To sum it up with a cliche, follow your instincts.
How long should my podcast be?
This is totally up to you!
I’ve listened to 2-minute podcasts, 20-minute podcasts, and even 200 minute podcasts! And I’ve enjoyed all of them in equal fashion.
Yes, a 20-minute conversation ( which seems like the go-to choice) sounds most appealing – but just like how different platforms have their own plus and minus, so do the episode run-times.
If an Elon Musk or a Tristan Harris is talking, I’d rather it be 200 mins vs. 20 mins.
As long as your conversation is interesting or helpful, the time factor does not affect your listenership.
Read: Why are my podcasts so long? Where I break this down in a more detailed manner.
How much does it cost to start a podcast?
If you record your podcast episode now, you can see it on Spotify and iTunes in the next 30 minutes at zero cost.
But what about a high-end microphone, a podcast website, fancy editing software?
They are all nice to haves.
None of these should be in the way of getting your first episode out.
I still don’t have a microphone – and I remember actually stalling on starting the podcast for at least a month because I was contemplating the microphone purchase.
So if you want to start a podcast and are hesitating over the costs, ditch your fears and go ahead right now.
How to find guests for my podcast?
The elephant in the room!
Finding the right guests will be one of the most challenging aspects for anyone wanting to start a podcast – and understandably so. While most people would love to talk and share their insights in their space, we’re bound by constraints like schedules, lockdowns, quarinsane routines that are driving everyone crazy.
Based on my experience and fellow hosts I interact with, the easiest way to guest-hunt is to find people already in your network whose interests align with what your show is about.
It would be even easier if you have friends who’d be interested in getting on the show.
My first episode was with Kaushik Kannan – having him as the first guest was incredibly comforting because I was already aware of what his interests were, and vice-versa.
Having your friends on initially is a great way to break the ice – you will not be nervous (at least much less so compared with a stranger), not worry about the technical glitches.
Once you are a few episodes in, opportunities present themselves in the form of word of mouth and mutual connections.
For instance, one of my other episodes was with Kruti Pathak, whom I got introduced through Kaushik; he already knew she’d make for a great guest because he knew what to expect from the show.
What tools do I need to start a podcast?
The final piece of the puzzle before jumping into starting your podcast is, most likely figuring out what are the tools you need to start a podcast – when I started out, this is where I spent most of my research on.
From my experience you only need 3 kinds of tools to get started:
- A Recording tool – Zoom
- A Podcast editing tool – iMovie or Garageband for Macs, Audacity for Windows
- A Podcast publishing tool – Anchor
A step-by-step guide to creating your first podcast
To make it easy to consume, I will divide this section into 4 parts right from recording to measuring your podcast’s performance:
- Podcast Analytics
If you are recording your episodes remotely, which is probably the only viable option at least the rest of the year, I’d recommend going with Zoom. It’s familiar, simple, and free.
And since you will only have one guest in any given episode, you don’t even have to worry about the 40-minute limit.
Simply send over a zoom link, hit on record and you will get an MP4 file as soon as your call ends.
Editing is perhaps the most important (and time-consuming process) as you painstakingly delete awkward pauses, trim a few minutes here and there, etc.
It is important to devote a good chunk of time to this, and plan your episode release accordingly so that you don’t have to rush at this point.
Tools for editing:-
For Mac users
Apple’s built-in music software Garageband is the most popular option for podcasters when it comes to editing. It comes with rich and powerful customizations.
Personally, I rely on iMovie as I find it more convenient since I don’t want too many options that Garageband offers.
For Windows users
Though I have not used personally, Audacity appears to be the most popular choice for editing podcasts.
Intro and outro music is a common theme to podcasts and you typically add them while you individually when you edit any episode.
This is how my typical editing setup on iMovie looks like:
As you can see I have audio containing the music + my generic introduction which I add to each of the episodes. Similarly, there’s outro music added at the end.
You can check out Youtube’s audio library for free music to use on your podcast.
Once you’ve recorded an episode, the next step is distribution.
Publishing the podcast on Anchor
Once the podcast is edited, I export the audio file as mp3 – which I will then upload to Anchor.
In the dashboard, click on New Episode which takes you to an upload page where you can upload your audio file – as simple as that!
Promoting the Podcast
Once you upload your podcast on Anchor, it takes approximately 30-45 mins for it to distribute to all the major platforms.
At this point, you can simply share the respective platforms links of your podcast on your social media profiles or newsletter where you have an audience.
At this point, you have everything needed to run a successful podcast. But if you want to get a few more eyeballs, here are a couple of nice-to-haves that you can try out.
Using Canva to promote your podcast
If you follow The Takeaway Club™, you might have come across the pre-launch posters that give a peek into what the episode is about.
If you plan to follow a schedule, or even otherwise, sharing a poster like this a couple of days before your episode is out, is a nice way to keep your audience in the loop.
Likewise, you can share a poster image along with your podcast link that gives a nice summary of what you anyone can expect out of the episode:
This way, even if the audience is not familiar with your guest, they can gauge the conversation to see if they’d find the episode to their liking.
Creating Podcast Snippets
A video snippet of the most interesting parts of your conversation is a great way to engage with the audience.
Headliner app is one of the most popular applications for podcast hosts to turn their audio into video snippets or even full episodes that you can publish on YouTube.
Create an email list
Creating an email list is one of the best ways to retain and increase your audience – while it undoubtedly takes time, there are only upsides to it.
First off, you can make sure that anyone interested in your podcast will know whenever you publish an episode – even when shared on social media, there is a good chance people might miss out on your updates.
On the other hand, if you have a mailer, you can reach out straight in their inbox. minimizing the chances of missing out.
Secondly, when you completely rely on a third-party platform like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram there’s always the risk of uncertainty on platform policies. One just has to look at Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, who lost his ~180,000 followers on LinkedIn overnight, when the platform decided to delete his account.
In the long run, it always pays to have your own mailing list that you have complete control over.
You can use a platform like Mailchimp to set up your email campaigns.
P.S: The Takeaway Club™ publishes a weekly newsletter every Monday, ‘Beat the Blues’, a curation of the most interesting and random content I come across every week.
Podcast Analytics: What to measure and from where?
Podcast Analytics is a good measure of how your podcast is performing – make no mistake, it is still not the most accurate indicator of your podcast’s success. But it is rather a guiding point to tell you how you are improving week on.
But remember, the most important measure of your podcast’s success in the early stages is how much you are improving week on.
That said, the Anchor dashboard does give a good view of everything you need to know about your podcast’s performance including listens, demographics, etc.
Bonus: Other useful podcast resources
A resource that I found only recently, this is an invaluable guide in understanding the podcast ecosystem, what the future holds, and where the industry goes from where it is now.
A kickass invite-only community, where you can meet new people every week!
You can sign-up using my invite link.
Though it’s been a while since I updated the post, it still has enough resources (Podcasts categorized based on runtime) containing a diverse list of podcasts that you might enjoy!
My podcasting journey so far has been exhilarating. For anyone reading this who wants to start a podcast, I hope this was useful.
If you have any doubts or feedback, or simply want to have a chat, feel free to drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org