How to Start Your Own Podcast

How to Start Your Own Podcast

For many of us, podcasts are a way to keep up with the news or stay entertained while we’re working out, commuting, or getting stuff done around the house. Chances are you probably have a favorite (or seven) that you keep up with on a regular basis.

While every armchair broadcaster with a voice-recording app is eager to get in the game, creating a professional-sounding podcast isn’t as simple as that. This guide will tell you how to create, record, and publish your own basic podcast—and get people to listen.

Be ready to commit

Before you rush into things, it’s important to keep in mind that podcasts take a lot of effort to get going. It’s easy to assume they are easy to produce because most are audio only, but don’t be fooled. They can take a lot of time to put together, especially when you’re first starting out.

Also, podcasts do best when they’re released consistently. If you’re interested in developing any kind of listener base, you have to be ready to release episodes on a regular basis. Podcasting can be fun work, but it’s still work, and should be treated as such.

Don’t expect to get rich from podcasting. It’s possible to generate income from podcasting, but that usually requires advertisements and sponsorships and patrons—all of which you can get only after you’ve built up a listenership big enough to make it worthwhile to advertisers. If you’re not interested in starting a podcast for the fun of it, or just to have your voice heard, you might not get much out of it unless you already have an eager audience.

Pick a format

There are a variety of common podcast formats, from co-hosted conversations to interview shows. Which one you select depends on factors like your content area and how much editing you want to do, but you’ll want to pick a single format and stick to it so your listeners know what to expect. If you’re combining formats, such as a co-hosted podcast that has an interview section in each episode, keep that consistent as well. Here are a few options to consider.

Solo or monologue podcast

This format is just you, the host, talking to your audience, about whatever topic you choose. You can work from a script or outline or just speak extemporaneously, but keep in mind that you’ll need to find ways to keep listeners engaged since they’ll hear only your voice. Solo podcasts may work best for storytelling or those who have expertise on a specific topic and want the flexibility to record on their own schedule.

Co-hosted podcast

A co-hosted or conversational podcast has two (or more) hosts having an informal discussion about a specific topic or theme. This format works well for pairs or groups who have good rapport and are flexible to record together.

Interview podcast

On an interview podcast, you (and any co-hosts) bring a different guest on for each episode. This format requires more planning, coordination, and research to record and edit, but it can keep your show engaging and fresh because every episode is different. It’s helpful to have an overall theme for your show—rather than doing random interviews—so that your audience is clear about what to expect.

Call-in podcast

With a call-in show, you invite the audience to participate in your podcast, either in real time or via recorded messages that are included in the episode. Like an interview show, a call-in podcast can feel spontaneous and fresh, but it requires an existing audience (unless you start with a different format), and you will likely want to screen callers before recording.

Scripted podcast

A scripted podcast could be a solo or co-hosted podcast, but the focus is on a scripted fiction or non-fiction narrative. A fictional scripted podcast can be like the audio version of a film, with sound effects, music, and voice acting, while a non-fiction scripted podcast is often a serial or journalistic story (like true crime). This format can be simple and flexible, but it can also require a lot of research, and the stories have to keep listeners engaged.

Get the right podcasting gear

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You can’t start a podcast without equipment, and good equipment will go a long way. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Microphone(s): Any microphone will work for recording your podcast, but listeners can usually tell the difference between low- and high-quality microphones. (I use four analog Audio-Technica AT2020s for my own podcast). As you shop around, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to use a USB or analog (XLR) microphone. USB mics convert analog sound into digital, so you can plug a USB mic directly into any computer and start recording without much hassle, but you could potentially get lower audio quality compared to analog. Because you don’t need any extra tools or devices to record with a USB mic, they can be a little cheaper in the long run. Analog microphones use XLR connectors, which means you need another device to get your audio onto your computer, but you can get higher audio quality and can use them with other sound equipment (if you had a PA system or wanted to play live music, for example). Of course, if you have a gaming headset or other basic microphone around, you can easily use that to podcast, too, so long as the quality is decent. That won’t work well if you are co-hosting or plan to have frequent guests, as you’ll need multiple microphones to capture everyone.
  • Portable XLR recorder (optional): If you plan on using analog microphones for your podcast, you’ll need something that captures your analog audio and converts it to digital. Portable XLR recorders can capture multiple microphone channels and allow you to do basic sound level adjusting and muting on the fly. Your audio files automatically get organized and stored on a memory card that you can insert into a card reader or slot in your computer. These are amazing tools, but they can be expensive. You can find them for anywhere between $US100 and $US500, depending on how many channels and options you need. (I use a Zoom H6 Handy Recorder with four available analog channels.)
  • Audio interface (optional): If you want to record directly to your computer with your analog microphones, you’ll need an audio interface. These devices allow you to plug in one or more analog microphones and will convert the analog audio to digital. Most audio interfaces will connect to your computer via USB or USB-C. Audio interfaces can cost as little as $US30 and go as high as $US300, depending on what you need.
  • A computer: Any Windows or Mac computer should work fine to record, edit, and upload your podcast. Thankfully, editing audio doesn’t take a ton of computing power. Additionally, depending on how you choose to record—directly to the computer or onto a dedicated recording device—your computer will also need the right ports. USB microphones, for example, will obviously need an open USB port. If you’re using analog microphones with a portable XLR recorder or audio interface device, you’ll need either a 3.5 mm audio-in jack, a USB/USB-C port, or, in some cases, a FireWire port. Before you spend any money on equipment, make sure you have a computer that can support it.
  • Audio editing software: For the actual recording and editing, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (or DAW). There are a lot of good options out there, but the licenses for most aren’t free. Professional-level DAWs like Reason cost anywhere from $US99 to $US599 depending on the features you want, while Pro Tools starts at $US99 per year. Hindenburg offers audio editing software licenses starting at $US12 per month, Reaper is a fully loaded audio production app that’ll run you $US60, and Adobe’s audio editing software Audition CC is available with a $US22.99 monthly subscription.You probably shouldn’t start dumping money into podcasting software as a beginner. Because of that, most people will recommend free open-source programs like Audacity when you’re just getting started, and that’s what we’ll use an example throughout this guide.
  • Pop filters (optional): The clearer your audio can sound, the better. Pop filters, while not required, are fairly cheap and can keep your plosives from making a nasty sound on your recording. If you don’t want to buy any, it’s easy to make some of your own.

You might be thinking that all this equipment is pretty pricey, and you’re not wrong. However, keep in mind that decent audio equipment will last forever if you take care of it. It may be expensive at the outset, but after the initial purchase, you’re set.

Narrow your topic and find your niche

There are a ton of podcasts out there, which means that you can probably find a podcast about everything under the sun already. Don’t get discouraged! While nearly every broad topic is already covered, you just have to find your spin on things to make an old idea something new.

For example, if you wanted to make a podcast about music, ask yourself if there’s an audience out there for what you want to talk about. Maybe you narrow your idea down from music in general to bluegrass specifically. Now your coverage is specific: the music, people, and culture of bluegrass.

Once you have your topic narrowed down, it helps to add a spin to it. Maybe you talk about bluegrass music and culture while sipping moonshine with your co-hosts. It’s kind of true that everything has been done before, but it hasn’t all been done the way you would do it. Find an angle that’s interesting and engaging—the more your passion shines through your podcast, the more people are likely to keep listening.

Download, install, and set up Audacity

Credit: Emily Long

As mentioned earlier, Audacity is a great DAW for podcasting beginners. It’s open-source, free to use as long as you like, and is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Before you can jump into recording, there are a few steps to getting it all set up properly:

  1. Download and install Audacity.
  2. Connect your microphone and open Audacity.
  3. See if your microphone is being recognized by Audacity by checking the drop-down menu next to the small microphone icon. If you see your mic, select it.
  4. In the top left corner, you should see the pause, play, stop, skip back, skip forward, and record buttons. Click the record button and talk into your mic to make sure it’s working properly.
  5. Stop recording and play back what you just recorded to make sure everything sounds good.

Note that previously you had to download the LAME MP3 encoder to export your file as an MP3. LAME is now built into Audacity for Windows and Mac. If you’re using Linux, follow these installation instructions.

Record and edit your podcast in Audacity

Credit: Emily Long

Recording is pretty straightforward in Audacity, but there are a few things you should do before you jump into your first show:

  1. Connect your microphone and make a quick recording the same way as before to check your audio levels.
  2. You can adjust your recording volume with the slider right above the drop-down menu where you selected your recording device.
  3. When you’ve found a good level, remove your recording test by clicking the small X at the top left of the track. You don’t need it anymore.
  4. Make sure your recording space is silent and record around five seconds of “silence.” This is called room tone, and you can use this to cover up background noise while you’re recording the real deal. You can mute this track for now by clicking the mute toggle button on the left side of the track. You can also minimize it by clicking the arrow at the bottom-left of the track.
  5. Go to File > Save Project > Save Project As, and choose a name for your project. Keep in mind that this doesn’t export any audio, just saves your progress.

Now you’re ready to actually record the main part of your podcast. Hit the record button and Audacity will start capturing your audio in a new track. When you’re done recording, hit the stop button. It’s as simple as that. Before you continue, be sure to save your work.

How to add intro and outro music

Writing and recording your own theme music is incredibly difficult if you don’t know what you’re doing (and it probably won’t sound very good). Leave it up to the pros and find free tunes at any site that offers music under an Attribution International License or Attribution-NonCommercial International License—like the Free Music Archive:

  1. Browse the music by genre or via search.
  2. Find a track that you like and click the down arrow to download it.

It might take a while to find exactly what you want, but when you do, all you have to do is credit the creator in your podcast description.

Now it’s time to add music and make any necessary edits:

  1. Go to File > Import > Audio. Locate any music you want to use within your podcast, and click Open. The music will get dropped into Audacity as its own separate track.
  2. Find the Selection Tool in the Audacity toolbar. (It looks like a typing cursor.)
  3. Drag the Selection Tool over the section of music you’d like to use for your intro and outro music.
  4. With that section of music currently selected, find the Trim Audio button on the Audacity toolbar and click it. You should be left with only the section of music you chose.
  5. While that section of music is still selected, find the Copy button on the toolbar and click it (you can also use CTRL+C or Command+C).
  6. On the same music track, click anywhere to the right of that music section. Then find the Paste button on the toolbar and click it (or CTRL+V or Command+V). You now have your intro and outro music, but it’s still not quite ready.
  7. With the Selection Tool, select one of the music copies. Then go to Effect at the top and choose Fade Out. Do the same for the other music copy, but choose Fade In instead. Your intro and outro music is now ready to go.

How to edit out certain bits of audio in your podcast recording

If you need to cut something out of your podcast—like swearing, if you’re trying to keep clean, or information that shouldn’t be made public—it’s easy to fix:

Credit: Emily Long
  1. Find the section of audio that you need to cut.
  2. Use the Selection Tool and highlight the entire section you want to remove.
  3. Find the Cut button on the toolbar and click. Boom, it’s gone. (Alternatively, you could also use the Silence button.)
  4. Remember the room tone you recorded earlier? You can copy a section of that and overlap it with the cut portion so you have a less-jarring silence.

With your music ready to go and your necessary edits made, you can now line everything up with the Time Shift Tool (two arrows connected by a thin line). Just slide each piece of audio in its respective track until you’re happy with how all of the audio lines up. You might need to play around with it a little to find the sweet spot.

What if my podcast sounds bad?

If you feel like your audio isn’t sounding as good as you’d like, there are few things you can tweak. For example, you can use Audacity’s compression and EQ settings to get things sounding closer to radio quality. The best ways to use compression and equalizer settings could be multiple articles on their own, but this video from VoiceOverMaster gives a quick overview of how to use them in Audacity.

How to use AI to edit your podcast

There are a handful of AI tools that you can use to edit and produce your podcast, which may reduce some of the hands-on effort traditionally involved in podcasting. For example, Descript is an AI editor that can transcribe your recordings, remove background noise, detect and correct annoying filler words, and dub over audio. Other tools like, Podcastle, Resound, and Adobe Podcast have similar functions. can transcribe audio files as well as recordings over Zoom and Google Meet, while tools like Dubb offer AI-generated transcripts, show notes, and newsletter content.

You can even use AI to create your scripts or generate interview questions for guests, though you’ll also want to review and revise anything written by AI before recording.

Optional: Recording with multiple microphones or Skype

Credit: Shutterstock

Why would you want to record with multiple mics? For one, it makes it a lot easier to fix someone’s audio, either on the spot by adjusting their mic level or later on if you have multiple audio tracks recording at once.

Even with multiple USB microphones, however, Audacity can only recognize one audio input for recording at a time. The Audacity team does suggest a couple of ways to sneak around this limitation:

  • Windows: For using multiple USB microphones on Windows, you can aggregate them all into a single recording device using software like Voice Meeter (free) or Virtual Audio Cable. (The trial version supports up to three devices.) The audio from each mic will get picked up just fine, but all level adjustments have to be made through the software. In Audacity, you’ll still only see a single recording track to edit.
  • macOS: In macOS 10.7 and later you can set up aggregate devices without any additional software. Check Apple’s official instructions to aggregate devices here.

If you’re using multiple analog microphones, there are two ways you can go about it:

  1. Use an audio interface device or mixer that connects to your computer.
  2. Record everything on a portable XLR recorder and upload the files onto your computer.

You’ll need one of those devices anyway to use analog microphones, so if you get one that supports multiple microphones, you’re all set.

What about Skype, Google Hangouts, or other internet calling services?

Audacity doesn’t support Skype recording directly, but the Audacity team has some ways you might be able to sneak around it for both Windows and macOS.

Otherwise, you’ll have to use additional software like MP3 Skype Recorder and import the call audio into Audacity the same way you would bring in music or other audio files. Once it’s in Audacity, you can adjust levels and make sure everything sounds okay. As powerful as Audacity is—especially being free—it certainly has its limitations, so if you really enjoy podcasting, it could be worth it to spring for a better DAW down the line.

Tag and export your MP3 file in Audacity

Credit: Emily Long

Exporting your podcast as an MP3 file should be easy because you set up MP3 exporting before you started recording. There are still some important things to remember when you export, though.

First, you’ll want to edit the file’s metadata (also known as “tagging”). Metadata is information that displays no matter what the filename is and includes things like title, track number, album, and the name of the artist. Fortunately, Audacity lets you do that when you export your audio as an MP3:

  • Go to File > Export > Export as MP3.
  • Select MP3 Files in the “File type” drop-down menu. Then name the file (your podcast name and the number of the episode, for example). Click Save.
  • Now you’ll see the Edit Metadata Tags window. Enter all of the necessary information (we’ll go over that shortly). You can also add and remove sections as you see fit here.
  • Go down to the Template section and click Save. Save this template for future episodes so you don’t have to fill out most of this information ever again.
  • Click OK. Your MP3 should export and be ready for uploading.

If you’re not sure how you should fill out the metadata template, Daniel J. Lewis at The Audacity to Podcast has some suggestions:










Cover / picture / album art:

Metadata is important when you want to list your podcast in a directory later on, so take the time to make sure you have as much information as possible.

Optional: Add podcast chapters

Podcast chapters are a great way to grant users more control over their listening experience. Your podcast might cover a wide variety of topics, for example, or you may want to give your listeners easy access to your various segments. It’s not a requirement, and very few podcasts use the feature, but podcast chapters certainly help if you’re trying to present a more polished piece of work.

Podcast chapters work like chapters in a book and let you “skip” segments of the episode like the introduction, or skip past segments you’re uninterested in. You can even add images to your podcast sections, tying the picture in with the discussion or using it to present even more information about a topic. Unfortunately, adding them manually can be complicated and time-consuming. To spare you the trouble, use chapter-adding software:

Windows: The freeware app Chapter and Verse lets you add podcast chapters as well as other pieces of metadata like images and chapter notes.

macOS: The Podcast Chapters ($US19.99) app makes adding chapters on the Mac pretty simple. You can save podcast presets if you’re working on more than one podcast, adjust playback speed to help you locate your segment markers faster, and add images.

Pick a strong name and create a cover art image

Credit: Emily Long

When it comes to people finding your podcast, the name you choose for it is important. John Lee Dumas, the host of the Entrepreneur on Fire podcast, suggests you pick a name that communicates to your audience exactly what your podcast will be about.

If we return to the bluegrass and moonshine example, it could be something straightforward, like Bluegrass n’ Moonshine, or something less obvious, but still gets the point across, like Sippin’ and Singin’: The Bluegrass Podcast. The title gives you an idea of the show’s contents, but more importantly, your show would likely pop up in someone’s search for podcasts about bluegrass music.

You’ll also need an image for your podcast. This is the first thing people will see when they come across your show, so it should look good. An image is also required in order to list your podcast in directories like iTunes, Stitcher, and BluBrry, as well as podcast managers like Pocket Casts and DoggCatcher.

Cover art can be a photo or a piece of custom artwork, depending on how you want to represent your show. If the show is about you, you can even use a good photo of yourself. You can use a simple logo if you like, as long as it has something to do with what you talk about on the podcast. You want to make sure your image conveys what your show is really about as best it can.

No matter what you choose to use for cover art, make sure the show’s title is on the image. If you’re not comfortable making the image yourself, don’t be afraid to hire a designer to do it for you from service-oriented websites like Fiverr or 99designs.

Podcast images need to be certain sizes as well, otherwise your artwork won’t look as good when it’s shrunken down. In fact, some directories won’t even accept podcast feeds if your art isn’t sized appropriately. Here’s are the essentials you want to shoot for:

  • Image must be 1,400 x 1,400 pixels at minimum
  • Image must be in .jpg or .png format (.jpg preferred)
  • Image should look good—and readable—at 300 x 300 pixels

A good rule of thumb is to optimize your image for 150 x 150 pixels. If it looks good that small, you know you won’t run into any problems. Daniel J. Lewis at The Audacity to Podcast also recommends that you treat certain types of images differently so they always look their best:

  • For photo/image-based artwork, acquire the largest version possible and design within its dimensions.
  • For color- or illustration-based artwork, design in a vector editor (like Adobe Illustrator) to make artwork that can scale to any size without losing quality.

You can do most of your image editing in Photoshop—or alternatives like GIMP and Pixelmatorwith ease. When you have a good name and some decent art representing your show, you’re just about ready to start recording.

Find a place to host your podcast

Credit: Emily Long

When you’ve finished tagging and exporting your podcast, it’s time to find a place to host the MP3 file. Getting your podcast hosted is essential so you can start distributing your show to podcast directories and apps. Here are some of the best options for beginners:

  • SoundCloud: SoundCloud offers free podcast hosting (in addition to two competitive paid options for when you get a little more serious), and lets you distribute your podcast via RSS. Your podcasts will instantly publish to SoundCloud itself, which makes it really easy to share your podcast on social media, blogs, and other web sites.
  • Podbean: Podbean provides multiple tiers of hosting, including a free option (though the free hosting is fairly limited). The service has its own iOS and Android app for listening, as well as analytic tools, though you’ll need to pay to get most of their best features.
  • Podomatic: Podomatic is super user-friendly. It offers free hosting with enough bandwidth and storage for podcast beginners. There’s also a pro option that allows for more bandwidth, if you find that you like it.
  • Libsyn: Libsyn is one of the oldest dedicated podcast hosting sites and considered to be one of the best. Their lowest price plan is $US5 a month with unlimited bandwidth—no free option, unfortunately.
  • Amazon S3: Amazon’s hosting service offers a free plan, but it limits your storage (among other things). The paid service only charges you for the storage and bandwidth you actually use, meaning the cost can go up as your podcast grows in popularity.
  • Fireside: A newer podcast hosting platform from the creator of the 5by5 podcast network, Fireside offers unlimited storage, downloads, episodes, analytics, and a site for your podcast (with custom domain support) for $US19 per month. Each additional podcast is an extra $US8 per month. You can easily import your older podcasts from any valid podcast RSS feed in addition to other hosting sites including Soundcloud, Squarespace, and Libsyn. It also makes small details like chapter markers and metadata more accessible. If you’ve got a few episodes under your belt and want to provide a better experience for both yourself and your audience, try it out.

If you’re new to podcasting, or hosting media files online in general, try out the free services to see if you like the way they work. When you find one you like, it’s worth paying for hosting if you’re serious about continuing your podcast. Each host listed here will provide you with easy-to-follow instructions for how to upload your podcast audio file, but there are some basic steps to follow no matter which service you choose:

  1. When you sign up for the service, use the name of your podcast (or the closest thing to it).
  2. Upload a cover art image that is at least 1,400 x 1,400 pixels.
  3. Fill out all sections of your profile, especially your show’s description.
  4. Upload your MP3 file. Most hosting services let you listen to your podcast right within the site, so give it a listen to make sure everything sounds good.
  5. The file’s metadata that you created before should fill in a lot of the necessary information. However, if something doesn’t look right, now is the chance to make changes and fix it before you submit your RSS feed to any directories.

Once you’re happy with how everything looks, you’re ready to validate your feed and submit it to podcast directories.

Get on Apple Podcasts

There are a lot of podcast directories out there that you can submit to, including Stitcher, Blubrry, and Miro. Most podcasters, however, will tell you that if there’s only one directory you should try to get listed in, it’s Apple Podcasts, because it’s the most popular and has the largest reach. Here’s how to get listed in the Apple Podcast directory:

  1. Check your title, author, description, and cover art that’s associated with your podcast audio file on your hosting service. Apple Podcasts uses those fields for search. For more information and tips, check out the official Apple Podcast specs here.
  2. Locate your podcast RSS feed URL and copy it.
  3. Make sure your podcast RSS feed is valid. Some hosts have a built-in validator and will say if your feed is valid. Otherwise, paste your feed URL into Cast Feed Validator and see what podcasting apps and directories will see. Make changes at the hosting site as necessary.
  4. Sign into Podcasts Connect with your Apple ID. To get started, you’ll have to test and validate your podcast by adding your RSS feed (click the “+” sign to add and hit “Validate”).
  5. Preview your podcast and fix any errors.
  6. Once your RSS feed has been validated, you can submit it for review to be published. Track your podcast’s status on your Podcasts Connect dashboard.
Credit: Emily Long

That should do it. If you don’t see anything pop up in Apple Podcasts right away, don’t stress. It can take anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks before your podcast is added, as your podcast must first be reviewed by a team of people. Fortunately, the process of getting listed in other podcast directories isn’t much different, so once you’ve got Apple Podcasts figured out, the sky’s the limit.

Finally, as exciting as it is to get your podcast out there for everyone to hear, consider waiting to submit your first episode until you’ve already got a few of them in the can. Submitting only one episode can leave a lot to be desired for those that stumble upon your show. It’s also less likely that you’ll be featured or promoted as something new and noteworthy. So record three or four episodes before you start trying to grow your audience.

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