How To
11 min read

How to Start a Successful Podcast to Make Money

William Ellis
November 20, 2022
How to start a podcast

Podcasts are one of the most ubiquitous forms of entertainment available today, and for a good reason. A podcast can be enjoyed at practically any time of day. If your work permits you to listen to anything, you can listen to one at work, while you are in a waiting room, or doing your daily commute. 

According to Neal Schaffer, there were about 150,000 new podcasts that started in 2020, with over 700,000 total podcasts. 

Podcasts are growing in popularity.

So what are you waiting for?

Thousands and thousands of podcasts get uploaded to the internet every day, and a considerable number of them are making money. 

If you are seriously considering becoming a podcaster, you may have a simplified idea of recording yourself talking and then uploading it to the internet. However, you may not know what the rest of the process entails. If you are serious about podcasting being a part of your future, here is what you need to know to get started.

Choosing your podcast topic

Picking a topic for a podcast may seem like the most straightforward task in the world, but before you commit to any one idea, stop and think about whether or not it is reasonable to expect that you can do a multitude of episodes on the topic you are considering. 

The last thing you want to do is find yourself two episodes in only to realize you are already tired of talking about your subject.

Sit down with a notebook and list the things that you are truly passionate about talking about. 

What are topics that you could listen to for hours without fatigue? What are topics that you find interesting? 

The good news is that if it is a topic that excites you, there is a good chance that there is a target audience you can find for it. That's the beauty of podcasts. There is one for just about everybody.

Determine your audience

Once you have a podcast topic, you’ll want to determine who your target audience is and their demographics. Knowing who your podcast is for is one of the most important steps in starting a podcast. 

67% of podcast listeners are between the ages of 18 and 44. Knowing this can help you develop a podcast geared towards a younger generation through young adults.

Podcast audience statistics

Think of the basics like their age, location, similar podcasts they listen to, what they want to learn, what problems you could provide a solution to, or what common interests they may have.

Figuring out your target audience will help you to determine if a podcast idea would be good for them or not. 

Pick your podcast name

One of the most important parts of any podcast is having a good name that tells you what the podcast is but is easy enough to remember. 

To pick a podcast name, think about themes or sayings that pop up whenever you talk about your podcast's subject matter to others.

Remember that your podcast's name is tied to your podcast's brand and identity. It will be part of any potential merchandise (should you take your podcast in that direction) you create based on your podcast. If you find yourself stuck on picking a name, then you can always turn to using a name generator.

Design podcast artwork

Once you have your topic, developed a target audience, and picked your podcast name, you’ll want to design cover art for your podcast. Like a book, potential listeners may judge your podcast by the cover art. Therefore, you should invest in a designer to create podcast artwork for you to help it stand out.

How long should my podcast be?

Podcasts come in all lengths and formats. Some podcasts are short and sweet. Other podcasts can go on for hours. Some will just use one podcast episode for a single topic, while others will break a recording session into multiple episodes.

The average length of a podcast is typically around thirty minutes, but many podcasts go well beyond that mark. 

Length of podcast episodes

Choosing the podcast format and length all boils down to what you think will simultaneously hold your listener's attention while also making them want to come back for more.

Scripted or unscripted?

It is easy to listen to a podcast and assume that the people behind it are not using a script, instead merely letting the words come out of their mouths as quickly as they are thought. The truth is that podcasters put in the work before recording to make it seem effortless.

Podcasting is a form of content marketing; your content marketing plan is critical for success in podcasting, branding, blogging, social media, and other forms of marketing.

There are plenty of podcasts out there that utilize scripts before being recorded. Plenty of podcasts do not use scripting, instead opting for the podcast to take whichever direction it naturally goes. 

The truth is that there is no objectively correct path to take, only the path that best suits your creative style. Here are some pros and cons of working with and without a script.

Benefits of scripted podcasts

Creating a script for your podcast creates a sense of order, especially if you are a solo podcaster. With a script, you do not have to worry about rambling at any point and can stay on topic. 

A script does not have to necessarily be word-for-word what you will say, but it can serve as a blueprint of sorts to help keep the podcast from going off the rails.

One of the drawbacks of a script is that it can potentially cause the speaker to sound a little too rehearsed or robotic. You want your speaking to sound like it is natural and free-flowing, and sticking rigidly to a script may not suit your style of podcast production. 

Fortunately, you can also use a basic outline instead of a rigid script. That will give you room to be improvisational while keeping you on task.

Benefits of unscripted podcasts

When you opt out of using a script and instead rely on a more conversational style of podcasting, there is a real sense of energy and spontaneity that shines through when you are just a natural speaker. 

If you have a partner to host the podcast, that sense of energy comes through even more because you have someone to riff off. A conversational-style podcast especially benefits from working with no script.

However, if you choose to go without a script, you run the considerable risk of your podcast losing focus and going off the rails. This means you may have to spend more time than desirable editing the podcast down to a reasonable amount of time.

Go solo or bring a friend?

Many podcasts are the work of a sole person. They do all of the work behind the scenes to write and produce each podcast episode. Many podcasts also feature two or more people who record the podcast together. Both approaches have merit.

Podcast host and guest

You create a one-on-one experience with your audience when you go alone on your podcast. This is because most podcasts that feature only one speaker involve the speaker talking directly to the listener. 

This can create a level of engagement for the listener that they may not normally have when simply listening to a podcast where two or more people are talking. 

On the other hand, when you have a secondary host on your podcast, you may find that it is easier to talk. A secondary podcast host can also add entertainment value as you get a real-time reaction from another party. 

This is especially helpful if the goal of your podcast is to make the listener laugh, as it creates a similar feeling to the listener hanging out with their friends.

What podcast equipment do you need?

Podcast equipment

It would be easy to assume that most podcasts are recorded on whatever microphone is built into their phone or computer. That assumption is a mistake as it is easy to tell when a podcast has been recorded on the cheap. 

If you want to podcast as a professional, your podcast needs to sound professional. Here are the tools and recording equipment you will need to create great podcasts.

What microphone should you use for podcasting?

There are several microphones on the market for podcasting, and they all come in different price ranges and at different levels of quality. 

Fortunately, you do not have to break the bank to get a decent-quality microphone. Here are several options that are relatively inexpensive but offer fantastic quality.

Blue Yeti USB 

The Blue Yeti is an absolute workhorse of a USB microphone for the beginner podcaster. It features gain control, four recording patterns, a mounting point, manual volume control, and a mute button inside a sturdy aluminum body. 

It also comes with a detachable base that is perfect for desktop use. Best of all? It's highly affordable currently at $115. Audio purists may balk at it only having a USB connection port rather than the professional XLR standard, but this makes it more accessible to the average person who is just starting to dip their toe into the recording pond.

Rode Podcaster 

This microphone is designed for one thing and one thing only: podcasting. Rode is a major name in the audio world, and their Podcaster microphone is designed to handle speech, which means it has built-in settings that cut down on the ambient background noise around the speaker. Its price is just under $175.

Presonus Revelator

If you need to expand beyond simply recording voices and occasionally recording some sound effects, then the Presonus Revelator just might be the mic for you. It features rugged build quality and a sturdy stand. It's uncomplicated and perfect for someone who doesn't have the time or experience to work with some of the more intricate settings that other microphones have. Best of all, it comes in at roughly $99.

Do you need a mixer for podcasting?

A mixer is a piece of audio equipment that allows you to fine-tune the sound of your audio quality. You can mix your audio live or choose to do it after the fact. The problem with mixers is that they tend to be expensive, but only if you buy a physical mixer.

You can get around the cost of a physical mixer because most audio recording programs like Adobe Audition have a built-in mixer or enough features to compensate for the lack of one. Editing your audio with software is something you will need to learn if you want to have that perfect crisp sound most often associated with podcasts.

What audio program should I use to record?

Plenty of advanced audio recording programs to edit your podcast are available at a relatively low cost. For example, if you are willing to pay the subscription fee, you could use Adobe Audition.

If you do not want to spend any money until you are sure you enjoy podcasting, then free options are also available. Audacity is a free, open-source audio recording and mixing program. It has a bit of a learning curve but a very active user base and plenty of tutorials to help you achieve optimal sound quality.

If you use Apple computers, you have the GarageBand program at your disposal. While it is not the most high-end or advanced audio program, it is free and features a simple audio interface for beginners.

Choosing your platforms and podcast directories

When you have recorded your podcast, you need to decide which podcast directory you want to upload them to. 

Numerous websites and podcast directories can feature your podcasts, such as Spotify, Apple, Google, Buzzsprout, or SoundCloud. Buzzsprout offers a free podcast hosting plan for up to two hours of content per month and has paid plans for up to twelve hours of content a month. Buzzsprout also offers to create an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed to help with your podcast distribution.

YouTube is one potential podcast hosting platform you should not leave out of the running. While your podcast is not video-centric, having a YouTube channel is a great way to give your podcast some extra reach, especially if you decide to record videos of yourself and others as you record your podcast.

Build a podcast website

If you want a successful podcast, you need to look professional. That means if someone searches for you online, they need to be able to find you, and not just on the podcast directories that you’ve uploaded your podcasts to.

You can even monetize your website with more than just your podcast. You can build an affiliate website that mentions and links to products that your customers may be interested in. Another way to monetize your website would be to create an ecommerce website where you can sell merch and other related products to your niche.

Create a social media presence

Like a website, you must build a social media following to become a professional podcaster. Building a following will take time, so you need to set up your social media profiles and start sharing content even if you are just starting your podcast.

This will help when you release new podcast episodes to share with your followers and also gives your website more authority and credibility by having links to your social media profiles where people can find out more about you and what you’re all about.

Additional tips for starting a podcast

If you're not having fun, neither is your audience

Everybody runs out of steam sometimes, even on a passion project. When you start to feel burnt out on your podcast, it is admirable to still meet your usual schedule. 

Just remember that if you lose your enthusiasm for what you are doing, there is a good chance your audience will pick up on that, and more quickly than you may think. 

Take breaks where you can. Do so if you have a partner who can host a podcast episode or two without you. Just be open with your podcast listeners.

Don't be afraid to experiment

The wonderful thing about the podcast format is that there are no real rules. If you do not feel like merely talking about a subject, then you can try doing a narrative piece like an old radio show. You can try playing around with the format by incorporating sound effects. There is no real limit to what you can do.

Make the podcast you want to listen to

Establishing an audience is essential if you want to achieve monetary and professional success as a podcaster, but don't sacrifice your sensibilities in the name of chasing money. 

Listeners respond to enthusiasm and passion, and if you are not making a podcast that you would love to listen to, then you are almost guaranteed to not achieve the success you want.

Remember that podcast creation is less about chasing down listeners and giving them what they think they want and more about ensuring you get noticed by piquing their curiosity. In this way, you must remember that you are no different from your audience.

FAQs on starting a podcast

How much does it cost to start a podcast?

Most people already have a laptop or PC they can use, so you will only need to purchase a microphone and an audio recording program. You can do this on a budget of $100-200 for the microphone, and the audio software ranges from free to a low monthly subscription cost. 

If you want high-end podcast equipment, you can spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but make sure your podcast will be profitable before investing that much.

How do podcasters make money?

Most podcasters make revenue from advertisers and sponsorships, but you need to build a following first. You can also promote affiliate products and links on your website and sell your own products, services, ebooks, courses, and gated premium content or memberships.

Can you make a living off a podcast?

You can easily make a living from a podcast if you grow an active listener audience and create multiple revenue streams from ads, sponsors, affiliate marketing, and selling products.

What do you need to start a podcast?

You’ll need a computer, headphones, microphone, and audio recording and editing program.

What’s the best day to release a podcast?

Weekdays are typically the best day to drop your podcast, depending on your niche and audience. For example, a comedy or sports podcast would do well on Fridays or weekends, while a business or marketing podcast would do better during the workweek. 

Mornings are usually good for listening during a commute, but you should always consider your topic and target audience to determine when a good day and time to release your podcast would be.

How often do podcasts fail?

About 80% of new podcasts fail, meaning only 20% of new podcasts will still be around next year. This is why it’s so important to consistently produce great podcast episodes and promote your podcast to continue getting more podcast downloads, ads, and sponsors.

Final thoughts on starting a podcast

Putting your podcast out into the world is a wonderful feeling. It is a great accomplishment to finish something and put it out into the world for everyone to see (or in this case, hear). Now that you have the basics for starting your podcast, all that is left is to keep making more of them. A successful podcast will only get better the more you work on it.

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