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10 Things You NEED To Know Before Starting Your Podcast

By Niall Mackay, with Lewis Wright

This Post contains affiliate links. We will get a small commission if you sign up to any of the products we recommend at no cost to you. You will also be supporting Seven Million Bikes.

How to start a podcast

Podcasts are more popular than ever. You have some great ideas and want to share stories, or perhaps market your business to a wider audience. The only limitations are your own ideas! You have your content thought out, but what are the next steps? Can you record your podcast with an iPhone, or do you need to shell out on expensive recording equipment? This article aims to provide a guide for recording podcasts and to help you decide what choice you should make next.

Podcasting has been around since the early 2000’s, named from the iPod – remember them???, which was basically radio on the internet. Like MySpace and this new era of the internet, anyone could do it! You can read more about the rise, fall and rise of podcasting in our earlier article here.

This leads many people to think that making a podcast is easy. And it can be at its most basic. But it’s also why most shows ‘podfade’ within seven episodes, when a podcast stops suddenly.

To avoid this, produce a quality show that reaches people across the world, attracts loyal listeners and potential sponsors, here are our ten things you need to know.

And if you still want to start one but don’t have the time to do all this, then get in touch. We have over two and half years experience, made hundreds of mistakes and learned even more lessons to save you the time so you don’t have to.

Before You Record

1. Topic & Name

To niche or not too niche?

Ultimately it’s up to you but most advice is to choose a niche, and the niche-ier the better.

Choose what you’re passionate about and talk about that, whether it’s Cabbage Patch Dolls, 90’s Era Hip Hop or the weather. Just kidding, don’t make a podcast about the weather!

Or maybe do. Remember there is always an audience out there. You just have to look at the amount of niche content out there on YouTube and beyond to see that if you are into something, someone else will be too.

This can also help attract sponsors.

But, before you get excited, if you are getting into podcasting for sponsors and money there’s probably a million better ways to do that. In 7 seasons we’ve had just two sponsors, one of them cash.

But… if you are interested in hammers, and make a podcast about different types of hammers, and the people who are listening are into different types of hammers… who do you think might sponsor you? McDonald’s!

No, that’s a joke. A hammer shop of course. So remember, the more you niche, even with a small audience, you have an engaged and interested audience about that specific topic. So businesses who want to talk to hammer lovers and hammer lovers only, will be very interested to get in front of them.

One you’ve chosen your topic it’s time to choose your name. Keep it short and succinct, just a few words and up to about 20 characters so it can be easily read on Podcast players.

You can read more great info about choosing your Podcast name here.

(We looked – there is a podcast about hammers. Kinda.)

2. Show Format

Once you’ve chosen your niche and name then choose how you want to present your show.

There are various different ways you can do this, and the beauty is you don’t need to stick to one, you are free to mix it up and keep it fresh. But most podcasts will ultimately stick to one format for consistency.

Depending on your niche you can do;

  • Solo
  • Interview
  • Group Discussion
  • News/current events
  • Review
  • Reaction
  • Storytelling
  • Discussion
  • Investigative
  • Drama / Fiction

If you want to just talk about your day, or current events or the latest Netflix show for 15 minutes every day then a solo podcast won’t take up a huge amount of time. But it will still take time.

On the other end of the spectrum if you use a storytelling format you can listen to Tracey Nguyen Mang (link) from the Vietnamese Boat People podcast describe how 30 minutes of content can take 60 hours to make! Not including the night school and extra learning she undertook to learn how to tell a good story.

An investigative podcast may take even longer!

You should also consider whether you want your content to be evergreen. Evergreen means the content is always relevant no matter when you listen to it. I’m always reminded of the quiet genius of Friends and why it has lasted so long in popular culture. Outside of the clothes and attitude towards the LGBTQI Community, there is no reference to current events in the show. In one episode they watch the “Superbowl” but the teams are never mentioned as this would date the episode and season. This was clearly done intentionally. As was the decision we made before we did our first interview to produce evergreen content – current events are rarely discussed. Go back to listen to our first ever episode with JK Hobson and if you didn’t know it was recorded in May 2019 it could have been done yesterday.

3. Cover Art

You’ll need to choose an overall design for your podcast that will be seen everywhere your podcast is posted. You can also choose to design an art for each episode or if not the main art will show. Our main tips are;

Stand Out & Make it obvious

    1. Large font
    2. Relevant picture or your logo
    3. Not too busy

If Art and Design is not your niche, there are plenty of creative on Fiverr available to help you with this. 

If you’re on a budget we recommend using Canva as there are plenty of templates on there that can be edited to fit your needs. I use Canva for EVERYTHING from website graphics to the podcast cover art. There are so many templates to choose from (420,000!) and you can fully customize to suit your brand and stay consistent with their brand kit. There is so much you can do with it I can’t recommend it enough. 

Click here to start using Canva for free! (If you do upgrade to the Pro version you will be supporting Seven Million Bikes as Canva will give us a small commission at no extra charge to you.)

A VIETNAM PODCAST Logo
Made on Canva

4. Intro Music

Number one, don’t use copyrighted music. Number two, a little louder, don’t use copyrighted music. Number three… ok, ok you get the picture.

This is one of the most common questions we see in Facebook Podcast Groups and the answer every time is no, no and no.

No matter how small you think your podcast is, you don’t want a record company label sending you a cease and desist letter and then having to delete or re-edit all your great episodes.

AI can scan for the use of copyrighted music and automatically remove your content so don’t do it. If you really, really do want to use a licensed track then get in touch with the rights holder directly to see how much the fee is for the licence. You could contact the musician directly but if it’s a bigger artist then you’ll probably have to contact the record company. Ain’t nobody got time for that so best not to even bother. 

Other options include;

  1. Pixabay
  2. YouTube Audio Library
  3. Pay Someone to make it. If you want bespoke music for your show look no further than our own Lewis Wright. Lewis is a music producer and sound engineer who made the intro music for A Vietnam Podcast (that is arguably more popular than the podcast by measurement of the amount of positive comments it receives!) and also for our client DT4IR. Lewis has worked with a range of clients in Vietnam including Uniqlo, Dutch Lady, Pinkfong, Badanamu and HTV3.

And remember…

  1. Do not use copyrighted music!
  2. Do not use copyrighted music!
  3. Do not use copyrighted music!

Produced by Lewis Wright

Your hosting platform is where you upload your recording to. The platform will then help you to publish to all podcast platforms. Previously you’d publish a podcast on something called an RSS feed, we don’t even really know what that is, then you’d have to apply separately to each platform you wanted to appear on.

Now thankfully with a few clicks of a button this is all taken care of for you.

Most platforms charge a fee depending on the package you choose. When we first started out we analysed all the major platforms at the time, Anchor, Lisbyn and Buzzsprout. We’ll be honest, it was over two and half years ago and we don’t remember the exact reasons why we chose Buzzsprout but we’ve never regretted it and absolutely recommend them.

You’ll get a great looking podcast website, audio players that you can drop into other websites, detailed analytics to see how people are listening, tools to promote your episodes, and more.

Join up here and you’ll get a $20 Amazon Gift Card and we’ll get a small commission. Win, win!

FYI – this isn’t why we recommend Buzzsprout, we only found out about this offer just recently!

Before You Record

By Lewis Wright

Smartphones

You may have heard the phrase ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’. In most cases, this comes in the form of a smartphone. If you just want to test the water and see if podcasting is something you are going to enjoy, you don’t need to spend any money. Although a phone will provide you with a low quality recording, in a quiet room, with a captivating story it can still provide a cost-free way of creating your first product and entering the world of podcasting. Using a phone to record can also be a great test to gain some experience and see how much you enjoyed the process. You may decide that you do want to invest some money into podcasting and can consider the options listed below.    

We recommend the microphone on the Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.  

USB Mics

A USB microphone is the cheapest way to significantly improve your recording quality. Just plug it straight into your laptop and you’re ready to go.

One of the cheapest options and a pioneer of the USB microphone market is the Blue Yeti. This microphone can be found for around 50 usd and is a great low-budget option for anyone first getting into podcasting. However, since the Blue Yeti, many more options have appeared, ranging from $100 usd to $200 usd, the Blue Yeti X, Audio Technica AT2020USB or the Rode NT USB.

These are all great affordable options for starting a podcast and can offer good results. There are however some drawbacks such as poor noise and shock control, and less depth and accuracy when compared to more premium options.

Traditional XLR Mics

If you are looking for quality and are comfortable with spending more money, you may want to consider one of the following options. 

The final category of microphones in this article can be broken down into dynamic and condenser mics. What’s the difference you may be asking, well to put it simply, dynamic microphones are favoured for live performance and are less sensitive so won’t pick up as much background noise. Condenser mics on the other hand, offer higher accuracy and more depth when recording but are more sensitive. In an untreated room, a condenser mic may sound worse than a dynamic mic as it will pick up more background noise. For any podcast recording, you want to find a quiet space, away from computer fans, air conditioners and outside sounds such as traffic. In a best case scenario you will be recording in an acoustically treated room, but as a beginner this is going to be unlikely. Instead, do the best you can to create a quiet environment for recording. 

Another thing to consider when purchasing a dynamic or condenser mic, is how to connect it to a device for recording. Unlike a USB microphone, you are going to need an audio interface. One excellent option is the Zoom H5. You can connect multiple microphones and put everything in a bag if you are recording outside or traveling to meet guests. Another great all in one option is the Scarlett Solo Studio from Focusrite. This kit provides you with everything you need to get started.

Some great dynamic options are the Shure SM58 for a budget, or the Shure SM7B as a higher quality but more expensive option. 

Best podcast microphones
Smartphone
Best podcast microphones
Blue Yeti USB MIc

Click pictures to see on Amazon

best podcast microphones
XLR Mic

How to edit could be a whole course in itself and there are plenty out there, for each of the many platforms there are available. 

If you are like me and have no background or training in this don’t be scared, if you are computer savvy it’s relatively easy to pick up.

If you’re not you may want to look at somewhere like Fiverr for editors to help you or start watching YouTube tutorials to help you get a grasp of what to do. Or ask Seven Million Bikes for a quote!

But just remember, don’t wait, don’t be intimidated, don’t be scared. Just start and learn from there. 

Depending on the show you want to produce editing will likely take the longest out of any of these steps. As mentioned, 60 hours for 30 minutes of content for a Vietnamese Boat People episode. I think it’s reasonable to expect a minimum of 1:3 in terms of recording to editing time.

There are two types of editing – content editing and distraction editing.

Distraction editing is concerned with removing all those clicks, noises, long pauses, ums, ahs and filler words that take away from the quality and content of the show.

Content editing is removing unnecessary content or editing the material to create a narrative or fit to your time limit.

Once again, this is completely up to you what you want to do.

You can ‘one and done’, record and post with no editing, for example The ComebaCK, until recently when they upgraded their mics and started using Descript on our advice. Distraction edit manually using GarageBand or Audacity (like we used to do), upgrade to Descript and use AI for your distraction editing or be somewhere in between.

For A Vietnam Podcast we’ve always focused on quality, while being a budget, indie podcast. We’ve never spent a lot of money, but have taken a lot of time and care to make the product as good as possible without the need for perfection.

Procrastinate and do nothing or burnt out striving for perfection?

We lie somewhere in the middle. As Conor Kelly described recently the number one thing to do, is do. Don’t wait until you have every piece of equipment and gadget you need. Just start. Even if it is just one and done for each episode in the beginning. You can learn new skills and techniques over time to improve your show. Episode 1 versus Episode 100 are very different on A Vietnam Podcast.

The main ways we recommend to edit are;

Podcast Production
Lewis Wright Sound Editing
Descript Podcast Editing Logo
Click to try for free

Another common question asked is WHEN is the best time to publish What day? What time? What minute? What lunar cycle??? 

I’ve yet to see any data that says you should publish on Tuesday at 11.43am when the mercury is in retrograde.

The number one rule you will read and that we follow religiously is… be consistent.

As a listener I find nothing more frustrating than podcasts that are published infrequently. Podcasts I follow are consistent and I know when they’ll be available and when on my schedule I’ll listen to them. If not they’ll likely fall off my radar and lose my attention, even when they do post.

So choose a day, a time, a frequency and stick with that.

After Recording

Everywhere!

Use your hosting platform to make sure you are on every single platform available. Spotify and Apple are the biggest and you may not have heard of others like Stitcher, Podcast Addict and Overcast but over 4% of podcasts are listened to on these.

Also consider YouTube but this requires recording your podcasts on camera and more work than just audio recording.

Buzzsprout Hosting Platform
Click to try buzzsprout for free!

Buzzsprout will list your show on every major podcast platform so you don't have to!

A Vietnam Podcast
Apple Podcasts
A Vietnam Podcast
Spotify
A Vietnam Podcast
Google Podcasts
Podcast Addict Logo
Podcast Addict
YouTube Button
YouTube

I decided from my second episode I would post a mini-teaser before each episode and I’m so thankful I did. Every Monday a 2-3 minute highlight is released and like clockwork the main episode will get about 50% more listens than the teaser.

This proved to me that the teaser was working and not only making people tune back in but even MORE people want to listen. If less people listened to the full episode than the teaser that would have been worrying.

Lately we have also started releasing more micro content in the form of Audiograms made from Descript (see below) and video clips taken from our YouTube channel. Social media is a bewildering beast and we’ve found that these are not well watched, get little engagement and likely don’t lead to new listeners.

BUT!

Regular listeners have told us they enjoy the content and while it might not spark new listeners we’ve realised it keeps the brand relevant and in front of as many eyes as possible. We compare this to watching a YouTube segment from popular TV shows, like A Closer Look from Seth Myers or Daily Show clips. While we might never actually watch the full show we still really enjoy watching this mini or micro content. And of course, YouTube views can convert to actual cash if you get enough!

So be aware that micro-content takes time and/or money to make, and the pay off might not be much in terms of new listeners. So only undertake this if you have the time and budget to do so and possibly want to build your brand outside podcast listeners.

One way that is often touted as the best way to grow your audience is to appear on other podcasts. While I have no data on this it makes sense. It’s a form of self-promotion just like any other. The difference here is that you are talking to an audience that ALREADY listens to podcasts. While podcasts are growing fast, the amount of people that listen to them is still relatively small.

If you appear on a podcast the people listening are already podcast listeners therefore the thinking goes they are more likely to want to listen to your podcast.

One consequence of this is that podcasts end up being about podcasters interviewing other podcasters, potentially putting listeners off. So be wary about hosting too many podcasters on your show if it’s outside of your niche, but feel free to get on as many as you can and there are many Facebook groups that can connect you.

Adding on to this, get in front the media as much as you can or want to. The returns may be less as by doing so you’re also trying to convert non-podcast listeners not only into using a new medium but also listening to your content. So while it can’t hurt, and is great for brand awareness, it will not necessarily mean overnight your podcast has thousands of new listeners and sponsors beating down your door.

When you first start your podcast you’ll likely refresh your downloads page every 5 minutes. And getting excited every time it goes up and despondent every time it doesn’t change. Don’t worry this is totally normal and you should still definitely do this!

One of the biggest questions I see in podcast groups is along the lines of, ‘how do I know if my numbers are good?’

And I used to ask myself this all the time!

From the beginning we’d always had steady consistent numbers that were 10x what we’d expected and continually rose past 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and now 25,000! But was that good in comparison to others?

Then we found this important stat from Buzzsprout.

How many podcast downloads is good?

This means our new episodes are in the top 20% of podcasts in the world.

Then we found Listen Notes and found our weekly downloads puts us in the top 10% of podcasts!!

Podcasting is not YouTube. Only the top 1% of podcasters will get thousands of listeners and many of them are celebrities, supported by large media companies or have years of experience in building their podcasts.

So manage your expectations. Even if you only get 10 listeners, that is amazing. If you get 50 or 100 even better!

Imagine what those people would look like if they were all in a room listening to you. Now imagine all those people spread out across the world working out, doing the dishes or falling asleep all listening to YOUR SHOW! That is incredible.

So don’t worry about being the next Joe Rogan or signing a multi-million dollar exclusive contract with Spotify. Yet.

Have fun. Learn new skills. Make great content. Meet new people. And enjoy the ride.

How many podcast listeners should you have?

I hope that these options have helped you make a decision to begin your podcast! I believe that your story is the most important part of the podcast so only spend what you are comfortable with. Do the best you can with what you have and don’t keep putting it off. Just get started! Listen to the host of Conor Kelly share his presentation from our Creative Networking Event about podcasting for Purpose and Connection. 

And feel free to contact us for a free consultation and options about how we can take the stress of recording out of your hands by providing the services for you so you can begin your podcasting journey right away.

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5 Steps To Start A Podcast In 7 Days

Many people struggle to find English entertainment in Vietnam. Seven Million Bikes hosts the popular show A Vietnam Podcast, stand-up comedy and events. Have fun, connect with others and share experiences of Vietnam.