I’ve been a podcaster since the fall of 2013. My show, Hit the Mic with The Stacey Harris, has done over 250 episodes, plus I recently launched a second show called Your Biz BFF with my co-host, Brandy Lawson. Despite being a longtime podcaster, the thing that continues to frustrate me most actually has very little to do with actually creating, editing, or even marketing my shows.
It has everything to do with the fact that people resist launching a podcast because they believe some common myths. Myths about how a show “must” run, or what gear you “must” have.
Meanwhile, there are amazing stories and messages that could be shared, but aren't. And they’re held back because of fear and overwhelm. I’m here today to knock that out. (Now read that again with LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out playing in your head.)
Here, I’m taking on some of the most popular myths around launching a podcast -- starting with the worst one first.
Myth #1: You need to buy a ton of gear when launching a podcast...
I think one of the most common fears around starting a podcast is all the gear you “have” to buy, as well as the idea that you “need” to build a podcasting studio or area of your office that’s just for podcasting.
That’s 100% not true.
A few basics are needed, sure, but you can do a totally pro sounding podcast for under $100 (and yes, I’m including your monthly podcast hosting in that number). To prove it, I’ll show you exactly what you need to get started:
First: You’ll need a microphone. I suggest buying one of three mics when you get started. (There are hundreds you can choose from.) These are the ones I recommend to start off with, though:
1. Samson Meteor Mic ($69.99): This is the microphone I’ve used for 2+ years and 250+ episodes. This year, I will likely upgrade it but that’s because I’m a bit of a geek and I want something new and fun to play with. I get compliments on the sound quality all the time and it’s an amazing price.
2. Blue Snowball Mic ($49): This one is a really popular choice with podcasters, especially those starting out. It’s got solid sound quality and again is a really great price point. Also, it comes in super fun colors. (Okay, so that’s not super relevant, but it's still awesome.)
3. Blue Yeti Mic ($110): If you want to invest a bit higher, check out the Yeti. It breaks into the three-digit price range, but it’s got really great quality. Again, not necessary but a really popular choice (because it’s great).
The fantastic thing about all three of these mics is they’ll plug directly into your computer via USB. That means you don’t need to to get any kind of sound board or external equipment to get started, whether you’re recording alone or hosting guests via Skype. There is no need to manage different mics through a board.
Instead, grab one of the ones I mentioned, plug in, and get going.
Once you’ve got your mic, all you need is recording software (GarageBand and Audacity are both free), and hosting -- which is where your episodes actually live and how they get to places like iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play Podcasts. The big reason for uploading them to an external host rather than directly to your site (which is a very bad idea) is that having them on your site will cause a major slow down over time. For hosting I recommend Libsyn. It’s where I host both of my podcasts and I love it. It’s a fantastic service with great customer service if you ever run into issues.
Seriously? That’s all you “must have” to launch a show.
Myth #2: There’s only one way to do a podcast...
Now that you have everything you need for launching a podcast, let’s talk format. There is a lot of talk that to be successful you need to do an hour-long show with a guest, and you have to release episodes multiple times per week. This is 100% false. I’m not saying these shows aren’t successful. Some of my favorite shows follow formats like this.
What I am saying is that it’s not the only way to go. You can do interviews, solo episodes, short episodes, long episodes, weekly, daily, monthly, even a seasonal format where you release 8-15 episodes then take a break and come back later.
There’s no one way to format your show, and guess what? As you go along your podcasting journey, the format you pick might change. In the course of Hit the Mic with The Stacey Harris the only thing that’s stayed the same is two episodes per week. We’ve done guests, solo shows, shorter shows, longer shows -- you name it. You know what worked best? The shows I had the most fun doing.
Focus on who your listener is. Think about how you like to consume content. Think about how much time it really takes to provide the value in each episode you want to provide. In looking at those factors, you’ll find your format.
Myth #3: If I don’t have guests, no one will listen...
So first, remember: You can choose whatever format you want. Next, realize that your guests will likely not do a ton to promote your show. Some guests are great about tweeting and sharing; others never mention it to anyone. Relying on guests alone to help get the word out is setting yourself up for some major disappointment.
Instead focus on marketing you control -- the stuff you do. Here are some ideas:
- Tap your network and tell them about the show. Remember: It’s not a build-it-and-they-will-come set up. First, drop personal notes to your network and influencers you’re connected with via email or on calls. Ask them to listen and share. Make it easy for them to share with some pre-crafted tweets.
- Create a coming soon page on your website (editor’s note: BluChic and Creative Market have some easy options!) and start collecting emails of those who want to be notified when the first episode is live, and then tell them.
- Email your existing list and tell them about this new content you have. They have already decided they love you enough to share their email address, invite them to check out the show.
- Make sure you have approximately eight weeks of content ready to roll before you launch so you can spend the bulk of that time promoting your show and not creating content.
A pro tip: You want to maximize that “New and Noteworthy” time on iTunes, and that’s tough to do if you’re playing content creation catch up.
Speaking of New and Noteworthy, remember that although we don’t know exactly how it’s measured (thank you, Apple!), the best way to get highlighted there is get downloads (meaning people download your episodes) and reviews/ratings. So, make the ask. Encourage people to leave reviews and have enough episodes to start (at least two or three) so that they have more than just your first episode to download.
I also encourage folks to have all of the content for that first eight weeks recorded and scheduled before you go live. That way you can spend time spreading the word and not trying to keep up with content creation.
Forget the myths + just start
Podcasting doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of cash, or following someone else’s formula. Take the time spent resisting putting your voice out there, and launch your podcast, instead!
PS -- Stacey was one of six podcasting pros to share stellar advice in this roundup post!
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