Issue #9

How to start and launch a profitable podcast from scratch

Podcasting
15 min read
In this Article

Podcasts—audio episodes people download or stream online—let you invite your audience into your world.

It feels like you’re right there telling stories and passing along advice the moment your listeners pop in their earbuds.

And there’s no shortage of people searching for podcasts to add to their playlist: in 2021, 120 million Americans tuned in to their favorite podcasts. That’s roughly 1 in 3 people in the U.S. alone.

If you’re looking for a new way to connect with your audience, starting a podcast is exactly what you need!

But here comes the biggest challenge: figuring out how to start and launch a podcast with ease.

Luckily, launching a podcast is straightforward when you have a clear roadmap. Today, I’m sharing each step you need to start a podcast, launch it, and make money from it!

How to start a podcast from scratch

1. Figure topics that interest your audience

The best podcasts provide helpful information relevant to audience needs. But aside from trial and error, how do you know which topics your audience will enjoy most?

I asked Rosanna Gill, host of Her Path to Purpose and Breaking Labels, her thoughts on choosing a podcast topic. She says, “get clear on the value you want the podcast to bring to the audience”:

“It's not enough to say you want the audience to feel inspired or to hear a good conversation. What do you want them to be inspired to do after listening to your podcast? What information do you want them to receive from the conversations?

Having clarity on this also makes it much easier to build out a content marketing strategy that's centered on shareable, value-added content, which will allow for consistent audience growth.”

– Rosanna Gill

Here are three ways to uncover podcast topics that excite your audience:

  1. Analyze podcasts your audience already listens to. Join Facebook groups where your audience hangs out and search for “podcasts” to see which ones they rave about. Head to those podcasts and read reviews to see what people like and don’t like, so you know what to incorporate in your podcast.
  2. Review your tags in ConvertKit. If you use ConvertKit, you can segment your audience with tags. Go through your segments and see which are the largest, i.e., which topics drum up the most interest. For example, if you’re a travel blogger, you might find your audience prefers road trip content rather than international travel.
  3. Survey your subscribers. Send out an email survey and ask your audience about the podcast topics that interest them. Ask which podcasts they currently listen to and which topics aren’t adequately covered in your niche. Use tags to collect answers and develop segments.

After gathering a few ideas, pop them into Google Trends to see whether interest is growing or declining. After all, you don’t want to publish podcasts where there’s minimal audience interest or where the topic is going out of fashion. A good podcast topic will grow or maintain interest over the years, otherwise, you may struggle to grow and reach more people.

podcast google trends
The interest for “true crime” trends up over the years. Image via Google Trends.

2. Choose your format and plan episodes

After nailing down a podcast topic, it’s time to choose your podcast format and plan your episodes. Here are seven of the most common podcast formats.

1. Interview

Interview-style podcasts are common and involve a podcast host interviewing a new guest (or guests!) each episode. Sharing the mic with guests lets you dig into topics you might not be an expert in. Popular examples include Creative Elements and The TED Interview.

2. Conversational

In conversational podcasts, two hosts chat together about a particular topic. These podcasts feel intimate—like you’re hanging out with a couple of close pals. Examples include Freelance Writing Coach and 2 Dope Queens.

3. Educational

Educational formats are perfect for coaches and course creators. During each episode, spill your latest tips, tricks, and strategies for listeners. In each episode, you’ll dive into a specific topic, and by the end, listeners will know more about the topic at hand. Examples of educational podcasts are PROPERTY Briefings, You Are Not So Smart, and Philosophize This!

4. Solo podcast

During solo podcasts, you have free reign to chat about anything you’d like (within your podcast’s topic, that is). Solo podcasts are ideal for people who don’t want to schedule guests and have plenty to say on their own. Notable examples of solo podcasts are Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Position for Purpose, and The Lazy Genius.

5. Non-fiction storytelling and news

Newspapers and the nightly news aren’t the only way to learn about the world around us. With non-fiction storytelling podcasts, listeners can learn about true stories from around the globe. Topics can be recent or past events within any niche like true crime, business, or sports. Popular podcasts in this genre are Casefile, Embedded, and Pardon My Take.

6. Podcast theater

A creative way to engage your audience is through podcast theatre, where the host tells a fictional story over several episodes. Listeners won’t want to miss a beat and will tune in episode after episode. If you want to see this format in action, check out The Magnus Archives, Mabel, and Less Is Morgue.

7. Bite-sized content or limited-run series

If you aren’t ready to commit to lengthy and recurring podcast episodes but still want to give podcasting a try, consider creating shorter episodes. Podschool’s episodes hover around ten minutes, while 60-Second Science has episodes as short as two minutes. These podcasts are perfect for creators with busy schedules who still want to give podcasting a shot.

After choosing your podcast format, it’s time to get specific and plan your episodes. When I spoke to ConvertKit creator Andrew Chen, host of the Hack Your Wealth podcast, and he noted that it’s a good idea to plan podcast episodes for an entire year:

It's worth brainstorming and writing down all the topics you might want to cover on your podcast over the course of the year and line up your potential episodes to concrete calendar dates. This will make [your podcast plan] feel concrete as well as give you a plan to execute against for the entire year.

– Andrew Chen

Having episodes lined up also gives you time to secure special guests if you choose to go that route. And while planning an entire year of episodes might initially feel intimidating, it’s easier than you may think.

Use a tool like Answer the Public and search for your topic. See which questions people ask and use those to form your episodes.

answer the public
Image via Answer the Public.

3. Gather your podcasting essentials

There are two essentials you need to start a podcast: equipment and creative assets.

1. Podcast equipment

Having the right podcast equipment makes it easy to record, edit, and distribute your podcast episodes. Here are the basics of what you need to get started.

Microphone

Your laptop microphone isn’t sufficient for professional recordings, so it’s best to use something more professional. For example, a USB microphone lets you record crisp audio for your podcasts. We recommend the Blue Snowball ICE microphone for a good mic at an affordable price.

Pop filter

Pop filters soften harsh popping sounds you might get when pronouncing certain words, especially words with a “p” sound. You can buy pop filters or make your own which works wonderfully on a budget!

Recording software

Use recording software to record and edit your podcast yourself. If you prefer to leave the editing to someone else, hire a virtual assistant who specializes in podcast editing.

Software to host and record guests

Guest-recording software, like Squadcast, has features that let you check the network connectivity of both guests so you can avoid dropped calls. You can also store recordings in their cloud, minimizing the chance of losing the recording after completing your interview.

Podcast hosting platform

You need a hosting platform to publish your podcast. Hosts like Transistor, Anchor, and Podbean have automatic RSS feeds to syndicate your episodes across various listening platforms (think iTunes and Soundcloud).

Tip: Create a landing page in ConvertKit with links to all the places listeners can find your podcast. Add the link to your social profiles so followers know where to find your latest episodes.

Headphones

Earbuds do the trick if you don’t want to rush out and buy brand new headphones. But if you have room in your budget, look for headphones that promise comfort, clear sound, and won’t leak sound back into your microphone. The Sennheiser HD 598 headphones are perfect when you want to upgrade your earbuds.

2. Creative assets

Aside from equipment and software, there are a few creative elements your podcast needs:

Podcast name

When creating a name for your podcast, make sure it’s easy for people to remember so your audience can search for your podcast and find you without any trouble. An easy-to-remember name can also help with word of mouth referrals.

An intro and outro

Hire a recording artist to create a professional intro and outro for you on freelance marketplaces like Fiverr. You can also create your own with royalty-free jingles from sites like Epidemic Sound.

Podcast art

Create podcast art with tools like Photoshop, use podcast cover art templates in Canva, or hire a designer to create professional and custom covers.

4. Record your podcast

After planning your episodes, securing guests, and gathering podcast essentials, you’re ready to finally hit record! We recommend recording several episodes, so you’re ready for your podcast’s big launch.

Tip: Recording your podcast might feel unnatural the first few episodes, but don’t let that discourage you. The more you practice, the easier podcasting becomes.

How to launch your podcast

With several shiny new episodes in your back pocket, it’s time to launch your podcast! But don’t jump straight to your release day. Here’s what to do before, during, and after your launch.

Before your launch

Give yourself at least two weeks to prep, plan, and build anticipation through social posts and your email newsletter.

Create and schedule social posts

Use a tool like Buffer to schedule posts during the time leading up to your launch and the day of. Scheduling your social content gives you time to focus on other areas of your business, like recording more podcast episodes or researching trending podcast topics.

Here’s how ConvertKit creator AnnMarie Espina launched her podcast ADHD Refresh on Instagram:

What’s great about AnnMarie’s post is how she talks about who should listen to her podcast. As your podcast is brand new, your followers might not know whether they’ll find it useful. Give them information in your social media posts so they feel compelled to tune in.

Create an email sequence

Your email list is the best place to launch your podcast and promote future episodes. Unlike social media, you don’t need to deal with algorithms and can directly communicate with those on your list.

Create an automated email sequence with the following:

  • Teaser emails
  • Emails promoting your podcast the day it goes live
  • Emails promoting a relevant product that you discuss in your podcast
  • Emails for those who buy your product—like a thank you email—and emails for those who don’t buy your product—like a downsell email for a cheaper product
  • An email asking for reviews to help build social proof for future listeners

To make email sequencing easy, we created a free podcast launch automation. All you need to do is add your emails into the premade sequences, set the date and time of your podcast launch, adjust your tags, and it’s ready to go!

podcast automation convertkit

Use this automation to build excitement around your launch with subscribers and promote products you sell in Convert Commerce.

Grab your podcast launch automation

Podcast launch pro tip: Your podcast hosting platform might let you schedule episodes to go live on certain days. If not, make sure to upload your first episode before your actual launch. This way, you have time to test it and make sure it’s good to go.

Day of launch

Launch days are exciting, yet chaotic. But since you’ve scheduled your email newsletter and social posts, you don’t have much to do on the actual day of your launch except stay present online and reply to comments and messages from your audience.

After your launch

After launching your podcast, you need an ongoing marketing strategy to grow it. Nia Lewis, host of The Solopreneur Hustle, notes that it’s essential to continue building relationships with listeners well beyond your initial launch:

nia lewisNew podcasters should prioritize building relationships with listeners. My audience started growing when I stepped away from the mic and started engaging with my audience.

While it's important to engage listeners through your podcast content, it's equally important to communicate with your audience throughout the week between episodes.

I engage with my listeners through social media and email marketing. An engaged community is so valuable. Simply sharing weekly episodes isn't enough to attract and retain listeners. There needs to also be a community element that promotes engagement.

– Nia Lewis

As Nia mentions, using email and social media is perfect for community-building, but you need to do more inbetween episodes. On top of sending emails each time you release a new episode, use your email list to send relevant and interesting emails in between episodes. Things like industry-relevant news, curated content, and interviews.

Jay Clouse, host of Creative Elements, uses ConvertKit to reach over 25,000 listeners a month. He notes that “with the newsletter, I have an extra touch point with those listeners. Not only are they hearing me, but they're reading about the show.”

And don’t forget to repurpose your podcast. Danielle Hu, host of The Wanderlover Podcast, has some ideas:

Transcribe each episode to be blog posts on your website, create audiograms for social media, and send links to tune in within your email newsletters. The possibilities are endless, and this helps you be omnipresent on multiple channels using the quality content you create for your podcast!

– Danielle Hu

You also want to track and monitor the success of your podcast by digging into analytics to gauge things like how quickly it’s growing, how many sales your podcast generates, and how listeners find you.

How to monetize your podcast

Aside from being an excellent medium to share information with your audience, you can also make money podcasting. Here’s how:

Promote digital products

We mentioned how you should promote a product alongside your podcast during your launch, but don’t stop there. Talk about your offerings during each episode so that those who weren’t there for your initial launch still learn about the digital products you sell. Include a link to your product’s ConvertKit Commerce page in your show notes, so listeners know where to buy.

Add a tip jar

podcast tip jar

Use ConvertKit to add a tip jar option to the footer of your newsletter. Each time you email your list with new podcast episodes, subscribers are given the option to send you a tip.

Get brand sponsors

Common types of commercials within podcasts are the 15-second pre-roll (ads before you get into the main topic of your episode) and the 60-second mid-roll (ads in the middle of your episode). Listen to other podcasts in your niche to see which types of companies have paid for advertisements and reach out to them asking if they’d like to sponsor an episode.

You don’t need to wait for the perfect time to launch a podcast

Starting a podcast might feel scary but don’t let those fears stop you. As for finding the perfect time to launch, Laura Durenberger, host of Raising Eco Minimalists, makes a great point:

I spent six months over-researching, trying to perfect everything, and ultimately delaying the release because I was just so nervous to put it out into the world. Not one person who has started a podcast has a perfect release. If you listen to your favorite podcast hosts at the beginning of their show, it will likely sound very different than it does 20, 50, and 100 episodes in.

– Laura Durenberger

Now is the best time to launch a podcast, reach your audience, and make money in the process.

Ready to get started? Sign up for your free Creator Pro trial with ConvertKit and launch your newest podcast.

Connect with your audience

Share what you love to connect with your followers and grow your business with a free ConvertKit account.

Create a free ConvertKit account

Dana Nicole

Dana is a freelance writer who works closely with B2B SaaS brands to create content people enjoy reading. When she’s not working, you’ll find her sipping on a warm cup of tea and reading a good book (the scarier, the better). See what she’s up to at www.dananicoledesigns.com

The future belongs to creators

ConvertKit helps creators like you take their projects from idea to reality. It's never been easier to build an audience and grow a business. And you can do it all for free.

Launch your next project