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How to Start a Podcast

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Edited by:

Published on June 8, 2022

Updated on August 12, 2022

How to Start a Podcast

How to Start a Podcast

Podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, with more than a third of all Americans listening to at least one in 2021. From comedy and news to interviews, crime and history, podcasts are great to listen to at the gym, in the car, while cooking, or anytime you need a dose of distraction or entertainment. 

That’s why podcasts are one of the world’s fastest-growing industries — worth $11 billion globally and expected to see stunning annual growth of more than 30% through 2028. With numbers like that, there is clearly money to be made with a podcast of your own. 

But before you start investigating some mysterious local crime, it’s important to understand the entrepreneurial process and the specifics of podcast monetization. Lucky for you, this step-by-step guide lays out all you need to know to develop and launch a lucrative podcast. 

Fast Facts

Investment range

$3,550 - $8,100

Time to build

1 – 3 months

Industry trend

growing

Revenue potential

$60,000 - $120,000 p.a.

Profit potential

$54,000 - $108,000p.a.

Commitment

flexible

Step 1: Decide if the Business Is Right for You

multi-colored pros and cons business concept

Pros and cons

Starting a podcast has pros and cons to consider before deciding if it’s right for you.

Pros

  • Good Times – Making a podcast can be a ton of fun
  • Entertain – Create engaging content that makes people’s day
  • Flexibility – Work from home on your own time

Cons

  • Delayed Revenue – Building a following & monetizing takes time
  • Crowded Market – Competition from countless other podcasts

Podcast industry trends

Industry size and growth

Trends and challenges

Trends in the podcast industry include:

  • User experience, or UX, is becoming a focus for podcasts. This means using data from surveys and analytics to create content aimed at the target audience.
  • Live, rather than recorded, podcasts are becoming more popular, offering greater freshness. 

Challenges in the podcast industry include:

  • Podcasts are more difficult for internet search engines to pick up than web pages, making it difficult for podcast creators to get found in searches.[3]https://www.semrush.com/blog/podcast-stats/
  • The rising popularity of podcasts means that more people are trying to get in on the action, making the podcast industry more competitive. 

Popular types of podcasts

The most popular types of podcasts are:

  1. Comedy (22%)
  2. News (21%)
  3. True Crime (18%)
  4. Sports (17%)
  5. Other (22%)

How much does it cost to start a podcast business?

Startup costs for a podcast range from $3,500 to $8,000. Costs include a computer and your other equipment. 

You’ll need a handful of items to successfully launch your podcast business, including: 

  • A computer
  • An XLR or USB microphone
  • Mixer
  • Pop filter or windscreen
  • Headphones
  • Microphone stand
  • Acoustic treatments
  • Recording and editing software
  • Podcast hosting provider
Start-up CostsBallpark RangeAverage
Setting up a business name and corporation$150 - $200$175
Business licenses and permits$100 - $300$200
Insurance$100-$300$200
Business cards and brochures$200 - $300$250
Website setup$1,000 - $3,000$2,000
Computer and equipment$2,000 - $4,000$3,000
Total$3,550 - $8,100$5,825

How to Make a Podcast

This section will cover the nitty gritty of actually producing your podcast.

Choose your theme and topics 

First, you’ll need to decide what kind of podcast episodes you’re going to do. It could be anything from comedy to news to something educational. It’s best to choose something that you know a lot about or you’re particularly interested in. It’s also a good idea to choose a topic with real depth, something you can make 100 or more episodes about. 

Next, make a list of topics for your first several episodes, and you might want to make outlines as well. Then it’s time to start doing your research and preparing for the recording. 

Choose a name for your podcast

The name you choose for your podcast should of course link to your content and themes. 

Choose a name that catches the eye but is not too narrow, so you don’t limit your potential subject areas down the line. For instance if you’re doing a true crime podcast and your first season is about a series of unsolved killings in York, NY, in the early 1900s, you might want to go with “Turn of the Century Murder” over “The Mystery Killings of York”. 

On the other hand, if you’re planning an interview podcast, your title can be a bit more vague. What’s important is that it grabs people’s attention, like “WTF with Marc Maron” or “Smartless”. 

Design a Format

Your format is the length of your episodes and the layout and style in which they are presented. 

When determining the length, make sure that you have enough engaging content to fill that amount of time. You don’t want to lose someone’s attention in the middle. There is no ideal length of a podcast, so the length will just be based on what you’re talking about. 

Keep in mind, you could have a podcast that varies considerably in length, from 26 minutes one episode to 53 minutes in the next. That’s fine — as long as the content is strong. 

The style of your podcast could be interviews, talking with a co-host, or just you performing or presenting information. 

The layout is how the actual podcast is structured. It might look something like this:

  • Attention grabber
  • Intro music and welcome
  • Interview/episode 
  • Call to action; “follow us on Twitter” 

When you get to a certain level of viewers, you’ll also need room for ad space since that’s one of the ways you can make money.

Create Cover Art

Your cover art is what people will see when scrolling through the podcast directory, so it should be engaging. You can find a freelance designer to help you or you could use a design site like Canva.

Choose Your Music

If you want to have intro music, try to use something that will appeal to your target audience. You’ll just want short clips of music so that it doesn’t overshadow your podcast content.

Record Your First Episode

Using the equipment and software you purchased, it’s time to start the show! Here are a few software options:

Garage Band is another option that’s free. 

Most podcast software also will allow you to edit your podcast as well. 

Find a podcast host

You’ll need a podcast hosting site for your podcast audio files. Sites like Buzzsprout and others are free for a trial period and then you pay a fee, around $12 to $25 per month. You simply sign up and upload your podcast episodes.

Submit to Directories

Submit your podcast to as many podcast directories as you can, from Stitcher and Spotify to Apple Podcast and Google Podcast and Google Play. Your logo and label will appear on those sites, and hopefully, people will start listening! Share your podcast on all your social media and your website to get the word out.

How to monetize your podcast

It will take some time to get your podcast to the level of listeners that you’ll need to start making money, but once you get to that point there are several ways to monetize your podcast. 

  1. Affiliate Marketing – With affiliate marketing, you get a commission by referring people to other companies. You’ll need to set up a relationship with these companies, and then you’ll mention the product or service in your podcast. You’ll provide a link on your podcast dashboard that listeners can click on to purchase the product. Be sure to also include the links on your website. A site like ShareASale is a great way to build affiliate relationships.
  2. Advertising – Companies will pay to place ads in your podcasts. You can approach companies directly, or you can use an ad network such as Division-D or Advertise Cast. The products advertised should be related to your content or of interest to your target audience.
  3. Sell Products – You can use your podcast to sell your own products or promote another business that you have. You could also make merchandise with your podcast branding and sell that to customers.

How much can you earn from a podcast business?

Your income will depend on your podcast downloads. You’ll only be able to attract advertisers when you get a large following of listeners. Advertisers generally pay $20 to $30 per ad per 1,000 downloads, so if you have an ad in an episode that gets 100,000 downloads, you’d make around $2,500. Your profit margin will be high, around 90%. 

In your first year or two after you’ve gotten to a certain volume of listeners, you could do two episodes per month, bringing in $60,000 in annual revenue. This would mean $54,000 in profit, assuming that 90% margin. If you start doing weekly episodes, those numbers will double. With annual revenue of $120,000, you’d make a tidy profit of $108,000.

If you do affiliate or merchandise sales, you’ll make even more. 

What barriers to entry are there?

There are a few barriers to entry for a podcast. Your biggest challenges will be:

  • Creating unique and engaging content that will attract listeners
  • The competition from a large number of other podcasts 

Step 2: Hone Your Idea

Now that you know what’s involved in starting a podcast, it’s a good idea to hone your concept in preparation to enter a competitive market. 

Why? Identify an opportunity

Research successful podcasts, their content, and customer reviews. You’re looking for a market gap to fill. For instance, maybe the market is missing a podcast that offers a particular style of comedy or a podcast about a specific social issue. 

You might consider targeting a niche market by specializing in a certain aspect of your industry, such as sports news or ancient history. This could jumpstart your word-of-mouth marketing and attract clients right away. 

Who? Identify your target market

Your target market will depend on your podcast content. If you’re trying to attract a younger audience, you can market your podcast on TikTok or Instagram. 

Should you start a podcast business

Step 3: Brainstorm a Business Name

Since your podcast is going to be a business, you’ll also need a business name. Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words. You probably want a name that’s short and easy to remember, since much of your business, and your initial business in particular, will come from word-of-mouth referrals.

Here are some ideas for brainstorming your business name:

  • Short, unique, and catchy names tend to stand out
  • Names that are easy to say and spell tend to do better 
  • Name should be relevant to your product or service offerings
  • Ask around — family, friends, colleagues, social media — for suggestions
  • Including keywords, such as “podcast” or “broadcasting”, boosts SEO
  • Name should allow for expansion, for ex: “Jim’s Bakery” over “Jim’s Cookies”
  • Avoid location-based names that might hinder future expansion
  • Use online tools like the Step by Step Business Name Generator. Just type in a few keywords and hit “generate” and you’ll have dozens of suggestions at your fingertips.

Once you’ve got a list of potential names, visit the website of the US Patent and Trademark Office to make sure they are available for registration and check the availability of related domain names using our Domain Name Search tool. Using “.com” or “.org” sharply increases credibility, so it’s best to focus on these. 

Finally, make your choice among the names that pass this screening and go ahead with domain registration and social media account creation. Your business name is one of the key differentiators that sets your business apart. Once you pick your company name, and start with the branding, it is hard to change the business name. Therefore, it’s important to carefully consider your choice before you start a business entity.

Step 4: Create a Business Plan

Every business needs a plan. This will function as a guidebook to take your startup through the launch process and maintain focus on your key goals. A business plan also enables potential partners and investors to better understand your company and its vision:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the entire business plan; should be written after the plan is complete.
  • Business Overview: Overview of the company, vision, mission, ownership, and corporate goals.
  • Product and Services: Describe your offerings in detail.
  • Market Analysis: Assess market trends such as variations in demand and prospects for growth, and do a SWOT analysis.
  • Competitive Analysis: Analyze main competitors, assessing their strengths and weaknesses, and create a list of the advantages of your services.
  • Sales and Marketing: Examine your companies’ unique selling propositions (USPs) and develop sales, marketing, and promotional strategies.
  • Management Team: Overview of management team, detailing their roles and professional background, along with a corporate hierarchy.
  • Operations Plan: Your company’s operational plan includes procurement, office location, key assets and equipment, and other logistical details.
  • Financial Plan: Three years of financial planning, including startup costs, break-even analysis, profit and loss estimates, cash flow, and balance sheet.
  • Appendix: Include any additional financial or business-related documents.

If you’ve never created a business plan, it can be an intimidating task. You might consider hiring a business plan specialist at Fiverr to create a top-notch business plan for you.

Step 5: Register Your Business

Registering your business is an absolutely crucial step — it’s the prerequisite to paying taxes, raising capital, opening a bank account, and other guideposts on the road to getting a business up and running. 

Plus, registration is exciting because it makes the entire process official. Once it’s complete, you’ll have your own business! 

Choose where to register your company

Your business location is important because it can affect taxes, legal requirements, and revenue. Most people will register their business in the state where they live, but if you’re planning to expand, you might consider looking elsewhere, as some states could offer real advantages when it comes to podcasts. 

If you’re willing to move, you could really maximize your business! Keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to transfer your business to another state. 

Choose your business structure

Business entities come in several varieties, each with its pros and cons. The legal structure you choose for your podcast business will shape your taxes, personal liability, and business registration requirements, so choose wisely. 

Here are the main options:

  • Sole Proprietorship – The most common structure for small businesses makes no legal distinction between company and owner. All income goes to the owner, who’s also liable for any debts, losses, or liabilities incurred by the business. The owner pays taxes on business income on his or her personal tax return.
  • General Partnership – Similar to a sole proprietorship, but for two or more people. Again, owners keep the profits and are liable for losses. The partners pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.
  • Limited Liability Company (LLC) – Combines the characteristics of corporations with those of sole proprietorships or partnerships. Again, the owners are not personally liable for debts.
  • C Corp – Under this structure, the business is a distinct legal entity and the owner or owners are not personally liable for its debts. Owners take profits through shareholder dividends, rather than directly. The corporation pays taxes, and owners pay taxes on their dividends, which is sometimes referred to as double taxation.
  • S Corp – An S-Corporation refers to the tax classification of the business but is not a business entity. An S-Corp can be either a corporation or an LLC, which just need to elect to be an S-Corp for tax status. In an S-Corp, income is passed through directly to shareholders, who pay taxes on their share of business income on their personal tax returns.

We recommend that new business owners choose LLC as it offers liability protection and pass-through taxation while being simpler to form than a corporation. You can form an LLC in as little as five minutes using ZenBusiness’s online LLC formation service. They will check that your business name is available before filing, submit your articles of organization, and answer any questions you might have. 

Step 6: Register for Taxes

The final step before you’re able to pay taxes is getting an Employer Identification Number, or EIN. You can file for your EIN online or by mail or fax: visit the IRS website to learn more. Keep in mind, if you’ve chosen to be a sole proprietorship you can simply use your social security number as your EIN. 

Once you have your EIN, you’ll need to choose your tax year. Financially speaking, your business will operate in a calendar year (January–December) or a fiscal year, a 12-month period that can start in any month. This will determine your tax cycle, while your business structure will determine which taxes you’ll pay.

The IRS website also offers a tax-payers checklist, and taxes can be filed online. It is important to consult an accountant or other professional to help you with your taxes to ensure you’re completing them correctly.

Step 7: Fund your Business

Securing financing is your next step and there are plenty of ways to raise capital:

  • Bank loans: This is the most common method but getting approved requires a rock-solid business plan and strong credit history.
  • SBA-guaranteed loans: The Small Business Administration can act as guarantor, helping gain that elusive bank approval via an SBA-guaranteed loan.
  • Government grants: A handful of financial assistance programs help fund entrepreneurs. Visit Grants.gov to learn which might work for you.
  • Friends and Family: Reach out to friends and family to provide a business loan or investment in your concept. It’s a good idea to have legal advice when doing so because SEC regulations apply.
  • Crowdfunding: Websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo offer an increasingly popular low-risk option, in which donors fund your vision. Entrepreneurial crowdfunding sites like Fundable and WeFunder enable multiple investors to fund your business.
  • Personal: Self-fund your business via your savings or the sale of property or other assets.

Bank and SBA loans are probably the best option, other than friends and family, for funding a podcast business. You might also try crowdfunding if you have an innovative concept. 

Step 8: Apply for Licenses/Permits

Starting a podcast business requires obtaining a number of licenses and permits from local, state, and federal governments.

Federal regulations, licenses, and permits associated with starting your business include doing business as (DBA), health licenses and permits from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), trademarks, copyrights, patents, and other intellectual properties, as well as industry-specific licenses and permits. 

You may also need state-level and local county or city-based licenses and permits. The license requirements and how to obtain them vary, so check the websites of your state, city, and county governments or contact the appropriate person to learn more. 

You could also check this SBA guide for your state’s requirements, but we recommend using MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance Package. They will research the exact forms you need for your business and state and provide them to ensure you’re fully compliant.

This is not a step to be taken lightly, as failing to comply with legal requirements can result in hefty penalties. If you feel overwhelmed by this step or don’t know how to begin, it might be a good idea to hire a professional to help you check all the legal boxes.

Step 9: Open a Business Bank Account

Before you start making money, you’ll need a place to keep it, and that requires opening a bank account.

Keeping your business finances separate from your personal account makes it easy to file taxes and track your company’s income, so it’s worth doing even if you’re running your podcast business as a sole proprietorship. Opening a business bank account is quite simple, and similar to opening a personal one. Most major banks offer accounts tailored for businesses — just inquire at your preferred bank to learn about their rates and features.

Banks vary in terms of offerings, so it’s a good idea to examine your options and select the best plan for you. Once you choose your bank, bring in your EIN (or Social Security Number if you decide on a sole proprietorship), articles of incorporation, and other legal documents and open your new account. 

woman using phone for online banking

Step 10: Get Business Insurance

Business insurance is an area that often gets overlooked yet it can be vital to your success as an entrepreneur. Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business.

Here are some types of insurance to consider:

  • General liability: The most comprehensive type of insurance, acting as a catch-all for many business elements that require coverage. If you get just one kind of insurance, this is it. It even protects against bodily injury and property damage.
  • Business Property: Provides coverage for your equipment and supplies.
  • Equipment Breakdown Insurance: Covers the cost of replacing or repairing equipment that has broken due to mechanical issues.
  • Worker’s compensation: Provides compensation to employees injured on the job.
  • Property: Covers your physical space, whether it is a cart, storefront, or office.
  • Commercial auto: Protection for your company-owned vehicle.
  • Professional liability: Protects against claims from a client who says they suffered a loss due to an error or omission in your work.
  • Business owner’s policy (BOP): This is an insurance plan that acts as an all-in-one insurance policy, a combination of the above insurance types.

Step 11: Prepare to Launch

As opening day nears, prepare for launch by reviewing and improving some key elements of your business. 

Develop your website

Website development is crucial because your site is your online presence and needs to convince prospective clients of your expertise and professionalism. They are unlikely to find your website, however, unless you follow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices. These are steps that help pages rank higher in the results of top search engines like Google. 

You can create your own website using services like WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. This route is very affordable, but figuring out how to build a website can be time-consuming. If you lack tech-savvy, you can hire a web designer or developer to create a custom website for your business.

Essential software and tools

Being an entrepreneur often means wearing many hats, from marketing to sales to accounting, which can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many websites and digital tools are available to help simplify many business tasks. 

You may want to use industry-specific software, such as Process Street, to manage your episodes, publishing workflows, and task checklists. 

Again, for recording and editing your podcasts, you can use software such as:

Online Marketing

Some of your business will come from the casual online visitors, but you should still invest in digital marketing! Getting the word out is especially important for new businesses, as it’ll boost customer and brand awareness. 

Once your website is up and running, link it to your social media accounts and vice versa. Social media is a great tool for promoting your business because you can create engaging posts that advertise your products: 

  • Facebook: Great platform for paid advertising, allows you to target specific demographics, like men under age 50 in the Cleveland area. 
  • Instagram: Same benefits as Facebook but with different target audiences.
  • Website: SEO will help your website appear closer to the top in relevant search results, a crucial element for increasing sales. Make sure that you optimize calls to action on your website. Experiment with text, color, size, and position of calls to action such as “Listen Now”. This can sharply increase listeners. 
  • Google and Yelp: For businesses that rely on local clientele, getting listed on Yelp and Google My Business can be crucial to generating awareness and customers. 

Focus on USPs

Unique selling propositions, or USPs, are the characteristics of a product or service that sets it apart from the competition. Customers today are inundated with buying options, so you’ll have a real advantage if they are able to quickly grasp how your podcast meets their needs or wishes. It’s wise to do all you can to ensure your USPs stand out on your website and in your marketing and promotional materials, stimulating buyer desire. 

Global pizza chain Domino’s is renowned for its USP: “Hot pizza in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed.” Signature USPs for your podcast business could be: 

  • Get your giggles with our weekly comedy podcasts
  • The best analysis of the biggest games every week!
  • News of the world, with opinions, analysis and insight 

Kickstart Marketing

Take advantage of your website, social media presence and real-life activities to increase awareness of your offerings and build your brand. Some suggestions include:

  • Post a video – Post a video about your podcast. Use humor and maybe it will go viral!
  • Email marketing/newsletter – Send regular emails to customers and prospects. Make them personal. 
  • Start a blog – Start a blog and post regularly. Change up your content and share on multiple sites.
  • Press releases – Do press releases about new episodes
  • Paid ads on social media – Choose sites that will reach your target market and do targeted ads.
  • Payper-click marketing – Use Google AdWords to perform better in searches. Research your keywords first.
  • Influencer marketing – Pay people with large social media followings to promote your podcast. You can find micro-influencers with smaller followings and lower rates.
  • Offer a free download – Offer something of value to download from your website to capture emails.

Networking

You may not like to network or use personal connections for business gain. But your personal and professional networks likely offer considerable untapped business potential. Maybe that Facebook friend you met in college is now running a podcast business, or a LinkedIn contact of yours is connected to dozens of potential clients. Maybe your cousin or neighbor has been working in podcasts for years and can offer invaluable insight and industry connections. 

The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good idea to review your personal and professional networks and reach out to those with possible links to or interest in podcasts. You’ll probably generate new customers or find companies with which you could establish a partnership. 

Accounting

  • Popular web-based accounting programs for smaller businesses include Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero
  • If you’re unfamiliar with basic accounting, you may want to hire a professional, especially as you begin. The consequences for filing incorrect tax documents can be harsh, so accuracy is crucial. 

Step 12: Build Your Team

If you’re starting out small from a home office, you may not need any employees. But as your business grows, you will likely need workers to fill various roles. Potential positions for a podcast business include:

  • Co-Hosts – participate in podcast episodes
  • General Manager – scheduling, accounting
  • Marketing Lead – SEO strategies, social media

At some point, you may need to hire all of these positions or simply a few, depending on the size and needs of your business. You might also hire multiple workers for a single role or a single worker for multiple roles, again depending on need. 

Free-of-charge methods to recruit employees include posting ads on popular platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Jobs.com. You might also consider a premium recruitment option, such as advertising on Indeed, Glassdoor, or ZipRecruiter. Further, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a recruitment agency to help you find talent. 

Step 13: Start Making Money!

Podcasts are all the rage, with all kinds of people listening and creating them for fun or business. In a few years, it’s anticipated that 160 million Americans will be listeners. If you have an innovative concept for a podcast or valuable information you want to share, you could ride the podcast wave to serious success! 

You know what to do now, so it’s time to hit the record button and get your successful podcast started. 

Podcast Business FAQs

How much does it cost to start a podcast?

You can start a podcast for about $3,500. You just need a computer, some recording equipment, and recording and editing software. You’ll also need an appealing concept.

Can I make money from a podcast?

You can make money from a podcast through affiliate relationships, advertising, and even selling merchandise. You’ll just have to get a large following to achieve profitability.

Do I need a license to make money from my podcast?

You may need various business licenses and permits at the state and local levels. Check with your local governments for requirements or visit MyCorporation’s Business License Compliance page.

What software can I use to make a podcast?

A few recording and editing software options for podcasts include Riverside, Restream, and Zencastr.