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Things a Monkey Can Learn...A Life Only the Strong Can Live

What You REALLY Need to Start a Podcast

Hey James, I’m thinking of starting a podcast…

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that phrase, I wouldn’t have the job I have now.

Well, perhaps it’s not quite as often as that, but it’s often enough that I decided to write this blog post.

Every once in a while, people ask me about what I do for a living because they’re just curious, or perhaps someone will tell me they’re thinking of starting a podcast and are interested in some guidance.

Hence this blog post.

Although podcasting is really beginning to take off as a medium of communication, it’s still quite mysterious to a lot of people. I find it amusing how often I find myself answering the question, “What’s a podcast?”

In bare bones terms, it’s a radio show that’s played via the internet. And I think that’s where some of the confusion comes in.

“A radio show?” Well, it needs to be owned by a radio station. You need radio towers, and $1000 microphones, a soundproof studio, commercials, things of that nature.

Actually, you don’t. And I’m going to show you how to get started with your very own podcast for an investment of less than $200 out of pocket. It isn’t sexy, and you won’t be showing any equipment porn videos on Facebook, but you’ll sound good and will be able to present yourself respectfully, and eventually professionally.

The purpose of this post is to give you the bare bones of what you need to get started. You can add any fancy equipment, software, plugins etc. you want down the line, but this will get you started.

And if you don’t want to add anything, that’s cool too. I personally know several folks who have this exact bare-bones setup (with a little tweak here and there) and make the lion’s share of their living producing their own podcast.

But before I tell you what you REALLY need to start your podcast, let me tell you, based on conversations I’ve had with others and myself, some things that you most definitely DON’T need to get going.

What You DON’T Need to Start a Podcast

You don’t need Sponsors

People ask me all the time, “How do you make money with a podcast?” I simply say, “You get people to listen to it, and then sell them stuff.” A lot of businesses start a podcast and use it as a marketing tool, or a resource they can share with existing or prospective clients. Having 3rd parties “sponsor” their show is the furthest thing from their mind.

No one starts a podcast with sponsors. People listen to really popular podcasts like Entrepreneur on Fire, Tim Ferriss, James Altucher, Joe Rogan, etc. and think, “well, they have sponsors, so I need sponsors to have a podcast, right?”

Not right.

Tim Ferriss didn’t start his podcast with sponsors. John Lee Dumas didn’t start his podcast with sponsors. James Altucher, Marc Maron, Ben Greenfield, and so on and so forth.

And neither should you.

In fact, trying to get sponsors from the outset is about the worst thing someone can do 99 out of 100 times. And I’ll get to that in a moment.

You don’t need a Professional Recording Studio

That black stuff on your walls, the heavy duty glass door, the microphone that costs more than a college education, etc. are all nice, but they’re hardly essential.

What you really need is a room that can soak up a little bit of sound. Some carpeting, a bed or couch. Maybe some tapestries on the wall. I know a lot of folks who do their podcast in their bedroom closet just because it soaks up the sound, and keeps the noise of the house out.

And forget about that expensive Heil PR40 that everyone is raving about. What you really need is a decent mic that you can buy on Amazon for about $70. I’ll tell you which one I’ve used since day 1 and sounds fantastic in a bit.

You Don’t Need to Form a Special Business Entity

Nah, just do your taxes as you ordinarily would. Should you be fortunate enough to make a buck as a result of your podcast (which should not be your top priority imo) just tell your CPA and he/she will help you out.

You don’t need A Fancy Website

Building a website is a pain. Maintaining a website is tedious and cumbersome. 99% of websites look terrible as a result. Fortunately, most podcast hosts will provide you with a web presence that looks very respectable and removes the need to have a website in order to have a podcast.

Now mind you, a website is a good idea, and will perhaps be something you’ll want to add to your arsenal in the future. But it’s definitely not necessary to get started.


What You DO Need to Start a Podcast

Equipment

First and foremost, you need a good microphone. (If you use your computer’s microphone for your podcast, you don’t know me.)

Of course, there are a ton of microphones to choose from, and they all claim to be the best one out there.

There’s one in particular that is extremely popular with podcasters, and is the one that I’ve used since day 1 of my podcasting career. It’s the ATR-2100. It costs around $70 on Amazon and will blow some of the mics that cost $200-300 out of the water with its quality. Simply put, you’ll sound terrific using it, and the price is definitely right.

Here’s a link to purchase the ATR-2100 microphone only

If you’ve got some extra cash laying around and want to splurge, here’s a package including the ATR-2100 mic w/ a few accessories (Boom arm, shock mount, pop filter).

A pop filter is usually a good idea, although I prefer the little foam balls that go over the mic. It’s much more convenient for travel and overall functionality.

BTW, this little-known blogger and author named Tim Ferriss uses an ATR-2100 for his podcast, and I’d say he’s done okay with it.

A few more pieces of equipment you’ll need:

  • A decent internet connection. You’ll be downloading and uploading a lot of files, so don’t think you can get away with using a mobile hotspot unless it’s got unlimited data. The hotspots are easier to hack anyway, so you’re best off going with an internet connection.
  • A functional computer. There have been some startups in the last few years who claimed their customers could operate a podcast using only an iPhone. They didn’t last long. This is because there are a good number of tasks to do when you do a podcast the right way, and an iPhone simply can’t do everything you need it to do. Plus, you’ll ruin your eyes and brain looking at that tiny screen for too long anyway. Best to get a decent quality laptop at minimum. You’ll be glad you did.

Software

DAW: Here’s a technical term for you: Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). Some of the most popular DAW’s are Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and Audacity.

They’re all perfectly sound products and will give you more than you need to produce a top of the line podcast.

I prefer Audacity, and have been using it to produce podcasts – my own and those of my clients – for over 5 years. Audacity is easy to use, produces a terrific product, and at FREE-99, the price is most definitely right.

Here’s my affiliate link for Audacity. I get 100% commissions.

(BTW, I have a course for sale on how to use Audacity at my side business, The Easy School of Hard Knocks. Check it out here.)

Recording Interviews: If you’re going to be conducting interviews on your podcast, you’ll need a means of recording those interviews.

Currently, the easiest way to record interviews is via Zoom. I believe even Skype has added a recording feature in its latest update. There’s also software called Ecamm Call Recorder, which you can use to record Skype calls on Apple machines.

Web Services

Logo and Artwork: The service I use for creating logos, website images, or anything related to digital imagery is Canva. They do have paid plans if you have really heavy-duty or specialized needs, but you’ll find that their free plan will do most everything you need in the first days, weeks, months, even years of your podcast.

Podcast Hosting: This is what you’ll use to distribute your podcast to all the podcast players out there (Apple, Spotify, Google, etc.) Some of the more popular podcast hosting services are Libsyn, Podbean, and one that I’ve recently begun using called Captivate. I love Captivate’s extremely user-friendly interface and top-notch customer service.

Podbean will allow you to publish up to 4 hours of podcast content completely free. This could be a good option if you just want to stick your toe in the water and see how you like it.

Libsyn is the biggest and most popular of all the hosting services, so there’s some peace of mind that goes along with that.

However, I find Captivate to be the most user-friendly and solid option. It’s why I use it and why I recommend my own clients use it.

Like most everything in life, it’s a matter of personal preference.

The Right Message

Maybe you’ve read this post to this point, and you’re just about sold on starting your podcast. Undoubtedly, thoughts have been milling about in your mind as to what you’re going to say. Perhaps you’ve fantasized about interviewing this or that rock star that you admire.

I’d be willing to bet that you’ve also thought of something you might say in your podcast and you immediately stop yourself and think,” Oh, I can’t say that, I’d get in trouble” or words to that effect.

Am I right? Of course I am. How do I know? Because the exact same thing happens to me anytime I have an idea for a podcast milling about in my mind.

This is simply human nature. We just don’t want to stir the pot.

But when (not if) you have a thought that you think is going to be controversial, I encourage you to write it down. Because that is what you need to say – provided it’s a genuine conviction that you can’t not say, and provided you don’t say it in a way that’s malicious toward other people.

This is what’s going to set you apart from every other podcast out there. Because you’re being you.

In short, embrace your inner snowflake.

It’s good to draw inspiration from other podcasters who’ve been at it for awhile, but you’re not going to be successful mimicking them. Years ago, a guy named John Lee Dumas made a name for himself with his show, Entrepreneurs on Fire. He was (and still is) massively successful. And guess what happened? A bunch of wannabes said, I’m going to interview people 7 days a week, ask them the same questions JLD is asking, and I’ll quit my day job by noon tomorrow.

I probably don’t need to tell you that it didn’t work out quite that way.

The thing is, you just need to be yourself. People don’t want to hear from the next John Lee Dumas, the next Tim Ferriss, the next James Altucher, the next (fill in the blank celebrity podcast host). We want to hear from you.

You don’t need a message people want to hear. You need a message that you need to say.

No one wants to hear anything else. They definitely don’t want yet another impersonation of celebrity podcaster so and so.

That thought in your mind that you think is going to be controversial, or is going to turn people off, is exactly what you need to say over and over. Will it turn some people off? Of course. That’s the whole point. Chances are there are plenty of people thinking exactly what you’re thinking and are looking for someone with the leadership and chutzpah to say it publicly.

You’ll be the answer to their prayers.

The Right Attitude

“Hunker down, kid, we’ll be here awhile.” So said Mike Ehrmantraut to Jesse Pinkman in an episode of Breaking Bad while they’re attending to some of the more unglamorous business of the drug trade.

If you’re going to start your show, I encourage you to adopt the same mindset. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts that fall into the category of “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” The truth is that it probably was a good idea to those people, and they would have been successful if they stuck out the early, quiet, cricket-infested days of their show. It’s sad, but once folks realize there’s actual work that needs to get done, it doesn’t seem so glamorous anymore. So they quit before they really get going.

This is why over 90% of podcasts don’t make it past 7 episodes.

You’ve got to embrace the crickets. If you have the right message, i.e. one you truly believe in, that you see yourself saying 1 year, 5 years, even 10 years from now, this won’t be a problem.

Other Less Important Things That Are Worth Mentioning

Your Podcast Title

I know people who spend more time thinking of the title to their show than they do on what they’ll actually say on their show. It’s a hangup. Your title is important, but it’s not vital. There’s nothing wrong with “The (insert your name here) Show”. In fact, this might be the best way to go if you’re going for longevity in your show. Think of the greats with huge followings: Rush Limbaugh, Oprah, Tim Ferriss, etc.  They use their own name. While they may drift from this theme to that theme, their personality is at the center of their brand.

If You Didn’t Get All That, Get This

A podcast is easy to do, but it will be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever undertake in your life. While it will definitely give you something with which to brag to your rival at the high school reunion, provided you’re able to stick with it, it just comes down to sticking with it.

The most important thing is to just start. Get the basic equipment and software I mentioned, and just start recording episodes. Say what’s on your mind, even if it’s a 5 minute rant on something.

Don’t worry about having the perfect title, the perfect format, the perfect anything. Just go forth and record stuff that’s important to you. Interview people you admire. Ask them questions they haven’t heard a million times already.

People crave genuineticity in this day and age. Give it to them.

And remember: If it doesn’t bring you joy, you’re doing it wrong 🙂

P.S. I started my own podcast using the exact advice I’ve just given you. Perhaps you can use this story as your inspiration.

About Me, James Newcomb

I'm a musician and podcaster. I make my living doing what I love to do, and want to help others do the same.

I have several clients for whom I produce their podcasts. I also host and produce a podcast of my own: The Trumpet Jungle.

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