So you’ve got big dreams of a popular podcast but no audience to share them with. No worries—the vast majority of podcasters had to start from scratch too.
Like them, you’ll need to work both hard and intelligently to scale your listenership effectively. And while I can’t make this process easy for you, I can make it as simple and fast as possible.
So next, I’ll teach you to start a podcast that goes from zero to hero. Sit down, get comfortable, and tune in—because this is gonna be a good one.
Here’s what you need to do to start your podcast and scale fast:
- Find your niche
- Research your competition
- Invest in quality equipment
- Create valuable content
- Invest in marketing and promotion
- Analyze and adjust your strategy
Let’s break down each step in detail.
1. Find your niche
The most successful podcasts target a specific niche audience. By definition, a niche is a “specialized market,” which means that your podcast will have less competition and be easier to be found by people who are truly interested in what you have to say.
To find your niche, start by brainstorming topics that you’re passionate about and have some expertise in. Once you have a list of potential topics, do some research to see if there’s already a podcast in that space.
If there is, try understanding what makes your perspective unique and how you can fill any gaps in the existing conversation.
Once you’ve settled on a niche, make sure to clearly communicate what your podcast is about in your show’s title and description.
This will ensure that only people who are interested in your topic will find and listen to your show.
2. Research your competition
Now that you know what your podcast will be about, it’s time to understand who your competition is. This will give you a better sense of what topics have already been covered and what you can do to make your podcast stand out.
To research your competition, start by searching for similar podcasts on platforms like iTunes and Spotify. Once you’ve found a few shows, take note of their:
- Episode length
- Release schedule
- Guest list
- Marketing strategy
You can also search for podcasts in your niche on Google and social media to see how they’re promoting their show and interacting with their audience.
By understanding what’s working well for other podcasts in your space, you can adapt and improve upon their strategies to create a more successful show.
Here are a few examples of this principle in action:
- If most of your competitors release new episodes once a week, consider releasing new episodes more frequently to stand out.
- If your competitors have long episodes, make your episodes shorter and easier to consume.
- If your competitors rarely have guests, consider inviting guests on your show more o
Remember, the goal is not to copy your competition but to learn from them and find ways to make your podcast unique.
3. Invest in quality equipment
You need to make your podcast sound professional, and the only way to do that is to invest in quality equipment. This will not only make your podcast sound better but also make the recording process simpler and faster.
To get started, you’ll need a good microphone, USB audio interface, and recording software. I recommend the RODE NT-USB microphone, Scarlett 2i2 audio interface, and Reaper recording software.
Reaper is a great recording software for beginners, and the RODE NT-USB is a top-quality microphone that’s very affordable.
If you want to take your podcast to the next level, I also recommend investing in a mixer, windscreen, and pop filter. These additional pieces of equipment will further improve the sound quality of your podcast.
4. Create valuable content
Creating high-quality content is essential to growing your audience. Each episode of your podcast should offer valuable insights, entertaining stories, or actionable advice.
When creating your content, start by brainstorming a list of potential topics. Once you have a list of ideas, do some research to see what’s already been covered and try to find unique angles and perspectives.
You can also look for hot topics in your niche and identify any gaps in the existing conversation. By filling these gaps, you can create content that’s truly valuable to your audience—not just an imitation of another show.
5. Invest in marketing and promotion
If you want people to find and listen to your podcast, you need to invest in marketing and promotion.
There are a number of ways to promote your podcast, but some of the most effective methods include:
- Submitting your show to podcast directories
- Guest posting on popular blogs in your niche
- Being interviewed on other podcasts
- Advertising on popular podcasts in your space
- Working with sponsors
- Organizing or participating in podcast meetups
You can also promote your podcast on social media, forums, and through email marketing.
The key is to be creative and try a variety of different promotion strategies to see what earns engagement effectively. That’s not a copout, but a genuine reality of finding a useful marketing strategy (no podcast is the same).
6. Analyze and adjust your strategy
As your podcast grows, it’s important to track your progress and adjust your strategy accordingly. By analyzing your audience data, you can identify what’s working well and what needs to be improved.
Some of the most important metrics to track include:
- Reviews and ratings
- Website traffic
- Social media engagement
You can track these metrics using various tools, including Google Analytics, iTunes Connect, and Podtrac.
Once you have this data, take some time to analyze it and identify any patterns or trends. This will give you a better understanding of what’s working well and what you can improve.
Further advice for growing your podcast effectively
Now that you know how to start a podcast and grow it quickly, here are a few additional tips to help you along the way:
1. Keep your episodes short and sweet
Long episodes may be tempting, but they’re not always the best for your audience. In fact, episodes that are too long are often skipped or abandoned altogether.
The sweet spot for podcast episodes is 20 to 30 minutes. This is the perfect length to inform your audience without overwhelming them.
The only exception is if your niche appeals to people who are obsessed with your subject matter, like history buffs to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. His multi-hour episodes work fine because of who they target.
PS: For more information on deciding your podcast length, check out my guide on how long your podcast should be.
2. Be consistent
If you want to grow your audience, you need to be consistent with your release schedule. releasing new episodes on a regular basis will ensure that your audience always has something new to listen to.
I recommend releasing new episodes at least once a week. This will give you enough time to create quality content without putting too much pressure on yourself.
It doesn’t even have to be that frequent. Famous podcaster Dan Carlin essentially releases episodes only when he feels they’re ready and not on a set schedule.
It’s also a good idea to announce your release schedule in advance. This will give your audience a better idea of when to expect new episodes and ensure that they never miss an episode.
3. Be engaged with your audience
Engagement is key when growing your podcast. You need to be engaged with your audience if you want to encourage them to listen to your show.
Some of the best ways to be engaged with your listeners include:
- Responding to comments and questions
- Accepting guest suggestions
- Asking for feedback
- Organizing or participating in meetups
- Taking part in online communities
By engaging with your audience, you can create a strong relationship with them and encourage them to continue listening to your show.
4. Focus on quality over quantity
It’s tempting to want to release as many episodes as possible, but this isn’t always the best approach. In fact, it’s often better to release fewer episodes if it means that your show is of a higher quality.
The key is to find the right balance between quality and quantity. You want to release enough episodes to keep your audience engaged but not so many that the quality of your show suffers.
The best way to find this balance is to start by releasing a few episodes to see how your audience responds. If they seem to be engaged and hungry for more content, you can start releasing new episodes more frequently.
5. Invest in your show
Podcasting can be a fantastic side hustle, but it’s not free. In order to create a successful podcast, you need to invest in your show.
Some of the most important investments you need to make include:
- Investing in quality equipment
- Hiring a professional editor
- Working with a professional cover artist
- Investing in marketing and promotion
You don’t need to spend a fortune on your podcast, but you do need to be willing to invest in it if you want it to produce serious results.
If you don’t think you’ve got the cash flow to start a podcast, start with a blog—it’s incredibly cheap and gives you a great platform to start a podcast from later.
6. Post video clips on YouTube
If you want to maximize your reach, it’s a good idea to post video clips of your podcast episodes on YouTube. This will allow people who prefer watching videos to listen to your show.
More importantly, YouTube reaches a whole new audience that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
For example, my friend lives in Japan. A few years ago, he stumbled upon a history podcast that was in English. Even though he didn’t understand English that well, he enjoyed listening to the podcast because it was so fascinating.
But there was one problem—he couldn’t understand what the hosts were saying.
However, he then discovered that the podcast had a YouTube channel where they would post video clips of each episode. He started watching the video clips and was finally able to understand what the hosts were saying, thanks to the subtitles.
He then became a regular listener of the podcast.
7. Have realistic expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations when growing your podcast. Just because you put in the work doesn’t mean that your audience will magically appear.
It takes time to grow an audience. In fact, it can often take months or even years to reach a large audience.
The key is to be patient and to keep producing quality content. If you do this, you’ll eventually reach the audience you’re looking for—consistency is magic like that.
To illustrate, George Stephanopoulos, who was the Communications Director for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992, didn’t get a large audience for his first few years as the ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent and the This Week host.
In fact, he was often overshadowed by Tim Russert, the late NBC News Washington Bureau Chief, and the Meet the Press host.
But he was patient and kept doing his job. His audience gradually grew, and he eventually became one of the most popular journalists on TV.
Now obviously, that’s not an example of a podcasting host, but the principle remains the same: If you’re consistent and produce quality content, you’ll reach the audience you’re looking for.
8. Guest on as many podcasts as possible
Guest hosting on as many podcasts as possible gives you the chance to reach a whole new audience and get your name out there.
When you’re looking for podcasts to guest on, it’s important to find shows that are in a similar niche to yours. This will ensure that you’re reaching your target audience.
For example, if you have a business podcast, you wouldn’t want to guest on a cooking podcast. You would, however, want to guest on a business podcast or a marketing podcast.
You should also ensure that the podcasts you’re guesting on have a large audience. This will give you a better chance of reaching your target audience.
To learn how to pitch yourself to hosts of other podcasts, check out my article on podcast guest pitching.
9. Build an email list
Your email list gives you a direct line of communication with your audience, which is essential for promoting new episodes and growing your show.
The best way to grow your email list is to offer something valuable in exchange for an email address. This could be a PDF guide, an eBook, or even just a discount code.
Once you have an email list, you need to start promoting your podcast to it. You can do this by sending out a weekly email that includes a link to your latest episode.
You can also use your email list to promote other content, such as blog posts or video clips. Just ensure that the content you’re promoting is relevant to your audience.
10. Create quality cover art
Your cover art is one of the first things people will see when they come across your podcast, so it’s important to make a good impression.
Your cover art should be high-quality, attractive, and relevant to your show. It should also be consistent with the branding of your website and other social media platforms.
If you’re not a designer, don’t worry—Canva makes it easy. I used Canva to make the cover art for this blog post in minutes.
11. Transcribe podcast episodes
In addition to posting audio and video clips of your podcast episodes, it’s also a good idea to transcribe them.
This makes it easy for people to read your content, even if they don’t have the time to listen to your podcast. It also gives you extra content to post on your blog or website.
You can transcribe your episodes yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Transcribing a three-hour episode can take 10 hours or more. If you don’t have the time (nobody does), I recommend using a service like Rev.
Time to hit “record”
Podcasting is one of the most effective ways to reach a new audience, build a personal brand, and grow new income. But it’s not enough to just hit “record” and hope for the best.
If you want to create a podcast with serious listenership, you need to put in the work and follow the steps I’ve outlined in this article.
Got any questions about how to grow your podcast audience? Let me know in the comments below.