At the risk of stating the obvious, we absolutely adore podcasts. Not only do we have our own, we have so many favourite shows that we spend a lot of our spare time listening to. We really believe in the medium of radio, and think that so much quality content is broadcast across the airwaves to share great information and perspectives with people. We also believe that there is so much room in the podcast world for new voices.
Our podcast is 100% DIY. And while we have spent some money on the show over the years (details below), it’s totally possible to make a podcast without spending a dime. If you think you have something to say, it should be easy for you to get your voice out there, which is why we’re writing this post. Here’s what we know about how to start a free podcast today!
1. Record Your Show
Microphone: This is where spending some money might come in, as your show should have the highest-quality audio that you can afford. But don’t let this stop you from starting a podcast! When we started, we used the built-in microphone on our computers.
If you have a smartphone, you probably have a built-in audio recorder – on an iPhone, this is in an app called Voice Memos. If you’re in a quiet place, the audio quality on these apps can be really good, and better than on your computer. Podcasters are notorious for recording in closets, where the audio environment is especially good.
If you want to invest in your show, there are a few great microphones on the market at very reasonable price points. We both use a Samson Go Mic and absolutely adore them. They’re tiny enough to bring anywhere and deliver an absolutely awesome audio file. The Blue Microphones Snowball mic is also a great option, though a little bulkier. Both these microphones are plug-and-play, so you just hook them up to a USB port on your computer and hit record.
Content: Generally, it’s a good strategy to have an idea of the structure of your episode before you start recording. We usually each have a notebook page filled out with notes, ideas and sources before we record, and we discuss the loose structure of the show beforehand. When things are rolling live, it’s easy to get tongue-tied or awkward, so having a plan is helpful, even if it’s a flexible one.
We also have one theme or major idea per episode. Not only does this make it easier to title the episodes, it also makes it easier to share them and build enthusiasm. If your podcast is going to be answering questions, group the questions together by theme or just answer one question per episode. You want to make it easy for your listeners to get interested in your show, and to be able to go back and re-listen to the episodes that resonated with them.
Length: This is totally your choice! We try to make our episodes 30 minutes long, give or take ten minutes. While we have a few favourite podcasts that make hour-long episodes, 30-40 minutes has always felt like the perfect amount of time for our show. Pay attention to the length of your favourite shows, as well as the content of your show. But remember, there’s no magic number of minutes for a successful podcast – currently the #1 show on iTunes, Question of the Day, is about 11 minutes a show.
Intro + Outro: It’s a good idea to have the same introduction for every episode of your show. The audio on this should be especially clean and the speech should be consistent. We start every episode with our tagline, and then introduce the specific episode. Most successful shows follow a similar format. As an example, The Lively Show has a particularly great intro.
We usually work our outro into the end of our interview or conversation by shouting out to our social media handles and asking for comments and feedback.
2. Edit Your Show
Program: We use Garageband, a built-in Mac application that came with Steph’s computer. If you don’t have a Mac, there are many other free programs you can download to edit audio files, some examples are here.
Theme Music: Laura’s brother Ian was kind enough to compose and record our music, which we use at the beginning and end of our show. We have it saved as a mp3 file, which can easily be dragged and dropped into our Garageband project for each episode. If you’re not lucky enough to have theme music written for your show, there are lots of free jingles built into Garageband itself or tons available as a free download online.
Editing: You can see a detailed video screencast tutorial of how to edit a podcast in Garageband, and how to export a podcast as an mp3 on Steph’s blog right here or by watching the video above.
3. Upload Your Episode
Hosting: Our website is self-hosted, which means we don’t use a service like wordpress.com or Blogger to run our blog. This is another place where spending money might come into the picture, if you want to do the same and host your blog with a hosting service. We have always used Bluehost to host this website and Steph’s blog, and she pays about $10 per month for the service. But you can have your website hosted for as little as $4 per month! Without a doubt, Bluehost comes highly recommended by us: we get unlimited uploads, have never once had a problem with our hosting, and don’t foresee ever switching hosts.
Dropbox: An alternative to paying for hosting is to get a free Dropbox account and upload your finished episode as an mp3 to your Dropbox folder. We have never used this method, but it’s free and this blog explains how to do it successfully right here.
Podcast Photo: You’ll also need to create a square image or graphic. Steph made ours in Photoshop Elements, but you could also just crop down a photo. Just make sure it’s the right dimensions and upload it to your preferred location, ie. your website or Dropbox. Try to make your photo bright and colourful, and make sure your podcast’s name is readable in the photo.
4. Make Your Podcast Feed
Feed: The best, easiest way to actually make your mp3 files into a podcast feed is to use Podcast Blaster Feed Generator. It’s free and incredible simple to use, with a lot of customization options. Just create an account, fill in each of the fields, and once you’re finished you can download a custom RSS feed with all your podcast’s information. Upload the feed, called podcastblaster.xml by default, either to your Dropbox folder or on your self-hosted site’s file manager.
Tracking: Using FeedBurner is a great way to have statistics of your show for free. Make an account and enter the link of the feed you uploaded to your site (the link will end in /podcastblaster.xml), and Feedburner will give you another feed link that will look something like this: http://feeds.feedburner.com/GuineapiggingGreen/. For more information on this process, check out this article. This will be the link that you submit to iTunes, and you’ll be able to see statistics for your show.
5. Submit Your Show to iTunes
This is the easy part! When you want to add a new podcast to iTunes, the only thing they need is the link to your XML file (RSS feed). If you’ve done it properly, all the information the database needs is in that file, so it only requires the one link, which will be the link Feedburner gave you.
Just go onto the iTunes store and click the Podcasts link at the top of the page. On the right hand side of the podcast page, there is a small menu called Podcast Quick Links, just click on Submit a Podcast. Once you’ve entered your feed link, it’ll process the application for a couple of days, and then your show will be live and people can subscribe!
This is a lot of information, and it might seem complicated at first glance. But let us assure you, creating a podcast is not hard, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do it. Of course, there are also great and inexpensive services like Libsyn that will take care of all the feed creation and statistics for you, so you have lots of options!