Want to know how to start a podcast for free? You’re not alone. Podcasts have become increasingly popular over the years, even going toe to toe with visual content on YouTube and Instagram. In the US, weekly podcast listeners increased by 17% this year compared to last year; 28% of their population now listens to podcasts. Globally, the Philippines ranks as the top sixth fastest-growing podcast audience population by country in the world.
With more people owning smartphones, podcasts have become customisable radio stations where listeners can freely pick and choose the kind of informative content they consume. It’s pretty convenient too. Compared to visual content platforms, you can listen to a 30- to 40-minute podcast and still be able to easily multitask. You can listen to one while you do household chores, run errands, or commute to work.
So if you want to jump on this trend and try your hand at producing your own podcast, heed these useful tips from real podcasters in Singapore (Pamelia), Malaysia (Aissa), and the Philippines (Cleo) on how to start one from the comforts of your home.
Figure out your core theme
The first thing you need to know about starting a podcast is you need to have a general theme of topics you want to cover. There are finance-related, tech-talk, lifestyle commentaries, and more. To help you narrow it down, ask yourself: why do you want to start a podcast anyway?
For Cleo of Kwentuhang Pilipina, she wanted to create a safe space for young Filipino women to share their stories. The topics she covers run the gamut of wellness-related themes to career talks, which are all relevant to her young adult audience.
As for chef Pamelia of The Singapore Noodles podcast, the podcast is part of their online food repository, Singapore Noodles, that “seeks to keep Singaporean food heritage alive.” “I have always felt that there is a lack of a gold-standard, trusted recipe resource when it comes to Singaporean food,” she said. This inspired her to share well-researched and tested recipes for Singaporean dishes so people can recreate these at home. Months after she started running the website, she realised that she also wanted to share the stories behind Singapore’s food culture. Hence the birth of the podcast, which she runs completely by herself.
“The topics covered on the podcast include how we can approach a different cuisine and culture respectfully, why we cannot expect quality heritage food to be cheap, why Singaporean food culture deserves celebration and recognition, and the notion of ‘authenticity’.”
In Ain Aissa’s case, she wanted to empower young adults to use their voice and speak confidently on current events, aided by informed knowledge. The Seek To Speak podcast covers a variety of educational topics that are delivered through episodic interviews, teaching monologues, and narrative-style specials. “Our interviews with the politician YB Syed Saddiq and athlete Datuk Nicol David centred around how they motivated others through their words and presented themselves well. Similarly, our monologue episodes called the ‘Speaking Snack Series’ consist of bite-sized public speaking tips,” she shared.
Know your target audience
Your chosen topics will usually resonate with a general audience, but it always helps to have a clear picture of who you’re talking to. It can also help you plan for future episodes or gather ideas for future topics.
Cleo shared that her target audience is mainly young women in the Philippines, so the topics she covers and the guests she invites on her podcast revolve around that group. “I invite inspiring people who I know these young listeners can look up to and can be inspired by,” she shared. In the process, she also learns valuable insight into various industries and advocacies.
Meanwhile, Aissa’s topics come from her community’s requests and current events in Malaysia.
Invite relevant guests for interviews
Having a co-host or guest also keeps the conversation interesting for listeners. Pamelia hosts The Singapore Noodles alone, but she invites people she knows who are knowledgeable about Singapore cuisine and culture. This requires prior research on potential guests before reaching out to them. “I usually go on to potential guests’ social media accounts or read interviews that they have previously done to find out more about their perspectives, to see if there are any insights that they have that are worthy of exploration on the podcast before contacting them.”
Once you’ve finalised the topic and guests, if any, it’s time to sit down and create an outline of the episode. It can be as general as having main talking points, which are great for conversational interviews, or as in-depth as a script if you’re the only one talking or your podcast has a more formal tone. If you invite guests to your podcasts, it is also good practice to share your questions in advance.
“This shows respect to the guests’ time as well as [allowing us] to get the best possible outcomes,” Aissa explained. “We are an educational podcast, at its core, so when guests are able to think about their answers, we often get better content.”
Start with what you have
Since you already have the backbone prepared, the next thing you need to do is actually record your content. But before you start thinking about shelling out a few bucks for a fancy microphone and headset, perhaps you can consider the equipment you already have.
For example, Pamelia relies on her Macbook’s built-in microphone and Zoom to record her interviews since she’s currently based in Australia and her guests are usually from Singapore.
Cleo also uses Zoom to conduct and record her interviews, but she started out with wired earphones as her microphone. She eventually upgraded to a more professional setup once she partnered with Podcast Network Asia, a Manila-based podcast production company.
“When I first started out, I used one dynamic Samson Q2U mic to record and the software Garageband to edit,” Aissa recalled. “The Samson Q2U mic is reasonably priced at about ~USD63.72 to ~USD74.34 and is great at picking up voices without much background noise. Garageband is free and is already on my Macbook, so I just went with that!”
Aside from Garageband, there is a lot of free software you can use online. Pamelia uses Audacity, an editing software you can freely download.You can also use video editing softwares such as iMovie (Mac) or Filmora (Windows) and simply export the audio from the finished product — something that Cleo used to do on her own when she was just starting out.
If you want to upgrade your equipment down the line, Aissa recommends the Behringer Audio Interface to connect the microphones (she uses the same Samson Q2U mic but added two more for interviews) to your laptop and relying on the Descript software to convert audio to text.
Find the right streaming platform
Now that you’re ready to share your podcast with the world, it’s time to figure out which platform to use to stream it. Spotify, Apple, and Google all have the means of streaming your podcast, but Cleo swears by Anchor.fm. It’s a third-party website where you can upload your podcast episodes and the site will do the work of disseminating them to Spotify, Apple, and other streaming platforms.
Pamelia uses Red Circle, because it’s “pretty straightforward” and allows her to produce her podcast on her own. Aissa also uses Red Circle, since it’s free and gives her full ownership over her content. “My advice is to find a streaming or hosting platform that gives you full control over your content — including ease of show transfer should you wish to upgrade — as well as provides good analytics for you to better serve your audience,” Aissa summarised. To track the number of listeners for each podcast, Aissa uses Spotify for Podcasters “as most Malaysians consume their podcast episodes on Spotify”.
Promote your content and stay consistent
If you have an active following on any social media site, you can always invite your followers to listen to your podcast too. Link to it in your bio, create a dedicated post or Story giving a little sneak peek to the podcast, or post a behind-the-scenes video to generate some hype and drive traffic to your podcast profile. The more people who know about your podcast, the better.
Once you have your first episode up, it’s a matter of being consistent with your upload schedule. The most common is doing weekly uploads, which requires pre-recording episodes and editing these weeks before they’re due to go live.
Cleo prefers to have her content recorded and edited months in advance, while Pamelia works with a few weeks in between recording and uploading a new episode. Aissa makes it a point to host special episodes for important dates such as World Mental Health Day, International Women’s Day, and Pride Month so she also needs ample time to prepare the special interviews before these dates arrive. It’s up to you to decide how you’ll plan your content calendar and how to fit it into your schedule.
Once you’ve garnered a consistent following, you may also start including ads in your podcast! Similar to radio ads and YouTube sponsored videos, this will involve mentioning the product or service in the beginning or middle of your podcast. Just remember that if you do get an offer for a sponsored mention, it may be best to be discerning of who you choose to work with. Your sponsors should be relevant and meaningful to your audience and the message you’re trying to share with your podcast.
Some final tips
If you’re feeling stymied on the topics you want to cover in your podcast or still feel intimidated to start, heed these final pieces of advice from our seasoned podcasters. “Follow your own curiosity. When you’re inquisitive about someone else’s way of life or a particular dish, you would naturally ask better questions, which leads to richer conversations,” Pamelia shared. “Also, doing proper research is a must for someone doing any form of an interview. It shows respect to your guests and allows for a deeper exploration of topics discussed.”
“We often overthink the process despite podcasting being the easiest platform to express ourselves in. It has such a low barrier of entry! You literally just need a recorder like your phone and your voice,” Aissa said. “Everything else is secondary. Getting it done is better than getting it perfect!”
“This is the best time to start because the podcast industry is just starting to boom and it’s not as overly saturated when compared to other social media platforms. So if you're thinking of doing it, start now,” Cleo added.
At the end of the day, it’s all about making meaningful content that will make someone’s life richer. Whether that’s through some chill, sit-down solo chats or through informative interviews, your podcast can be someone’s go-to for entertaining and enriching content. Will we be discovering your podcast online soon?
(Cover photo from: Vika Strawberrika via Unsplash)
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