So You Want To Start A Podcast? 5 Female Podcast Creators Share Their Top Tips

'The best podcasts make you feel like you’re listening in on someone’s conversation, like a peek behind a curtain...'

how to start a podcast

by Arianna Chatzidakis |

The rise and rise of podcasts means that now around 7.1 million people in the UK listen to podcasts weekly. That's one in eight people. And with so many new listeners comes a big demand for new, exciting and fun podcasts. Think you've got what it takes to break into the market and launch your very own series? Read (and then re-read) the helpful advice from these incredible female podcast creators.

Maria Williams, Bauer Media's Podcast Editor, has a wealth of knowledge under her belt when it comes to making successful podcasts, having worked for the BBC and beyond. Her key pieces of advice? You need to marry four different elements: 'The first is authenticity – do you care about the subject matter and are you being yourself? Podcasting is absolutely about people who are genuine. The last thing you want in is either a guest or host who sounds like they’re trying to be something they’re not. Listeners pick up on that right away.

'The second is personality – would you want share a long car journey with you and your co-hosts? Excitingly, podcasting is reinventing the rules of presentation, the industry is now full of hosts who didn’t study journalism or attend a radio training school.' Essentially, anyone can give it a go.

'The third element is storytelling – this one’s a cliché but all the best podcasts are telling a story. Whether it’s about the mysterious death of a Hollywood starlet, how Janelle Monáe wrote "So Afraid" (it started with a trip to the dentist), or a heated debate about who will win Wrestle Kingdom this year. And finally, the fourth element is editing! One of my favourite quotes is by top US podcaster Roman Mars, who said "if you have 100,000 listeners and you edit out one useless minute you are saving 100,000 wasted minutes in the world. You’re practically a hero". He’s not wrong.'

If you have absolutely no prior knowledge or experience of podcast creation, you can still launch a very successful series. That's exactly what Social Media Editors Alyss Bowen and Lotte Williams, who are co-founders of We Are Offline, did. Their podcast aims to open up the conversation around digital dependency. Speaking to Grazia about how their podcast came to life, they said 'it developed very naturally - we're two best friends who work in social media and noticed we were spending way too much time online, on both a personal and professional level. We also knew there would be plenty of people out there feeling exactly the same way. So after many dinners, wines and late nights talking about how rubbish social media was making us feel, We Are Offline was born.'

'When we started off, we just used a voice recording app on a phone and some basic editing software. It was a great way to get things off the ground but after a while we wanted to elevate the production quality and now we work with a Sound Recordist who also edits our episodes. It gives us more time to consider the actual content of each episode without worrying about how it sounds or the long editing process afterwards. We realised that if we want to be serious about it, investing in production was essential,' they added.

The location of where you record your podcast is an important factor to consider, but it's also a flexible one. Maria Williams recommends to avoid 'anywhere that’s too loud, with music or traffic – that’ll be a nightmare to edit. But recording on a park bench, in a quiet café, or around the kitchen table works. And make sure you reference the sounds so the listener knows what’s going on. There’s also a podcast where the host interviews his guests while they are both running, and I enjoy all the huffing and puffing and pounding footsteps - it's much more interesting than complete silence. In terms of editing software – because your podcast will be better for an edit (or two, or three) – there are some great free or cheap solutions out there. If you have a Mac then garageband can work perfectly well. I know one podcaster who claims to make their entire show on their iPhone. I’m also a fan of Reaper which costs only $60 for a discount license.'

Alice Levine, co-creator of My Dad Wrote A Porno (the podcast that took one father's erotic novel and made it into a national sensation) revealed that she still likes to record around the humble kitchen table. 'We still rest basic microphones on piles of cookery books, on a rickety table in my house. I work in radio where everything sounds so crisp and professional - it's a different media though. I think there’s a charm to us not recording in a studio and the audience expectation is that it’s homegrown. And at least we pause when the neighbours are noisy or the boiler clicks on - we have some standards.'

Speaking about why she thinks My Dad Wrote A Porno resonates with so many people, Levine said: 'I think our idea is really original but pretty classic when you look at the constituent elements; embarrassing dads, old friendships, awkward sex, father-son dynamics - these are all things that people are familiar with, and I think that’s why the show works. It’s a perfect storm of relatable feelings - even if very few people have been through the ordeal that Jamie has! So look at how people can interact with your podcast - what angles are you offering people to connect with your show. Also, because of the intimacy of podcasts, the creator’s enjoyment is infectious. If they’re having the best time making it, that catches. If they believe in it, you feel at ease.' The podcast has now been so successful that the team will partake in a 2020 World Tour from January.

One important thing to think about is fresh and upcoming content for each podcast. This in itself can be a demanding task, but Bowen and Williams recommend to focus on topics you would normally talk about anyway. 'We tend to draw upon themes we’ve been discussing in our own lives or with friends. We'll pick a theme and then map out what it is we want to touch upon, before deciding who would be the best guest to speak to about this topic,' they said.

Similarly, Madeleine Spencer, creator of podcast Beauty Full Lives, said: 'The best podcasts make you feel like you’re listening in on someone’s conversation, like a peek behind a curtain. My podcast invites guests to share their life story and the times when beauty rituals or products have spilled into it and affected them. The idea was born of my insatiable curiosity about people’s lives and how they have come to be where they are and who they are.'

Branding is also really important, according to Spencer. 'I hired a great artist (@sungleeart) to do an illustration for my podcast artwork that felt in keeping with the theme. I also share a lot about my podcast on social media to get the word out that it exists. But remember that those things will only alert someone to the existence of your podcast - the thing that’ll keep them listening is the quality of the episodes themselves.'

And on the topic of great podcast guests, Spencer advises to look for 'someone who’s relatively introspective and generous in their willingness to share stories, which always makes for a great listen.' The advice shared by Bowen and Williams was to be proactive online. 'We've done a lot of Instagram DM’ing— we follow and admire a lot of people who we want on the podcast and there’s no shame in reaching out. The worst thing they can do is ignore you, or say thanks but no thanks!'

Ensuring that your podcast reaches the widest audience possible is another thing to consider. Maria Williams believes you should 'make sure you're on as many platforms as possible, certainly the likes of iTunes and Spotify. People can be very loyal about their platforms, so the last thing you want to do is lose listeners by not being available on their favourites.' When we quizzed her about what's hot-to-trot in the podcast industry at the moment, she revealed that 'in terms of genres, comedy, music, TV and film are still huge. Crime isn't going anywhere anytime soon, either. But as for the next big thing…it’s usually the thing you least expect.' So, what are you waiting for? Go out there and put your very own podcast idea to rights.

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