How To Start A Podcast – Incredible Beginner Podcasting Tips from Ben Leavitt

If there’s one thing that has been abundently clear throughout 2018-2019 it’s this: podcasts are definitely a hot topic.

The continued growth of platforms like Spotify and Apple Music have made the consumption of audio immensely accessible, and Podcasts are more popular than ever before.

podcast interest over time
Podcast search volume since 2015 in the United States.

I’ve always been interested in learning more about how to start a podcast, and I’ve contemplated breaking into some form of audio or video production for This Online World.

Since I figure many other people are interesting in launching their own podcast, I was lucky enough to sit down and interview a Top #100 Business Podcaster on iTunes, Ben Leavitt to pick his brain about what it takes to start a podcast and what beginners should know.

Hope you guys are ready for one truly awesome and informative interview!

*Note, I’m only going to be transcribing the main points we cover about podcasting during our interview, but you can also listen to the entire 22 minute version as well.

Ben Leavitt & The Do Dope Sh*t Podcast:

A quick bit about Ben and his various side hustles and businesses before getting started!

Ben is a 23 year old student, entrepreneur, podcaster and YouTuber. He also runs a digital marketing agency Bunny Media, where he helps businesses leverage social media to grow.

On his YouTube channel, Ben provides videos covering social media, podcasting, business, as well as lifestyle vlog content. He also is the host of the Do Dope Sh*t podcast where he interviews a diverse group of entrepreneurs to capture their story and provide unique inspiration each episode.

Benjamin Leavitt YouTube

Let’s get into the questions and interview!

I highly encourage listening to the interview rather than reading my edited version, but to each their own!

Q1: Why Start A Podcast Now, Especially Considering Everything Else You Have Going On?

Ben: I think a lot of people are coming to the same conclusions that I did when I decided to start a podcast. I’m from a small town in Canada but I have big dreams, and I wanted to interact with new and interesting people, but how do you grab their attention and time?

I actually saw a post by Gary Vaynerchuk that covered the premise of ‘the highschool party,’ which basically said that even if you aren’t the most well-known kid in school, if you start throwing some, you’ll also start getting invited to other ones too. I wanted to start networking with some influential and interesting people, so I realized I needed a platform.

The great thing about today is that the internet makes everything so accessible. I started with podcasting because it is such an intimate way to network, and if you end up speaking with someone for an hour, you leave being friends. Plus the approach of inviting someone to join you on a podcast is way different than just asking someone to have a chat for an hour.

So for me, starting a podcast was an effective way to network, to grow as a professional, and to continue to build my personal brand.

Q2: How Did You Come Up With Your Specific Podcast Idea/Premise?

Ben: This is a great question because this is really the first step if you are looking to start a podcast.

Personally, I always wanted to interview people who are like me/are entrepreneurs, and this is how I conceptualized the idea for my show. I actually started very niche and was planning to solely interview young entrepreneurs, but after a few guests I decided to not limit myself and to open the doors to more opportunities.

The whole essence of Do Dope Sh*T is to empower people and to teach them that they are capable of doing the things that they love. To accomplish this I try to capture the stories entrepreneurs from all different walks of life who are currently doing the things that they love to do and to outline how they got there.

So, anyone listening to my show that has similar interests to my guests doesn’t really have an excuse afterwards for not pursuing their dream, and I ultimately try to empower people to take action.

Q3: How Do You Find Prominent/Interesting Guests For Your Podcast?

Ben: I actually just released a YouTube video that covers how to get podcast guests, and here is what I recommend for finding people for your show.

Firstly, using Instagram direct messaging is incredibly powerful, especially because of their recent update. Now, your Instagram DM requests are actually broken into 2 categories: priority messages and messages the system thinks are spam.

If you take the time to write a thought-provoking and personalized response to a potential podcast guest on Instagram, it is likely to fall under the priority message bin, and if it is personalized enough and also provides them with some form of value, they are probably going to reply. I’ve actually been blown away by how many people respond. I’ve reached out to people on Instagram with hundreds of thousands or even a million plus followers and they will reply.

It’s also a bit of a snowball effect. Once you build a rapport with someone you gain access to their network in a way and you can even use having the previous guest on your show as a selling point to get your next guest.

I also use emailing as a way to contact potential podcast guests. It isn’t always easy to find the right email address, but you can use a free tool on the website to pull email addresses from webpages.

Also one more thing: join Instagram live videos from people you want on your podcast.

Instagram live streams are such a small subset of a someone’s audience and a lot more intimate, and you can capture their attention far more easily on live video because there is less competition. Plus, if you ask someone to join you as a guest on your show it sort of puts them on the spot in front of their other fans and they might be encouraged to say yes.

Q4: Do You Have Guests Planned Months In Advance? How Do You Go About Scheduling?

Ben: You want to a avoid scrambling as much as possible.

Personally, if I come across an Instagram page of someone I think I want on my show, I screenshot it and save it to a folder of potential podcast guests. Then, I’ll dedicate some time to outreach and contact them all to ask if they want to be on my show, and I try to schedule all the recording for the same day so I can get a few weeks of work done at once and not stress.

‘Batching’ is extremely important to make sure you work effectively and are never left scrambling.

Q5: What Podcasting Equipment/Software Do You Need To Start?

Ben: I think a lot of people get scared out of trying to start a podcast because they assume you need a lot of high tech and expensive gear but that isn’t the case.

There are some things that can help you out tremendously. Even being in a room that is carpeted or putting up some sound tiles on your wall can make a dramatic difference and cost practically nothing (you can even put blankets up on the wall) and it will really improve your sound.

Beyond that, I record all of my podcast episodes on my computer. I don’t have any audio mixer, and unless you’re planning to have both people in-house for recording it doesn’t make sense to have an audio mixer because you’ll still be recording through your computer/over WiFi anyway.

Choosing the right podcast microphone is important and can go a long way, but you don’t need to spend $600 on gear. I use the Audio Technica ATR2100 and I suggest this microphone to any beginner podcaster. It’s around $80 Canadian and it sounds on-par with some of the $500 microphones. Maybe not quite as crisp, but definitely comparable and great for the price point.

I would really advise to go into podcasting as cheaply as possible at the start and to look at using the minimum viable product you need to start out.

One other common mistake people make is buying the Blue Yeti microphone since it’s suggested quite often, but you’re better off buying 2 of the Audio Technica ATR2100’s than the Blue Yeti because it’s better if each person has their own microphone.

Some other affordable podcasting equipment and software Ben mentioned include:

Q6: What Are Some Common Podcasting Mistakes Beginners Make?

Ben: I’ve actually also made a YouTube video breaking down the podcasting mistakes I have made and the biggest ones I made were surrounding the launch of my podcast because launch is so important.

The launch of your podcast is important because of how the algorithm works for finding podcasts to listen to. The algorithm favors an influx of traffic to a show, so launching your podcast with a few episodes (rather than just one) helps a lot because if a visitor sticks around and listens to all of your episodes that can help you rank much higher.

I actually got into the Top #100 Business Podcast list in my first week after launch because I had an influx of traffic, but I had only launched with one episode. Imagine what would have happened if I had launched with another three episodes for people to listen to? The main mistake I made was not launching with at least three episodes. 

Anyone who wants to start a podcast should definitely launch with three or more episodes, plus they should have some recorded for a backlog so they aren’t scrambling.

Getting a high ranking for your podcast is also great because you can use that as a credential for your show. I was ranked #69 in Business Podcasts, and I can now say that about Do Dope Sh*T to promote it.

Plus, getting organic traffic to your podcast is nearly impossible. It doesn’t work like a search engine or like YouTube. Almost everyone who listens to a new podcast is either directed there from a referral, word of mouth, or social links.

If you have a great launch, you can actually end up in the New And Noteworthy section on iTunes and that helps with organic exposure. If you can make it to this section it’s really incredible because this is a curated list done by Apple, and there is an immediate association of quality if you are included in this list.

Q7: What Are Your Promotional Strategies? How Does Instagram, YouTube, & Podcasting All Mesh?

Ben: Podcasting was actually my beginning point to facilitate everything else. Because I’ve been running a podcast for over a year now I’m qualified to talk about the space, and that has really helped my YouTube channel grow and the content I make about podcasting.

Podcasting has also been massive for growing my Instagram. If I have someone on my show they’re going to promote my content to their fan base as well, and I’ll also become more of an authoritative figure for their audience and helps to establish credibility across all my platforms.

It really all feeds together at the end of the day.

Another massive tip is to make your podcast look and sound as professional as possible. This will really go a long way when it comes to outreach and marketing, so I’ve put a lot of work into upping my audio quality and podcast graphics to continue to build credibility.

Q8: Any Final Words Or Recommendations For Someone On The Fence?

Ben: You should definitely dive right in. Starting a podcast has been one of the best decisions I have made in the last few years simply because of what it leads to. Plus, starting a podcast teaches you that you can actually turn an idea into a reality.

However, you should definitely go into it with some realistic expectations and be 100% alright if no one ends up downloading your podcast. If you go into podcasting like that, you can’t lose because at the end of the day you’re growing your skills, network, personal skills, and it might take off one day.

I think there is a tonne of value in podcasts in general, and I think there’s a reason podcasts are becoming so popular. I also think that the popularity is extremely positive, even if a lot of people might say it increases competition or floods the platform. I really think it’s a game of ‘best’ and not ‘first,’ and the more people who start listening to podcast, the more opportunity there is to grow your audience.

One final tip: don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to your own network. I spent a tonne of time on my launch day sending out messages to friends asking them to check out my show and to leave a review or rating (which are incredibly important for the algorithm and ranking), and it made a difference.

Some Final Thoughts:

Well, there you have it folks!

If you have ever considered starting your own podcast, I really hope you heed Ben’s advice and just dive right in (without taking on too much cost, that is).

At the end of the day it really is all about starting somewhere. You might not become a Top #10 Podcast sensation overnight, or ever, but that is okay. The skills you develop and people you meet along the way are incredibly valuable, and like other side hustles I’ve mentioned on this blog, the journey counts just as much as the destination.

I’d like to give a massive thank you to Ben for taking the time to answer my questions, and I encourage everyone to check out Do Dope Sh*t and to leave a review/rating. There are some really incredible episodes on there, and anyone who is a fan of business or entrepreneurship is going to enjoy the show tremendously.

Also, definitely check out Ben’s YouTube channel and Instagram for some other awesome content!

Catch you guys in the next post!

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Really enjoyed listening! I’ve got too much going on right now to start a podcast but definitely can see myself starting one down the road. I’ve learned so much from podcasts over the past couple of years.