When I started my first podcast in 2013, I didn't know it at the time, but I was making several mistakes. Using 20/20 hindsight, I made some clear errors that you can learn from as you’re starting your first podcast.
Mistake #1 - Spending Too Much On Podcasting Equipment
As I’m sure you are aware, it's easy to spend a considerable amount of money on podcasting. Between mics, mixers, cable, stands, and software, even if you're on a budget, it's easy to spend $2000 (or more) on a "studio" if you don't go in with a plan and a clear idea of what you really need to create the podcast you want.
In retrospect, I wish I'd started my first podcast just a simple USB mic, such as the Audio-Technica ATR2100. That's it – no mixer, no fancy soundproofing, etc. This mic sounds great on its own (you can hear it used in the podcast episode below) and, even compared to other "inexpensive" podcasting mics, such as the Blue Yeti, it's a real bargain.
Had I skipped out on a nicer mic, mixer, and other "fancy" podcasting equipment, I could have leveraged that money and invested it into the marketing of my podcast to grow it even faster than I did. But beyond that, had I waited until I had more experience as a podcaster, I would have been able to save myself even more money by learning exactly what I did and didn't need as far as equipment goes.
When you’re starting your first podcast, I recommend getting the very basics as far as equipment goes. For your first year, you'll find it much more beneficial to focus on developing your hosting skills and marketing your podcast rather than equipment. The best mic in the world on its own, without great hosting skills and content added by you, won't make much difference as far as your podcasting success.
Don't get me wrong – you need a good mic. The Audio-Technica ATR2100 is a fine mic though. Don't let its low price or lack of flash fool you.
When you're ready to move beyond just a mic, here are some recommended podcasting resources. But don't rush it.
Mistake #2 - Thinking “If I build it, they will come.”
Almost every new podcaster I've met seems to have gone through the glass-half-full phase of thinking, “If I build it, they will come.” In other words, believing that if you create your podcast, people will automatically find you, start listening, and buy whatever you’re selling.
Not true. Just because you make something available for download doesn't mean people will actually download it ... even if it's free.
I thought on some naive level that if I made my podcast cover art look amazing, had a great podcast intro, and interviewed interesting guests, people would magically find me and listen. Even today, that seems to make sense to me as I'm still a "glass-half-full" type of person. That definitely wasn't the case though.
I built it, but I’m telling you now, it took a long time for people to come. Even when I put a focus on podcast marketing, it still took a while to get things going.
Success in podcasting isn't instant.
Don’t get me wrong, I think having a positive attitude as a podcaster is absolutely critical, but at the same time, you have to recognize that it’s probably going to take a while to build your podcast and start to really attract listeners. Obviously, people do get lucky and rapidly hit the big time with their podcasts, but it’s more likely that you’re going to have a steady slow burn. Had I known that, I would have planned for it, not only financially, but mentally, which would have led to more success in the end.
How long will it take to have podcasting success? It may not take you years, but it will almost definitely take you several months to build a substantial audience.
Mistake #3 - Relying Too Heavily On Advertising
This wasn't a lesson that I learned from my first podcast. Fortunately, I had already learned it in a previous venture, a retail clothing store.
This goes hand-in-hand with "spending too much" on anything in a business. When you start a podcast that has to rely heavily on advertising to get listeners, your monthly overhead is going to skyrocket. Sure, advertising can make a lot of sense for your podcast (depending on the type of business model you have behind it), but if you don't have a solid podcasting foundation (an interesting concept/topic people want to listen to, skills as a host, great content that helps people or at least entertains them), you won't be able to keep up with the costs of bringing new listeners in.
Where To Start
Your podcast, like any business venture, needs to focus on the fundamentals of quality. Only then will you have what it takes to take advantage of the people who come to you, whether that be through paid advertising, word-of-mouth, or other means. This isn't a "build it and they will come" philosophy, but you do need to "build it" and is needs to be good.
If you want people to take your podcast seriously, you need to take it seriously. This is different than buying a ton of gear. It's easy to spend money on flashy things and feel like we're working. Don't fool yourself.
The real "work" of podcasting comes from the work you do on yourself, the time you spend learning about your topic and organizing your thoughts around it, conversations you have with those who listen to you (or those whom you'd like to listen to you), and time behind the mic, developing your ability to communicate what you've learned. You can't buy your way out of this. But the good news is it's freely available, if you want it. The only cost is your time, energy, and effort.
A Final Thought For New Podcasters
Start now. It's not going to be perfect and no matter how good your first episodes are, you're going to look back on them in a few months and cringe a bit. And you should cringe a bit! If you don't, you're not improving.