I’m a student at a large state university who started a podcast about our school athletics, and it’s taken off. We have a huge fanbase supporting our school, which helps, and they have really taken to our podcast. For something that started as a recording on an iPhone in my dorm room closet, it’s crazy to think that we have a few thousand people listening every month. There are a couple of us involved, which makes it extra cool, but it also puts a lot of responsibility on us. I want to move out of the dorm room closet, get serious about what I’m doing, and professionalize. What steps should I take to do that? How can I move all of this out of the dorm room?
Starting a successful podcast is like getting struck by lightning. It’s extremely rare, potentially life-changing, and occurs because of several overarching factors. Many podcasters, like yourself, start off with free software — some of which comes pre-installed on their computers — and low-tech solutions, like dorm room closets outfitted as recording studios.
If a podcast begins to lift off, young podcasters are often left to professionalize their sound and their business model on their own. It’s difficult to navigate that transition from amateur to professional, but it’s absolutely achievable. And you’re off to a great start already.
Because it already seems like you checked off a few boxes required to find podcast success. You have a strong reason to do it, a devoted fan base, and a narrow but rich subject matter. There are still a few business decisions that will help you move to the next level. First, you should look into boosting your advertising by getting professional hosted voice broadcasting software. Once you’ve grown beyond the point where “free” and “freemium” software can help you, there are tons of great software options for serious podcasters.
Companies like Stratics Networks offer a voice broadcasting service that allows you to broadcast several channels simultaneously, schedule recordings in advance, and run reports on the success of recent episodes. You can bundle your broadcasting and advertising strategies together into a single, comprehensive business plan. For example, you could record a new episode, and then schedule an SMS to all of your fans to let them know to tune in the minute that episode drops.
Second, it is always a good idea to ramp up audience engagement on social media. Though social media is only one component of your marketing strategy, it is an essential one for podcasters. In its (very useful) training website, National Public Radio lists several important components of social media management. Your social media “voice” should match the voice of the show. Your audience likes you for your voice, and they will read content that is written in that voice as surely as they will listen to it.
Listeners will also appreciate it if you respond personally to their comments on social media. Podcasts make fans feel as though they’re pals with the hosts, and they will appreciate palling around with your people on social media.
Finally, you need to begin running your podcast as if it were a small business. And that involves, yes, careful bookkeeping for your podcast going forward. So consider setting up an LLC. This carries tax advantages, especially when you begin accounting expenses against profits. This can also help you when you begin to make business purchases, whether those are hard good like microphones and cables, or intangibles like small business insurance.
Finally, you should consider opening a business bank account. This will keep your accounting much cleaner, and help you when you eventually file taxes.