Side hustles come in all shapes and sizes. You can start a blog, a consulting company, a YouTube channel, a dog-walking service, a wedding-speech-writing business—all gigs that people I know have pursued.
So it’s no surprise many people have turned to creating podcasts on the side for various purposes. If starting one—while still maintaining a full-time job—piques your interest, I spoke to four people who did it (and are still doing it today).
Step 1: Find Your Idea
Like any side hustle, starting a podcast begins with an idea.
Natasha Nurse, co-founder of Dressing Room 8 and Lifestyle Editor for Plus Model Magazine, started the podcast WokeNFree with her husband because they wanted to create something that was both educational and entertaining.
“We wanted to share our knowledge and individual perspective, because we rarely feel the same way on a topic, which is exciting. And we wanted to bring that to the forefront and discuss what’s important to us, what’s important to the world, and what’s being discussed in media,” she says.
Similarly, for the Muse’s Daniel Zana, senior video editor by day and co-host of the podcast Black Guy & a Jew by night, “It gave us an opportunity to find out more about each other and our cultures.”
You may decide that rather than talk about yourself, you want to focus on a topic that interests you. This was the case for Kelsie Brunick and Emily Gaudette.
Brunick—Operations Manager at MoonLab productions—launched her podcast Permission to Grow in 2017 after leaving several stressful jobs with the idea that, “I wanted answers to how you can career pivot 180 degrees and still be employable. And I wanted to talk to women who had done that.”
Gaudette—an associate editor at Contently who started the podcast The Fandom Files with her former colleague Jordan Zakarin—also told me that for her, it wasn’t important that she be the sole focus of her show: “We decided early on when we were brainstorming that we didn’t want it to be just us talking, but we’re both very skilled interviewers, so we decided to have a prominent guest for each episode.”
Whatever your idea is—a game show, an interview series, an investigative report, sports commentary—“find something that has legs,” says Zana. “Try to figure out something that will get you excited and will continue to motivate you and keep you interested week after week.”
But it’s also important to be clear on your goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to make money? Build up a skill set? Or just have fun? The sooner you figure out your end game (even if it changes over time), the easier it’ll be to tailor your podcast accordingly.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Every person I spoke to didn’t just wake up one day and decide to record an episode. Podcasts require research, planning, and sometimes money to produce—so get organized before jumping in.
Nurse suggests taking the following steps:
- Check Out the Competition: How are other people structuring their podcasts? What’s the subject and format? How will yours be different?
- Outline Your Podcast: What will you be talking about? Will there be guests? How often will you release episodes? How long will each episode be?
- Identify the Tools and Resources You’ll Need: What are you using to record? How are you going to distribute it? Edit it? Do you need a website? (More on that here.)
- Create a Budget: Are you going to hire an audio engineer? A graphic designer? Buy a mic? How much do you want to invest in this?
- Set a Launch Date: When do you want to release your first episode? What do you need to do now to hit that deadline?
- Create a Marketing Plan: How do you plan to promote it? How are you going to spread the word to friends and family? Will you be looking for sponsors, and if so, how will you pitch it?
Brunick found that networking also came in handy when planning out Permission to Grow: “I started joining Facebook groups of women podcasters. I reached out to people’s podcasts that I liked the format of and just asked them if they were willing to talk over email or jump on a call.”
And remember that your podcast doesn’t have to be a perfectly edited and crafted show. With a limited budget, you can record on your computer or even a cell phone, says Zana. Both he, Nurse, and Brunick do their own editing right at home.
“What I’ve found is that a lot of people who listen to podcasts are truly coming there for the content, and if it’s consistent and good content they may excuse the fact that the audio doesn’t sound like their favorite podcasts,” adds Brunick.
Step 3: Prepare for the Long-Term
The reality of launching a podcast is that you want to be doing it for a while. So, it’s key when planning to think long-term.
“Before you tell anyone your first episode is out have five or six in the bank,” says Gaudette. “Don’t put yourself in a position where you have this big reveal and then it takes two weeks to get the next one out. Definitely make your progress top heavy.”
A lot of this comes down to scheduling and outlining out potential topics, talking points, and guests ahead of time. Brunick, for example, says she may have a pipeline of several guests she can reach out to at any time.
If you’re working with others, assign roles: “What happens when you leave the room? Who’s going to take the time to edit, who’s going to post it up, who’s going to promote it?” says Zana.
And, he adds, “Figure out what your ground rules are with your co-host and also with your guests…to make sure you’re on the same page.” A.k.a., what you’ll comfortably talk about and what you won’t.
Step 4: Figure Out How You’ll Balance Your Job, Your Podcast, and Your Life
Of course, time management is crucial with any job you take on outside your full-time role—even if it’s more of a hobby.
For many, spending the evenings working offers a nice unwind from the day. “I work 15 minutes from the studio (and my co-host is even closer), so it’s a nice way to feel like myself after a work day—that I’m still a geek, I’m still into anime,” says Gaudette.
But for Zana, who’s not just a video editor but also a father and husband, his podcast is more of a passion project—so he’s aware not to spend too much time recording and editing. However, he says, “it’s never something I dread…the way I stay motivated is knowing I’ll have time to catch up with [my co-host]…Just being able to spend time with him is always fun.”
Nurse has a similar experience when setting aside time for her and her husband to work on their podcast: “The greatest thing about our show is…that we also have to get educated on the subject ourselves. It forces us to learn every single week to better ourselves and also to have couple time.”
How long does it take each host from start to finish? Zana estimates that between recording, editing, and posting it up (with a description) it takes him about two hours doing the bare minimum. Gaudette similarly spends two hours prepping and outlining the episode and an hour recording each week—and she emphasizes the importance of really knowing your guest and what you want them to talk about. Brunick feels the same way, spending three to five hours alone researching her guests and hopping on the phone to understand their perspective more. And Nurse says her podcast takes a bit longer, around four to five hours a week to get everything up and out.
The reality of this is that you have to set aside time for it—meaning you may have to swap out that Netflix binge or workout every once in a while. Nurse notes that she’s found herself socializing less to make room for WokeNFree. But each host doesn’t see starting their podcast as a sacrifice. “If anything it’s motivated me to do even more. If all I did was go to work and go home every day, I imagine I’d be an anxious, soul-less mess,” says Gaudette.
“Ultimately you make time for what you love to do,” Nurse adds.
Step 5: Grow Your Audience
Chances are you want people to listen to your podcast—or else why even bother, right?
All podcast hosts emphasize the power of marketing. Sure, it sounds intimidating (especially if you’re not a marketer), but it also comes in many forms—creating a website, emailing out a newsletter, posting on social media, working with partners, attending networking events, doing speaking engagements, to name a few.
Zana keeps things simple, posting new episodes on his Instagram and uploading them to iTunes and SoundCloud. Brunick, on the other hand, leverages her guest network: “I send it to the guest and provide links and a visual picture for them to share on their social media if they’d like. And then the biggest thing for me is ongoing networking and continuing to talk to people about it.”
Nurse and Brunick also emphasize the importance of analytics and listener feedback. Use success metrics not just to understand how people are finding your podcast, but how you can fine tune it and spread the word even more.
“You have such an intimate relationship with your listeners. You have their attention hopefully for a full hour and hopefully undisturbed—and so you can get really personal with them but you can also leverage that and use it as a business opportunity. There are so many different avenues,” adds Zana.
You may read this article and think, This seems hard, I don’t think I’m cut out for this.
But, to be successful in launching a podcast (or any side hustle for that matter), “The biggest thing is to just start,” says Brunick. “I talked about it for two years and everyone was like OK, just do it. When you start Googling how to start a podcast everything seems daunting, everything seems like it has to be picture perfect, but the reality is…there are millions of podcasts, and it’s actually to our favor because it gives us time to start putting content out, start refining our technique, and also early on get that feedback so when you’re at 10 thousand, 100 thousand, a million listeners, you have a product that you’re super proud of—but the only way to do that is just by starting.”
Photo of people recording a podcast courtesy of Maskot/Getty Images.
As an Editor for The Muse, Alyse is proud to prove that yes, English majors can change the world. She calls many places home, including Illinois where she grew up and the small town of Hamilton where she attended Colgate University, but she was born to be a New Yorker. In addition to being an avid writer, Alyse loves to dance, both professionally and while waiting for the subway.More from this Author