Is starting a podcast expensive?
The simplest answer to this question is: no, but…
Like a lot of things, if you really want to spend money making a podcast you can, but it can certainly be done with very few resources. I’ll come to the money part in a minute but I should say upfront that money is not the main thing most people tend to spend on podcasts, it’s time. If you’re starting out, then making a good podcast is almost certainly far more labour intensive than you think it is. Planning, research, finding guests, recording, editing, promoting, and all the other elements that go into making a great podcast, will eat up time. 10 hours to plan, record, edit, and promote a 30-minute podcast episode is not at all unusual, and that could easily be 20 hours or more.
So one area where you can spend money is by paying not to do some of this work – maybe that’s outsourcing the editing, using a producer and studio, or paying for advertising rather than spending hours on social media.
However, it’s a reasonable assumption that for most podcasters this is not an option. For your average hobby or small business podcast, it’s just you and whoever you’re making the show with.
So, how much does it cost to start a podcast? What are your options? There are a couple of things you’re going to need:
You’re going to need a mic of some description. You already have one if you have a phone and so that’s your free option: record your podcast on your phone. Most phones these days have pretty decent mics (that’s what they’re designed for, after all), so just open up your voice recorder / voice memo app and away you go. Useful tip: speak into it as you would for a phone call or, if you don’t want to hold it up to your cheek, place it close to your mouth but at an angle. Don’t hold it up directly in front of your mouth or you’ll get lots of “poppy” and “breathy” sounds.
Other mic options are whatever setup you might have for online calls: webcam, headset mic, laptop mic. These will vary in quality so if you have a few options try each one out and see what works best.
If you are going to spend money on only one thing for your podcast, though, I’d invest in a decent USB mic. Plug it straight into your computer and start recording. There are lots of options out there (here’s an excellent roundup from the guys at The Podcast Host).
Recording & Editing Software
A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) is where you can record and edit your podcast. Again, there are paid options, with Audition, ProTools, Cubase, and Hindenberg being a few of the most popular. Reaper is another popular choice and only requires a once-off payment of $60. But there are also free DAWs: Garageband (if you’re on Apple) or Audacity, a free, open source workstation for use on any computer. There are hundreds of online resources to help you get started with Audacity too (the official Audacity manual is a bit too detailed for most; you’re best off just searching on youtube).
If you’re recording online interviews you could use Zoom or Teams or, better yet, try Zencastr, which has a free basic package that will cover any new podcaster’s needs. Here at The Podcast Studios we use Riverside, which is not free but is very reliable and has a few different price options, starting at $9/month.
Next up you’ll need to host your audio somewhere, so you can get it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and all the podcast platforms. There are lots of options here (here’s an exhaustive list from Podnews). Most will cost you $5-10 a month but there are free options too. Anchor (which is owned by Spotify) is one free option, and if you want a limited but very straightforward podcast editing experience, you can edit your show on Anchor too. In terms of paid options, generally speaking it can be worth paying a few dollars a month if you want detailed stats or the ability to upload frequent, or multiple, podcasts.
Music, artwork, and everything else
So, if you’ve recorded on your phone or a mic you already have, then edited and uploaded on free software, you’re nearly there and you haven’t spent a penny! So what else do you need? You’ll need some podcast artwork, something you can easily design yourself on a site like Canva, which has excellent templates for all sorts of image types. Artwork is important so for some inspiration have a look at this article on podcast artwork.
You’ll probably want some music too, so make sure you get something that is licenced to be used in your show and not copyright. Sites like Artlist.io have a very good selection if you pay a monthly fee. But there are, as always, free options: Free Music Archive or Pixabay are a good start, and there are many more.
From there, you just need to get your podcast out and start promoting it. Social media, cross promotion with other podcasts, and sending your show out for review or mention in the media are all free but, of course, very time-consuming. So, you’ll have to decide how much time is worth devoting to these types of areas.
So is starting a podcast expensive? In the most literal sense, no. You can record, edit, host, and promote for free. But it does cost time, something that not everyone has to spare. Then there are places where you can spend a small amount of money for a big difference in the final result. A good microphone is top of the list, but a good media host and maybe moving on to a more professional DAW a bit further down the line are all worthwhile investments.
So if you were ready to get started on your podcast but were put off by the costs, now you’ve no excuse!
At The Podcast Studios we work with companies, organisations, and individuals to help them tell their stories in audio form. If there is any part of your podcast journey that needs a professional touch, from start to finish, get in touch today by contacting us at [email protected] or visit our website at www.thepodcaststudios.ie