How much does it cost to start a podcast? Less than you might think!
I’m almost 7 years into hosting The Side Hustle Show, and what started as a little side-project experiment has turned into a life-changing adventure.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet some amazing entrepreneurs, share their stories, and build a worldwide audience of listeners. Oh, and build a really rewarding business as well.
One question I’ve been asked a few times is how much it costs to start a podcast, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of the expenses in case you’re thinking of starting a show of your own.
By far the biggest expense has been time. It takes a few hours to record, edit, write the show notes, publish, and promote each episode. (Here’s a detailed look at my podcast production process.)
But the monetary costs are quite low. I started The Side Hustle for less than $100 in 2013, and you can probably still get close to that startup cost today.
Here’s what you’ll need.
Without a way to get your voice into the computer, there’s no way to make a podcast.
Technically you could use your phone to record, but I don’t know of any serious podcasts hosts who do.
You might be thinking, well my laptop has a mic built-in! Can’t I just use that?
Again, you can … but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
Sound quality will probably be less-than-awesome, so I don’t really recommend this, especially when the content you’re producing is an audio format, and poor sound quality can scare away listeners in a hurry.
Besides, a quality microphone is a pretty small investment.
I started with the popular Audio-Technica ATR2100 USB mic. Once I added a mic stand and one of those foam microphone covers (pop filter) and I was out the door for under $50.
Yes, it was a steal!
Whenever I used this mic, my guests always comment on the voice clarity, saying it sounds like I’m right there in the same room. And the best part is it plugs right into your USB port so you don’t need any extra fancy mixer equipment.
Years later, I actually bought an extra to have “on loan” to guests, so I can get clear audio on both sides.
The downside? It’s no longer available! Audio-Technica has replaced it with the ATR2100x, which comes with a higher price tag. (Around $100 at press time, but of course subject to change.)
For a little less, you might consider the ATR2005, which has earned positive reviews on Amazon.
The most important thing to look for while mic shopping is to get a dynamic microphone — as opposed to a condenser microphone. Dynamic mics are better at isolating sound from your voice without picking up everything else happening in the room.
Yes, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a microphone and mixer setup, but you definitely don’t need to. Until you’ve proven out the concept of your show and attracted some listeners, why take on that expense?
When we think of the 80/20 rule, it definitely applies here. These inexpensive dynamic mics will get you probably better than 80% of the sound quality as the more expensive options, for perhaps 20% of the cost.
Recording / Editing Software
Audio software is definitely required to edit out the unwanted tangents and awkward pauses during your recording. You can also use it to splice in different audio snippets and sounds, such as your intro and outro, any special commentary, or applause effects and laugh tracks.
I’m a PC guy so my editing software from Day 1 has been Audacity.
Garage Band should come pre-installed on any Mac.
Like any new software, there’s a little bit of a learning curve, but with the wealth of tutorials on YouTube, you’ll figure it out in no time.
The other tool you’ll want in your toolbox here is Auphonic. Upload your edited wav files to Auphonic and the software will automatically level everything out (so you and your guest are the same volume) and perform some more audio magic.
It’s free for up to 2 hours of processed audio per month.
If you plan on having guests on your podcast, it’s important to have a way to record your conversation. If the show will just be you on your soapbox, you can record directly into your audio software (Garage Band or Audacity).
Skype now has a built-in call recorder, and that is definitely a viable tool.
For years, I used Zencastr’s free plan. Zencastr has the advantage of recording each side’s audio independently, which theoretically helps avoid Skype lags or VOIP connection problems in your final audio. This makes editing easier as well, as you’ll have a separate audio track for each speaker.
Many podcasters I know also use Zoom to record their interviews. I use Zoom for video interviews, but I’ve found its audio quality isn’t as good as other options.
If you’re going to record video as well though, Zoom is a good choice — and the free plan is pretty robust. (Though apparently I need to upgrade to get HD video!)
For Mac users, eCamm Call Recorder ($40) has been a staple for years. It gives you more options than the built-in Skype recorder, and may be worth an upgrade.
After recording 150+ episodes with Zencastr, I’ve actually been testing out a new tool called Squadcast ($20/mo). Zencastr had been giving my guests and I some problems, so I wanted to see if a premium recording tool would avoid those issues. So far so good, but time will tell!
Again, the bigger issue here is your own audio input and your guest’s sound quality. Garbage in, garbage out, no matter what you’re using to record.
Intro / Outro Music and Voiceover
This is certainly an optional expense, but most podcasts don’t go directly into the content without a little intro at the beginning. Think of it like the theme song and opening credits of your favorite TV show.
Do it yourself. You definitely don’t need a fancy intro or outro, and you can certainly record one yourself and even add some homemade tunes or sound effects from Garage Band or Audacity.
Plus, listeners might appreciate hearing from you directly instead of a “hype man” voice over guy.
I loved the hilariously-awesome and super-cheesy voiceover I got from Fiverr. You can hear it at the start of the first 200+ episodes of The Side Hustle Show: “Because your 9-5 may make a living, but your 5-9 makes you ALIVE!”
Seriously, probably the best $15 I ever spent.
I still use the music today, but have cut out the voice over segment in favor of just introducing and signing off the show myself.
The hosting question was something I was completely unaware of when I started. I figured thought Apple hosted your mp3 files in some massive datacenter somewhere.
Nope, you have to do it yourself. Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast directories are basically just RSS feed readers.
This service is called media hosting, and is naturally a whole industry in itself. Had no idea.
Anchor.fm has emerged as the most popular free podcasting host. It really is an all-in-one tool for new podcasters. Anchor will even automatically distribute your show to all the popular outlets and try and connect you with sponsors.
Buzzsprout offers a free podcast hosting plan that allows up to 2 hours of new shows each month, but the downside is they delete your old episodes after 90 days.
If your content is “evergreen,” that’s a big drawback since people will no longer be able to hear all your great older episodes. For the sake of reference, the back catalog of The Side Hustle Show still draws in thousands of downloads per month.
Still, if you’re building a podcast for the long-term and hope to build a business around it, it probably makes sense to pay for media hosting — even if there are free options. After all, as the saying goes, “if you use a service for free, you are the product, not the customer.”
With Libsyn you can upload 50 MB of new podcasts for $5 a month, and for $15 a month you can upload up to 250 MB worth.
I’m on the $15 plan and have been since 2013. For the sake of illustration, each minute of audio is approximately 1 MB.
The great thing about Libsyn is the cost is fixed no matter how many people download your show, and they track your download stats for you.
I used the promo code “SPI” when I was creating my Libsyn account, which I believe earned me a free month and was a nice way to say thank you to Pat Flynn for putting together his excellent video tutorial series on starting your own podcast.
When you submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts and other directories, they’ll ask for some cover artwork they can display in their interface.
I actually made my first cover art myself in PowerPoint. Make sure the dimensions are at least 3000 x 3000 pixels.
It’s not the best-looking thing in the world, but I liked it.
A couple years later, I updated the podcast cover art to this simpler look, intended to highlight the “ideas, action, and results” theme:
It was also a PowerPoint creation.
After running with that cover art a couple years, I updated it again to make the font bigger and hopefully look more energetic.
And I think this is the important thing to note. Yes, your cover art is important because it’s a first impression. But it’s also not set in stone. You can change it as time goes on.
Take a look at some of the most popular shows. What do you like and dislike about their cover art? What would stand out?
If you’re not comfortable making your cover art yourself — and all the designers reading this are like, uh, Nick, you really should have a pro help you out! — have one of the talented graphic designers on Fiverr create your album art for you.
Heck, you can buy 5 different gigs and pick the one you like best and it’ll still be very affordable.
In Total … Less Than $100 to Start a Podcast
All in all, it cost me about $80 to get The Side Hustle Show up and running, and the only recurring cost is the $15 a month for the media hosting with Libsyn. It would cost slightly more today because of the increased microphone cost.
Still, that’s not a bad investment to reach thousands of listeners!
Over the last few years, the show has turned into an amazing creative outlet and a pretty substantial standalone business of its own. And even though I now record from my kids’ bedroom closet, I’ve finally started to consider myself “a podcaster.”
Do You Need a Website?
Another common question I get from new podcasters is whether or not they need a website for their podcast.
The answer is no, you don’t, but I would strongly recommend building one sooner rather than later.
There are tons of benefits of doing so, including:
- Having a “home base” to put your show notes and links, including affiliate links to products mentioned on your show.
- Receiving comments on your episodes.
- Collecting email addresses from listeners.
- Attracting new listeners via search engines.
My free video course on how to set up a website will get you started on the right path.
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