How much does it cost to start a podcast? Less than you might think!
I’m about 3 months into my podcasting adventure with The Side Hustle Show, and it’s been a ton of fun so far.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to meet some amazing side hustle entrepreneurs and share their stories and success tips with a growing audience of listeners.
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 were curious or are 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, and publish each episode.
But the monetary costs are quite low. I’ll include the Free, Budget, and Baller options for each of the items below.
Without a way to get your voice into the computer, there’s no way to make a podcast.
Free Option — The built-in mic on your computer.
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.
Budget Option — Audio-Technica ATR2100
This microphone was priced around $36 on Amazon. I added a mic stand and one of those foam microphone covers (pop filter) and I was out the door for under $50.
When I use this mic for Skype calls, people 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.
Baller Option — Heil PR-40
This one is around $280 on Amazon and gives professional quality sound. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners because the price is so much higher.
When we think of the 80/20 rule, it definitely applies here. The Audio-Technica mic will get you probably better than 80% of the sound quality as the Heil, for less than 20% of the cost.
The other downside of the Heil is that it only has an XLR connection, which requires the additional investment of a mixer board ($50-$200) for recording.
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.
Free Option — Garage Band for Mac or Audacity for PC
Both of the above are free. Garage Band should come pre-installed on any Mac. Windows users will have to go out and download Audacity.
I’ve been using Audacity and there’s a little bit of a learning curve but I’m getting it figured out.
Baller Option — Adobe Audition
The Adobe Audition software is $20 a month, and I’m not sure if there’s an option to just buy it outright. I’m sure it’s amazing but for the near-term my cheap self will be sticking with Audacity.
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).
The eCamm software is around $30, and the Pamela recording software is around $20. Because Mac users are richer?
Note: Pamela failed on me a couple times so I actually got my purchase refunded.
Intro / Outro Music and Voiceover
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.
Free Option — 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.
Budget Option — Fiverr.com
I love the hilariously awesome and super cheesy voiceover I got from Fiverr. It ended up costing $15 because the music was an extra $10.
Baller Option — Voice123
With Voice123, you can submit your project for thousands of voiceover actors to bid on. Then, you can pick the best one and work directly with them. The average cost of a podcast intro might be in the $100-$150 range.
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. iTunes and other services are basically just feed readers. The service is called media hosting and is naturally a whole industry in itself. Had no idea.
Free Option — Use your current web host
Since you’re likely already paying for hosting for your website, the lowest cost option is to use that account to host your podcast files. After all, even most cheap shared hosting accounts come with “unlimited” storage, right?
Well doing it this way has some pretty serious disadvantages. If the podcast files are hosted on the same server as your website, you site may slow to a crawl if even just a few people are trying to access the file. And because you site is on a shared server, you may run into trouble with your hosting provider if the bandwidth becomes an issue.
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.
Budget Option — Amazon S3
Amazon’s cloud hosting option is a viable choice for beginning podcasters because the file storage and bandwidth charges are inexpensive, and there is even a free usage tier for light users.
With S3 media hosting, ultimately you pay for what you use, so if you plan on having an unpopular show, it could make sense. Of course the downside is if the show becomes a hit you could be faced with big bandwidth charges.
What I dislike about Amazon S3 is that it’s written for engineers. They don’t want to sell hosting to you and me, and so they deliberately make it hard to understand what it will actually cost. And on top of that, they don’t have any good reporting on podcast download activity.
Baller Option — Libsyn
For $5 a month you can upload 50 MB a month of new podcasts, and for $15 a month you can upload up to 250 MB worth.
I’m on the $15 plan. 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 iTunes, they’ll ask for some cover artwork they can display in their interface.
Free Option — Do it yourself
I actually made my album cover myself in PowerPoint. Make sure the dimensions are at least 1400 x 1400 pixels.
It’s not the best-looking thing in the world, but I like it.
Update: In early 2015, 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.
Budget Option — Fiverr
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 still only be $25.
Baller Option — 99designs
For $299, you can have a worldwide army of professional designers competing to win your business.
In Total … Less Than $100
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.
Not a bad investment to reach thousands of listeners! Of course, there is no tangible return on that investment yet, but as we hear from John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire, a podcast can be a very lucrative business all on its own.
If you need a website to go along with your podcast (like a place to put your show notes and receive comments from listeners), my free video course on how to set up a website will get you started on the right path.