How Much Does it Cost to Start a Podcast? Less Than You Think


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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.

A Microphone

Without a way to get your voice into the computer, there’s no way to make a podcast.

Free Options

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.

Budget Options

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.

Free Options

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.

Call Recorder

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).

Free Options

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!)

Premium Options

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.

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.

Plus, listeners might appreciate hearing from you directly instead of a “hype man” voice over guy.

Budget Option

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!”

fiverr podast intro music

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.

Media Hosting

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.

Free Options

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.”

Budget Option

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.

Cover Art

When you submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts and other directories, they’ll ask for some cover artwork they can display in their interface.

Free Option

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.

The Side Hustle Show

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?

Budget Option

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.

fiverr podcast cover art

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.”

Related: Podcast Marketing Brain Dump: 21 Lessons from 200 Episodes, 3.5 Years, and 1.9 Million Downloads

Start a Podcast that Gets Results

My buddy Pete from DoYouEvenBlog.com has put together a fantastic free training on how to start a podcast that grows your business.

Check it out to learn:

  • Why now is the best time get started in podcasting
  • The 3 critical tools to make editing a breeze
  • The exact steps to creating a show people want to listen to.
  • How to get sponsors (even if you haven't launched yet)

Click here to check it out.

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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56 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Start a Podcast? Less Than You Think”

  1. This info is fantastic!!! Wow. Thank you for laying it all out.

    I had no idea how much was involved. I have to be honest that just the thought of all this makes me tired. I’m not very tech forward yet. =)

    I can now see that I’d be probably best off choosing to start by focusing on webinars, videos, podcasting or blogging. I think I’m leaning toward webinars or videos, for now.

    Reply
  2. I believe I will have to disagree with you on the hosting section. The Budget option should be the libsyn or blubrry, out of the point you made, that it get very expensive when you site takes off with Amazon S3 while Libsyn will not increase you fee if you have one or a thousand downloads. But that is just a differing of opinions.

    Good to see I found someone who is mentioning the ATR-2100 great starter mic.

    Reply
  3. Excellent content Nick, exactly what I was looking for, and I will b giving you a call in the future to have YOU as a guest on my new podcast! (Future BC its not up & running yet)

    Reply
  4. I’m not sure if it would work, but it seems like Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive would work for hosting as well. They all have ways to host files and you can make them public with urls to embed files or media to your site.

    Reply
      • Nope Dropbox, Google drive, and the such are very bad ideas for media hosting.
        Why? 2 reasons, 1) it is against their Terms of Service. I have had a few people in blind panic because Dropbox closed their account. 2) Byte Range Request your HOSTING server has to provide this for iTunes. Yes they require it, if you want to be listed in new and notable and have your show grow. Also if your want your show to be steamed.
        If you have to go free use Archive.org. but is you want to start out with the best for forward then libsyn or blubrry is your preferred option.

        Reply
    • Yeah buddy — the start-up costs are super low. The biggest expense is the time to record and produce each episode and create the show notes. And of course the hosting cost is kind of indefinite… $15/mo for the life of the show.

      Reply
      • True that!
        So how do you get your show notes done Nick? Do you do them yourself or VA?

        I really like the summary that your provide for each show in a pdf format. Really helps.

        Reply
          • is there any way to do the podcast on youtube? would i still need a host or just upload?
            what about calls and conference calls and how do you record the conversation?

  5. Hey Nick, your podcasts are excellent and they are turning my commutes into very useful and educational uses of time. Just curious…how do you connect with your interview guests? Are you using Skype for the podcast calls or some other call recording method? Thanks.

    Reply
  6. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind updating the post with equipment you might be using nowadays?

    For instance, where do you stand on the value of purchasing a mixer for podcast production?

    How are you coming along with Audacity? Have you ever given Goldwave and Reaper a shot? Both paid options, but fairly inexpensive for audio editing.

    And, as far as Libsyn, are you still paying $15? If so, do you remove older shows for less storage, or do they only charge by the number of downloads/bandwidth you use?

    I’m a big fan of the show and look forward to more helpful behind-the-scenes material like this in the future.

    Reply
    • I’d update … but my set-up is still the same :)

      Occasionally I’ll use Auphonic instead of Levelator of leveling but that’s about it. Still plugging away with Audacity and feel like I have it medium-well figured out — still doing all the audio editing myself. Libsyn is still $15 a month. That’s what’s cool about; it’s based on the monthly update storage (250 MB) regardless of how many or how few downloads you have.

      Buzzsprout has been recommended lately for podcast hosting but haven’t checked it myself. Stay tuned in a week or two I’ll share some monetization strategies I’ve been testing out for the show.

      Reply
      • Just to be clear to Joe, Libsyn lets you put store all your old (uploaded previously) content free as part of an ongoing membership. So they are only looking at how much new content you are adding. And if you have a backlog, you can often find a 1st-month-free option (and then scale down to the low-cost version like Nick uses). Of course, LibSyn is not totally crazy, most of your traffic will be around new content, so giving you the ability to store and continue to share your older content is a good way to help with indexing and making it simple for you to decide they are the way to go.

        Another key point of Libsyn is you get download statistics.

        Reply
    • For an example of how much you can make off a podcast, check out the monthly income reports at EntrepreneuronFire.com :)

      In the next couple weeks I’ll have a post on the different ways to monetize a podcast and my results in testing a few different methods.

      Reg. the cost to play music, I’m not sure so I tend to stick to the royalty-free stuff. This is one place I’ve used in the past:
      http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/

      Reply
    • it doesn’t cost money if you use podsafe music. Like music from music alley. You can do a search for podsafe music and get a good list. Another way is to buy royalty free music. Does cost but you don’t have to pay residuals.

      Reply
  7. And how much can you make from a podcast? Not much. Yet, you can make a good living because of your podcast.

    Look at John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire fame. He bring in, at last I heard, $250,000/month. Lot of cash I agree. 60,000 of that is from his podcast, or sponsors. The rest of his income is because of his podcast. That is, people listen to his show and they then buy his services.

    Yeah 60,000 is a whole lot of dough but he puts out an insane number of shows.

    But the point is in ratio speak John doesn’t make his money from his podcast but because he has a podcast.

    Reply
  8. Hello Nick, This is very useful. The original post is from 2013. Are there updates to the information and suggestions that you provide? Thanks

    Reply
  9. Great ideas! I love the break down. I am a truck driver and i am starting my own podcast. I will be recording as i drive. Any ideas on a good mic for that?

    Reply
  10. Very helpful article – thanks. Couple of questions:

    Does Libysn allow/facilitate having a paywall if I want to have a paid subscription to my archive vs. free?

    Is there a way to do a live stream at a set time each week?

    Reply
  11. Hello Nick Loper,

    I love your compilation and I just found out your site. You are really doing great work.

    Just to let you know I can be doing transcription for your podcasts at a fee and free you the hustle of having to make notes.

    Thanks and get in touch.

    Reply
  12. Another option for recording and editing is Camtasia
    I originally got Camtasia because I needed it for creating training video on pluralsight.com but it also works for audio only files. It makes it super easy to cut out sections of audio that you don’t want in there (like if someone coughs). It was $250 but it was a one time purchase that I can use forever. Compared to that option for $20 a month, its not a bad deal for a professional recording and editing program.

    Reply
  13. Wow – super great info Nick! Thank you for listing it all out in an easy to understand read.

    I hadn’t even considered where I would host all of the audio files. Guess I figured I’d just use my Google Drive but that wouldn’t work. Obviously Libsyn seems like the logical choice. Thanks again!

    Reply
  14. Sir,

    I wish to advertise my company’s transcription services through a podcast. Kindly tell me how to go about it? Would a podcast be a useful tool for advertising services in UK and Canada? please answer asap.

    Warm regards,

    Aruna

    Reply
  15. Great info. Many thanks. Just one quick question:

    I intend to outsource interviews to someone living abroad. What is your advice regarding how the audio files should be sent to me for editing before publication?

    Ben

    Reply
  16. Nick, this is hands down the best article I’ve found on starting a podcast. The articles I’ve seen were either saying I had to spend an arm and a leg, or, they suggested options that didn’t pan out in terms of recording quality. After reading your post, I’m excited about giving it another try! Thanks for the great piece.

    Reply
  17. Excellent content Nick, very helpful and actually tremendously helped to start my website and podcasting. I’m hoping to have the rest of my equipment next week to broadcast the first show.

    Reply
  18. Great article, thank you for sharing!

    It looks like the budget option for the microphone has gone up quite a bit, is there another you recommend? Also, which mic stand and pop filter do you recommend?

    And if you’re interviewing someone could you set the microphone up on a table and it would pick up the conversation or would you need two?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  19. I have enjoyed reading your article. I am an artist and plan to use podcasting on my Patreon Site. I am a deep thinker type of discussion oriented and question asking teacher and mentor for creating art. I am just starting the Patreon site and uploaded lessons and exercises, and some discussions etc. The plan was to have my difference from the other teachers by having a podcast. I looked around and found your article. I have read a couple of the other things you have written and downloaded your Cheat Sheet and will be doing an on-demand webinar for more information from Pat Flynn. I have been reading on his site about how to start a podcast in 2019.

    It was interesting to check out the cost of things at 2019 pricing, compared to when you first wrote the article. Still the budget plan for most things was good and had not increased too much.

    The learning curve for this is taking time away from the studio time on art, but I need a stream of income other than selling art. So Patreon was mentioned and I like what they have. Adding the podcast to my tiers of patrons will be something good. Hope I can learn to do this. I’ve read your article twice and keep going back to re-read some points. And I have signed up for your newsletter.

    Have you helped any other fine artists (two-dimensional … as in paintings)?

    It is interesting to think of how this helps the more narrow world of producing art, and is not podcasting on an infinite number of topics. Hope it works. Wish me luck!

    Reply
    • In my case, I publish 1x per week, and the episodes are generally 30-60 minutes.

      But other people do short daily shows, longer format interviews, seasonal runs, and everything in between.

      Reply
  20. Thank you so much, this was exactly the info I needed for hosting options and microphones etc!
    Hugely appreciated! OH and the tip on intros from fiverr! Went and listened to your epic original intro on the first 200 episodes of your podcast and loved it! Definitely going to be the way to go for me! LOVE IT!

    Reply

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