How Much Does It Cost to Start A Podcast in 2021?

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Table of Contents


Introduction

So you want to start a podcast. You’ve got a brilliant idea and a really sound editorial direction to follow, and you’re ready to put it down on record and let the world listen to your show. As with the execution of most ideas, you’ll first encounter the question of how much it costs. 

So how much does it cost to start a podcast? Not very much at all! However, the more precise answer to that question lies in the kind of services and equipment you want to use. Thankfully you don’t need that many services or hardware to get going. Assuming you already have a working computer, starting a podcast with the bare minimum setup won’t cost you more than $200. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to a podcasting setup, given that every show will have its own different format, editorial style and creative direction. But everyone can agree that at the very basic, all you need to start a podcast are: 

  • A computer
  • A microphone
  • Headphones
  • Audio editing and recording software
  • Podcast hosting service 

Yes, that’s really all you need. If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. The best part is, there are some free options available too!

Whether you’re here on a shoestring budget or just researching how much it will cost to get your podcast show started, this article will show you that it’s entirely possible with a basic setup. We’ll show you the breakdown in costs for some of the essential equipment and services you’ll be needing to start a podcast. If you’ve got cash to spend and you’re looking for a more ambitious setup, check out The Joe Rogan Experience’ podcasting setup.


Microphone

First up, let’s talk about microphones. It is going to be your biggest and most important investment when you’re first starting out. Audio quality is everything when it comes to podcasts, and having bad sound can be really painful to listen to. Hence why your choice of microphone plays an essential role in your setup. 

While you can technically record audio with built-in microphones in your laptop or mobile phones, this is going to result in some really low-quality audio. No amount of post-production magic can help you salvage an audio recording if you capture bad quality sound, so save yourself the trouble of going through this hassle by avoiding these built-in mics and get a decent external microphone. 

Microphones can be broadly categorized into condenser or dynamic mics. Each of these broad categories has different applications depending on the source of sound you would be recording. For podcast production purposes, you’d want to go with a dynamic rather than a condenser mic. Dynamic microphones are better at isolating your voice without picking up ambient sounds and everything else that may be happening in the recording space. 

You should also lookout for the types of connection that the microphone comes with. In general, there are 3 common types of connections:

  • USB – plug-in your microphone directly to a computer USB port
  • XLR – 3-pronged plugs that are used to connect microphones to audio interfaces or mixers
  • 3.5mm – most common cable in audio devices

As mentioned, getting a decent microphone doesn’t have to cost you much. Here’s a list of good quality microphones that you can get for under $100:

A worthy mention, and perhaps a piece of equipment you can aspire to once you’ve become a seasoned podcaster, is the Shure SM7B. It is a favorite among the podcasting pros and features a wide-range frequency response that is great for capturing speech cleanly and naturally. The catch is that it’s a top tier piece of equipment that will cost you approximately $550.

Also, check out our full guide on the best USB microphone for podcasting if you to check out more options.

Also Read : Best USB Microphones For Podcasting


Headphones

You may be wondering whether having a pair of headphones is necessary to your podcasting setup. The answer is an absolute yes. Having your headphones on while recording helps you monitor audio input levels so that you know if the audio input is too loud or too soft. There’s no way you can rely on external speakers to monitor audio levels while simultaneously recording an interview or voiceover, as this will bleed into the recording. 

Speaking of audio bleeding, it’s crucial that you get headphones that have near-zero sound leakage. You don’t have to spend a fortune either for a pair of good ones, but obviously, the more you have to pay, the better the headphones. If you already own a pair of headphones that is bleeding sound, here’s a pro-tip to prevent it: adjust your headphone volume level so that it’s not too loud. 

Here’s a list of headphones that you can get for under $100:

We’ve got a more in-depth guide covering headphones for podcasting, check it out here to explore more options for headphones.

Also Read : The Best Podcasting Headphones


Editing and Recording Software

You’ve got your microphone and a pair of headphones ready, and you’re all set to hit that record button. Enter the digital audio workstation (DAW), a type of software you can use to record and edit your audio files. 

Let’s first be clear on the different functions of editing and recording. Recording can be done through a variety of other ways without having to use the software. For example, you could record using the built-in functions of Skype or Zoom if you’re conducting interviews remotely. Or you could be recording with a handy portable recorder that comes with an external microphone. In any case, avoid using a built-in phone or laptop recorder at all costs.

On the other hand, editing audio would require you to use a DAW to get the job done. Editing is an integral part of producing your podcast episodes and is a magical process that can make you or your guests sound good. It enables you to splice in audio clips, sound effects, take out unwanted noise or long, awkward pauses and dead air. These are just some of the basic functions of editing, but there are various tools at your disposal when utilizing a powerful software to edit.

The point here is that while the recording function can be done without using software, you will need the software to eventually edit the audio recording. This is why most digital audio workstations, if not all, are equipped with a record function. Having these two functions in one place will save you a lot of time and allows you to edit your recording on the fly. 

Here’s the great news: you can use basic editing and recording software for free! For PC users, you can download Audacity and Mac users get GarageBand pre-installed. There are various other free audio editing software available out there, but these are two of the most time-tested software that gets most of the basic editing and recording tasks done. If you’re just starting out, either one of these would be enough to get you going and should cover the basic functions you need to do. However, as with all free software, there’s always a limit to what you can do with it.

For those of you who are looking beyond basic audio editing features to produce your podcast episodes, there are a great many options of powerful software you can use. Mastering the full features and functionalities of advanced audio editing software requires time and practice, but thanks to the internet, there is an abundance of tutorial videos on the internet for you to learn from. Here’s a list for you to start exploring: 

Podcast Hosting

You’ve recorded and edited your audio file to perfection, and you’re now ready for the world to listen to your podcast episode. This next step is critical, as you’re going to have to upload your audio file on to a media or podcast hosting service to get it stored and published on the internet. Popular podcasting platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts are not podcast hosters. They are really just RSS feed readers, so you will have to host the files yourself through one of the available podcast hosting services available out there.

The good news is that there are free options available for you to host your files, but by now, you should know that free stuff often comes with limited features. Free podcast hosting sites like Anchor, Acast or Podbean comes with a free basic plan targeted at podcasters who are just starting out. The drawback is that you’d have to put up with annoying ads and make do with limited storage space. Either that or they delete your podcast episodes after a certain period of time, such as Buzzsprout’s free pricing plan.

Consider getting a more professional podcast hosting service if you have the budget and cash to spare when starting out. This is especially crucial if you plan to be in this for the long run and intend to monetize your podcasts since you’ll be able to make your older podcast episodes accessible. 

Paid podcast hosting services typically come with a subscription plan. Libsyn is one that’s used by podcast pros like Joe Rogan. The basic plan gets you 50 MB of storage space for $5 per month. Castos is another podcast hosting service that comes with value-adding services such as transcription, podcast analytics, and even podcast editing software. The cheapest subscription plan offered by Castos is $190 per year or $19 per month if you opt for a monthly subscription, with no limit on storage space. Similarly, there’s Transistor, and its basic plan starts at $19 per month. 

We’ve got a category under the HUSTLR Awards for the best podcast hosting services, check it out here if you want to learn more.

Also Read : HUSTLR Awards – Best Podcast Hosting

Non-Essentials

Now that we’ve gotten the essentials out of the way, it’s time to talk about the aspects of starting a podcast that isn’t absolutely necessary from a technical standpoint, but still quite important to have. In other words, while these are not technically required for you to start recording and get your podcast episodes published on the internet, they are still quite important in order to make your show feel complete. Therefore, it’s still worth factoring these almost essentials into your costing.

Intro / Outro Music and Voiceover

First up, your podcast ‘soundbed’, or the intro and outro jingle/music/sound effect/voiceover that plays each time your podcast episode starts and ends. Can you imagine TED and NPR’s Ted Radio Hour playing without the iconic voiceover and jingle? Or a Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode that starts off without the drumbeat and announcer? The intro and outro give identity and branding to your show. It gives something your listeners to remember and associate with. 

There are many ways you can create an intro and outro for your show. There’s always the free DIY method of recording your own music and voiceover. If you have a Mac, fiddling and experimenting with GarageBand just might result in a really memorable intro and outro for your podcast episodes. Another great free option is Pixabay, a community of creatives who share images, videos and music for free. Pixabay allows you to safely and freely download music even for commercial purposes without having to ask for permission or give credit to creators.

For paid subscriptions, services such as BMG Production Music, Storyblocks, and Envato Elements offer an unlimited source of great soundbeds for any theme or mood you can possibly think of. Hiring a professional freelancer is another good option to consider. You could get a professional sounding voiceover from freelancer websites like Upwork and Fiverr for as low as $15!

Cover Art

Like the intro and outro of your show, the cover art you use to represent your podcast gives your audience an image to recognize, remember, and identify your show with. Also, first impressions do count, and your podcast cover art will set the tone for people who are encountering your show for the first time. 

If you have the skill to come up with your own design, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it yourself for free. Even with basic designing skills, you could attempt and experiment with something like PowerPoint to come up with a design. Services such as Canva or Adobe Spark allow you to further your DIY skills with ready-to-go podcast templates. Or better yet, hire a freelance designer on Upwork and Fiverr! There’s also the option of getting a customized design cover by hiring a professional agency such as PodArtwork if you have a clear idea of what you want but can’t seem to bring it to life yourself.

Website

Given the popularity of podcasting platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, a website isn’t really necessary, especially when you’re starting out. Even the Joe Rogan Experience has signed on to an exclusive deal with Spotify as their main platform.

That being said, if you’re thinking of building up your show brand in the long term and plan to monetize, having your own website will certainly help you to achieve that. Aside from making your podcast show look really legit, you can also include pages, embed affiliate links, and gather data from your listeners through a website.


Conclusion


The most important thing to do when starting your own podcast is that you get started. We’ve shown you that starting a podcast doesn’t have to cost much, and the low entry barrier means that almost anyone with internet access can do it. All you need is some courage and conviction to put your ideas down on record. 

Indeed, if you have the cash to spare, it’s always wise to go for high-quality equipment and services that are available in the market. But having a professional podcast setup does not always equate to a great show. So get going first, learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and the upgrades for better equipment and services will come naturally later with each podcast episode that you produce. 

The cost of starting a podcast is no excuse to get started. Your costs will mainly be time and commitment rather than money. So do it today!

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