How Much Does It Cost to Start a Podcast?
If the 2010s will be defined by one cultural trend, it’s podcasts. No matter your interests, anyone can find a podcast that piques them. Podcasters mystify and engage listeners with lesser-told stories, from the folklore that continues to shape the human experience to the dark legends surrounding venerated rock gods.
If you’re wondering how to start a podcast and leave your mark on society, you might be pleasantly surprised at just how little it could cost you. Read on to learn more.
- How much does it cost to start a podcast? As little as $100
- Determine what you want out of your podcast to set your budget
- Covering the cost of your podcast
How much does it cost to start a podcast? As little as $100
Believe it or not, you only really need three things to start a podcast: a microphone, a computer and a quiet place to record. (That is, if you’re not accounting for the creativity, time, effort, learning curve and perseverance it takes to successfully launch a podcast). Assuming you already bought a computer and have a closet ー more on that later ー you could start a podcast for less than $100.
Unless you’re conducting some sort of experiment to see how little you’ll have to pay for a podcast, you will likely end up forking over more than $23 total by the time your first episode is live. Take it from Rich Jones, cohost of the Paychecks and Balances podcast: “You get what you pay for when you get free.”
The free versions of software are often limited. Take Zencastr, for instance, which offers free interview recording software but limits users to eight hours per month and two guests. The paid version of Zencastr, which costs $20 per month, includes unlimited guests and recording time. You could always start with the free version and upgrade down the line.
With that said, Jones estimated you could start a podcast with less than $100 if you really wanted to.
Choosing the right microphone for your budget
The first thing you’ll need is an economical yet quality microphone. For beginners, Jones recommends the Audio-Technica ATR2100, which retails for around $80 but can be found for less. His co-host, Marcus Garrett, still uses this microphone today. The truth is that there are plenty of microphones out there for $100 or less, and if you’re just starting out, there’s no need to dole out hundreds on a mic.
Jones recommends looking for one feature when microphone-shopping, and that’s an XLR connection, which is the preferred method of transferring audio files. While many low-cost microphones have a USB connection, an XLR cable ensures that you have clear, professional audio. (The Audio-Technica ATR2100 offers both USB and XLR connections, so you could start with a USB connection and upgrade to XLR as you grow your podcast.)
To get the best sound quality out of an XLR cable, you’ll need an audio mixer or at least a USB audio interface, both of which will convert the XLR signal to a digital file. Rich recommends the Focusrite Scarlett Solo USB audio interface, which will run you a bit over $100.
Recording at home in your closet
You’ll need a quiet place to record your podcast, but you don’t necessarily need a soundproof studio to get the job done.
Take Endless Thread, for example, which is a production of NPR station WBUR in Boston in partnership with Reddit. The producers already have access to all the recording equipment and studios they would need to get the highest sound quality possible. But sometimes, co-host Ben Brock Johnson records out of his home studio.
You don’t have to be backed by the extensive NPR podcast conglomerate to have a professional-sounding podcast. Jones agrees: he often records the Paychecks and Balances podcast right in his closet. He even says that the clothes are good for sound insulation.
Learning the technical aspects of podcasting (or finding a freelancer)
The biggest investment you’ll make in your podcast is time. You’ll spend around four times the length of an episode editing it. So if you spend an hour podcasting, you could expect to spend three to four hours in edits. As you get more familiar with your editing software, this time will go down. But if you think it’s too overwhelming to edit your podcast yourself, you could pay someone else to do it for you.
For low-cost postcast freelancing, Jones recommends using the task website Fiverr. You might be able to find an audio editor at a lower cost than you would going through a professional freelancer.
Determine what you want out of your podcast to set your budget
Knowing how to make a podcast and pay for it is one thing, but understanding why is just important. For Rich, it’s the most important question to consider before you get started:
“The biggest thing of starting a podcast is understanding your ‘why.’ Knowing that it’s going to be some form of financial investment, and a significant time investment,” Jones said. “You need to understand from the very beginning what you want out of your podcast. If you don’t have a ‘why’ to come back to, it’s going to make it much more difficult to stick with it over the long-term.”
You might get into podcasting to grow your business and get more brand recognition. You could have a creative idea that you want to share with the world, no matter how many or how few people listen. You might do it because you just like talking.
Don’t go into podcasting expecting to make money
Some people do make money podcasting, but it’s a saturated market. Big names in the industry like the Joe Rogan Experience, Serial and the New York Times podcast, The Daily, are assuredly bringing in ad dollars, but with production costs it can be hard to tell precisely how much any one podcast is bringing in.
For newer podcasts looking to monetize, though, the challenge in making money is getting downloads. Jack Rhysider of the Darkest Diaries podcast estimates that you need to get about 40,000 downloads per episode to get advertisers to invest in your podcast.
Patreon could be another income stream. The service allows fans (or patrons) to support your podcast or other work by donating money. In exchange, you’ll offer something in return, such as more episodes per month, on-air shoutouts or something else. Getting to a point where your fans will regularly donate to you will take time and effort, but it can reduce your reliance on ads to cover costs.
Covering the cost of your podcast
Dip into cash or set a budget goal
Those who are just starting out on their podcast journey should be able to self-finance their venture. Jones advises against spending a ton of money on your podcast at the outset. Instead, he recommends starting small and picking up more advanced equipment as you go.
“If you have $100 and you want to get started, you can make it happen,” Jones said. He didn’t get a high-end microphone until he had been successfully podcasting for nearly five years, and even now, he sees it as a treat to himself for his hard work.
If you don’t have the cash to buy the equipment you want, then set a budget. Any cuts you make to spending will be temporary until you can afford podcasting equipment. You might also pick up extra hours at work to compensate for the added costs.
Crowdfund podcasting setup costs
You find hundreds of crowdfunding initiatives on websites like GoFundMe or Kickstarter. You may raise funds by drumming up support among friends and family, and reaching out to communities that may find your podcast idea appealing.
When setting up a crowdfunding campaign, be upfront about your costs and your intentions for the money you raise. This will build trust between you and potential donors.
Financing your podcast equipment with a credit card or personal loan
If you don’t have a computer, a new one could run you up to $2,000 (sometimes more). And if you want to start a podcast with more advanced equipment, you could easily spend more than $2,500 between a new laptop, top-tier microphones, an audio mixer, hosting and more.
If your budget doesn’t allow for all that equipment, you may have to finance the cost with a personal loan or other financial product. Consider these options:
No matter which financing option you choose, it’s imperative to remember one thing: Don’t take out debt you can’t repay, especially for a venture that’s not likely to turn a profit. Only make a monetary commitment if you’re prepared to manage and pay off the debt in a time frame that makes sense for your financial situation. But with the right mix of creativity, innovation and research, you can start your own podcast without sacrificing your budget.