Throughout the hundreds of people I’ve taught about podcasting over the years, I’ve discovered there’s always a concern. No matter how fired up that person is, no matter how fired up YOU are about Podcasting, there’s always a doubt or two. Sometimes it’s equipment: “I’m just not a techie!” And sometimes it’s confidence: “I hate my voice…” But, much more often than not, it’s money: “How much is this podcasting caper going to cost?”
I get it, and I’ve wondered the same thing in the past! If you’re looking to spend money on setting up your show – whether it’s equipment, whether it’s one of our courses, or whether it’s having your show edited and published for you – you need to know how much it’ll be in advance, so you can figure out if it’s worth the investment.
So, before you put that money down, before you blow the entire marketing budget, let’s look at how much this is going to be, in the end.
Are You Hobby or Business?
Before I dive in, though, let’s look at the target, because I know two different groups will be reading this.
First are the hobbyists. If that’s you, you're just looking for an idea of cost so you know if you can afford it. That’s fine, I’ll answer all of your questions in just a moment.
But second, are the businesses, or anyone that wants to make money out of their podcast. If that’s you, then not only do you need the cost, but you need the return you’re going to get on it. Ie. is it worth it?
What You Need to Start a Podcast
Let’s start out with what you need. What are the components of podcasting? This covers the parts you’ll need, and the types of people that would jump in at each level. Once we’ve covered this, we’ll reach the actual costs in the next section.
Here are the components we'll discuss:
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- Equipment – from microphones to recorders
- Software – from media hosting to editing packages
- Cover art – graphic design to represent your show
- Music and FX – sound design to represent your show
Let's see what each of these components looks like at the various levels of podcasting.
The Bare Minimum
The very minimum you require to podcast is a microphone to record some audio, a podcast hosting account to deliver it to the world and some very basic, home-made cover art. This is assuming that you already have a computer to record it on, and then upload to your host, of course.
Check out our Best Budget Mics article if you're looking for quality low-cost options here.
The bare minimum is easily enough to start out with, and many hobby, or even business podcasts, do fine on the bare minimum for years.
I often encourage people to start out with the bare minimum and follow that approach for the first 10 episodes. For one, it keeps the complications very, very low, so you have no excuse to get episodes out regularly, building your influence and gaining practice as you go. For another, it means you can decide if you like this podcasting lark before you invest a fortune in it.
Of course, if you’re in this for business and you’re sure about your aims, or you’re a big brand already, then you might have to jump in at a higher level.
The High Quality
So, you want to do it all yourself, but you fancy some good quality equipment to make sure your message is delivered in the best way possible. Hello High Quality!
At this level, we’re going to buy two good quality microphones. You can use one, and you'll have one spare for in-person guests or co-hosts.
You’re also going to need a digital recorder to capture the audio. This is because most pro microphones need a pro recording device, and wont work as standard with a computer. As an added benefit, it means you’re now portable and can get out to capture great quality audio at events or interview locations.
One final addition, depending on your plans, is that you might need online recording software. You'd want to subscribe to one of these tools if you're looking to talk to co-hosts or interviewees remotely.
For cover art and music, you'll now be outsourcing it. For high quality, you can pay someone who specialises in the area to do it for you. That'll make sure you get the best possible result to represent your brand.
The Quick Starter
Do you want to have confidence in your approach, and to be able to get up and running as quick as you can? Then you’re probably a Quick Starter!
Many people who invest money in good quality equipment will also invest money in learning how to use it. Not only that, but they’ll invest in courses that teach them how to start and run a podcast in the best way possible. That means planning your show for success, launching well, promoting it effectively, learning how to deliver amazing content, and figuring out how best to monetise.
Education saves time and mistakes, so if you’re a business podcaster, or looking to earn some money from this, then this could be a no-brainer.
If you’re a hobbyist, but not very technical, or just want to make sure you’re able to draw as many fans as you can, it could also be worth it.
Courses help hugely, but good ones aren’t cheap. Make sure you fit in one of the categories above to ensure it’s worth the investment.
The Focused Presenter
Do you want to forget about the technical elements of podcasting? Not interested in equipment, editing, bit rates, hosting, RSS feeds, Apple Podcasts submission or show publishing? Do you want to concentrate on what you do best, which is creating and recording your voice? Then you’re a Focused Presenter!
Some people just want to speak. They can craft and deliver an excellent message, but have no skill or inclination in then turning that message into a live podcast episode. For those people, podcast production services were born. But, how much does a podcast production service cost?
Podcast production services will take your recorded audio in a raw format and turn it into a finished product. That means editing out mistakes and silences, adding music and sound effects, levelling, compressing and mastering, and finally publishing the file so people can subscribe in Apple Podcasts and elsewhere.
For businesses, this tends to be a given. If you plan to make money from the show, you should be concentrating on creating great content, not messing around with editing.
Even for hobbyists, once you reach a certain stage, it might make sense to outsource the editing, simply because it’s not fun.
Production Service Alternative – Alitu
Alitu is our ‘Podcast Maker' web app. It was designed to make production, editing and publishing super-easy. With Alitu, you can create a podcast without knowing the slightest thing about audio production. You can record inside Alitu (be it solo segments on online calls), OR, you can simply upload your recordings from elsewhere – anything from a Squadcast interview, to a phone recording, to a Zoom webinar – and Alitu does the rest. It'll do conversion, levelling, noise reduction, and more, to get your audio sounding great.
Then, you can jump into Alitu's editing tools – offering you top and tail functions, plus the ability to remove any mistakes from your audio.
Once that's done, the episode builder lets you piece together as many clips as you need, from solo segments, to ads, to listener call-ins, and it'll add your theme music automatically at the start and end.
Finally, you can either download the finished episode or publish it direct from the app. You do this by pairing it with a dedicated hosting platform which acts as a home for your content.
What is Podcasting Going to Cost?
We’ve now covered the different situations, and I hope you identified yourself in there somewhere. Many people start with the bare minimum and move their way down the list, even ending up with a fully produced show. Others jump in at the high-quality level and stay there forever. Whatever you choose, let’s see how much it’s going to cost.
The Bare Minimum
Let’s start off by justifying it. You may well have an in-built microphone on your laptop, or an old headset at the back of the cupboard, but do consider a decent minimum level of equipment. My top-rated headset microphone is about as cheap as it gets ($50), while still offering good quality. Get hold of one and it’ll help deliver your message so much more effectively.
It’s possible to find free hosting for your podcast files, or to use your existing web hosting, but I’d highly advise against either. I’ve written before on why you should always use dedicated podcast hosting. Suffice to say that if you’re putting some time and effort into this, then a decent, reliable hosting account is the least you can do to help it succeed.
Finally, your branding. At this stage, you don't even really need music to represent your show. Just go with a voice introduction, and launch straight into the content. If you do insist on music, then check out our guide on how to find free and inexpensive music for your podcast.
For cover art, my favoured approach at this level is a tool called Canva. Canva has a podcast cover art template, and some really good free designs. It lets you create something great looking, even if you have no design skills. It might not be really innovative, and it'll follow a template others may be using, but it'll do the trick.
- Headset microphone: $50
- Podcast Hosting: $15 per month
- Music: $0
- Cover Art: $0
The High Quality
I’ve written about my favourite setup of this type before, so you can look up the details on that article: professional podcasting setup. We've also got an article about setups used by different ‘big name' podcasters.
The equipment setup here amounts to two Samson Q2Us, a Zoom H5 recorder, two good quality XLR cables and a decent set of headphones. This is a proper professional setup and will allow you to record top quality podcast episodes for years to come. It’ll also allow you to go out and do great-sounding interviews in person, or speak to a co-host every week. The great thing about the Q2Us is that you can plug them directly into your computer as USB mics, too.
Depending on your planned format, you might want to get a Zoom PodTrak P4 instead of the Zoom H5. The P4 is an all-rounder podcast recorder that'll let you do local, phone, or online conversations and record in multitrack. You can even play in music and effects in real-time. Alternatively, you might just opt for some online call recording software.
For cover art, at this level you might use your normal graphic designer. They'd charge anything from low 100s up to $1000 or more. If you want a more accessible alternative that's still great quality, then our own custom podcast artwork service costs $195.
For music and FX, at this level, you'll be looking to have some custom audio branding designed. This means working with someone like the excellent Music Radio Creative, who'll create you a fully produced and amazing sounding podcast intro and outro. We've used them for a few of our shows and they're worth every penny of the $170 they charge.
- 2 x Samson Q2Us ($150)
- 2 x XLR Cable ($30)
- 1 x Zoom H5 ($250) OR Zoom PodTrak P4 ($200)
- Optional: Podcast Recording Software ($10 per month)
- 1 x studio headphones ($30)
- Podcast Hosting: £10/$15 per month
- Cover Art: $195
- Music: $170
- ONE-OFF COST: $805
- MONTHLY COST: $10-$30 per month
The Quick Starter
The prices vary, naturally, but let’s take The Podcast Host Academy as an example. 12 months of access costs $350 and the courses take you through the entire launch process, including planning, strategy and formats, then on to interview skills, presentation, equipment, recording and editing. Finally it covers publishing, promotion, and monetisation.
You can expect to pay between $250 and $550 for a quality course on a particular aspect of podcasting, or upwards of $2000 for something that covers the entire subject with one-on-one support (like Castos' Podcast Launch Service). It’s up to you whether you’d like to get it all-in-one at the start, or pick and choose courses on particular subjects from some of the great providers out there.
The Focused Presenter
The final option I covered was having your podcast produced for you.
For this one I’m going to give you a range, because there are as many prices as there are providers. And there are plenty of providers. See our Podcast Producers Directory where we've listed a select few we know or have worked alongside.
The considerations here are reliability, quality and experience. I've written a whole post on the cost of podcast production, but the essence is this. Low-cost producers are fine if your show isn't business-critical. If you don't mind it going out late sometimes, with variable quality, then you can get it done for around $30 an episode by an individual producer. This is perfectly adequate for many hobby or non-serious podcasters.
But, if this show is designed to improve your visibility, your reputation and sell some product, then you need it to be reliable and top quality. That means a production team. For that, you're looking at around $45 per episode and upwards.
Remember though, you don't need to hire a podcast producer to take care of your production. Our podcast maker web app Alitu was designed to automate all the cleaning and processing, making editing and publishing super-simple.
- Budget production: $30 per episode OR Alitu the podcast maker app: $28 per month or $280 annually.
- Professional podcast production: $45+ per episode
What’s the Final Cost for Podcasting?
Because you can pick and choose from the options I’ve given you, it’s hard to give a final cost. I’m afraid this is a bit of an, “it depends!”
But, I can give you a total based on the two most common groups, and it comes back to the stereotypes I mentioned at the start.
The Cost of Hobby Podcasting
If you’re a hobby podcaster and your aim is simply to get your voice out into the world, the all you need is the Bare Minimum, plus perhaps a course.
The reason for a course is that you want to talk about something that you love, and build a community around that. That means the aim is to keep things simple, but you still want to know how to use your kit, how to plan a show, and how to promote it. I think that learning from others cuts down your time so much that it’s well worth it.
Of course, I’m biased, being a teacher! Many of you will learn the process just fine all by yourselves. But for others, it’s a huge confidence booster, and I’ve seen many, many a show fail to launch entirely simply due to a lack of confidence.
Final cost for a hobby podcaster:
$330 upfront, then $15 per month.
(1 small course, a headset microphone and podcast hosting)
The Cost of Business Podcasting
Now a business has one goal in podcasting – to get a return on the investment it makes in the medium. This return doesn’t have to be money directly – it may be leads, brand awareness, fans authority – but it has to return in some form. That means it’s worth putting money into doing it right.
A business could go with the above approach: bare minimum, plus a course to get started. Existing staff can be pulled away from their main roles for an allocated time per week to get involved in editing, publishing, etc. In many companies, there are staff that turn out to be really enthusiastic about the idea. It may even be an activity that really enhances someone’s job. If that’s the case, then perfect, I’d encourage you to follow the plan above.
But, some businesses want to work on the activities they’re great at, and leave the technical parts of podcasting to experts. In that case, a business should invest in good equipment for the recording aspect, and a partner company to take care of production. The partner company will no doubt offer enough experience to bypass the need for a course as well.
Through experience, I would say that the latter tend to be found in larger companies, and the former in smaller businesses, or solo enterprises. This may be budget-related, or it may be mindset, I’m not sure. Either way, here’s the cost for the business podcasting method.
Final cost for the business podcaster:
$950 upfront, then $330 per month
(High quality equipment package, branding, podcast hosting, online recording software, and professional production)
Summing Up: Choose Your Own Context
I hope that’s given you a good idea of the costs involved in podcasting. I hope it’s also given you a good idea of where you are on the scale, and therefore what you need to consider getting started.
Need more help getting started? Join us in The Podcast Host Academy. With downloadable resources, checklists, templates, video courses, and weekly live Q&As, we're here to give you as much help, or as much independence, as you need to succeed.