Here at ZenCast, we've helped hundreds of people learn to podcast. We're also the world's leading podcast-hosting platform for independent podcasters like you.
One of the questions we're asked most often is: How much does podcasting cost?
The simple answer is – Less than you probably think!
In this article we'll look at the costs of podcasting. To give you the most complete picture of the entire range of options, we'll mention the high-end professional equipment as well as the most economical ways to podcast.
Our focus is on helping beginners to launch and grow their podcasts.
It's all about the bottom line: How to podcast without breaking your bank
ZenCast is devoted to helping you and other independent podcasters achieve your dreams.
We'll focus on the economical options that work perfectly well for delivering high-quality episodes.
No matter how excited you are about starting a podcast, there's always a little doubt in the back of your mind about how much it will cost, right?
Maybe you're worried about the equipment (“I'm not a techie!”) or perhaps there's a question of confidence (“My voice sounds wrong!”) or other doubts.
But the bottom line always comes down to how much your podcasting adventure will cost.
We understand your concerns about cost. That’s why we’re the best choice for independent podcasters on a tight budget
Relax and take a deep breath – Podcasting is certainly affordable for everyone, and the results will probably be far better than you're hoping!
Hobby or business?
As expected, the fork in the road is whether you'll be podcasting strictly as a hobby, or for your business. If the goal to grow your business, it's worthwhile to invest a bit more money into podcasting.
Of course, even if you start out as a hobbyist, your audience will certainly grow larger over time. We've seen that most podcasters improve their equipment as the audience grows.
We also work with many small businesses that use podcasting as a powerful tool for marketing. So, we'll describe the typical costs for business podcasting as well as hobby podcasts.
Podca$t for profit
Just as importantly, since successful business is all about profitability, we'll show you how to calculate the return on investment (ROI) for the typical business podcaster.
You’ll be able to figure out if it's a worthwhile investment.
What you'll need for starting a podcast
Let's begin by listing the equipment you'll need for any type of podcasting. Then we’ll look at the higher-quality options.
✓ Equipment such as microphones, recorders, cables & connectors
✓ Software for editing and hosting
✓ Cover art or graphic design that represents the show
✓ Music and sound effects (FX)
Let's group these equipment needs according to which type of podcast you're doing.
At the very least, you'll need a microphone to record audio, a good podcast hosting service such as ZenCast (you can grab a free trial here), and some home-made cover art depicting or representing the show in a visual way.
Keep in mind that Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify don’t host your podcast -- They’re just a directory. That’s why you need a good hosting service like ZenCast!
Of course, throughout this discussion we're assuming that you already have a basic computer with Internet connection. You'll need this to record episodes and upload them to the hosting service.
That's it. The above basic items are all you need to start podcasting.
Many hobbyists use only the above equipment, and this works very well.
Even some small businesses with money-making podcasts use this same basic equipment for years, before eventually upgrading it.
Start small, grow bigger with time
At ZenCast we suggest starting out with the minimal equipment listed above. Even if your wallet is “fat,” we still recommend that you record your first 10 episodes using basic equipment.
Most important, using simple “plug and play” equipment is the simplest approach. You'll be able to start recording immediately without any technical issues.
That way, you can focus on learning how to podcast and enjoying the experience.
Later you can decide whether to invest in more advanced equipment which offers better sound and more advanced production capability.
If you keep things simple in the beginning, you're more likely to fall in love with podcasting.
Use the right tools for the right job
On the other hand, maybe you're already committed to having the best tools for any given job.
Or, perhaps you have a business and you already know that you need to podcast in order to survive and compete. In that case, we've listed the higher-quality professional podcasting options below.
Get two high-quality mics instead of one
If you're serious about podcasting, or you want to earn money with it, you should buy two good microphones. That way, you'll have a spare available in case of any last-minute glitches.
You'll also need two mics for hosting guests or co-hosts during in-person recording sessions.
In our Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Podcast we've talked about the benefits of using an authority-guest-interview format for best results when you're podcasting for business profits.
For super results, you'll also want a digital recorder for audio.
That's because most professional-quality microphones that use an XLR connection will require a digital recorder that has more capability than the typical computer can offer.
Other benefits of using a standalone digital recorder are the ability to easily mix sound effects, and they're also highly portable.
You can go out and record on-the-move at live events and interviews without carrying a separate computer and cables.
There's one other additional piece of equipment that you might want to get – a mixer. This allows you to blend together multiple audio channels and use a full range of sound effects, including reverb, fade, echo and many others.
You'll find a mixer especially helpful if the podcast will feature remote guests or co-hosts using Skype and similar platforms.
The above-listed combination of equipment is powerful, and your sound will be super-professional. You'll also have a more reliable setup that doesn’t require managing everything on your computer, so you can focus on the discussion at hand.
Cover art or graphic design to represent your show
Regardless of whether your podcasting budget is large or small, you'll need some sort of cover art, logo or other design to help brand your show.
This is the visual “signature” that people should see in order to help them associate all the shows in a given program or series, regardless of the individual topics.
When choosing a logo or design, you can be creative or ho-hum – It's entirely your choice.
At ZenCast we recommend using something that you believe will convey the “spirit” of your show as well as your own personality.
Be creative, yet also practical. Keep in mind that small, intricate logos and graphic designs may not reproduce well when they're reduced to the size of icons.
Buy it, get it free, or make it yourself
Some podcasters pay a talented artist to create a complete set of graphics, including logo, cover art, and perhaps even a special font or type of lettering.
In any case, you don't need to spend any money on graphics. You can easily find good free artwork, or create it yourself.
If you want to keep things simple and free, just search for open-source graphic content through Creative Commons, Wikipedia Commons, or various other free sources.
Or, if you’re artistic, instead of using existing images you can use Canva to create your own free cover art.
If you didn’t create a design yourself, get permission from whoever owns it
Here's an important caveat – Make sure your design is either entirely new and unique for copyright purposes, or get written permission to use it for your podcast.
Artists and other content creators are often very sensitive about unauthorized use of their intellectual property.
This is especially true for commercial purposes, i.e. if your podcast is for a money-making business. This includes designs “borrowed” from Internet sources.
If you don't know who created a design, choose something else instead.
Music & sound effects
Just as with your artwork, you have the same wide range of options with music and sound effects (EFX) if you wish.
In our Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting we mentioned that music is a great way to add a professional touch to your shows, and it's also important for branding
You can buy a music clip from FreeMusicArchive (free) AudioJungle [paid] or GarageBand (free on a Mac), have a friendly musician record it, or create it yourself.
In any case, make sure it reflects the mood, style and tempo of your show.
Summary of DIY podcast costs
Assuming that you're doing everything yourself, i.e. without using professional podcasting or editing services to produce your shows, below is a summary list of the costs of podcasting.
Similar to the above outline, you'll see that these do-it-yourself costs range from the most basic scenario with economical equipment upward to a sophisticated production using professional-quality equipment.
(All cost estimates are in USD)
Microphones: $60 for an adequate XLR or USB microphone, or up to $1,000 for high end studio equipment. Remember that you may need one or more extra microphones for guests or co-hosts.
Cables: $0 if you already have a basic USB microphone and cable (included with most microphones), or up to $100 for XLR cables.
Recorder: $0 if you'll use an existing computer without special recording capability, and don't need portability outside your studio. Or, the cost could be up to $300 if you want a portable digital voice recorder that doesn't rely on your computer.
Digital audio mixer: $0 if you don't need complex audio capability, or up to $2,000 if you want sophisticated sound-mixing capability.
You can find good audio editing software at costs ranging from $0 to $300.
Cover art & graphics
As mentioned earlier, you can find free art (or make it yourself) at a cost of $0 or you can pay an artist or graphic designer up to any amount you wish to spend, depending on your budget.
The same as for art, the cost for music ranges from $0 for free open-source clips or music you record yourself, or upward to any amount you choose.
ZenCast is built to scale, from small new podcasts through to managing a podcast network. It has all the must haves in podcast hosting: a global content delivery network, publishing to Apple Podcasts & Spotify, a self udating podcast website, and accurate analytics. The hobbyist plan is only $14 per month (you can get a free trial here)