How Much Does It Cost To Start A Podcast?

Let’s set some ground rules. We’ll first assume that you have nothing but a computer, and you’re going full DIY. We will look at time invested, and money spent. We will also assume that this is a 10-episode run, because most new podcasters don’t get that far – it’ll give us a feel of experiment with low commitment. 

Let’s also assume that you will be running a myriad of show types from scripted to interview based. 

For the most basic setup we need to build our signal chain. That is the connection between your voice and the recording you carry over to a hosting platform. For this you will need:

  1. microphone $40
  2. recording DAW Free -2 hours (Audacity or GarageBand for Mac Users)
  3. computer (your current computer)
The Blue Yeti Nano microphone is now the most popular (not because it’s any good), and it comes in at $80 as of 2022. If you pick a really quiet room with a lot of soft fabrics to absorb the audio (mitigating reverberation “echo”), you can go with a cheap $20 lavalier microphone. 
So, we’ll average out those to price points. 
Next is your DAW (digital audio workstation), this allows you to record your audio with a visual representation of the sound waves, and edit as needed. As well, you can import music into the session and control volume of all of your tracks. The barrier to entry on understanding a DAW requires about 2 hours of good study time to put together a podcast. 

Alright, you’ve received your microphone and spent a couple of hours figuring it and the DAW out. It’s time to record your first episode. 

You draw a blank. You spend a dedicated one hour to figuring out what you want to say, and script an outline. You then record a 15 minute show that takes an hour to record. You spend the next 4 hours editing it as it’s your first time. 

That’s 5 more hours spent.

Current total: $40 and 6 hours

Alright you’re ready to upload your first episode. You go with Anchor because it’s FREE and EASY. But this takes another hour to truly navigate Anchor to know where you’re going. Within that hour, you figure out that you need artwork before you’re allowed to publish anywhere. After an hour on Canva, you’re not proud of what you came up with, and so you hire a professional on Fiverr to create some crumby version of what you’re looking for. That’s a shocking $40 and hour of your time assuming that you already have a Fiverr account, and you don’t love it (but we’ll deal). 

New total: $80 and 8 hours 

So, you have your first episode recorded with your new mic, on a software you just learned, and ready to upload to a hosting platform. Anchor asks you to submit your RSS to through different podcast hosts like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, but automatically lists it on Spotify (which owns Anchor). However, you are encouraged to claim your show on Spotify. You spend the next two hours submitting RSS and creating user accounts on the many podcast platforms. Little did you know, 90% of your downloads will come from Apple and Spotify (probably more). 

At this point, you opt out of building your own podcast website because you find out that it’s about $40/month to own your domain, and host a site with someone like GoDaddy. But who cares, your first episode is live and it only took you $80 and 10 hours. Sure the sound isn’t great, and the podcast artwork is just “eh,” but you did it and that’s more than anyone in your circle can say.

You tell all of your friends about the show. You share it with 2,000 facebook friends (most of which won’t see your post), 400 twitter followers, and all 319 of your IG fans. You watch the number rack up. 

17 downloads in two weeks. You haven’t even started episode two. You go back and look at your show notes and title, listen to the recording. Ask your friends what they thought..they all said it was great. But it wasn’t.

Current Total: $80 and 11 hours (calculating all of your social time to boost show performance) for ONE EPISODE!

Do you:

A. Spend 60 Hours (assuming you need extra education time) recording, posting and promoting the next 9 episodes?

B. Spend $100/episode (recording engineer) plus 4 hours per episode for the posting and promoting times 9 episodes, totalling: $900 additional dollars, and 36 more hours?

C. Do you hire out for all services $130/episode for editing, shownotes and managing the hosting platforms, plus $60/episode for a social media guru to promote your episode, plus $30/week for cost of social advertising. But now you’re only spending 2 hours per week for prep and recording an episode? Total?  $1980 and 18 hours (nine episodes) plus $80 (equipment) and 11 hours (education and first episode).

Let’s call it $2,000 and 30 hours for 10 episodes. If you’re doing better than 90% of new podcasters, you’re averaging 26 downloads per episode. You aren’t able to monetize until you’ve reached 1,000 episodes. Your cost per episode won’t come down from here much unless you are willing to spend more time editing. 

Talking with some of the top podcasters, they all say pretty much the same thing. You’re lost at sea until you’ve done about 100 episodes. By that point, you understand the cost per episode and time invested. You understand your immediate return and growth rate. You’ve figured out what segments and style of performance work for you podcast and which ones suck. You have more than just your mom listening to the show, and your spouse is no longer embarrassed telling his/her friends that you have a show. 

The podcasters that hit the 1000 downloads per episode range are finally starting to see a return. They love the process, and most likely love to hear themselves talk. That’s ok. That’s a plus. So, be aggressive, be comfortable, and get ready for a long journey.