Update January 2021: I originally wrote this article in 2017 in hopes of giving a realistic perspective on what a podcast can and should cost. Since then, it’s been referenced and linked to by a lot of cool people (thanks Neil Patel!) and it’s due time for an update. It’s been rewritten with the assumption that you already know podcasting is a good idea. Also, the answer varies based on the reason you’re asking. Hope you find it useful. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
- What Do You Actually Need to Know?
- Scenario 1: Individuals Who Are Interested in Starting Their Own Personal Podcast
- Scenario 2: Individuals Who Want to Hire a Podcast Production Team
- Scenario 3: Podcaster Producers Who Want to Know What to Charge
- Wrapping it Up
So you’re considering a podcast and need to know what it costs. Smart move. It’s an excellent time to get started (no, you didn’t “miss the boat” and we’re not in a bubble). Before you dive in, you probably want to know what a podcast will cost you.
What Do You Actually Need to Know?
You are likely here for one of three reasons:
- You are an individual getting started and you want to know an estimate of your costs.
- You represent a company and want to know what it costs to hire a podcast production team.
- You are a podcaster and you want to know what to charge.
Those are significantly different points of view but all answerable. I’ve reorganized this article to address each question. As you can imagine, there are a lot of variables and different situations.
Use the headers and skim to find the information you need.
Scenario 1: Individuals Who Are Interested in Starting Their Own Personal Podcast
The Do-It-Yourself Approach
As stated, there are many ways a podcast can be beneficial to your personal brand and there are several production factors you’ll need to consider before deciding if you can afford to make one.
- Personal Time
The Cost of Podcast Equipment
Free to $2,000+
Podcast setups can vary dramatically. Some coaches recommend getting started with equipment you already have like a free recording app on your phone or the built-in microphone on your computer. Others say to go all out on fancy mics, audio interfaces, and more.
As a musician and podcaster, I recommend investing at least $100 into a good USB mic and maybe a little more into improving the space you’re recording in. For reference, my first personal setup cost about $800 and the setup I’m using now costs just over $2,000. The starter setup I’m recommending for podcasters in our new course is around $400 for a mic, digital recorder, stand, cables, and SD card. You have options.
For a full list of my recommendations, you can read my Podcast Equipment: The complete guide article over on my personal website.
Free to $799 + your time
The next thing you need to account for is producing (editing, leveling, mixing) your podcast. Again, lots of variables here but the two main things you’ll want to account for are:
- Software cost
- Time costs
Podcast Production Software
Lots of options exist, and they range from free to several hundred dollars. Consider any of the following choices:
Don’t Produce Your Show | Free
Some people I know record an episode and then post it directly to their podcast feed. Personally, I do not recommend doing this. The quality of your show will likely suffer doing this way. However, it is the only way to produce your show for free.
Audacity | Free
Audacity is a free audio editing software that works for nearly all beginning podcasters. It has its limitations for doing more complicated work but it’s a great option for at least 90% of what you will likely need to do. Personally, Audacity is how I got started back in 2012 and it’s still what I use a lot of the time for basic projects.
Audition | Monthly Fee
This is Adobe’s editing solution. It’s a step up from Audacity in terms of quality and capabilities but it does come with a subscription fee. At the time of writing this, the cost of Audition is in-between $20 and $30 per month depending on the plan you have. Personally, I use Audition for the more complicated projects I need to work on or when I’m working in tandem with Adobe Premiere (video editing software).
Descript | Free to Monthly Fee
This is an alternative take on editing that’s actually quite unique. It allows you to edit audio more like a word document instead of an audio file. Their plans currently range from $0 to $24 per editor per month. My team is just beginning to play around with Descript and my friends over at Lower Street love it.
Pro Tools | Monthly Fee or One Payment
You won’t get any better than Pro Tools when it comes to audio engineering. This solution is best for people who are music composers as well as podcast producers. Their prices currently range from $80 per year subscriptions or $800 to download the software. I don’t personally use Pro Tools but it’s what two of our audio engineers are using to create shows like At the Brink (Check out False Alarms or Hibakusha—probably my two favorite episodes of the series).
Factoring in Your Time
If you plan on self-producing your show, don’t forget to factor in the time it takes to edit an episode. Variables for this include aspects like:
- Length of the episode
- Quality of the recording
- Style of the show (solo, interview, or narrative)
- How much you struggle with perfectionism
Generally speaking, our team usually estimates production time on an interview-based show to be 2x to 4x the length of the show. For example, a 30-minute interview could take in-between 1 and 2 hours to edit. It might take even longer if you are new to editing.
If you are editing a narrative show, plan on spending a lot of time. Narrative shows can easily take 10x to 50x the length of the final edit to produce. Make sure to plan appropriately.
$5 to $99+/month
Once your podcast is ready, it needs to be put on the internet. Just like how this website lives on a server (Siteground), your podcast audio file (likely an MP3) needs to live somewhere. Many companies exist in this space and I’ll save you the time by saying there is no good free option (trust me). Factors you’ll want to consider include uptime, reliability, speed, openness, and analytic capability.
The following are popular choices:
Libsyn. This is what I used when I first started. The interface is a bit dated but it’s dependable. Plans range from $5 to $40 per month.
BluBrry. Again, another veteran player. I have one client currently using Blubrry. They are probably best known for their analytic tracking. Plans range from $12 to $80 per month.
Transistor. This company is newer to the space but seems to be doing well at targeting the creative and entrepreneur communities. Plans range from $19 to $99 per month.
Simplecast. Personally, I’m a fan of Simplecast and it’s one of two platforms we use for all of our internal and client podcasts. I know their team fairly well and appreciate the work they are doing. Plans range from $15 to $85 per month.
Megaphone. This is the other media host that my company uses. One main feature is dynamic advertising. For example, instead of hard editing an ad or sponsorship straight into your episode, Megaphone’s technology allows you to choose the placement and serve the ad based on things like date ranges or your listener’s geographical location. Megaphone doesn’t disclose their pricing on the website but it’s more expensive than everything else I’ve listed.
Free to $$$$
This is a tricky one to put a concrete number behind. You have a lot of services and processes at your disposal. Let’s assume you want to do it completely yourself and you are going to stay focused on the basics. Here are a few options:
Write to Repurpose | Free
Keep the end in mind when writing your show notes, i.e. recycle your content. In short, you want to get the maximum amount of use out of any content you create. Thus, our team has processes in place that help us get the maximum use out of something like show notes.
For example, all of our show notes contain a title, a short description of the episode, quotes from the episode, and the full notes with links to relevant resources. The short description gets used in places like the featured post text on the podcast website, as the description on podcast apps like Spotify and Apple, and in email promotion for the episode. The quotes are turned into images and audiograms on social media, and the show notes can reference other internal articles or episodes and be referenced as well. Write one and distribute it as much as possible.
Transcriptions | Priced per minute
Transcriptions help make your podcast episodes more accessible for people who can’t listen and they can help with SEO in some cases. The main variables with transcription services are automation, accuracy, and dependability. We’ve tried many options but have settled on Rev for now. At the time of writing this, Rev charges $1.25/minute for accurate transcriptions and $.25 for automated ones. It’s a little pricey but we don’t have the time to deal with slow delivery speeds or fixing inaccuracies.
Social Media Images | Free to Monthly or Annual Fees
Canva is a nice solution for entry-level designers who want to create images to promote their podcasts. Canva has a variety of plans and currently range from free to $30 per month, per user.
Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are popular options for most graphic designers when it comes to making promotional images. Adobe’s plans currently cost around $30 per month.
Audiograms | Free to Monthly or Annual Fees
Headliner is one way to create those animated audio videos you’ve probably seen a lot of. You know the ones, they typically have some podcast cover art and the little squiggly line when you hit play. The idea is to feature an interesting snippet from the podcast to get people interested.
Headliner is what we’re currently using. Other options include Wavve or many media hosting companies are offering these features. Even Spotify and Apple are allowing for audiogram-style content creation.
Guest Appearances | Free to a few thousand dollars
One of the best ways you can gain awareness for your podcast is by guesting on similar podcasts. This can be done by reaching out to others yourself or hiring services like Interview Valet to handle it for you. This is one of the most effective ways to promote but it’s also one of the most difficult to do well.
Remember the old Mastercard commercials? Podcast equipment: $500. Editing software: $30 per month. Your time spent trying to figure out everything: priceless.
What is your time worth to you? Don’t overlook this too quickly. Podcasts take time to produce. Probably more than you think. If you genuinely want to edit your own show, then go for it. However, if you are trying to edit your own show to save money, you might be doing yourself a disservice if your time is better spent somewhere else.
Personally, I believe there are 3 kinds of work:
- Work that only you can do.
- Work that someone (not you) can do.
- Work that can be automated (software).
Like anything you want to accomplish, it’s going to require a balance of money and time. If you are on a budget, plan on spending time to get a podcast started. If you have the funds, it would likely be worth spending some money to hire someone to help you.
[P.S. I love the topic of prioritizing and delegating because it’s something we all can improve at overtime. If you’re interested in it too, check out books like The One Thing by G. Keller (for individuals), Traction by G. Wickman (for business owners), or even the 4-hour Work Week by T. Ferriss (for the individual or business owner).]
Scenario 2: Individuals Who Want to Hire a Podcast Production Team
The Done-With-You and Done-For-You Options
So you want to hire someone to help you create a podcast but don’t know what to expect. Perfect! This is my favorite area to discuss because it’s the one I understand the most being a production company ourselves. Like everything else so far, you have some options. 🙂
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of help you want. This depends largely on how much or how little you know about producing a podcast, what services you’re looking for, and the amount of time you want to dedicate to the process.
You can receive help in three different ways:
$$$$$ to $$$$$$
This is the best solution for people or businesses who want a podcast without all of the work. True full-service solutions are able to create successful podcasts based on a concept. They should be able to help with everything from concept, to branding, to production, and promotion.
Expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000+ for an episode depending on the type of podcast you are producing (interview-based, narrative or story-driven, or a mixture of the two). Agencies and teams functioning in this space are experts and have the experience and evidence to prove it.
$$$ to $$$$
Best for those who need help with specific parts of the process or who have smaller budgets. It’s a great transition for people who were producing their own shows and who are looking to handoff some of the responsibilities.
Technical solutions typically cost in-between $200 to $1000 per month, with the sweet spot being around $550 to $750 per month. In return you normally get editing, show notes, and maybe transcripts or promotional items for up to weekly episodes. This is the most popular kind of help of all of the ways and you will need to do your due diligence that the agency or individual you’re working with does know what they’re doing.
Consultation and Education
$$ to $$$$
This is the best for those who have time and want to learn. Courses and education comes in all different shapes and sizes from group experiences and one-on-one coaching to PDFs, videos, and live calls.
Courses and education usually cost a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on what you get (the support and results being offered).
For example, we recently launched our Podcast Launch System. It’s a group coaching program that takes business owners and experts from not knowing how to properly start a podcast to creating and launching one to an existing audience. It’s a big promise but it’s based on all of the systems, resources, and processes we’ve developed from the years of doing it for big marketing teams and large corporations.
Thoughts on What Kind of Help to Hire
This can be a tricky topic and I feel for the individuals trying to figure this out on their own. Here are a few tips to consider when evaluating help:
Time or Money. Which is more valuable to you right now? If you’re part of a business and have a budget, hire the best help you can afford. A talented full-service production agency will make it worthwhile for you. If you’re tight on cash and just starting, try to find a technical or educational option that helps solve your biggest pain point(s).
Buyer Beware. Between the popularity of podcasting and people looking for alternative sources of income, a lot of new individuals and companies are entering the scene. Not all agencies are created equal. Do your homework. Review the articles, work, testimonials, etc., of the person or group before entering into a contract. Talk with them to see if they are a good fit.
Scenario 3: Podcast Producers Who Want to Know What to Charge
The Do-It-for-Others Option
The final role who wants to know about podcasting costs is the personal or agency offering the service. I most often get this question from young editors or even producers who are just entering the space. I see podcast professionals making anywhere from $16 to $300 an hour depending on the job they are doing. Like everything else I listed so far, there are many roles and variables to consider.
Understand the Roles
The first thing to understand is the different roles and services you can provide for others. Check out Podcast Taxonomy for a full list of the different roles a podcast fulfills. It’s a list that gives common descriptions of all of the different roles.
Some popular roles include:
- Executive Producer
- Audio Engineer
- Audio Editor
Understand What You Offer
This includes several factors:
- Your Skill
- Your Credentials
- Your Credibility
- Your Testimonials
- Your Expertise
- Your Team
Understand Your Value
What do you actually offer? How good is the quality of your work? What problems do you help your clients solve?
There are significant differences between someone who is a junior editor, an audio engineer, and a music composer or sound designer. I pay people who can mix, master, add sound design, and write music for our narrative podcasts more than I pay our people who rough edit interviews or pull raw selects. I also might have a smaller or larger budget based on the client we’re helping and the value we’re creating for them.
Having a foundational sense of your abilities and worth in a given market or role will help you understand what to charge.
Understand How to Charge
Ultimately, a lot of resources talk about how to set rates in much more detail than I’m going to talk about here. It’s a much bigger topic than just podcasting. However, here are a few tips to help you decide on your price.
- Compete on value, not price. There will always be competitors who charge less (and more) than you. Instead of focusing on the cost of others or allowing your prospect to haggle on price, focus on the value that your work delivers and be ready to prove it.
- Focus on the result and the audience. Clients aren’t paying you to just edit a podcast. They are paying you to take care of a pain point or achieve a result. Keep that in mind.
- Be clear about what you do. Review the Podcast Taxonomy and understand what role you fill. You’ll attach more of the right clients by properly marketing yourself.
- Avoid charging hourly. It’s important to understand how long a job takes you but try not to charge by the hour. When you charge by the hour, you are penalized for improving and becoming more efficient because you’re able to do the job better and faster. Instead, try to charge flat rates like by the episode or the season instead.
- Charge more than you think. Most of us charge less than we should. For example, if you are really busy, you probably have a high demand. Raise your rates to a point where you’re at least a little uncomfortable and see how new clients respond. This will help you find better quality clients and earn more money.
- Hearing “no” is okay. This one is simple. If everyone you pitch to is saying yes, your rate is too low and you probably have some client you don’t like working with.
- Price fairly. Despite what I said above, you need to be fair. As an employee, I try to find a balance between paying fairly and being charged fairly. If a person’s rate is too high or the quality of their work isn’t up to the expectations, I will find someone else to do the job.
Pricing (specifically in a service-based business) is a conversation about value—not cost. If you take the time to explain why you charge what you charge, you make it simpler for the client on the other end to understand why you’re the best possible option.
Kaleigh MooreFreelance Writer
General Resources for Pricing Your Services
- Profit First by Mike Michalowicz is a super helpful book on pricing and profitability.
- The Futur Pricing Design Work & Creativity or Stop Charging Hourly are two excellent videos on the philosophy of pricing.
- Costs to Factor into Your Freelancing Rates from Creative Class is a podcast episode from freelancers Kaleigh Moore and Paul Jarvis.
Wrapping it Up
There is no “right price” when it comes to creating a podcast. The situations and variables are plenty. Regardless, I hope this article gave you a better sense of what to expect.
Prices can vary a lot. It’s important to trust the people you’re going to work with and have a sense of what you can spend before you get started.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out via our contact form or connect with me directly on LinkedIn. Last, if you’re looking for a production partner and like what you’re seeing, check out our services page to see if we’re a good fit.