Podcasting costs money. Before you spend more money on podcasting gear, audio or video equipment, and other podcast resources, learn how to create a podcasting budget and stay within it.
Business or hobby?
The first thing for you to consider when creating your podcast budget is whether your podcast is part of a business, or if it's purely a hobby.
If your podcast is generating income, then you should probably treat it like a business. (There may even be legal requirements to do so, but you should consult an accountant for such advice.)
Look at it this way. A business is intended to return a profit, a hobby is intended to return pleasure. There's some crossover for many of us, and that's okay, but you should talk to an accountant about your best practices.
If your podcast is part of a business, then your budget needs to focus on return on investment (ROI): larger audience, more conversions, bigger opportunities, and improved quality.
If your podcast is a hobby, then your budget needs to focus on enabling you to continue enjoying what you do.
For example, $300 microphone may make perfect sense for a business podcast that wants to have superior audio quality. But for a hobby podcast, $300 could be better spent in annual hosting bills.
What's the “income”?
Whether your podcast is for a business or a hobby, it needs some kind of “income.” Keeping expenses below income should be common sense.
For a business, the income could come from a marketing budget, or perhaps from revenue the podcast generates.
For a hobby, the income could come from what the podcast does bring in (through donations, affiliates, etc.), or it's simply an amount of money you're allowed to spend every month on your hobby.
Whatever money you're able to spend on your podcast is not your budget; it's merely the limit. Your budget is the plan for what you can fit within that limit.
Budget for startup expenses
How much money are you allowed to spend in order to launch your podcast? That's your budget for startup expenses.
Consider all of the following potential expenses for starting your podcast.
- Hardware: microphones, mixer, cables, adapters, etc.
- Software: audio/video-editing, plugins, image-editing, etc.
- Education: consulting, courses, training materials, etc.
- Services: hosting, website or cover art design, professional support, etc.
These expenses might not all be necessary for your launch. Most of these are one-time expenses, but some could be recurring.
For a hobby, typical startup expenses could be $100–$600. For a business, you could be looking at $500 to $2,000 or more.
Budget for recurring expenses
Like owning a car requires regular maintenance (changing the oil, refilling the gas, replacing the tires, etc.), a podcast also has ongoing expenses that could be monthly or yearly.
Consider all of the following potential recurring expenses for continuing your podcast.
- Software: “rented” software (like Adobe's), premium plugin renewals, etc.
- Services: web and media hosting, podcast stats, promotional tools or support, virtual assistants, etc.
- Education: memberships (like Podcasters' Society!), premium subscriptions, etc.
Again, these aren't all necessary, but you should remember that podcasting does have ongoing costs. Yes, you can do things for free, but “free” costs in complexity, time, knowledge, and it limits your potential.
For most podcasters taking their hobby seriously, I think $30–$50/month will cover the important stuff (web and media hosting) with a little room for extras (like My Podcast Reviews!).
For business podcasters, I recommend $100 or more per month.
(In case you're wondering, my monthly podcasting expenses are above $600 per month, mostly because of the people I pay so I can focus on what I do best. But my total monthly business expenses are more than that.)
Save for repair, replacement, or improvement
A successful budget doesn't spend everything, but it also saves money for improving or fixing things. Podcasting tools and resources cost, and the better ones usually cost more.
Make a portion of your budget for saving up to improve things in the future. You can also use these savings for replacing something that breaks. (What would you do if your microphone died and it was out of warranty?)
Technology doesn't last forever. You could buy software that works great now, but operating-system updates or hardware upgrades could break it, mandating an upgrade for your continued use. (At this time, iOS 9, Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, and Windows 10 are all quite fresh, and each one has broken some older things.)
Also, some items will simply die after extended use. If you can't continue without that thing, you'll have to either repair or replace it.
I think all podcasters, at some point, get “gear-acquisition syndrome” (GAS). We see something new and amazing, and we want it. There's nothing wrong with upgrading, even when it's somewhat pointless or won't bring in more money. But you should ensure that you have the money saved for that upgrade or that you're not preventing a more important upgrade.
For example, I would love to switch my personal microphone away from the Heil PR40, which I've learned is simply not the best mic for my own voice. But I have far more important expenses at this time. Also, I might be able to improve my sound with some simple EQ.
Here's another example. I did not originally plan to upgrade my MacBook Pro until 2015. But in 2014, some hardware issues, a water spill, and then some support issues put me in a position where I had to buy a replacement. Thankfully, I had enough money saved that I could afford to upgrade to what I needed, instead of settling for something less.
Or, my last example, I was tired of planning my video-recording schedule around good-weather days so I could get great sunlight. Thus, I saved up and invested in a cheap lighting kit, and I now use it almost every day!
The amount you should save each month depends largely on the initial investments you already made, and how well you care for what you have.
One reason podcasting professionals like to recommend the ATR2100-USB so much is that it grows well with your needs and it includes a lifetime warranty. But it's not entirely future-proof or the universally best podcasting microphone.
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This post may contain links to products or services with which I have an affiliate relationship and may receive compensation from your actions through such links. However, I don't let that corrupt my perspective and I don't recommend only affiliates.