It's January so if you're anything like me you'll have a million ideas and plans flying around your head for 2021, but maybe not the budget for all of them.
And with lockdown 3 taking place in England right now and restrictions across the rest of the UK and parts of Europe I totally understand why you might be wanting to think twice or maybe three times before you invest tonnes of money in a new podcast for you business.
Here's my guide to starting your podcast on zero budget.
First and foremost you need to be able to record your podcast. And whilst I'm sitting here with 8 different microphones I promise you do not need 8 microphones. Or even one to start with.
You can record your podcast on your mobile phone. The microphone in phones are actually fairly decent as long as you use them well.
What do I mean by use them well?
It's speaking in to your phone in the same way you would if you were talking to a friend on the phone. So holding the top to your ear and the microphone is pointing at your mouth. This is how phone microphones are designed to be used best.
The other option with your phone is (and this is a reference for the UK mainly) to use it in the same way as contestants on The Apprentice use it. Although this sounds far breathier and my ps are really popping and not sounding great. If you do this I recommend you talk over the phone and not in to it. And if you can get a mic foam to go over the bottom of your phone that will take the edge of the breathiness off. (Super saving tip - you can use a sock. I have in the past.)
You also have a microphone in your phone headphones (or if you're posh your Airpods). Again this works absolutely fine if you want to record in to your phone or your computer.
If you're using your computer I would use headphones over the computer's in built microphone any day of the week.
You don't need any fancy software to record your podcast either. If you're using your phone (which I did when first starting my first podcast) you can simply use the voice memo app that comes with it.
If you're recording directly in to your computer you can record into zoom (which is free) or if you have a Mac you can record into GarageBand which is ready installed on your computer.
There is also a piece of software called Audacity which you can use. You have to download it but it is 100% free.
I'll come back to Audacity in a minute because you can also edit using this software. For now just keep in mind it's free and allows you to record your podcast!
Just a side note - if you're using Zoom to record make sure you've selected the right microphone in the settings and I would record on to the computer not the cloud. By recording locally you are not reliant on a good internet connection!
A studio would be lovely right. Sound treated room so there's no echoes etc. But that can be expensive to make for yourself and in the middle of a pandemic you might not want to be traveling to a podcast studio you can hire out.
But don't panic, your house or office is ok to record in. You just need to make wise choices about where you are going to record.
Soft furnishings are your friend. Choose a room with carpets and curtains. One that doesn't have huge ceilings too.
You want it to be cosy. I am recording this in my back bedroom. The curtains are drawn to protect against the hard surface of the window. There is carpet. I've got a couple of dressing gowns hanging on the door and there is a bed covered in all my un-ironed but clean clothes.
There's lots of soft surfaces to help stop my voice sounding echoey. And that's all a recording room needs to be. A room that isn't an echo chamber (in the sound sense, not the social media sense).
There's a great description that somebody told me or I read somewhere that you want to imagine your voice as a ping pong ball. What you want is that ping pong ball (your voice) to hit the wall or the floor or the ceiling and just drop. Not come bouncing back at you full pelt. The more you can do to dampen those surfaces the better. Even wallpaper on the walls helps.
Essentially don't record your podcast in the bathroom...
If you live in a beautiful high ceilinged house with exposed brickwork walls and wooden floors then
a) I'm jealous and
b) don't worry.
You can make a blanket den. I've been known to chuck a duvet over a few chairs and sit underneath to record. Or you can pop some sofa cushions on your desk around where you are recording to make a soft cave.
You don't need to spend money! Use the soft furnishings you've already got.
I've touched on a couple of bits of software that you can use to record your podcasts already. Your voice memo app on your phone, Zoom on your computer as well as GarageBand if you have a mac or you can download Audacity if you have a mac or a pc.
When it comes to editing first of all remember there is no law that says you need to edit your podcast. You can do it as live and put it out exactly as it is.
If you do want to edit you can use Audacity or GarageBand to do that. You can't edit at all in Zoom, but your voice memo app should allow you to trim or cut the beginning and end.
You need to be able to save your file as an mp3 so that it can be uploaded to a hosting platform.
There are a few free options out there when it comes to hosting platforms. I'm not here to recommend one over the other because I've not used them all so it's not fair for me to say one is better or worse.
Off the top of my head (and there will be more out there) I can think of Podbean, Anchor, BuzzSprout and Acast as platforms that offer free podcast hosting. I recommend you have a look at each of them (and ask around other podcasters) and decide which looks like the best fit. Anchor is the most free in that there are no other pricing plans apart from free. The others all have different pricing structures with a sliding scale of what you get.
Don't be afraid to get in touch with the platforms and ask questions. See how they treat you and make your decision from that.
Tits and Tinsel
I mentioned on my LinkedIn and Instagram that I was doing this episode and asked people to get in touch with any questions they had about podcasting on a budget.
And Matthew wanted to know about getting an intro or outro recorded by a Voice Over artist economically.
I have a few thoughts on this. First off it depends on what you mean by economically. If you mean cheap then I have bad news. The reason why good quality Voice Over work might feel as though it costs a lot for "just speaking" is because it's not just speaking. There's a lot more too it and with many professions you get what you pay for.
My friend and Voice Artist Samantha Boffin talks about this in her podcast Talking Creative which is as she describes it is "The podcast that looks at voiceover direction from both sides of the mic.
And this blog post by Sam sums it all up nicely
There are websites such as fiver or upwork where you can find people willing to do you a voice over intro and outro but I personally don't like recommending these because it becomes a race to the bottom and our creative industry in the UK is having a tough enough time as it is without pushing rates down further.
So if your budget doesn't stretch to a professional voice artist what can you do instead? There is no law in podcasting that says you need to have a voice artist record your intro and outro (there's no law that says you need an intro or outro). I've recorded my own for my podcasts and the person you hear at the beginning of this podcast saying welcome to Turn Up The Volume On Your Voice etc is actually my sister. But everybody thinks it's me because I put an effect on it.. So that was a waste of time on both our parts - might as well have done it myself.
If you want to have a jazzy intro and outro you can add music. There are sites out there that provide free music for podcasters to use with a credit. Copyright free does not always mean royalty free though. You must read the small print on any of these sites . Also be aware about what you are and are not allowed to use the music for. Some allow YouTube videos but not podcasts, some allow non-commercial use only.
For Turn Up The Volume On Your Voice I made the music using the loops available in GarageBand so I am the composer and it's all mine. And it's free. I am quite tight.
If you have a small budget I would spend it on a good microphone before I spent it on a voice over. Then I would spend it on treating the room, then I would buy slightly fancier kit and then I would start to worry more about the extras such as voice over and jazzy intros and outros. This bit is the tits and the tinsel - the shiny stuff but there's a saying about polishing certain things....
This week I joined clubhouse - you can find me as @CharlotteFoster I've scheduled a room on Monday 6pm GMT to talk about podcasting for free so if you're in clubhouse and want to join the room I'd love to speak to you.
Otherwise you can get in touch in the normal ways
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Twitter - @CFPodcasts