How to start a podcast...

…by someone who did it by trial and error and on a tiny budget.

One of the questions I’m asked the most is a version of ‘HOW DO YOU START A PODCAST?’ Brand owners, listeners, journalists, beauty editors and fellow content creators have all expressed an interest in what core kit is required. Right now I’ve listed all the information and product links on an email in the draft folder of my mailbox that I forward to whoever is enquiring, but it seemed more efficient to put all the information into one easily-accessible place.

When I started figuring out the logistics of what it took to make and publish a podcast back in 2015, I did it by trial and error. Google and Youtube tutorials were my sole sources of information because I didn’t know anyone who had a podcast or knew how they worked.

I had a very limited budget so researched endlessly to try to figure out what kit would give me the best return on investment. What I’ve listed below is what I bought when I started out initially and then what I went on to invest in once I had some money to spend on upgrading my kit.

Phase 1. 2015/16.

The kit hinges around a laptop, mine is an Apple Macbook Pro that I bought when I went freelance in 2012 so it’s something I already had, but I couldn’t have made the show without a computer. The Macbook Pro comes with Garageband on the iOS and that’s the programme I edit my audio files with. I heard lots of talk about Audacity, but I couldn’t get my head round it whereas I found Garageband extremely easy to use. I had previously used iMovie, on a now defunct Youtube channel, which I found really intuitive and easy to learn and I feel the same about Garageband. Importing tracks is easy, trimming is simple and tinkering with sound levels can be done with a few clicks. If I hadn’t had an Apple laptop I would have downloaded Audacity on whatever laptop or computer I did have to keep costs to a minimum.

All I needed on top of this was a USB microphone and the Blue range was the one that came out on top time and time again in terms of sound quality and value for money. I’d heard good things about the Snowball mic but the Yeti had better reviews and it seemed that the price jump equalled a better quality product. Plus, the Yeti just looks like it means business.

That really is everything you need to record, edit and publish a podcast. It might be basic, but you can still make a perfectly adequate podcast with it. You just hook the mic up to the laptop, open Garageband, create a voice file and hit record.

The Blue Yeti is a condenser microphone and although you can change the settings so it picks up sound from certain angles, it will also pick up background noise so the audio can, if you’re not in a very quiet room or studio, pick up noises that can be distracting and hard to edit out. This is why I decided to upgrade my kit in 2018. A few listeners had emailed complaining about sound quality on a couple of episodes, so as soon as I could invest in better equipment, I did.

Total costs: (all prices correct at time of publishing)

Phase 2. 2018.

The level of research that went into switching to a digital recorder was extensive but time and time again the Zoom H4N Pro Handy Recorder was the one that other podcasters recommended as the best around. I will be upgrading to the Zoom H6 Handy Recorder, which as more recording functionality than the H4N in the near future.

A new recorder meant new mics and I settled on two of these Behringer ones, mainly because several audio experts on Youtube cited their sound quality as comparable to way more expensive ones, such as Sennheiser, £153.99 and Shure, £107.99. By having a mic for me and a mic for my guest, plus the option to record each channel separately, I have a lot more control, when editing in Garageband over how the final audio sounds.

I bought a couple of six metre leads (Stagg 6m Mic Leads XLR) and regretted it the second I opened the parcel because they are a) way too long and b) a pain to carry around. However, I’m telling you about them because they may suit your set-up. I replaced them with one metre leads (Stagg 1m Mic Leads XLR) and they’ve worked really well. A couple of collapsible mic stands is all you need to keep them steady during recording and I use these Neewer Universal Desktop Microphone Stand. To soften the sounds you might want some ‘windshields’ for your mics. These catch hard sounds, sharp breaths and anything that could distort the spoken word. I bought a multipack from Gootrades.

Rather than record straight into Garageband the audio is saved onto an SD card as an audio file, which is then easily dragged and dropped into Garageband for editing.

Total costs: (prices correct at time of publishing)

Zoom H4N Pro Handy Recorder (with 16GB SD Card and Tripod), £189.

2x Behringer Microphones, £17.50 each.

2x Stagg 1m Mic Leads XLR, £3.70 each.

2x Neewer Universal Desktop Microphone Stand, £9.99 each.

Gootrades Microphone Windshield Sponge Foam Covers, pack of 10, £3.14.