You've probably heard the line before: free podcasts aren't free.
This statement is true on multiple levels. If nothing else, it takes time to produce a podcast. If you add in the cost of a computer, recorder, microphone, editing software and website hosting and those costs can skyrocket pretty quickly.
However, please don't let this deter you from podcasting. If you've been sitting around thinking "I really want to try podcasting about [fill in the blank]" I really hope that sentence doesn't end with "but I can't afford it."
I've been podcasting for the last two years or so and I've learned a lot from sitting down and recording episodes that...well, will never be heard by the public again.
There's no point in me keeping the information to myself, so I'll do my best to make as many posts as I can think of about the lessons I've learned over time, both from making a conversation based podcast and an audio drama (Small Town Horror shameless plug)
You might be sitting on the next Lore or Serial. Don't live a life where you ever have to say "damn, I had that idea years ago..."
You have options. Now, keep in mind that the money that you put into a podcast can quickly come through in the quality of the production, but just because you put money into your podcast and get great equipment doesn't mean that you will have a great product. Let alone that you will even be using the equipment in a way that listeners will enjoy.
It all starts with content. So let's assume you have the next big thing all lined up and know exactly how you want it to sound, but you just don't have the money to dedicate to the podcast right away.
There are three basic things you can do to make your new blockbuster podcast for free (Disclaimer: this advice assumes that you have access to a laptop that has been made in the last five years):
1. Audacity - Here is your recording and editing software. Using the microphone that (hopefully) is built into your laptop. There are mountains worth of tutorials on how to use Audacity online. The main features that you will want to learn about are Noise Removal and Compressor to help clean up your audio. Remember, your laptop microphone is essentially free, and the quality could easily shine through, but taking some time to learn the tricks of audio editing will make A LOT of difference.
Regardless, have a friend listen to your show at least once before listening. A friend that isn't afraid to say "it sounds like you recorded that in a bathroom". Don't rush your podcast. Depending on your audience, people can be incredibly critical of sound quality, so take time to learn the software to make your recording as clean as possible.
2. Wordpress - Here's your website, and it is optional. You can create all your blog posts, upload pictures and have a homepage for people to find if they are searching for your show. Keep in mind, that if you go the free route, your web address will have .wordpress in the title. It's just a part of getting it for free. You can always upgrade to a unique name later.
3. Archive.org - Here is your hosting site. Yes, your podcast can exist exclusively on archive.org, but I don't recommend it. You are using this to get your RSS feed (the address you will need to provide to platforms like iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher in order to get your podcast the largest possible audience). It is a very basic service, but it works. I personally recommend using Libsyn. Depending on the size of your podcast and how many you plan on posting per month, their hosting fees are around $15/month.
These are the basics. With these three things you can post a podcast for the world to hear.
While I don't recommend it (I recommend at least getting a solid microphone and using Libsyn for hosting) you don't really have an excuse anymore about not being able to afford making a podcast.
Yes, it will take time. Time is money and all of that. But you can do it. And you would be surprised once you start playing around with Audacity and learning what environments are best to record in that you are actually doing pretty good.
And everyone needs to start somewhere.
Be a creator. Good luck.
if you have any subjects you specifically want me to cover, message me on twitter @jongrilz or feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
For specific advice on creating audio dramas check out the excellent Audio Drama Production Podcast at audiodramaproduction.com