Christine Mwaturura: How to make a podcast on a budget

Christine Mwaturura  

Christine Mwaturura is a producer and presenter of the SOS in Oz podcast and Afro Turn Up radio show. She is also a YouTuber and former contributor to the online lifestyle magazine, Madame Noire. Ahead of her appearance at the Podcasting Intensive at EWF18, here are her top tips for making a podcast on a budget.

If you’ve been dreaming about starting a podcast but every time you think about it you become like a deer in the headlights, I can sympathize because my sister and I were in your position three years ago. We had the concept and the passion but had no idea where to start or what it would cost us. We did finally figure it out and the good news is that making a podcast is probably easier than you think and doesn’t require a huge upfront financial investment. In this post I’m going help you put your podcast plan into action by demystify the process and costs of starting a podcast.

1. Figure out what your podcast will be about and the reason why you want to create a podcast

I believe that great content beats great sound quality; or at the very least, listeners will be more forgiving of not-so-great sound if your content provides value. So the first step in making a podcast is figuring out your content and your podcast’s value proposition. It’s also essential for you to understand why you think your podcast needs to exist. Having a strong why will help you sustain the energy that you will need when it gets hard (and it will).

2. Get a microphone

Depending on the format of your show you may already have a mic that will meet your needs just fine–it’s in your mobile phone. If you don’t plan on having too many people speaking on your podcast then you could get away with just using your inbuilt voice recorder on your mobile. This episode of our podcast was recorded on a mobile. Not bad, right?

If you want to step it up a notch you can purchase a simple USB mic that plugs directly into your computer (this way there’s no need to buy additional equipment like an audio interface). When we first started out we used the Blue Snowball (US$69.99). I like this mic because it has multi-pattern recording capability which means that you can set the microphone to record sound from the front of the mic only (cardioid) or from all around (omni). You can use the omni setting to record a group although it will pick up more background noise on this setting. This episode was recorded using the Blue Snowball.

We eventually upgraded to the Blue Yeti Pro (US$249) which gives the added flexibility of plugging directly into professional audio equipment with XLR microphone inputs, as well as headphone monitoring. This episode was recorded using the Blue Yeti Pro.

There are cheaper alternatives in the market, but Blue seems to provide a good balance between price and quality.  Do your own research to figure out what type of mic will work best for your podcast format. Also, remember that to get the best out of your mic you will want to get close enough to the mic when you speak; in general, the closer (but not too close) the sound source the better.

3. Get audio capturing and editing software

Audacity is free open-source software and it works great both on PC and Mac. There are plenty of tutorials online, including video tutorials on YouTube, that will teach you how to become an Audacity pro.

4. Buy VoIP call recording software

If you intend on recording calls made from your computer (Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger etc), you will need to purchase additional software to be able to capture both sides of the conversation in your recording. For PC, I recommend Total Recorder (US$17.95), and for Mac I recommend Audio Hijack (US$64.90). I’ve used both of these and they capture good quality. I’ve also found that we tend to get better sound when we use Facebook Messenger for calls.

5. Find a room to record in and sound treat it

Picking a good room and doing some simple sound treatment can take your audio from meh to OK or even good. Assuming that you’re not going for atmospheric sound and you want your recording to sound like it was recorded in a studio, then look for a non-echoey, carpeted room with a low ceiling and fill it up with some blankets, clothes, towels etc. The idea is to reduce the number of flat surfaces that could potentially reflect sound back into your mic. We recorded most of our episodes in my storage closet (yes, a closet). A recording done in a closet will probably never sound as crisp as a recording done in a professional studio, but at FREE.99 I’d say my storage closet is a pretty good deal. Compare for yourself the linked episodes above to this one which was recorded in a proper studio.

If you must record in a studio, say for example you have important guests you’d like to interview and you don’t want to cram them into a closet, check out your public libraries to see if they have recording facilities. The City of Melbourne libraries have two studios. You may be asked to attend a training session to learn how to use the equipment and you will have to pay something to rent out the space, but it will be at a fraction of the cost of other professional recording studios.

6. Edit your recording and add the bells and whistles

Post-production editing can take you audio to the next level by smoothing out the volume, reducing background noise, adding bass where necessary and mixing in music. You can do all of this using Audacity. Post-production is where the magic really happens from a content perspective as well; keep the most compelling parts and ruthlessly cut out the lulls for the sake of your listeners.

When it comes to the use of music in podcasts, because of copyright laws you unfortunately can’t just use your favorite song as the theme for your podcast without first securing the licensing. We really wanted to use Rihanna’s SOS as we thought it would be fitting, but we also don’t have bags of money at our disposal. Fortunately there is heaps of royalty-free music out there and some of it is free. Check out YouTube’s audio library with free downloads, iTunes Public Domain royalty-free music library, and stock music sites like PremiumBeat.

7. Create your cover art

If you don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer, there are a plethora of websites that have free and easy to use customizable graphic design templates. Check out Canva for a start.

8. Share your podcast

Now you’re ready to share your creation with the world. In order to do that, you will need a hosting service. SoundCloud offers free hosting for up to 180 minutes of audio. If you wish to have a bigger allowance then you will need to purchase a Pro or Pro Unlimited plan. We have a Pro Unlimited plan which costs about AU$18 per month. I like SoundCloud because once you’ve set-up your podcast on the site you will get an RSS feed link that you can drop into Apple Podcasts which means that whatever changes you make on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts will automatically update.

I hope that this guide helps you get started. When you do publish your first episode let us know by commenting below. Welcome to podcasting!

Catch Christine and her sister Chido talking about which ingredients make for a sustainable and successful podcast at the Intensive: Podcasting on Wednesday, 27 June.