So, you want to produce your own podcast. It’s pretty easy, actually: Sit down at your laptop, open up an audio application (for example Garage Band, which comes free with every Mac), and start talking. Save and upload to a server and Boom, you’re done. You just need to have something interesting to say. Or not, because if your goal is to produce your own podcast, you don’t even need to say anything important, or even do a good job of audio production — you don’t even need listeners, really.

But wait: You want to produce your own podcast because what you have to say is important and you want to connect with people. Well then, that’s a different story, because you’ll need a few basic items to give you a quality start.

There are two hemispheres to a podcast: content and production. As for content, well, that’s really up to you. And while we at Ministry Tech wish you well, we can’t help in that area. (Except to recommend podcasts like The ChurchLeaders Podcast as an example of engaging conversation that draws new listeners.)

But we can help with respect to production. If you need help with apps and gear, this article’s for you. You don’t need much — you can do it for under $100 — but you certainly need the following items. And the list is surprisingly small.

Get a decent microphone. And really, decent is all you need. If you’re just getting into the podcast game, don’t spend more tha[n] $100 on a microphone. Try doing your podcast for six months with a 770 MXL Cardioid condenser mic. Amazon has them for $75-95. If you’re still podcasting regularly after six months, then maybe (maybe) you’ll want to look around for a high-end mic. But keep in mind that most listeners are not audiophiles, and they’re listening for content, not quality production. If a listener can hear you clearly while she’s doing a spin workout, then you’re golden. Add a microphone cord with a USB connection, and you’ve turned your laptop into a beginner’s sound studio.

Use an audio editing software. Super easy. Check out Audacity’s free open source, cross-platform, audio software. (It’s drive-by donations — would it kill you to give them 10 bucks for their free product?) It’s compatible with both Apple and Microsoft, and their documentation is easy to follow. Create an audio file by mixing in some music at the opening and the close (see below). Your file is ready to find a home on the Interwebs, and there are plenty of sites . . .

Set up an RSS feed. You don’t even need to know what “RSS” stands for. It’s a protocol thing that allows users and applications to access updates to online content in a standardized, computer-readable format. But don’t worry: It’s also super-easy, and it’s a basic requirement for, say, iTunes podcast uploading. You can find a step-by-step guide from the folks at Soundcloud, and their feed is compatible with all the big podcast providers. Mixcloud is also used by podcasters and is user-friendly as well.

Add a sweet musical intro and outro. It’s the 21st century, which means you need bumper music, but you don’t need to be best friends with an indie musician in order to give your opening a professional feel. Fortunately, sites like Bensound provide royalty free music files that will lend a polished feel to your podcast.

You’re ready to upload! People need to be able to find your podcast, and that’s where sites like iTunes, Podbean, Liberated Syndication (“Libsyn”), and Soundcloud (yes, they host, too) come in. The gang at Wix recently published a guide to the top podcast hosting sites. Like so many things in the tech world, iTunes is the [dominant] source for finding and playing podcasts, so you really need to be there, but a presence at these other sites will definitely help a greater audience to find you — and “getting found” by your audience is a really big deal, but it’s beyond the scope of this article.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that, besides the microphone and cable to connect to your laptop, nearly everything else is free. You can get started for well under a hundred bucks! The real benefit to this low barrier to entry is that you can learn by doing! There’s no shortage of companies that offer to pull all this together for a fee, but there’s honestly no need. It would be better to DIY your podcast, practice and refine your approach, and then begin to look for your audience.

The tech revolution has torn down barriers to entry for nearly every type of media, and podcasting is no exception. And because the pod-o-sphere is so vast, you can practice producing and uploading your podcasts before going after that vast audience. In the wild west of new tech, you can learn by doing. So you might as well set aside a few months to learn-by-doing, and then — when you’ve got everything running (and sounding) smooth — go out and find your public.