If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you already know a ton about the podcasting world, and you’re ready to go pro. From episode planning to post-production, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your podcast knowledge and ensure you’re taking full advantage of all the tools, tips and tricks at your disposal.
Becoming a professional podcaster in 2021 is definitely possible, and it’s a great career option for anyone who loves being creative, spreading an important message, and having more autonomy than the average employee.
There are plenty of ways you can make your journey to professional podcasting easier, smoother and speedier, so buckle up and get ready to skyrocket your way to success.
This comprehensive guide will help you cover all your bases when it comes to professional podcasting, and set you up for success if you’re still in the early planning stages. Below you’ll find information on some of the fundamental pillars of entering the world of professional podcasting and how you can position yourself as a pro in this ever-changing landscape:
We know, we know—you want to go straight to the good stuff: how to monetize! But first, it’s important to sit down and do some goal setting for your podcast.
After all, if you’re hoping to make podcasting your full-time profession, you’ll need to have a big “why” behind every action you take to bring your dream to fruition. At CoHost, we always advise our users to set some initial goals for their podcast in terms of the metrics they’d like to reach, the audience base they’d like to connect with, and the ultimate mission they’ll be driving back to with each episode.
Your goals will be your guiding light throughout your podcasting journey, so it’s important that they feel worthwhile and important to you.
Setting podcast goals is a super personal process, and your goals will likely look a lot different than another podcaster’s. Regardless, here are a few ideas that may help you land on your own ultimate goals:
Maybe you’d like to bring light to world hunger, domestic violence or the importance of wellness practices. Podcasts are a great way to do this, but whatever cause you choose, make sure you feel passionate about it and emotionally invested in it.
Are you a meditation teacher? A therapist? A dietitian? Whatever your skills, background or expertise, podcasting is an excellent way to spread knowledge and help people improve their lives.
Fictional podcasts have seen a major surge recently, and for good reason: they provide a much-needed escape from reality by pulling the listener into a fascinating narrative. If your goal is to bring happiness and entertainment to the world, then podcasting is definitely the place to be.
Again, podcast goals can take several shapes and sizes, and these are just a few examples to help you get started. Ultimately, you’ll want to ensure your main goal feels important and authentic to you, because this will be your main motivator as a professional podcaster.
Now that we’ve covered goal setting, let’s get to the good stuff!
So, you want to be a professional podcaster? Well, given that one of the definitions of “professional” is “following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain,” then you’ll want to look at the best ways to monetize your podcast first.
By now, you’ve likely researched podcast monetization strategies at least a little bit, but you may still be unclear on the best strategy for you. Below, we’ve included some more in-depth information about each monetization strategy that will help you find the pathway (or pathways!) that are right for you:
A great way to monetize your podcast or your entire brand, for that matter, is to partner with other brands to help promote their products or services through your content. Of course, there’s a fine art to this, and some podcasters have a more refined style than others.
It’s all about working the brand mention into your show in a subtle and believable way so your listeners don’t feel like they’re listening to an ad, but rather an actual recommendation from a friend.
But let’s cross that bridge when you come to it: first, how do you land the brand sponsorships anyway? Here are a few different avenues you can take to get there:
Once you’ve amassed a solid following on social media and a certain number of downloads on your podcast, you may be able to work with an influencer agency to help you land brand sponsorships and work out the logistics of contracts, payments and more.
Otherwise, you can also try approaching the brands you genuinely love yourself to ask them about potentially working together in the future. They may say no, but they may also say yes, too, so it’s worth a try. Either way, you may receive insights into how you should pitch your podcast in the future or the type of brands that you should be approaching.
Once you find your voice and unique niche through your podcast and overall brand, the companies that are aligned with the topics you discuss may begin to approach you about working together. Above all, remember to stay authentic, be patient and keep building your brand consistently over time.
As we’ve already mentioned, advertising represents a massive chunk of the podcast monetization game. In general, there are two different types of podcast ads:
A host-read ad is exactly what it sounds like: an ad slot that’s read by the host of the podcast. Typically, a brand will send a podcaster a sample of their product or service, and the host of the podcast will draft a short testimonial about the product to be read during the episode.
On the other hand, dynamically-inserted ads are ad spots that are recorded separately from the podcast episode by a voice actor or someone else who isn’t the podcast host. This is often referred to as the “creative,” and it’s inserted into the podcast episode during the post-production phase.
There are several ways to work with advertisers and make money off your show. One great option is to apply to join an advertising network.
Most of these networks have a minimum requirement for listeners, downloads, etc., so you’ll want to make sure you’ve grown your audience to a solid place before you apply. Here are some of the best podcast advertising networks to check out:
Many podcasters and creative types are completely averse to the idea of selling ad spots since they believe it could take away from the quality of the content (although we disagree). If you feel this way, then a private membership group or platform may be one of the best ways for you to monetize your brand.
If you’ve built a devoted and loyal fanbase by offering compelling content that helps people in some way, whether that’s by providing advice, information or just entertainment, there’s a good chance they’ll pay a small fee to access your content each month. You could move all your content to a paid platform, or just bonuses, extras and special product offerings like courses or eBooks.
To do this, you could try one of the following options:
Create your own private membership platform.
Again, if you’re all about having 100% creative control over your brand, then it could be worth the added cost to work with an app or web developer to create a private membership platform that’s completely customized to your brand, style and needs. Once it’s up and running, you’ll charge subscribers a monthly fee to be a part of your community and gain access to special content, freebies and promotions.
With Patreon, creators have access to a turnkey solution for creating their own membership platform. Over 200,000 creators have joined Patreon as a way to monetize their business and promote their art, products or service offerings. Anyone from podcasters to writers to visual artists to reiki healers can join, and the platform only takes 5-12% of your monthly earnings as the fee for using the platform.
Another great way to monetize your podcast is to sell merchandise, products, services or really, whatever your heart desires. Once you’ve built a solid following through your podcast, you’ll be able to leverage this community by offering them tangible products and services as an extension of your brand.
Whatever you’re selling, it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to your podcast content. If you have a devoted and loyal fanbase who appreciates the authentic content you release through your podcast, there’s a good chance they’ll love the same things you love and feel compelled to purchase them through you.
Essentially, once you’ve built trust and credibility among your community, you have more freedom to experiment with new tactics and launch exciting new offerings.
Here are some ideas for products, services and merchandise you could sell via your website or even an Etsy shop:
This monetization strategy is pretty straightforward, so it’s definitely an easy way to top up your monthly income that you won’t want to miss out on.
All you have to do is upload your podcasts to YouTube, click “enable monetization” under “status and features,” and let the platform do the rest. You don’t even necessarily have to pair your podcast content with video—a simple graphic image to act as the visual aspect will do the trick. But also note, this strategy requires a very high audience volume to effectively monetize your show.
As we’ve already covered, once you’ve built a devoted and loyal fanbase and increased your brand exposure, the world is pretty much your oyster as far as monetization strategies go. Having a popular online platform is a great way to land other opportunities you may not otherwise have access to.
If you’ve amassed a solid amount of listeners, downloads and followers through your podcast, don’t be shy—take advantage of your newfound fame by leveraging other opportunities in your community and abroad. Some examples may include:
If people like listening to your podcast, chances are, they’ll pay to see you speak live and in-person at conferences, events and more.
Another way to take advantage of your podcast fame is to hold events related to your field or industry like cooking classes, tarot card readings, or fundraisers.
As we’ve already noted, selling products and services such as coaching, teaching, healing techniques and more is a great way to monetize, depending on your skills and expertise.
Holding private webinars and classes online through Zoom or another video conferencing service allows you to reach a much broader audience base than in-person events by giving you a chance to communicate with people all over the world in real time.
When it’s all said and done, sometimes the simplest way to make money is to just ask for it. Many creators today will simply ask their followers and community to donate money through their brand’s website, GoFundMe or a similar platform so they can keep their business going and raise funds for things like new podcasting equipment.
This is a pretty pure, simple and honest way to make money, so it’s another great option if you’re advertising-averse. #AskAndYouShallReceive.
Since you’ve likely already got your podcast up and running, you’ll want to spread the word and create some buzz around the show. Most of the monetization strategies we’ve mentioned above won’t be super lucrative if you haven’t first done the work to build your audience, so let’s take a deep dive into the world of podcast marketing.
Marketing your podcast effectively is crucial because without using tactics like social media, email marketing, blogs and advertising to get the word out, no one will know your podcast exists anyway (unless you’re some A-List celebrity, in which case, what are you doing here?) so all your hard work will be for naught.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with new platforms, ideas and tactics, and be sure to remain consistent with your messaging so listeners know what to expect. There are several promotional platforms podcasters can use to boost their marketing plans. Here are some of our favorites:
Offered on Google Play, this app allows you to purchase ad slots in a specific podcast category, or on the homepage for $1,000 to $2,000 USD.
As a podcast marketplace, Megaphone allows podcasters to purchase ad space within podcast episodes and target specific audience demographics for a more tailored campaign experience.
Also a marketplace similar to Megaphone, Acast provides users access to over 300 million listeners per month and 25,000 shows.
Your audience will be able to tell if you’re trying to be someone you’re not, so the most important thing to remember when finding your authentic voice is to stay true to you and focus on what really lights you up. Following your unique passions will never lead you astray, and people will be drawn to your refreshing sincerity and honesty.
When it comes to marketing, it’s never a bad idea to reach out to other like-minded pros in your industry to network, chat and pick their brain for a few minutes to get their advice. If you have the budget, you could also hire a freelancer or an agency to help with your marketing plans and increase your growth more rapidly.
It’s no secret that the online landscape is changing a mile a minute, so it’s always important to stay flexible and challenge yourself to try new things as they emerge. Keep your finger on the pulse of the podcasting and tech worlds in addition to the specific industry or niche you’re operating in.
With more autonomy and freedom as a professional podcaster, it can be tempting to procrastinate and leave things to the last minute, or worse, get off-track with your episode schedule. As a professional podcaster, you’ll need to take your podcast just as seriously as a full-time job, and use all the tools and tech at your disposal to stay on track and organized.
As a professional podcaster, you’re part of an exciting and growing landscape of creative industry professionals. There are plenty of fun podcasting and networking events to attend, whether online or in-person, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there so you can learn from others.
Now that you’re a professional podcaster, you’ll want your production quality to be top notch so you can continue growing your following and collaborating with brands. If you’ve made it this far, chances are, you’re already doing pretty well in this department, but there’s always room for improvement. Let’s go over a few ways to up your production game.
The pre-production phase is all about planning your episode and getting set up for success. While many would argue the magic happens in post, pre-production is where a great episode begins its journey, so it’s worth continuing to refine your process.Here are a few tips to take your pre-production phase to the next level:
Doing a little extra research to track down guests that are credible, knowledgeable and aligned with your topic is well worth the effort. Guests can be a huge draw for new listeners, so landing a guest who has an audience base of their own can be a big help in terms of audience growth.
Once you’ve landed the perfect guest, it’s time to dive into the topic and the guest’s background. You can never really do too much research before a podcast recording, and the more you know about the subject, the more detailed and in-depth the episode will be. Check out any past articles, books, video archives and social media posts about the guest and the topic, and draft your questions using your research as a base.
The best way to strategize pre-recording is to come up with a firm, detailed plan in advance, all the while staying open and flexible depending on any new information that may come up during the discussion. Your guest may provide insights you weren’t expecting that will steer the conversation in another direction, and in that case, you’ll want to stay nimble enough to go with the flow.
Next, it’s time to hit record and as Nike says, just do it! This is where all your planning, strategizing and researching finally comes to fruition and you can begin engaging in the act of creating the finished product.
You’ve likely already recorded dozens if not hundreds of podcast episodes by now, but again, there is always room for improvement or experimentation with new styles. Here are some things to consider when recording your next podcast episode:
YouTube has plenty of quick voice warm-up exercises, like this one from a Virginia Tech acting professor.
This is a simple and easy trick that will help to minimize background noise and make your job in the editing suite much easier.
While it’s definitely a good idea to have some sort of plan and script prepared before your recording, there’s a fine balance to maintain between sounding prepared and knowledgeable versus overly rehearsed and scripted. Try to avoid reading directly from a script and instead use your notes as a guidepost to keep you on track throughout the recording.
Finally, you’ve made it to the post-production phase, AKA where the magic happens. This is probably the most crucial stage of the journey because it’s where all your hard work comes together into one beautiful, shiny finished product.
The post-production phase is also likely one of the most complex components of the podcast journey because it involves editing, sound design and a variety of different tools and softwares, depending on your needs. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when it comes to the post-production phase as a professional podcaster:
Although it takes a little extra time, this will help you see the interview from a bird’s eye view perspective and get a better sense of how it should be edited for flow and consistency. You can also use a transcription software like Trint to review the transcription beforehand and highlight the clips you’d like to include in the final episode.
Although this advice is often repeated in the writing world, the same goes for podcasting, too. Don’t be afraid to get a little ruthless in the editing suite and cut out any fluff or fodder that makes for an unnecessarily long episode. A good rule of thumb when deciding what to keep and what to cut is to ask yourself, does this add value for my listeners? If not, let it go—you can always revisit it later and repackage unused content in another episode featuring previously unreleased soundbites.
No podcaster is an island, and some of the most popular podcasts have an entire production team behind them. If you’re hoping to make it to the big leagues, you’ll likely need to enlist the help of at least a few other people, whether they be sound technicians, editors or producers. Don’t be afraid to hire a freelancer or an agency to help you with the things you’re not as skilled in so you can really take your show to the next level.
Mackenzie Patterson is the Senior Producer & Content Strategist at Quill Inc, and a Toronto-based writer, and journalist. She's always exploring the latest movies, TV shows and wellness trends.