Anyone with a microphone and a computer can start a podcast. But if you want it to be more than just a hobby, it’s going to take some work.
Whether as a side hustle or a full-time job, podcasting can be a fun way to share your interests and expertise with an audience. It can also be a way to break into broadcasting and turn a passion project into something profitable, potentially joining the ranks of podcasters who earn decent money through ad revenue and creator funds.
Here’s what to know about how to be a podcaster, including what sorts of tasks the job entails and some helpful tips for getting into the field.
What Is a Podcaster?
In short, a podcaster is a content creator who records audio programs and shares them with an audience through digital downloads. It’s the online version of being a radio show host, though instead of distributing the program through a set channel, the podcaster uploads the files to one or more podcasting platforms, making them available to anyone who wants to listen.
As with conventional radio hosts, podcasters cover a huge range of topics in a variety of genres, styles, formats, and lengths. And while not all podcasters make money from their efforts, there are a number of ways to monetize a podcast and turn it into a career—even without a journalism degree or many years of on-air experience. You could also parlay your podcasting skills into a career in marketing, since many companies are investing in podcasts as part of their digital marketing strategies.
What is the Difference Between a Podcaster and a YouTuber?
The main difference between a podcaster and a YouTuber is the format that they work with. Podcasters produce all or mostly audio content, while YouTubers produce all or mostly video content. There’s also a difference in the platforms that they use to share their content. Some podcasters do release video companions to their program on YouTube, but in general, a podcaster uploads content to podcasting platforms while a YouTuber uploads content to their YouTube channel.
Podcaster Job Description
A podcaster often wears a lot of hats, especially if they’re producing a podcast all on their own. These roles include planning, recording, and publishing each episode, as well as marketing the podcast to get more listeners.
There’s a lot of room for creativity in podcasting, and there are also plenty of rote tasks involved with creating a podcast and getting it out into the world. Here are some of the duties you might expect to take on if you pursue a podcasting career.
Unless you’re already an expert on a topic, you’ll need to do quite a bit of research before you ever press “record.” This may include reading books, articles, or studies, listening to other podcasts, or watching videos. Getting up to speed on the topic you’re covering or the subject you’re interviewing is an essential part of the process and should account for a lot of the time that you put into each episode.
Script Writing or Outlining
Some podcasters follow set scripts, while others simply put together a general outline of what they want to say. In either case, it’s important to organize your thoughts for each episode so that you can put together a coherent show and cover all of the relevant content.
It’s common to share the mic with a guest or co-host. You may also interview someone for the episode and then share clips of the conversation throughout the show. Have interview questions and basic talking points ready to go so that you stay on track and get more out of the conversation.
Writing Show Notes
Show notes are a written trailer of sorts that tells listeners what the podcast is about. It also gives a preview of what will be covered in each episode. Show notes can be brief, but they should give your listeners an accurate idea of what they can expect and should be engaging enough to entice them to go ahead and download the program.
Editing may be done by a podcast producer or by the podcast host themselves. If you’re doing it on your own, use podcasting software to create professional-quality episodes that are ready for streaming.
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How to Become a Podcaster
You can develop, record, and distribute a podcast without any sort of formal education or experience. However, effective podcasting is a skill just like any other, and it definitely helps to have some sort of background in storytelling and the more technical aspects of producing audio files.
These are two possible paths you might take as you figure out how to be a podcaster, either of which could serve you well on your career journey.
Get a Journalism Degree, Broadcasting Degree, or Other Related Degree
Getting a formal education is a smart idea if you think you’d like to work in a more conventional podcast setting (i.e. working for a production company instead of going it alone as a freelance podcaster). Having a broadcasting degree or a degree in a related field like journalism or communications will help set you apart from other applicants. A degree program could also open up the door to valuable opportunities like internships, mentorships, or apprenticeships.
Keep in mind that all of the skills required to start a podcast can be self-taught with enough time and energy—so don’t feel like you need to invest in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. There are certainly advantages to doing so, however, and if you’re planning to go to college anyway, it might be wise to pursue a degree that can help you get your foot in the door.
Gain Podcasting Experience
If you’d rather learn by doing, then you could opt for podcasting experience instead of a degree. This can take the form of an entry-level position at an existing podcast or could just mean starting your own podcast from scratch.
Use online courses and guides to help you navigate the ins and outs of podcast development and production, and network with other podcasters to pick up any professional guidance that you can get. It might not be your first (or even your 15th) podcast that really pays off, but all of that practice will go a long way toward setting you up for success when you finally nail down a topic and format that can go the distance.
Average Podcaster Salary
The average podcaster earns about $42 per hour, or $87,274 per year, according to ZipRecruiter. Do note, though, that this applies to salaried podcast hosts, and you’re likely to find just as many (if not more) podcasters who make no money off of their efforts as you are podcasters who make a comfortable living.
As for freelance podcasting, if you can build a strong listener base, then you might be able to monetize your show and turn your podcast into a paying gig. Ads and creator funds are the most common ways to monetize a podcast, but some podcasters can make additional money through affiliate sales or speaking engagements.
Types of Podcaster Jobs
Similar to other creative fields, you can go either the full-time employment route or the freelance route with your podcasting career. There are pros and cons to both, so do some research before diving in so that you can be sure to follow the path that makes the most sense for your ambitions.
Work for a Media Company
If you prefer a 9-to-5 type of gig, then working for a media company is probably the way to go. There are lots of media and production companies that specialize in podcasts or have podcasts as part of their larger content offerings. You might not be able to come in right away as a host, but entry-level roles are available for tasks like podcast transcribing, interviewing, editing, and recording.
These jobs can be competitive, so be ready to showcase your talents and show potential employers what you can do. Plan to come in with a pre-established set of skills and some content ideas, and assume that you’ll have to put in at least a couple years in tangential roles before you can work your way up to that coveted seat in front of the mic.
Work as a Freelance Podcaster
Freelance podcasting is easier to break into, but it does require a bigger investment since you’ll need to have your own software and equipment—plus you’ll only get paid if your show takes off. What it lacks in stability, however, it makes up for in creative freedom, and you can always start with the bare basics and upgrade your set-up as you go.
Networking will be key, and it could even lead to co-hosting or guest hosting opportunities. Consider joining podcasting communities on social media—such as the Podcast Movement, New Podcast Creators, or Podcasters Support Group on Facebook—to connect with like-minded creatives and swap tips, techniques, and project openings. Brush up on your self-marketing skills, too, because you’ll need to hustle in order to get your name out there and start building a base of listeners.
Is It Hard to Become a Podcaster?
Yes and no. Anyone can start a podcast pretty easily, but it takes a lot of hard work to turn that podcast into something successful. Have realistic expectations about what it takes to host a profitable podcast, and, if it’s important to you to get to that point, try not to get discouraged as you work your way up. Every podcaster has to start somewhere, and there’s no reason why you can’t create something great if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make it happen.
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