Podcasts have been around for more than 15 years, but they really started taking off more recently. These days, they’re becoming a medium of choice for business, education, mental health, entertainment, and more.
And what does that rise in production mean? More need for help!
As shows become monetized, it makes sense for podcasters to outsource the production so they can free up their time to focus on more income-producing work. And that means opportunity for YOU to step in as a podcast producer.
What does a podcast producer do?
You could say the primary role of the podcast producer is to get the show on the road — and moving in the right direction.
Depending on the level of service you offer, you may be highly involved in the process. Some podcast producers are heavily involved in every element of the show and will be the ones to take a raw recording and do all the editing, distributing, and marketing themselves. Others may choose to back off the nitty-gritty and instead oversee a team (theirs or the client’s) that does all the leg work. There’s a huge range in the depth and breadth of service you can offer as a podcast producer — and you may even be able to build your own team (or agency) to offer a full-stack podcasting service.
Ultimately, though, the podcast producer role itself is in large part a strategic leadership role. Someone whose primary role is solely producer will coordinate between the client and the project manager to make sure all of the different elements are in place before (and after) a show gets published, but they won’t usually be the one to do the specific production tasks. When sponsors are in place, the producer is typically the one to handle those interactions as well.
The producer is aware of the client’s vision for the show, and may even play a role in planning the content and marketing strategies for the show. When an episode is ready to publish, they’ll coordinate with the marketing team(s) to make sure everything is ready to push out. And once an episode has gone live, the producer is often the one to look at the analytics and make decisions (or suggestions) about areas for improvement.
A high-level producer won’t be the one to do things like embed episode codes into the podcast website or write the emails announcing a new episode, but they may be the ones to invite guests to appear on the show, negotiate contracts with sponsors, and edit the actual show itself.
What are the benefits of becoming a podcast producer?
As a service provider, one of the key benefits of becoming a podcast producer is offering an extremely valuable service to your clients. Managing all the moving parts of a podcast can be overwhelming for some podcasters, so they’ll look for an assistant right out of the gate. Others will DIY their shows until they’re ready to outsource a lot of the production work, and it’s a big relief to hand the production over. Never underestimate the satisfaction of knowing that you’re playing an important role in a key business strategy.
For those who like variety, this is a job that moves a lot and keeps you learning (and even entertained). There’s no end to the creativity and insight that podcasters share with their audience, and being a part of bringing that show to the audience can be a lot of fun.
But we aren’t just here for the feel-goods; there’s also the money to consider. Because the podcast producer is a strategic role, it’s more lucrative than an order-taker role. Generally speaking, retainer fees for podcast producers are solid and can climb pretty high — but more on that in a sec.
Other perks of being a podcast producer include being able to set your own schedule, choose your own clients, and even start building yourself a team or full-blown agency, if that’s where you want to go. If the show you’re working on involves guests, you’ll be able to establish connections with those folks and naturally build a reputation for yourself. And sometimes, as with many types of virtual assisting roles, you can develop a great working relationship with your clients, leading to good connections and solid referrals (in addition to that “I love my job!” feeling every morning).
What skills are needed?
Excellent podcast producers need to have strong skills in communication, technique, and management. Because you’re working with something that’s constantly moving, there are the organizational skills and meticulous follow-through to hold everything together. You’ll also need to be able to manage client expectations and coordinate a team, if you’re working with one.
On the more technical side, having audio editing skills is an absolute requirement. You need to know your way around a microphone, your editing software of choice, and the soundboard (even if it’s a digital one). You’ll also need to know how to get good audio out of both studio and live recording settings, and be able to guide your client to do so as well.
To be a well-rounded, truly valuable producer, you’ll need to understand the fundamentals of content marketing and social media marketing. Some of your clients may have other VAs or teams to make those decisions, but not always. When you understand marketing, you can identify great hooks (which you’ll need if a show has a “teaser” in the beginning), come up with great content ideas, pitch the podcast well to potential guests, and inform the content marketing that comes after the show is published.
You’ll also need to be able to interpret the podcast’s analytics to see what’s working, what’s not, and advise your clients on content moving forward. This is another part of the strategic role that producers play. Some clients will want to do their own analytics and content strategy, but others will look to you for guidance.
But if you can offer all these different skills to your clients, you’ll be a true asset for them.
What tech and equipment will you need?
In most cases, most of the tech you’d need in the producer’s role is software: audio editing tools (also called digital audio workstations or DAWs), publishing platforms, and communication tools.
Some podcasts are simply recorded in one take using GarageBand and earbud microphones. Others are highly complex, with scripting, multiple microphone inputs, sound effects, interview inserts, sponsored messaging, and more. The level of planning and production skills required for a more complex show is substantially higher than the once-and-done type of show, but both shows (and everything in between) will require you to understand how to produce good audio.
- Tools You Need to Know:
- Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) (like Audacity)
- Hosting platforms (like Libsyn, Podbean or BuzzSprout)
- Analytics tools (Chartable or Blubrry)
- Communication tools (like Slack, Voxer or Zoom)
- Project Management Tools (like Asana, Trello, Basecamp or Click Up)
One of the most common DAWs for podcast producers is Audacity, which is available for free and widely used because it’s a great tool. Garageband is also free and easy to use, but making the leap to Audacity will give you a lot more options.
There are also paid audio editors that you may want to consider learning if you want to become one of the best of the best. ProTools is generally the go-to DAW across the board, but there are a few options to think about. For a show that’s heavily focused on audio storytelling (like an NPR documentary piece), Hindenburg Journalist would be a good editor to use because it’s designed for that type of production. And if you want something to take your audio into the super-high end range and you’re solely focused on podcasts, Adobe Audition is an excellent choice giving you unlimited possibilities.
As a producer, you’ll also need to be familiar with the major hosting platforms. Libsyn is arguably the most popular one, but other big names include Podbean and BuzzSprout. You should also know how to set up syndication in the podcasting platforms so the show can get out to as many channels as possible. Your hosting platform is where you’ll generate show stats and analytics, or you can turn to third-party apps like Chartable or Blubrry.
As for the communication and organization side of things, you’ll need to be able to use (or ready to learn) popular communication platforms and project management software. For communication, tools like Slack, Voxer, and Zoom are good. Common project management programs include Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and ClickUp. You’ll also need to be familiar with peripheral tools like Google Drive, and a scheduler like Google Calendar, Acuity, or Calendly.
How much can you make?
Like many ongoing services, podcast production tends to be billed at a monthly rate (like a retainer) or a per-episode rate, rather than billing by the hour. When you’re an experienced podcast producer, a typical starting rate for a baby producer with a baby podcast might be anywhere from $150 to $250 per show (or approximately $500-1000 per month).
As you get more experienced, and perhaps building your own production team, monthly fees can climb to $4,000 or more. Keep in mind (I see those dollar signs floating around your head) that with higher fees must come greater expertise and a higher level of service — including strategic input. You won’t just be adding an intro and outtro to a raw podcast track, calling it a day, and raking in 4 Grand.
Be prepared to offer content direction, audience insights, excellent content marketing, and high-touch editing services. You’ll likely be working closely with a social media team, identifying snippets and concepts to broadcast across those channels. You’ll also need to be able to coach your clients on producing the highest level of audio quality in their original tracks as possible, so you have good material to work with.
Can you work from home or remotely?
While more and more companies and organizations are hiring in-house podcast producers, it’s arguably easier to carve out a space for yourself working from home than it is to find an in-house job.
Remote employment work is something that would be determined on a case-by-case basis depending on what the organization wanted, and that’s a fairly straightforward question to have answered during, or even before, the application process.
But many podcasts — and the majority of podcasts in some major categories — are put on by bloggers and entrepreneurs who are committed to working from home, for themselves and their teams. These are also more likely to be the types of clients who will prefer to work with remote contractors instead of looking for employees. So if you’re committed to being your own boss, there should be no shortage of clients out there looking for someone like you.
What types of clients or shows hire producers?
In short, all types of shows hire podcast producers. Not every show will hire one, but shows in every category, industry, and niche have producers. And with more and more podcasts coming online every day, the pool of prospective clients is only growing.
Podcasts are, more often than not, a marketing tool. Not always, but generally. The ideal outcome for a podcast is to generate money for its host, whether it’s in the form of sponsorships and advertising dollars, appearance fees (as more and more podcasts begin to charge guests to appear), or customer and client leads.
For that reason, shows that need producers are the ones being put out by business owners. Any business owner’s primary concern should be spending their time on income-producing activities; when an entrepreneur’s effective hourly rate is higher than the cost of outsourcing something, it makes sense to outsource.
How do I find work?
If you want to go the remote employment route, the best thing you can do is conduct daily searches for podcast producer jobs on job sites like Indeed and Flexjobs, where these open positions are likely to be posted.
If you want to go the freelance route, there are a few different channels you can target to find clients, and most of them boil down to visibility and connection. Developing relationships with industry peers, either in Facebook groups or face-to-face (even if it’s over Zoom) can generate work. You can dig up podcasters to pitch using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram (think hashtags) and then connect and offer your services.
One technique we especially like is to look on Amazon for the current best-sellers in your niche or areas of interest, and contact those authors. Often authors who run a successful book launch are also interested in doing a podcast.
And, of course, once you have some clients, you can ask them for referrals.
What’s my next step?
If you aren’t already involved in podcasting but you want to become a podcast producer, the absolute best thing you can do is start your own show! By producing your own show, you’ll learn everything you need to know, piece by piece. You’ll also be actively building your own portfolio of podcasts, which you can then use to impress prospective new clients.
If you already have podcasting experience, the next thing to think about is where you have any gaps in your skillset. If you’re pretty good with audio but clueless about evaluating the analytics, then it makes sense to learn up on important benchmarks and milestones, get familiar with the analytics tab in your podcasting platform, and learn what some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) are when it comes to podcasts. If you’ve got a handle on content and marketing your show(s) but you’ve never dug deep into high-quality audio production, then that’s your next step.
Whatever your “weak spots” might be, there are a few different routes you can take to strengthen up. Pretty much everything you’d need to know can eventually be found online, with a combination of Google and Youtube. You can also plug into Facebook groups and online forums full of other podcasters if you want to be able to ask questions. And if you’re looking for a more efficient way to learn so you can level up faster, courses are the way to go. You’ll get targeted advice, expert guidance, and often a community where you can get support and answers.
The ‘Become A Podcast Producer’ Cheat Sheet:
Too lazy to read the whole thing? Here’s a summary:
What does a podcast producer do?
A podcast producer’s job is to provide strategic direction and leadership to the production of a podcast. They might execute on some or all of the production steps.
The benefits of becoming a podcast producer?
This role offers lots of variety and opportunities to learn new things and can be adapted to fit your life.
What skills does a podcast producer need?
Audio editing, communication & project management skills, team coordination and marketing strategy.
What tech and equipment does a podcast producer need?
At minimum, a Podcast Producer should know their way around at least one type of DAW, hosting platform, analytics tool and communication and project management tools.
How much can a podcast producer make?
It depends highly on skill and experience but anywhere between $75-350 episode.
Can a podcast producer work from home or remotely?
What type of clients/shows hire podcast producers?
All sorts! More specifically, any shows that are used as a marketing tool.
How do I find work as a podcast producer?
Job marketplaces, networking and referrals.
What’s my next step to become a podcast producer
Learn everything you need to know to start your career as a Podcast Producer here.