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Turning Pro In Podcasting: A Reality Check

Jul 22, 2019

This week I’m focusing on making the switch from amateur podcaster to professional podcaster. Today’s discussion is a reality check of sorts, because we all have fuzzy notions about what it means to turn pro. As I’ve stated before, the division between indie podcasters and professional podcasters is bogus, at least as we usually talk about it. 

Also, I’m not talking about the difference between an indie-sounding podcast and a professional-sounding podcast. Because that’s also bogus reinforces the myth that indie-produced shows have to sound raw and un-edited. Because that’s bullshit.

I’m talking about switching from someone who podcasts as a hobby, or just something on the side, to becoming someone who makes podcasting -- at least some aspects of podcasting -- their job. When I say “amateur”, I mean doing it for fun. And when I say “professional”, I mean doing it for a paycheck. 

But don’t assume I'm talking about the ability for you to take your current podcast from amateur to pro. That’s not what I'm talking about on this episode. 

At the risk of having you check out too early, the best way to illustrate what I am talking about is with a sports analogy. Don’t worry. This will be painless.

You are aware of professional baseball, right? Well, professional baseball doesn't start with Major League Baseball. That's where it ends. Prior to that, there are paid, professional players at every level above the level of amateur. Of course, the paychecks are more modest the further you get away from MBL-level of play. But those pro-but-not-MLB-level-pro baseball players have hitting coaches, and those hitting coaches are paid for their time and skills. There are physicians who focus just on professional athletes. The baseball industry pays managers, umpires, equipment managers, and equipment manufacturers. There's an entire industry around this thing called professional baseball, and while MLB players might get the fattest paychecks, there’s a whole slew of paid professionals inside of baseball all the way down.

It’s the same with movies. Not everybody makes James Cameron-level paychecks. And movies support more than just professional directors and actors. You know that there are professional camera operators, script editors, and even catering services that just serve the movie industry.

The same thing goes for podcasting. 

There are professionals at every level inside of podcasting. 

So while you may not be able to transfer your amateur hobby podcast into a professional podcast, you may be able to leverage the knowledge you have gained running that particular podcast to get a paid gig in professional podcasting. If you really are good at running a show, you can become a showrunner for other podcasts. If you're really good at audio editing, there’s a growing number of podcasters looking to offload engineering. Are you really good at scripting? There are paid scriptwriters and editors at all levels. Just like people are paid to do copyrighting for podcasts, paid podcast strategists, dedicated podcast web developers, and more. And yes,  there are even opportunities to be professional podcast host, where you’re paid to talk into a microphone. 

This should be eye-opening to lots of indie podcasters. Perhaps you’re one? We tend to think about taking the show we have right now and somehow ‘leveling it up” to professional status, as if it’s some sort of logical progression. And maybe, for you, it is. Maybe somebody will pay you to keep doing what you’re doing now, acquiring you and your show to become part of a network. Or maybe you’ve built a big enough audience where ads or sponsorships can allow you to make a serious amount of money with your show. Yes, that’s a possibility. 

But it's not the only possibility. 

Sure, you can advance your career at your job by being very good at your job. But that’s a job, where a boss is monitoring your performance and looking for someone to promote. Podcasting doesn’t have an HR department. Going pro in podcasting is more like switching companies and acquiring a new set of skills and responsibilities rather than waiting around for a new job title from your current employer. 

So the rest of this week, we’ll discuss how you grow from an amateur/hobbyist/indie podcaster to a professional person inside working inside the podcasting industry. We'll cover the skillsets required to make this big shift. We’ll examine the connections that you need in order to make a successful go at switching from amateur to pro. And then we'll wrap with a discussion about the mindset and commitment it takes to see these changes through. 

This miniseries, like all the content I have planned for Season 2, is designed to make podcasting better. I want you to take what you have learned making your show and help you level-up your skills to make podcasting better. 

And no, I have no desire to kill indie podcasting. I don’t want monotone, corporate-sounding shows to dominate the podcast space any more than you do. Podcasting is made healthier with a wide range of shows from a wide range of people. And there is plenty of room in podcasting, from the amateur level all the way up to the super high-end pro. It’s that wide, vast area in the middle where we need more pros in podcasting.

I shall be back tomorrow with another Podcast Pontifications