Very few professionals achieve professional status on their own. It’s really no different in podcasting. The real trick is connecting with the right people who can help you reach the next level. But that’s not as easy or clear as you might think.
This is part three of my four-part miniseries on switching from amateur/hobbyist/just having fun with podcasting to becoming a podcasting professional. Part one was a reality check and level set. Part two was an honest evaluation of your own abilities and how to improve them. Today’s episode is about the connections you need to cultivate.
The people who you surround yourself with will either help or hinder you on your journey to becoming a professional podcaster. But you most certainly will need help. This bears repeating: It’s really tough to become professional on your own. (Sure, it happens, but those cases are the exceptions to the rule.)
To become a pro, you need other people to help you. And as is often the case with many things, I feel it’s important to identify what isn’t going to work. There are three types of people who are at best not helping you on your journey. And at worst, they are detrimental to your quest. Those three types of people? The three Fs.
Your friends will not help you become a podcasting professional.
Your friends are and should be your friends first. It’s rare to have friends that are incredibly, brutally honest with you. That’s true even for me, a notoriously “tough” friend. I only offer my opinion when specifically asked, and even then my recognition of our friendship often prohibits me from giving a completely honest answer.
(And if I struggle with that, imagine how people who are really afraid of being called an asshat would react.)
Even if your friends are other podcasters — pro or hobbyist, they are your friends first. Yes, you can and will get some information from your professional friends, but it’s unfair of you to ask them to suspend their friendship to give you honest advice. The friendship is more important.
Your family will not help you become a pro podcaster.
First, it would be odd that another family member is as into podcasting as you. But it’s not impossible. Podcasting is a 15-year-old industry that’s recently come to maturation, so it’s possible you have a crazy old uncle who’s been doing this for 15 years. Even if that does describe your situation, your crazy old uncle may not be the best person to get advice from., simply because his advice might be 15 years out of date.
But more importantly, they’re family. Wherever your family falls on the spectrum of support to dysfunction, family members cannot be genuinely honest with each other. They can’t. Their comments are either way too supportive or mean-spirited. Because they are your family, and family is family.
Your fans will not help you become a podcasting professional.
Fans want one thing: More of what you’re doing. More of the thing that you do that made them a fan of you in the first place. Fans are incapable of being truly objective about you making any changes that might impact the thing that they are a fan of. Much like family, they’ll either blindly support whatever you do or they’ll hate anything other than the thing they love. That’s what makes them fanatics.
Sure, some may be critical about things, but they aren’t critics. They are fans. Some fans can be very good at helping you do the things you do better. But rarely are they helpful when considering wholesale changes required to move from hobbyist to true professional.
So with friends, family, and fans out of the picture… who should you talk to? What connections should you surround yourself with to help you explore your options in the pro podcasting world? I’ll offer three suggestions because I like symmetry.
The right support community can help you turn pro.
There are lots of communities for podcasters. But not all communities are created equal when you’re trying to make the jump to pro. Facebook groups, Meetups, Twitter chats, Discord servers… I know of dozens, which means there are probably hundreds of different communities offering support to fellow podcasters.
But remember that most podcasters looking for support and advice in these communities have no intention of turning pro.
Hence, a lot of the advice and support shared are of the podcaster-helping-podcaster variety. To be blunt, it’s generic advice for anyone interested in podcasting. And while that’s great and a valuable service to the larger podcasting ecosystem, generic advice isn’t going to help you turn pro.
I think you should be laser-focused and prioritize communities that are for pros. You might even need to create your own community, perhaps your own mastermind of sorts. Find a Slack channel or a Discord server populated by a handful of people, where all of those people are marching towards the same direction: Going professional.
The right coach can help you turn pro.
Remember, I’m not talking about monetizing the podcast you are doing right now. When I talk about going pro, I’m talking about making you into a professional in this industry. That might mean you need to specialize in one aspect of podcasting. It certainly means you need help building or honing the skills necessary to compete at the professional level.
For that, you might need a coach help guide/train you. And, yeah, you’re going to pay that person. Unknown actors pay their acting coaches. Minor league baseball players pay their batting coach. You don’t wait for success and then find a coach. You find a coach so you can achieve the success you want as a professional.
The right supporting cast can help you turn pro.
I know a lot of professional writers. None of them are professional copy editors. Because while writing and editing are both valuable and necessary parts to publishing a great book, they are two very different skillsets. So writers who are making the transition from indie writers to professional writers tend to have a great copy editor in their back pocket. And great proofers, developmental editors, and book designers.
The same thing should hold true for those wanting to become podcasting professionals. You do not have to master all of the skills necessary in podcasting. Instead, you need to cultivate a supporting cast of people who are professionals for all the jobs and aspects of podcasting you don’t want to do.
Do you have a go-to professional audio engineer? Do you have a go-to professional scriptwriter? Or maybe you want to go the other direction, and you want to be the professional scriptwriter another podcasting professional turns to? And maybe you also need a go-to professional voice-over talent.
Cultivate relationships with other podcasting professionals. You don’t have to go it alone. Find your coach and find your support staff. Find or cultivate the right kind of community. But avoid — or at least limit your reliance on — the three Fs, because they aren’t designed to help you with this transition.
Tomorrow, we’ll tackle what sort of mindset you need to go pro.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 201st episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.