For every podcast creator who wants to subcontract their tasks, there seem to be at least two podcast freelancers. Some creators don’t know how to work with a contractor. Likewise, some freelancers are good at podcasting tasks but not labour negotiations. This isn’t an innate skill. For podcast freelancers, the best way to negotiate a fair rate is to know your fiscal worth, disclose an ironclad, unshakeable description of your workflow, and be clear about expectations.
Like almost everything else in podcasting, the answer is, firmly, “it depends.” Obviously, the best thing to do is ask an expert, so I asked Stephanie Fuccio for help. She’s the creator of Global Podcast Editors, and she has loads of experience with independent contractor obstacles and opportunities. Plus, she’s a valuable part of our content team.
How Much Should Podcast Freelancers Charge?
I asked Stephanie how podcast freelancers know what to charge. She said,
“To be honest, they usually start by charging too little because they don’t know where to look for rates. Then as they build up community, they ask folks and they find information from these groups as well as from other sources. If they’re in the U.S., the AIR rate charts might be helpful, but not completely because freelance versus network podcast services rates don’t always align.”
To clarify, AIR is the Association of Independents in Radio. They are a “global community of independent audio producers.” They share information about compensation, contracts and fair practice, job alerts, and more.
Another option she mentioned is to look up podcast editors online and find their rate sheets for ideas. For example, Rachel Hanson has packages listed on her website. Puneeth Shenoy of Podcast Pundits lists services on theirs.
Stephanie also recommended online podcast editing groups, such as Just Busters, WOC Podcasters or Podcast Editors Academy. Groups like this can provide a community for podcast freelancers, as well as helpful information.
Don’t undervalue yourself. Some freelancers may advertise at low rates to get more clients. Unfortunately, this brings the average rate down. It also misinforms people that podcast production services are cheap and easy to come by.
How Can Podcast Freelancers Work Successfully?
Podcast freelancers need to clearly describe what they provide for clients and how much time it takes. If you say, “I will make your audio sound great and get it back to you soon,” it’s too vague. Honesty about what tasks you do and how much time it takes to complete the job helps your client understand the process and lets you create your best product. I asked Stephanie what the best way to communicate the work process and the time frame is. She said,
“The debate on listing versus not listing your rates is one that rages on in these podcast service groups daily… One of the things I’ve found the most helpful is Lauren Wrighton’s Podcast Manager Program. I’m much more of an audio and video editor than a podcast manager, but I find the clear and specific breakdowns that she has in a number of sessions in that course are lifesaving. She’s also got some podcast episodes on the Podcast Manager Show that cover pricing, but again with a podcast manager perspective.
The Podcast Editor Academy does a survey every year with its members as well. It’s good to keep in mind that the sample size of this survey is I believe below 200 editors and very North America based.”
Make a statement of what you’ll do, in how much time, and how you will deliver the finished product.
How Can Podcast Freelancers Build Productive Working Relationships?
Be clear about what you need to do your job and when. For example, you can tell your client when you’re available and when you’re not. Explain what kind of files you need. Make sure they know your preferred method of contact. This way, you avoid confusion or miscommunication when you’re on a deadline.
Stephanie said, “Packages are common, but there are also one-off services like consulting as well. It truly is the wild, wild west still. In general, many podcast service providers have some info on their services and a free consultation call to go over any questions. So much of this is customized that it’s difficult to offer one service and one service alone that folks will want. The quickly changing landscape of the podcasting scene is also a factor in service and prices being a moving target. For example, I’m seeing many podcast editors offer more podcast manager services like creating marketing assets, uploading the audio file to the podcast host and so on. It’s the most dynamic market I’ve personally ever worked in. I love it for this characteristic, but it does make a steep learning curve when first trying to get into it.”
Many podcasting tasks are intertwined. For example, an episode’s show notes might depend on information in a transcript, and so on. The Podcast Taxonomy can help you describe the tasks you’ll do and what you need to do them with.
Make a Podcast Freelancer Menu
It’s best to create a statement of services and rates, just like a restaurant menu. Put it on your website, and make a backup copy to keep in your notes app on your phone. Include your preferred method of contact and when you’re available. This way, you can copy and paste it into a message or quote from it whenever necessary.
Use Your Client’s Podcast Aspirations
Ask your client what their podcast niche and ideal audience are. Who is this for? What category? Jot that information down and let it inform you as you work. For example, there might be a hundred podcasts about golf. But, there’s a big difference between a golf podcast meant to relax women over 40, and one meant to motivate men under age 35.
Keep Your Client Informed
Provide updates to your client. Give them the same progress reports you would want if you were the buyer. Like ordering dinner on a food-delivery app, podcast freelancers and clients both need to know what’s in the box and where it is.
Be Punctual, Deliver Quality, and Be Pleasant
Neil Gaiman’s commencement address at The University of The Arts inspired creative people enough to become a book titled Make Good Art. For podcast freelancers, this part is especially useful. Gaiman said, “People keep working… because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They’ll forgive the lateness of the work if it’s good, and if they like you. And you don’t have to be as good as the others if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.”
Communicate in advance how you’ll deliver good work on time, and you can build a relationship where it’s easy to be pleasant. Then you can be all three, and get more podcast freelancer work that you enjoy.