24th January, 2023

Questions to ask when hiring a podcast consultant

Not all podcast consultants are created equal. How do you tell the sages from the snake oil sellers?

If you’re looking to start a new podcast or grow an existing one, you’ll get value from a consultant. But not all consultants are created equal, so how can you find a partner you can trust?

What even is a podcast consultant?

If you were writing a book, you might hire a consultant to give you feedback and keep you on track. They might also help you plan the book, and help you set realistic milestones so you don’t get overwhelmed.

A podcast consultant does a similar job. They usually won’t make the podcast for you, but can give advice on anything from initial idea to growth and beyond.

So with that in mind, let’s run through some of the questions you should ask when looking for a podcast consultant.

What do you need?

Words like “consultant” can be a bit vague, especially within a small world like podcasting. If you don’t know what you need yet, here are some things to ask about. A consultant may provide all these services, but should have someone in mind if they don’t:

  • Podcast positioning
  • Idea development
  • Audio production
  • Media hosting
  • Branding and artwork
  • Guesting and guest booking
  • Podcast marketing

How long have they been working?

Podcasting has existed in its current form since 2004. Of course you don’t need to work with someone who’s been there since the early noughties. But you should expect to work with someone with more than two years in the game. Anything less and they’re unlikely to have the long-term mindset needed to serve an audience via audio.

What are their qualifications?

There are no formal qualifications needed to be a podcast consultant. So we’re not looking for a framed diploma on a wall, but a sense of where their knowledge or insight has come from.

Lots of entrepreneurs start a podcast, enjoy the process, and want to help others get started. That’s admirable, but successful in one field might not translate to another.

A good podcast consultant doesn’t need a string of high-profile shows to their name. But neither should you work with someone who’s had one smash hit. You can’t learn from a one-hit-wonder if you don’t know what made it a hit.

Where did they gain their experience?

Lots of would-be consultants pass along advice they learned from other podcasting entrepreneurs. Like the game of Telephone, advice can get misinterpreted or misconstrued. Also, this industry is always changing, and what worked in 2018 might not work in 2023. Experience that comes second- or third-hand is unlikely to be relevant. And the advice that comes from it might harm your chances of success.

Ideally, you should work with someone who’s faced similar challenges to you, and has helped others overcome them.

What are their metrics for success?

Most podcasts fail due to poorly-set expectations the creator can’t meet. For example, making money from ads is rarely a realistic expectation within the first year or two.

A good podcast consultant will help you set realistic goals and build a plan to meet them. This means taking small steps rather than setting a destination and hoping to get there by luck.

If how you measure success differs from your consultant, you could find yourself feeling frustrated or not understood.

Are you reflected in their testimonials?

A long list of testimonials from happy clients is great social proof. But do they come from people who’ve faced similar problems to you?

If you can see yourself in their testimonials, that’s a sign you’ll have a good experience. If you don’t see any, ask for some. They may just not have published any that feel relevant to you. Or they might be able to point you towards a show where the creator hasn’t said anything publicly.

What are their priorities for you and your show?

Some consultants might prioritise crystal clear audio above everything else. Others might prize productivity, or content repurposing. Still others might want to help you find the lowest price for each element of your production process.

When you find mismatched priorities, ask if the consultant can stand by thom. For example:

  • Do they have their own podcast? Is their audio quality good? If not, they might prioritise regular shipping over pristine sound. If they don’t know their audio sounds bad, that’s a red flag!
  • Are they recommending professional tools? People use Anchor because it’s free and popular, not because it’s a good service.
  • Do they share links to episodes in Spotify or Apple Podcasts rather than their own site? If so, they might lack some important knowledge.

Have they used more than the gear they recommend?

Every podcaster has their own setup and their own choices for the “right” gear. There’s no single answer to “which mic should I buy” or “what editing software should I use?”. It’s important your consultant understands that.

If they’ve used a few different mics and can tell the difference between a condenser and a dynamic mic, that’s a good sign. Even better if they can help you make a selection based on the environment you’ll be recording in.

Again, with most of these criteria, you don’t need to find an expert in all fields. You just need someone who can stand by their choices and priorities when they don’t align with yours.

Narrowing down your options

If you’ve researched a few consultants and you’re unsure who to go with, pick the person you feel safest with. You don’t need to feel judged for the choices or priorities, or to have unfair expectations put on your time.

Most consulting engagements are long-term, so if you get along, you’ll enjoy your regular calls. Of course you want to work with someone who challenges you, but only when they come from an understanding of your situation.

You might not go from Googling “podcast consultant” to finding your ideal match. So the best thing is to book a discovery call with them, to see if you fit. You can do that with me, if you like. :)