Podcasting is the Wild West of content—a still-expanding industry that’s providing more and more opportunities for storytellers, as millions of listeners tune in every year. Are you looking to get your voice heard? Read on for audition strategies, tips on how to book guest appearances, and information about how to get on podcasts and the types of opportunities available.
The best strategy for booking jobs depends on the type of podcast you’re aiming for, but two ideal approaches are proactively reaching out to hosts and producers or responding to casting calls.
But first, it’s important to optimize your audio recording capabilities. Whether you’re looking to put together a home recording setup or book time at a professional studio, the ability to record clear audio in a quiet space is key. Most aspiring podcasters start out by investing in equipment. Purchase a quality USB microphone, headphones to ensure recording quality, and—if you want to go the extra mile—a mic stand. Audio quality is paramount, and your computer’s built-in mic won’t cut it.
In addition to acquiring the hardware necessary to become a competent voiceover actor or podcaster, you should also identify what you’re hoping to accomplish. Entertainers often need to be their own advocates, so you should treat putting yourself out there as a voice talent or podcast personality as if you were promoting a business. Define the unique brand you bring to the airwaves before seeking potential podcast appearances.
From true crime sagas like “Serial” to fictionalized audio dramas like “Welcome to Night Vale,” there are podcasts geared toward just about every subject and audience. Consider which of the below podcast genres you want to focus on:
- Audio fiction: With roots in radio dramas—think Orson Welles’ fictional-yet-convincing 1938 “The War of the Worlds” broadcast—scripted podcasting is an ever-growing category spanning genres including horror, sci-fi, and thrillers. Overlapping with audiobooks (see below), audio fiction employs voiceover actors who bring stories to life from a sound booth. Examples include “Limetown” and “Homecoming,” two scripted audio series that were so successful that they spawned television adaptations.
- Historical reenactment: Similar to fiction, podcasts that explore and reenact history often employ VO actors. Popular examples include “Re-Enacted: An Unsolved Mysteries Podcast” and “Leading by History.”
- Unscripted talk shows: The vast majority of podcasts fall under this category; they range from casual conversations and comedy to interview-based deep dives on specific topics to news coverage.
Podcasts in any of the above categories, especially those in the early stages of development, may also be looking for hosts. If you’re interested in becoming a radio personality, keep your eyes peeled for hosting gigs as well as guest appearances.
The most straightforward way to book yourself on a podcast is outreach. Keep these steps in mind in your pursuit of podcasting gigs:
- Research: Before making contact, familiarize yourself with the podcast. Listen to recent episodes, research its hosts and/or producers, and decide whether it’s a good fit for you. Browse platforms like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher; the “related podcasts” or “you might also like” sections are useful for checking out podcasts similar to the one you’re targeting.
- Craft a pitch: Draft a presentation of your assets and unique talents—essentially, what do you bring to the table? Include your background, the audience you intend to reach, and how your skill set helps a podcaster better speak to theirs. Pitches, and any subsequent follow-ups, should be concise and worded politely.
- Customize: Once you’ve identified a specific podcast, avoid coming off like you’ve copied and pasted the same blanket message to other outlets. Personalizing your pitch and making your research clear increases your odds of booking a gig.
- Reach out via email or social media: If you can’t find a podcast’s email address, look for a contact form on its official website. Social media, including Facebook and LinkedIn, are powerful resources when it comes to reaching out cold to strangers. (Pro tip: A strong social media presence and following increase your chances of gaining attention.
Reach out via podcast guest services: The internet is magic. Websites like podcastguests.com, matchmaker.fm, Podmatch, and the Connect feature on Podchaser allow you to create a podcast guest profile. Hosts seeking experts on specific topics or personalities that fit their product’s brand browse those listings and connect with users who have a strong profile.
Auditioning for podcasts is the other route toward finding work in this field, especially for audio fiction and historical reenactment programs. Casting sites like Backstage and Voice123 often include notices for podcast guests, hosts, and VO talent. (This listing, for example, was seeking all the above, while this gig sought authentic voices with an autobiographical bent.) Companies producing audio, such as Gimlet, release casting notices when they’re seeking talent for fiction podcasts; check the job listings pages on audio companies’ official websites.
You can also audition for podcasts through casting directors, many of who specialize in VO. Audiobooks, sometimes released in installments as podcasts, are another growing area of the airwaves that are seeking talent. As VO actor Thérèse Plummer reported, audiobooks are often cast by executives at companies like Audible and Hachette Audio. Book enough VO gigs, and you’ll connect with different publishers and producers who send audition opportunities. Much of the advice for voiceover auditions will also apply to podcast auditions.
Podcast listeners are insatiable. Data from Satista indicates that only five years ago, there were 46.1 million monthly listeners in the United States; today, that number is closer to 89 million. Data from Buzzsprout shows an almost 30% increase in listenership between 2018 and 2021. As this field continues to expand, it’s clear that appearing on podcasts is a nearly guaranteed way to reach audiences.
For entrepreneurs, experts, and actors, this is great news. Podcasting generates free publicity, creating exposure to highly niche, enthusiastic audiences. Additionally, booking appearances as a podcast guest requires fewer steps than doing the same for a televised talk show, newspaper, magazine, or any other medium that typically involves a public relations company. Other than the costs of audio equipment or studio booking, appearing on a podcast is free. Considering the amount of effort is low, the rewards of booking a podcast are quite high.
Another benefit is the opportunity to network with key figures in your industry of choice. Appearing as a guest is a great way to promote your own podcast—after all, what better way to gain new podcast listeners than by appealing directly to actual podcast listeners? These arrangements can be mutually beneficial; hosts of two different podcasts can trade guest appearances and cross-promote.
If you know your brand, your niche, and yourself, you can capitalize on the podcast industry’s ongoing growth and reach the audience you’re meant to reach. Grab your mic and get going!