There are tons of freelance producers floating about the radio and podcast worlds, pretty much in the same way that there will be an abundance of freelance writers floating around New York and Los Angeles. But a freelance life effectively executed is a minor miracle regardless of context, and in that spirit, today’s Career Spotlight dives into one such miracle: Shara Morris, a Southern California-based producer who works with a range of companies.
Hot Pod: Tell me about your current situation.
Shara Morris: I’m an independent podcast producer based in Los Angeles. I currently produce Maximum Fun’s Adam Ruins Everything podcast and am developing two pilots – one with American Public Media and another with Panoply. Previously I produced Panoply’s Girlboss Radio and I also produced a Midroll miniseries called What’s Wrong with Me? with TIME columnist Joel Stein.
My day to day routine really changes according to the project — from pre-interviewing to booking to prepping, to script writing, and editing. Yesterday, for example, I had a brainstorm meeting with one of my podcast pilot hosts and then had a tracking session with one of my other hosts. On another day I could be pre-interviewing a bunch of potential guests for a show and editing an Adam Ruins Everything episode. That’s the beauty (and sometimes curse!) of freelance. My days are generally mine to create. Because of that, I try to be organized and create as much structure for myself as possible.
HP: How did you get to this point? What does your career arc look like — where did you start, and how did you end up in this position?
Morris: Radio and podcasting were something that I felt like was part of my life, but I didn’t seriously consider as a full-time career until after I graduated from college. I’m from Houston originally so the summer after freshman year of college I interned for Houston Public Radio, and summer after my junior year I interned for New York Public Radio.
After college, I worked in TV entertainment in New York, which I didn’t find professionally fulfilling. So I left my job in January 2013 to attend The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. When I finished the program, I moved to Los Angeles and began freelancing in public radio and podcasting while working a day job.
I had two solid friends when I moved to LA, and one of them asked me if I was interested in hosting a radio show at a pirate radio station in Chinatown called KCHUNG. She was co-hosting it but needed to leave to focus on grad school and her co-host was leaving to go on the world tour of Barbie: The Musical (Los Angeles! Naturally!). So all of the sudden, I had graduated from this radio documentary program and had an hour time slot at this pirate radio station to make whatever I wanted. It was so exhilarating. I asked a good friend to co-host a show with me, which became a podcast we created called Homemade News.
Eventually, my friend and I, as Homemade News, began freelancing our pieces to various public radio stations: KCRW, The California Report, Only a Game, and more. And because of that experience, I learned how to pitch my own radio stories. I went full-time freelance in radio, began making my own pieces, which became part of my portfolio for when I was applying to podcasting jobs with networks like Midroll and Panoply. I’ve pretty much been doing that ever since.
HP: How did you learn to do the job that you do today?
Morris: Salt was an amazing opportunity to really hone my skills as a radio producer. Michael May is a fantastic teacher and he really pushed me to think about storytelling in a different way. I’ve also kept in touch with some of my Salt friends who have been wonderful teachers, collaborators, and editors as well. Throughout my years freelancing I’ve also worked with incredible editors along the way who have really given me invaluable editing and career advice.
As a freelancer, there’s also so much that I’ve learned ‘on the fly’. I just read Clare Toeniskoetter’s Career Spotlight who really touted ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ and could not agree more. There have been so many scenarios where I’ve felt like I had no clue what I was doing, but I just had to play the part. Even going freelance, I had to convince myself ‘I am a podcast producer’. Once I took myself seriously, other people did too.
There’s also something to be said about letting yourself experiment with audio. Homemade News felt like a place where I could create audio when no one was watching. I think it gave me the confidence in my voice and my ability to try new things with content and sound.
HP: When you started out, what did you think wanted to do?
Morris: I think my idea of what I wanted to do has shifted. When I was working on Homemade News as a hobby, I had wanted it to make it a full-time job. I’ve also wanted to work on highly produced existing shows. I think being open about your career can only bring you opportunities.
You can find her on Twitter at @SharaMorris.