Podcasting is a labor of love. If you’re starting out with big dreams of making money from podcasting, you might be waiting a while for that million dollar check to hit your account!
Don’t be discouraged, though.
Podcasting is a wonderful medium (I should know, I have one myself!), but it’s hard work. It’s definitely a long-game in terms of building an audience and monetizing your podcast. You most certainly can make money from podcasting… just don’t plan for an early retirement, is all I’m saying.
I’m writing this in the middle of the COVID–19 pandemic, and it seems plenty of people are turning to podcasting. In fact, Apple Podcasts have just announced reaching the 1 million podcasts mark. I’m sure many of these new shows were always planned in regardless of the pandemic, but some will be businesses finding new communication channels, some will be people starting a show as a way to spend their time indoors, and some are jumping on the podcast bandwagon thinking it’ll help them make a quick buck. I’ve been trying to balance reality-checks with encouragement as best as I can!
There are different ways to make money from podcasting and each approach will suit certain creators more than others.
Ultimately, if you want to make money from your podcast, you have to pick the method that suits you, your content, and your audience best. After all, you’re the boss.
There are many more ways to make money from podcasting than these 5 ½ ideas, but I think these are the most common and most attainable. You’ll see I’ve rated them out of 5 for their difficulty and earning potential. Hopefully, that’ll make it easier to see which will suit you best.
Making money from podcasting is more than possible with any of these 5 ½ ideas:
1. Monetize your podcast with sponsorship
Listen to most popular podcasts and you’ll likely hear an advertisement from a sponsor in the beginning (pre-roll) or middle (mid-roll) of the show.
This is one of the most common ways creators make money from podcasting. In effect, you’re selling some of the time on your show so an advertiser can reach your audience. Just like advertising on TV, radio, or before a movie.
Podcast advertising networks (such as Midroll, AdvertiseCast, and PodcastOne) connect creators with advertisers. (For a cut of the revenue, of course.)
If you want to find a sponsor through a network, you’ll need to have a minimum number of listeners. AdvertiseCast list the typical minimum listener count at 2,500 per episode, with at least 10 episodes published, whereas Midroll recommend 30,000+ downloads per episode.
Clearly… it varies!
In terms of earnings, AdvertiseCast puts the 2020 industry average advertising rates at:
- 30-second ad: $18 per thousand listeners (this is usually written as CPM = Cost Per Mille… it’s Latin 🤷♀️)
- 60-second ad: $25 per thousand listeners
You do not need to rely on a network to get a sponsor for your show either. You can approach potential sponsors yourself. You know your industry and you know your audience better than anyone else, so you know who would be a good sponsor for your show.
Ask yourself, who would benefit from getting in front of your audience?
And, very importantly, who do you like and trust enough to promote to your audience?
Let’s say you have a podcast about cooking and recipes. You could go directly to a kitchen supplies company that you love and pitch your podcast as a great marketing avenue for them.
Sponsorship deals that are brokered by you, ideally based on existing relationships, don’t need those minimum download figures. In fact, if you have a niche show with an engaged audience and you find a sponsor who is perfect for them, then be bold and take the lead in finding a mutually beneficial sponsorship arrangement. I personally know podcasters who have secured sponsorship for shows with around 1,000 downloads per episode. It’s not always about the size of your audience, it’s about quality.
There are no guarantees with this approach, but it’s potentially a great way of connecting your listeners with the kind of businesses your listeners will want to hear from.
Earning potential: 🎧🎧🎧🎧
2. Use your podcast as a sales tool for your products
Rather than taking valuable time from your podcast to promote other businesses, why not use pre-roll and mid-roll slots for your own product or service?
Be your own sponsor!
If you have a book, a course, a membership, a program, a treasure map that will make someone rich beyond their wildest dreams – anything! – then you can treat the sections where others might advertise as your own ad space.
You aren’t likely to find an audience that’s more receptive to your products through any other advertising.
Sweeten the deal with an exclusive discount for your listeners. This way, you can see just how effective your advertising is. You can do this by offering a specific discount code (e.g. PODCAST10) or landing page (e.g. …com/podcastfans).
Spend a little time on making it a great sales pitch and have some fun with it! Record it yourself, hire a voice artist, or ask that friend whose voice is smoother than chocolate for a favor.
One of our clients, The Membership Guys, do this perfectly. They have a really popular podcast and the sponsor of the show is… their own Membership Academy!
There’s nothing wrong with selling or upselling, especially when you know people are likely to be interested. This way, you can make money from podcasting, by podcasting (and growing your business).
Earning potential: 🎧🎧🎧🎧
3. Generate passive income with affiliate links
If you talk about things that somebody else produces and sells on your show, whether it’s products, programs, or places, you might be able to generate some affiliate income from it.
In terms of making money from podcasting, this is probably the method with the fewest barriers to entry.
Affiliate or referral schemes mean that, if somebody clicks your unique link to buy a product from a third party, you get a slice of the income from that sale.
Let’s go back to that cooking podcast example from earlier – if you mention recipe books, gadgets, or ingredients, you can list all of them in your show notes and encourage your listeners to take a look. There, they will find a lovely set of your referral links.
Some sites have affiliate programs set up that you can join and use straight away (like Amazon’s Associates Program), but you might need to contact other sites/businesses to see if you can arrange an affiliate deal or have an exclusive affiliate program.
It’s worth mentioning that you’re not likely to earn huge income from affiliate programs unless you have a huge audience (which takes time – one to two years of consistent episodes), simply because the percentages are relatively low.
Really, you might earn enough affiliate income to cover the costs of running your show and the occasional cup of coffee.
But there are always exceptions like Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. Pat has made millions from his affiliate income (associated with his podcast and blog). It’s worth noting that he’s been in the online space for over a decade. So, again, you need to be patient, 6- and 7-figure affiliate payouts don’t happen overnight.
Still, a free coffee is a free coffee!
Earning potential: 🎧
4. Create merchandise for your podcast
Merchandise is one of the most creative ways you can make money from podcasting.
Creating branded items – everything from t-shirts and mugs to more ‘out there’ ideas – for your listeners to proudly display their love of your show is great… if you’ve got a committed fanbase.
There are so many opportunities to be creative and responsive to your audience if you are creating podcast merchandise:
- The Girl in Space Podcast produce this run of great t-shirts sporting one of the show’s most memorable quotes/taglines
- The McElroy Brothers host many podcasts and offer fantastic, high-quality bespoke merch for all of their shows
- Another of our clients, Mike ‘C-Roc’ Ciorrocco, is bringing out a full line of clothing merchandise soon, all sporting his main tagline: What Are You Made Of?
Have some fun with it and create products that help your fans support you and show off their favorite show!
You can work with local producers and manufacturers or use dedicated companies such as Teemill or DFTBA.
If you’ve started your podcast as a means of keeping in touch with your audience during the pandemic, then you may already have merch and just need to find a way to let people know they can still buy it.
For example, if you are a comedy club you may already have t-shirts and caps you sold at the club. Shout out about them on your podcast episodes and tell people how to order from you to keep that revenue stream flowing.
Earning potential: 🎧🎧🎧🎧
5. Adopt a subscriber-bonus model
You can offer your listeners bonus content for their direct financial support – earning money from your podcast, for your podcast. It’s a lovely closed-loop system.
Setting this up could mean creating an exclusive section on your website for paying users or using a platform like Patreon (the most popular) or Ko-fi to manage regular payments from your fans.
Common approaches include offering extra content (only sharing a section of an interview or episode for free and the rest with paid subscribers), providing early access to content (24 hours in advance of wider publication), giving paid subscribers a say in upcoming content (“what should our next episode cover – A or B?”), and giving shoutouts in the pre-roll, mid-roll, or credits.
If you think you could monetize your podcast in this way, I recommend you take a look at some of these fantastic examples of this model in practice:
- Slate Plus – where Slate provide listeners with ad-free shows, extra content, and bonus episodes
- My friend Mark Asquith has a Star Wars podcast called Spark of Rebellion which offers brilliantly tiered levels of subscriber support, including merchandise, bonus content, and subscriber involvement
- The Anfield Wrap does an amazing job of balancing small doses of free shows with a high-quality, fully-stocked paid offering (just a shame about their choice of team! 😉)
Earning potential: 🎧🎧🎧🎧
5.5 Adopt a subscriber-only model
Now here’s that half an idea you’ve probably been scratching your head about… Use the same model as above, but take it a step further and make your podcast subscriber-only.
Sounds a bit daunting, doesn’t it? This isn’t going to work for everyone, but for people who either have a great reputation prior to starting their podcast or have an established fanbase, this is a high-risk, high-reward option.
Using platforms like Patreon and Ko-fi, you can turn your podcast into a paid product in itself and make money directly and consistently from your listeners.
There are podcasts out there doing this with great success:
- The Athletic is a new alternative to sports journalism, with a roster of the best names in the business recruited since day one to write and record content for the site. They launched with a subscriber-only model, but have begun to share some content for free since then
- Dave Gerhardt, former Director of Marketing at Drift and current CMO at Privy, has a subscriber-exclusive show called A List. His reputation in the industry and established audience on social media gave him the reputation to launch with this model
Earning potential: 🎧🎧🎧🎧🎧
A huge variety of ways to make money from podcasting
This is not an exhaustive list (far from it!) but the ideas I’ve shared here are some of the most accessible ways of making money from podcasting.
Hopefully, you can see how there are options for people at all levels – from total beginners to established shows – and with all different types of content.
Monetizing your podcast is not an easy task, nor is it a quick win, but it’s a great way of turning the thing you love into something that gives a little back.
If you’re not quite there yet and you don’t think it’s the right time to monetize your podcast, that’s fine!
Personally, I’ve chosen not to directly make money from my podcast, instead using it as a content marketing and brand awareness tool for my business, Content 10x. So, I indirectly make money because my podcast plays a part in growing my audience and my business.
If you have a podcast, or you are launching one, I’ve got the perfect thing to help you take your podcast to the next level. The Content 10x Toolkit gives you all the guidance, tips, tricks, checklists, swipe files, examples, recommendations (I’m running out of breath here!), and more to help you reach more people, grow your audience, and grow your business through podcast repurposing.
If you’re not ready for my toolkit yet, then you can always check out my book instead.
I hope you take something from this article and start supercharging your podcast! Let me know how you get on – reach out to me on social media, I’m @content10x everywhere.
Published with StoryChief