Mention the word “monetization” to any content creator and they might start pulling their hair out.
It’s a pesky issue that spreads itself across professions. You have the drive, vision, and passion to do something you love. You want to be a podcast host as your full-time job, but you’re not quite as in love with the part that allows you to make money podcasting: the business part.
It’s no secret that it’s a luxury to make a living off of podcasting. Only the cream-of-the-crop of podcast hosts are able to successfully monetize and even then, they likely have to accept opportunities that stem beyond recording, publishing and promoting their podcast.
However, the key to having a successful podcast is more than just having the best podcast. You need to know that the brand extends far beyond what you say on the microphone. In order to monetize and turn your hobby into a sustainable source of income, you need to familiarize yourself with the business side of podcasting.
That being said, if there was ever a time to go into podcasting, that time is now. Podcasting is more popular than ever before and there are plenty of avid listeners thirsty for podcast episodes to get their ears on.
However, the business of podcasting is a whole new can of worms. You need to know how to translate podcast listeners into money, and that takes more than throwing your podcast out there and hoping for the best.
Podcasting opens the doors to opportunities you might not even be aware of yet…seize them! Without further adieu, here are ten ways you can increase you can increase the revenue you make running your own podcast. The later a method appears in this list, the more established you have to be to tap into it.
1. Grow Your Listener Base
Remember when I said listeners alone won’t be enough to make a living from podcasting? I stand by that.
That being said, the more listeners you have, the more money you make. Think of your listeners as a multiplier; every other mode of income on this list will rake in more money the more listeners you have.
Why is this? Well, first of all, listeners are a reflection of your popularity. The more popular you are, the more people will be willing to pay you to do non-podcast related things.
Secondly, the more listeners you have, the more people will engage with the sponsored content you throw into your podcast episodes. When you have more listeners, you have more listeners to donate to your Patreon, to pay for premium content, to….(ok, I don’t want to spoil the whole list)
Bottom line: it’s up to you to make sure you are getting as many listeners as possible. I’ve written a whole article about this, but it’s all centered around one word: promotion.
Have established guests on your podcast that will blast the episode to their social media following. Become social media savvy yourself, and make sure everyone you know is keeping up with the content you’re putting out. Expand your content on multiple platforms, filming the recording for Youtube videos and transcribing the audio to appeal to readers.
There are so many ways you can promote your podcast. All of them are designed to win your more listeners and, in turn, make you more money.
2. Ask For Donations
The most simple way to make money as a podcaster is to ask for it.
While it’s a little degrading to take on the role of a charity case, most listeners understand how much work goes into the episodes they enjoy and, if you truly add value to their life, they can find it in their hearts to pay you for it. When you ask for donations, make sure you stress that their kindness is one of the only ways you can keep making content they enjoy.
Don’t be afraid to blast your plea for donations at the start of every episode: it’s pretty much the standard for small podcasts.
Seem unsustainable? Absolutely. However, just like pretty much everything in this list, it’s a great start and while it can’t be the only source of podcasting income, it’s a market you want to tap into. Remember that this is about the big picture: all of these things are meant to be done together.
3. Create Premium Content
The most common way to ask for donations is to start a page on a crowdfunding platform, like Patreon or Kickstarter. While these platforms take a cut, it’s a good way to turn your podcast into a voluntary subscription service and comes with the infrastructure you need to branch out.
One of the most common ways of branching off is establishing a tier system of services for your subscribers. That way you can offer certain benefits to those who pay more, giving listeners a tangible reason to hand you their money.
One of the incentives you can give listeners is to offer premium content that you offer behind a paywall to the most dedicated in your fan base. You don’t even need to record a whole new podcast episode, even though this is probably the most convincing benefit you can offer. You can simply offer “uncut” versions of existing episodes, or offer paying listeners early access.
You can also get creative with exclusive content. Think of a unique experience your listeners would pay for. For example, popular music reviewer Anthony Fantano used to let amateur musicians pay him to give honest thoughts on their music.
There’s plenty you have to offer: make sure your listeners know about it!
4. Find An Affiliate Program
The first step to monetization is the same for podcasting as it is for radio, YouTube and pretty much any other product that is technically free.
You essentially need to run ads.
The best entry point into podcast advertising is to find an affiliate program. These are programs where you share a link to a certain product on your podcast and any time a listener clicks it and buys the product, you earn a commission. A good place to start looking for affiliate marketing opportunities is Amazon.
Now, you’re not going to get rich from affiliate marketing, nor is it a steady source of income. However, it’s a shame to let the opportunity go by. Yeah, it might make your podcast sound “commercial”, but most people understand the hustle that comes with creating content and won’t chastise you for trying to sell them something.
Moreover, you could plug a product that appeals to your listeners naturally. That way, they are more likely to interact with it, you’re more likely to earn money and you’ve added to their lives by showing them a product they want.
At it’s best, it’s a win-win situation.
5. Get a Sponsor
The logical step forward from affiliate programs is finding a podcast sponsorship. Sadly, the market for this opens once you have a committed and relatively large group of listeners. However, if you’ve hit 5,000 downloads per episode, it’s time to find someone to sponsor your hard work.
These mostly take the form of “host-read ads” where, basically, you interrupt your podcast to read an ad from someone who pays you to do it. Don’t worry: you can have fun with it! Especially if you do a comedy podcast, there are many examples of sponsorer content turning into a recurring bit.
Sponsorship functions off a CPM (cost-per-thousand) model where you earn money per 1,000 downloads. Of course, this rewards the podcasts with the most podcast listeners (grow your listener base!) and the industry-standard is around $20 per 1,000 downloads.
It’s not that much money for small podcasts, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
6. Sell Merch
If you’re a popular podcaster, you likely have a brand that resonates with people. You probably have a solid visual aesthetic or some inside jokes that keep your listeners coming back.
Once you get to a certain level, people will be proud to listen to your podcast. Give your fan base a way to rep their love. Make your own products!
Come up with creative merch designs that will appeal to your listener base.
Don’t just sell t-shirts with your logo on them, although that’s a good way to start. Give your listeners the opportunity to buy genuinely nice clothes, things that are funny, look cool and connect them with fellow podcast listeners.
Not only is merch purchased money in your pocket; you’re basically letting people volunteer to be a walking advertisement.
Also, don’t limit yourself to clothes. Think about products your listeners would really benefit from, products that show how much you understand them. If you can pull this off, this will only increase their trust, making them even more loyal to your podcast. Make sure you blast these products during your podcast episodes or on your email list so listeners know that they exist.
7. Start An Online Course
You don’t have to rely on passive income from listeners and podcast advertising.
The thing about podcasting is that the more people hear what you have to say about a topic, the more they’ll trust you. Furthermore, there will be some people that look up to you, that will want to pick your brain to get a chunk of that expertise you so confidently tout. Take advantage of that.
While podcasts seem intimate, there’s a market of people that would pay for a closer interaction with you. Those people want to learn from you because you have something they want.
One way to tap into this is by setting up an online course. This works perfectly if your podcast is centered around advice that positions you as a coach, but even if it doesn’t, you probably know how to do something well enough to teach it to people. Heck, the online course can even be about podcasting.
Of course, this is only an option if you have earned a base of podcast listeners who trust you and buy into your expertise. That being said, it never hurts to test the waters and see if demand exists for such a course.
If you want something more passive than a full-on course, you might consider writing a book. After all, if a group of people listen to your podcast episodes, why won’t they listen to your audiobook?
8. Offer Consulting Services
After online courses, consulting services are the next step. While courses will see you interact with a group of people to teach them about your general topic of expertise, consulting allows customers to ask for your direct advice on a specific issue and, in turn, is far more valuable.
This method brims with potential if your expertise is backed up by tangible experience in the field you talk about. This is another reason why you might want to make a podcast about something you’ve demonstrated competency in; if people trust you, they will look to you as a leading expert on your topic.
That, my friends, is called positioning.
9. Take On Speaking Engagements
Once you’ve achieved a certain level of recognition as a public figure, the doors open for you to take your voice to a whole new platform. In this day and age, podcasters are liable to become celebrities, and if people want to hear you talk, there’s a chance some organizations will pay you to do it at live events.
There is always a market for keynote speakers at conferences. Universities often have clubs with a budget designated for bringing speakers to campus while businesses will frequently bring speakers to share human capital or lead teambuilding activities.
If you are interested, make sure you get your name out there and let buyers know that you are available to speak. At this point, it might make sense to get an agent to look for opportunities for you and organize them if they start to flood in.
10. Go On Tour
In a similar vein, there’s a chance that people who listen to your podcast will pay good money to go out and see it recorded live. It’s a unique, valuable experience to be part of the crowd in a podcast, and many popular podcasts go out on tour or book one-off performances where people can buy tickets to see it happen live.
Of course, going on any sort of tour requires a substantial investment in planning, travel or accommodation, so it’s almost like running a business in and of itself. That being said, you will get a new podcast episode out of going on tour and it will give you the rare opportunity to engage with your podcast audience face-to-face.