Like YouTube, podcasting has come a long way since its creation. This year, podcasts are expected to reach $1 billion in revenue. Entrepreneurs have learned how to make money podcasting through a variety of listener-generated and advertiser-generated income streams. Most earn pocket money, but a select few earn a comfortable living.
1. Crowdfunding & Donations For a Podcast
Crowdfunding or seeking donations is often the first step for podcasters. Some will begin with crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo or Kickstarter to generate startup funds to start a podcast. Those with active podcasts may have a donations link on their page that leads to a PayPal or Stripe account. Those with more ambition ask for regular patronage via Patreon.
How to Crowdfund for Your Podcast
Step one is to get an online payment processing account (like PayPal) if you don’t already have one. If you have one for personal use, consider getting a second just for business use to make it easier for taxes and keeping accounts separate. You can always transfer money between the accounts or to your regular checking account.
Next, add the link to your podcast’s website or blog and to your page on the podcast hosting service, if allowed. If you are collecting money to get equipment or software, hire a mixing editor, or fulfill other production needs, then a crowdfunding site could work for you. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the best known for business and services.
Patreon is a special site for receiving regular contributions from people who want to support you. You can set one-time donations or monthly subscriptions and grant privileges to patrons at specific tiers. Like crowdfunding sites, Patreon takes a small percentage of your earnings to pay for processing and keep its site going.
Attracting and Retaining Patreon and Other Crowdfunding Subscribers
While crowdfunding sites collect and process contributions automatically, the campaigns will not magically run themselves. You need to promote your crowdfunding or Patreon account in ways other than your podcast. You’ll want to update the pages with current status or new material to keep the pages fresh. And of course, if you promised rewards, you need to deliver.
Patreon has an excellent help site with classes and articles to give you ideas on how to woo and keep patrons. While designed for their site, you can find ideas for other crowdfunding endeavors and for things you can do to provide premium content.
2. Sponsorships For Podcasts
When it comes to advertising, sponsorships are the most common way to monetize a podcast. We define sponsorships as regular advertisers. Essentially a person or business pays you to mention their product on your podcast. These can be quick mentions: “This episode of Fit Small Business is brought to you by …” or it can be a longer discussion of the product or service, similar to what you hear on the radio. There are three kinds of sponsorships:
- Traditional: The company pays you outright to mention them in your podcast. Usually, it’s a 15-to-30-second mention of their product and what makes it worth buying. They may or may not provide you with a script. They pay according to how many people listen to your program, usually proven via downloads.
- Referral: Are you part of a rewards program in which if you get a friend to buy something, you get some store credit yourself? Referral programs work the same way, except that you’ve widened your circle of friends to all your listeners.
- Affiliate: Like referral sponsorships, affiliate programs pay you to recommend products to your listeners. However, these generally give you a cut of the profits from purchases. You may also be reviewing the products rather than making a simple mention.
How to Get Sponsors for Your Podcast
Start with the easiest thing: Make a blanket request. Mention on your podcast that you’re looking for sponsors. Then, have a page on your website or blog where companies can go to learn more and sign up. Be sure to include some statistics that show why you’d be a good investment, such as audience analysis, the average number of viewers per show, and average number of episode downloads. You can also create a media kit with these figures to send to potential sponsors.
Next, think about your audience or podcast theme. What products or services will be of interest to your listeners? Approach businesses that your listeners would frequent. If your podcast is for gamers, the downtown D&D store with an online shop might be a prospect. If you blog for self-publishing authors, look for book packagers and indie marketing coaches.
Craft a professional letter or email, including strong statistics to show you are a good investment of their marketing dollars and offer a link to your podcast so they can hear you for themselves.
Finally, start advertising the sponsors you have secured. When you see which advertisers get the best return on investment on your podcast or seem to be the best fit, approach them about a more permanent arrangement.
An easy way to start affiliate sponsoring is to become an Amazon Associate. Set up an account with Amazon, stock your “store,” then promote products from it using your link. Getting listeners to click on a product link doesn’t have to be complicated. You can mention a product on your podcast, then feature the product on a blog post or in an episode recap on your site. There are also services like Textiful that can send listeners the product link after texting a keyword.
How to Charge a Podcast Sponsor
Traditional sponsorships are sold on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis, meaning you get paid for every 1,000 downloads. These include downloads that happen long after the show airs. How much you charge will vary by the popularity of your podcast—the greater your audience and number of downloads, the more you can command, within limits. Here is a good average:
- $18 per 1,000 downloads for a 15-second “pre-roll” mention at the beginning of your show or “post-roll” mention at the end.
- $25 per 1,000 downloads for a 60-second “mid-roll” mention during the middle of your show.
It’s also worth mentioning that because listeners download podcasts from a number of platforms, download numbers are really estimates as there is no real way to measure analytics across every platform.
Businesses that have referral sponsorships set the conditions and only pay when a listener uses your referral link to purchase their product or service. Some will pay you in credit toward the purchase of a product or in free products. A few pay cash outright.
3. Podcast Advertising
We differentiate advertising from sponsors in that sponsors have a more permanent relationship with your podcast, while advertisers may only pay for advertising on a specific episode. There are also services that can connect you to advertisers. However, the methodology is still the same: quick mentions, short commercials, and longer commercials, each priced accordingly and charged by CPM.
There are two kinds of podcast ads:
- Static: These are hard-wired into your podcast as you record it. That means that five months or five years later if someone downloads your podcast they will hear the same ad. If for some reason you wanted to change it, you would have to go back and edit the recording.
- Dynamic: With dynamic ad-insertion (DAI) platforms, modern servers let you insert ads anywhere in your podcast, and the ads change. Sponsors pay to run the ad in a particular slot for a set number of impressions. Once that is met, the ad is automatically swapped to another paying customer. The server chooses your sponsors, but you can use your audience analytics to make sure the ads suit your listeners.
How to Get Started with Advertisers
Check with your podcasting host to see if they have advertising programs. There are also many services such as Acast, Advertisecast, Audiogo, Midroll, Podcorn, and ThoughtLeaders that connect podcasters with advertisers. Some have DAI platforms. Almost all charge a monthly fee but offer other podcasting services including distribution to transcription.
4. Sell Subscriptions to Your Podcast
Some podcasters also bring in revenue by placing either some or all of their content behind a paywall. More often than not, subscriptions are reserved for premium content, which may include extra features, behind-the-scenes clips, transcripts, or special deals if you do a lot of sponsorships or affiliate sales.
Alternatively, if you find people are downloading your podcasts after the live airing, you can charge specifically for these. You can also choose to do this for only specific episodes—the ones that have gotten the most interest, the celebrity interview, or the podcast that turned into a class. (This particular case can also become repurposed content.)
How to Get Subscriptions for Your Podcast
Start with getting a PayPal or Stripe account (the most common used by podcasting services) in order to receive payments. Then, go to your podcasting service and switch on the subscription or per-episode charge.
Once you set up a subscription, you will designate individual episodes as free or premium. You can put unique episodes in the premium section or remove content from a premium episode and put the abbreviated version up for free.
Another way to handle subscriptions is through Patreon. Patreon offers an advantage in that it allows you to set up extra benefits: downloadable content, prizes, communities, and the like. You need to sign up for it separately from your podcasting account, and Patreon takes a percentage of your subscription to cover its own processing fees.
When to Consider Subscriptions
Even the most popular podcasts are free (or offer free episodes), so if you are going to set up a subscription, you should offer something of extra value. Do you have rare content, a specific educational value, or unique insights? Can you offer something other podcasters don’t? If not, your best bet is a free podcast with a subscription for premium content.
5. Repurpose Your Podcast’s Content
Information is a hot commodity, and even in the age of Google, people are willing to pay for information and convenience. Podcasts are all about information—even that celebrity interview will have interesting tidbits that someone may pay to read or listen to again. There are a lot of ways to repurpose content.
- Transcripts: Creating a written script of your podcast is an easy way to make your podcast more accessible.
- Monetized blogs: Publish portions of the transcripts (well-edited) on a monetized blog.
- Articles: Q&A interviews, articles based on what you’ve learned … Let a magazine or website pay you for your knowledge.
- Books: Some people write books from the transcriptions while others simply write anew based on what they’ve talked about or learned. Some podcasters also hire ghostwriters to write a book based on their podcast.
- YouTube: Video yourself as you podcast or add visuals (even PowerPoint slides) to your podcast and republish on YouTube. If you activate subscriptions, you can monetize this. If you cover more than one topic, split your podcast into sections.
How to Start Repurposing Podcast Content
If you plan written content based on your podcast and you have guests on your show, get a release form from them to use their words. The first step for repurposing your podcast content is to get a transcript of your episodes. Many podcast hosting services offer transcription services for an additional monthly fee or higher plan. There are also transcription services and transcribers on Fiverr.
Be sure to edit your transcription. In addition to the fact that some of the words may be transcribed incorrectly (they’re/their/there), spoken language has a different cadence from the written one. Plus, going off on tangents is excusable when talking, but can be confusing when reading.
From there, it depends on what you want to use the transcripts for:
- Straight transcripts: Save them as a PDF and put them for sale on your site or give them to subscribers.
- Articles: You’ve already done the topic research. Research magazines and websites on the subject matter, and if they take submissions, pitch an article to them.
- Blogs: Break your transcripts into focused sections of 500-2,000 words. Use a keyword planner to figure out the most likely keywords someone might use to find an article like yours and make sure they are used. Then, post on your website or blog.
- Books: Publishing on Amazon is relatively easy, and there are pre-made covers that are inexpensive ($70-$200, modified with your title and back matter). However, you will want to make sure the book is well written and edited. Don’t just slap together a bunch of transcripts and put it out there.
- YouTube: Start by creating an account. YouTube has instructions and a help section. Also, look at other podcasts published there to get ideas on the best presentation.
6. Teach About Your Podcast Topics
Teaching is a great way to repurpose podcast content. One of the top reasons people turn to podcasts is to learn something, and if they learn something of value, they may be willing to pay for a deeper dive, a handy how-to, notes, or a book they can refer to later.
- Written guides: These can range from a simple infographic to a complete book covering a given topic.
- Public Speaking: Gigs where you speak to a live audience (in person or online) about a topic you are an authority in.
- Online courses: A recorded or live set of classes, either clipped from your podcast or developed from them. Add some exercises and written materials. You can post these on your own website or through an online course platform like Thinkific.
- Webinars: Like podcasts but with a visual component. Webinars combine video conferencing, slideshow, and chat technology. Alternatively, you can market yourself as a guest for webinars, where you teach and have a chance to plug your podcast or sell any products or subscriptions.
- Coaching: If you are establishing yourself as a subject matter expert, consider offering coaching services to your listeners, either in small groups or one-on-one.
- Mastermind classes: Similar to coaching, these classes bring together like-minded individuals with a common goal to brainstorm, support, and encourage each other. Rather than coaching, you are facilitating their interactions and pitching in as needed.
Which Teaching Method Is Best For You?
Not every topic works as a handy guide, and not every person is interested in putting the time and effort into teaching a class. Here are some guidelines for deciding what teaching method is best for you.
- Written guides: Fast and once done, they don’t need additional input other than editing and graphics.
- Public speaking: You should be an authority or have a unique message. You need to be comfortable talking to a live audience on your own (as opposed to interviewing someone). You’ll need a prepared speech.
- Online courses: Requires an initial investment of time and effort to set up, which depends on whether you do video, audio, or text, and what kind of extra materials you prepare. You then have the choice of being an active teacher that looks at assignments and responds to questions, letting your program run independently on automatic mode, or doing something in between, such as checking in once a week to answer questions in the comments section. You may also need to pay for an online course platform.
- Webinars: If you are marketing yourself as a guest, you’ll need a package and a prepared 30- to 45-minute class with visuals and some kind of take-away that also mentions your podcast and any additional services you wish to sell. If you host webinars, you will need to purchase a webinar service.
- Coaching: You’ll need to establish yourself as an expert and be able to dedicate time for phone calls, emails, or chats so you can talk to your students, plus time for any additional materials, brainstorming what your student needs, and finding additional resources.
- Mastermind classes: Like coaching, you should be an acknowledged subject matter expert and have some highly motivated students. You need to set up a venue where the group can meet such as a chat room, conference call, Facebook group, or the like. From there, facilitating depends on you. You can set topics and determine rules (such as how long a person has to discuss their challenges).
Don’t feel locked into any one kind of teaching venue. As you grow in your podcasting career, you may find you feel called to try something more intense, like coaching, or to back off and put your online course on automatic.
7. Sell Your Services
Some people, especially small business people, get into podcasting as a way to sell their services. For example, an organic farmer may sell her herbs or do consulting for people starting their own gardens. A marketing guru may charge people to appear on her show for a coaching session. A tax accountant may generate business with his “tip of the week” podcast.
How to Sell Services Through a Podcast
Treat yourself like your own sponsor. Create a scripted but more personal commercial for yourself highlighting your services. Then, create a landing page, and share that link in your podcast.
Harness the power of reviews by asking some customers to record a quick endorsement for you that you can air. It’s as easy as having them call your cellphone and leave a message.
Limits to Self-Promotion in a Podcast
Turning your podcast into one big commercial is a sure way to turn off listeners, especially with so much competition in the market. Make your podcast valuable to your listeners in and of itself.
- Don’t just talk about yourself or your products: If you sound like you belong on the Shopping Network, you’ve gone too far—your knowledge and expertise should speak for itself in the podcast through the content and value you provide.
- Give complete answers to questions or problems: There’s always room to go into a deeper dive, but don’t give half an answer and then tell your audience to purchase something to learn more. If you don’t have enough for a full answer plus a paid value-add, rethink your podcast.
- Give a few great tips: One way to get around the half-answer is to come up with several excellent tips and make your podcast about a few of the best.
- Bring in outside experts: Bringing in well-known experts can help bolster your own expertise and credibility.
8. Sell Products
Podcasters can make some money by selling T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads or other products with their logos, icons, or proprietary artwork on it. You can sell these on your website or using print-on-demand product sites like TeeSpring or Zazzle.
Product sales do better in these circumstances:
- Popular podcasts
- Quirky, special interest podcasts with loyal fans
- Niche interests like gaming, anime, or genre fiction
- Great art or iconic art
T-shirts are the standby, but other products might work better for your audience. A business podcast may opt for coffee mugs; a health podcast, a water bottle; a green podcast, cloth grocery bags. Use your imagination and think about what your listeners would like and use. Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to one thing. Many stores charge you to upload your logo once, then put it on any product they offer.
How to Start Selling Products
First, you need an image. Don’t limit yourself to art; slogans can work. Create special, limited editions or commemorative pieces. You can create this artwork yourself using Photoshop or other drawing programs. Alternatively, you can hire someone to do it. Fiver, for example, can be a great resource for finding designers for one-off projects.
Once you have the image, look into some print-on-demand product sites that will let you load your image and select the items you’d like to sell. Here are some recommendations. Popular options include Printful, Society6, TeeSpring, and Zazzle.
You can usually sell these items through the provided storefront on these sites, but if you decide to order some in bulk, you can also sell them through your website. To do so, you will need to set up an online payment processor, either through the store or with PayPal, Square, or another payment processor service. These companies take a percentage of your sales as processing fees.
9. Charge Your Podcast Guests
When it comes to how people make money podcasting, this strategy is the most controversial. Normally, guests are invited by the podcaster and in some cases, are paid for their appearances. Some shady podcasts (called fraudcasts) exist only to make money by charging guests and letting them talk about whatever they like.
However, some legitimate podcasters do charge their guests for the privilege of appearing on their show. For example, John Lee Dumas from “Entrepreneur on Fire” charges guests to appear on his podcast. His show used to be free, but he got thousands of pitches per week. So, now he charges thousands of dollars for others to appear on the show.
Plus, there are other ways you can charge guests. Here are the most common:
- To be on the show: This is for the major leagues, where the benefit for your guest is an association with you and your podcast. They gain value from being associated with your name as much as having the chance to talk about themselves.
- To pitch a product on the show: Think of it as an infomercial—they pay to talk specifically about their product. The best infomercials, however, don’t just advertise, they teach as well, giving important information about the problem and sometimes, solutions (that they then cover in more detail in a class, book, or solve with a product.) A lot of webinars do this, so it is normalized. However, keep it on-brand with your audience’s interests or the subject of your podcast.
- Require they purchase an ad: Some podcasters require guests to purchase an ad, so in a way, they become a sponsor.
How to Start Charging Guests
This is not a strategy for the beginner podcaster. If you charge your guests, you need to be able to prove some return on investment. The first step would be to have grown an audience large and loyal enough that anyone appearing on your show can expect to get some marketing value out of the gig. Plus, you should have analytics and audience demographics be able to prove that following.
If you are charging them to promote their own works, have processes in place to make the best of that promotion such as affiliate links or landing pages, and the ability to track clicks coming from your podcast so you can show return on investment.
Finally, you need to have a professional-quality podcast. No matter what strategy you use, be upfront about the charges. Have a contract or at least a form of acknowledgment that appearance or promotion is a pay-to-play exchange.
How to Know You’re Ready to Charge Guests
To charge guests, you need to have a large and faithful following, usually in the tens of thousands. If your subject matter is a very narrow niche, a few thousand followers may be enough. You also need a strong promotional platform such as a blog and newsletter and lots of authority within your topic such as a published book or a successful course.
Finally, you also need an excellent reputation. For podcasters, an excellent reputation can mean winning awards, being part of podcasting reputations, and even receiving lots of positive reviews for your podcast. If you are still unsure, a good way to know is if publicists are approaching you trying to place guests on your show—that shows they value your show and its audience.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Money Podcasting
Podcasting is no longer a new industry. There are over 2 million podcasts registered with Google covering everything from starting a business to reviewing B movies, but only an estimated 750,000 are active. Even so, there are a lot of questions about the expenses of getting started and about making money. Here are some of the most common:
How do podcasts make money?
There is money in podcasting—but don’t invest in that new home just yet. The income range for podcasters varies as widely as it does for authors, meaning there are some J.K. Rowlings, but a majority of podcasters are not household names. For example, the podcast H3 has been able to make $100,000 an episode through its various monetizing efforts, including YouTube, but it has millions of views per podcast. According to Limelink, the average podcast gets 129 downloads.
Podcast income via Patreon is equally wide-ranging. For example, The Last Podcast on the Left has 11,294 patrons and makes $53,963 per month. Meanwhile, The Podcaster’s Guide to the Conspiracy has 16 patrons and is earning $49 per month, and on Patreon’s search results, 12 of the 20 that showed up on the first page have no sponsors and no income.
How much money does it take to start podcasting?
It takes money to make money they say, and podcasting is no different. However, podcasting can be an inexpensive investment. You need some basic equipment, sound mixing software, and artwork such as a logo, and a website. In all, starting a podcast can be as cheap as $90 or as expensive as $5,000.
Are there any laws concerning monetizing my podcast?
The Federal Trade Commission does have rules about endorsing products and services. These rules also apply to charging guests to be on your show. To learn more, check the FTC Q&A page. There’s also a podcast on this topic from The Podcast Coach.
How do I count podcasting on my taxes?
If you are earning money on podcasting, then you need to pay taxes. Don’t forget that anything you earn from your podcast counts as income. Free products and bartered goods and services count as income as well. Don’t forget to consider expenses, too, like that fancy microphone, Facebook ads, or the travel expenses you incurred to do an on-location podcast. It’s best to consult an accountant to ensure you file taxes properly.
How long before I can expect to see a profit from podcasting?
That completely depends on you as a host and producer. The better the quality of your podcast and your ability to reach your target audience, the quicker your number of listeners will grow. Then, too, it depends on how successful you are at securing sponsorships, gathering donations, selling collateral products and services, or other money-making endeavors.
Can I make a career out of podcasting?
A few have managed, but even the top podcasters say they are not living off their podcasting income, but on public speaking, consulting, and other businesses supported by or supporting their podcasting.
What if I don’t make any money at it? Should I keep going?
Only you can answer this question. Why did you start podcasting in the first place? Was it to make money? Or was it to reach people, promote yourself, or help others? Do you have an audience that makes what you’re doing emotionally satisfying? Would your time and effort (and money) be better spent doing something else?
Most people start podcasting because they have a message, to help others, or as a tool for marketing something else. If that’s what got you started, then making money might be a secondary consideration.
Podcasting looks overwhelming. Where do I start?
Pick the strategy that looks easiest to you. If you’re willing to invest some money, affiliate services will handle a lot of the work of finding advertisers. Or perhaps you already work from a script that you can turn into a PDF and offer as extra content. If you have a lot of people downloading your podcasts after the fact, it could be a simple thing to set up a charge for older episodes through your podcasting service.
The point is, find one task. Do it. See how well it works. Then either tweak that process or try the next bigger task. As you keep at it, your skill and comfort will grow.
Bottom Line—How to Make Money Podcasting
Most podcasters do not make a profit from podcasting. Quite often, people get into it because they feel a calling or find it a good way to market themselves or their business. However, for those that are willing to put in the work and use their imagination, there are a lot of ways to generate some income. It may not pay your mortgage, but it could pay for your podcasting expenses.
If you’re interested in learning how to make money podcasting, this article is just a start. In addition to reading more, look at the experts: podcasters. Find the top podcasters in your topic area and don’t just enjoy the podcast—analyze how they promote sponsors, what they link to, and what other services they provide. Then follow their lead to a successfully monetized podcast of your own.