This post was originally published on Dec. 20, 2018, and was updated on Oct. 29, 2020.
For the past few years, podcasting has seen a phenomenal surge in growth. More and more people are starting their first podcast, whether it’s a platform to share a personal passion, have conversations and interviews with others in their field or simply to build their brand. While we’re seeing an increase in podcasts — especially in the current isolated climate — there is also a rise in the number of ways one can make money podcasting.
5 ways to make money podcasting
Here’s a look at the five top ways to make money from podcasting:
- Seek out sponsorship and ads.
- Embrace affiliate marketing.
- Consider creating protected content.
- Accept donations.
- Build your brand.
1. Seek out sponsorships and ads
You will see this money-making strategy at work in a lot of podcasts. They might insert ad rolls at the beginning, the middle or the end of the podcast — or a mix of all three.
There may be multiple sponsors per show or the opportunity for an exclusive partnership.
Typically the spots aren’t much longer than 30 to 60 seconds and how they are delivered varies, from pre-recorded separately to a more natural blend into the podcast conversation.
What you decide to charge for podcast sponsorships and ads will depend on many factors. It can range from a price per download to simply what you feel you need to charge to cover your fixed costs.
A standard in podcasting is that you can safely start requesting sponsorships when your podcasts reach a 5K download within the first 30 days after the episode airs.
But it also depends on what the market will bear and how reputable your show is.
Unless you are very established and are in high demand in your industry, sponsors won’t flock to you. You will need to reach out to potential sponsors, which means you must have strong sales skills. As you start making contacts, be ready with numbers to back up your request.
Sponsors are going to want to know the number of click-throughs and the resulting conversions. Be prepared for those questions.
2. Embrace affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing, where you highlight a product or service and get a percentage of any resulting sales, can be an effective way to make money with your podcast. But it’s best to have some experience with affiliates first.
The bottom line: Don’t do anything to turn off your listeners.
Affiliate marketing seems like a natural way to monetize a podcast that focuses on product reviews, but even then, avoid any affiliate marketing plan that turns parts of your podcast into a giant infomercial.
The key is to integrate a product as part of a solution to a problem your listeners have.
Of course, you also want to make sure you are sharing products or services that you know and trust yourself.
If you go this route, be sure your affiliate link is in your show notes or transcripts.
Most of all, create an easy-to-remember URL that you can share in the audio. A code for a discount that can be applied to their purchase is even better. But make it easy for the listener to remember. Some people are listening to your podcast on the go, so shorter is better.
3. Consider creating protected content
A lot of podcasters use Patreon as a paid subscription platform.
In this model, you offer your regular podcasts, but also provide extra content for paying listeners. Often there is some incentive to join, such as swag.
One example of added content would be special interviews or more in-depth shows. You might offer a shorter interview with someone, but on the member side, a more elaborate show where they share their best tips.
The downside of this strategy is that its success depends on having a large listener base already in place.
When you are starting out, unless you are a celebrity, it can be tough getting people to fork over money for content they think they can get for free elsewhere.
You will also need to pay these platforms a percentage and understand that you are in someone else’s space so you have limited control over what you can do there.
4. Accept donations
This way to make money podcasting is worth a try if you are looking to get just enough money to cover your costs.
The number of listeners doesn’t matter as much as the type of listeners because you are banking on the good hearts of a small group of committed fans.
Not everyone is going to send something in, so adjust your expectations accordingly.
5. Building your brand
This is probably one of the most popular strategies for business owners: using your podcast as a marketing tool to build your brand.
This can be done by sharing your expertise or through interviews with others.
Talking about what you know adds credibility, which can lead to new clients and customers. In this case, you will not necessarily care as much about the numbers of listeners as you will about the quality of your listeners: people who are truly interested in hearing what you have to say and have a need for your products or services.
There are two important factors to get in place before you start considering how to make money podcasting.
1. Determine your goal
You should have some idea of what you want to achieve. Is it just some side income or do you want to make the podcast a large piece of your cash flow?
It may start as a side gig and grow into something bigger than you imagined, but it’s good to have an initial goal.
2. Plan your strategy and test
Your first monetization strategy is rarely the perfect one, so make sure you are testing the results and monitoring the stats, such as your downloads.
Also, if you are soliciting money for sponsorships or advertising, you may need to share some of these analytics with those decision-makers before they will commit.
How to decide what’s right for you
The right plan and mix of strategies to make money podcasting is a personal decision that is closely tied to your goals and the audience you want to cultivate.
So listen to the advice out there, but balance it with your own needs and what you think will work for you.
For instance, many experts in the podcasting field say that sponsorship, unless you are a big brand, is not the best strategy over the long term. But with the growth in the popularity of podcasting, if you have the contacts and sales skills, it may be the perfect solution.
Or you might feel that you want to grow your expertise and reputation through podcasting without the concern of stats that keep advertisers happy.
Whatever you choose to do and however you monetize your podcast, make sure you are doing what works best for you because podcasting takes time and energy.