So you want to make money from a podcast?
It’s totally doable. Whether you’re launching a podcast from scratch or looking for ways to grow your current show, there are tons of ways to build an income from podcasting!
But the truth is, some methods of monetization work best for niche podcasts that are just getting off the ground. Other methods work better when you’ve grown an audience and have built authority in your industry.
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The “Entrepreneurs on Fire” podcast by John Lee Dumas brings in over six figures per month in revenue, while the“Smart Passive Income” show helps Pat Flynn’s online business generate over $40,000 each month.
Sounds impressive, right? The challenge is building an audience of loyal listeners takes time. It’s no walk in the park. Many podcasters who earn six figures from their show have been doing this for years.
But you don’t need millions of listeners to build a money-making podcast.
With a bit of strategic planning, you can start earning money from a podcast in your very first year, even if you’re a total beginner.
And it all starts before you even publish your first episode. In this post, we’ll outline the four ways to monetize your podcast from day one. Let’s jump right in.
How do podcasts make money?
For starters, there’s no right or wrong way to generate revenue in a business. You’re only limited to creativity and your appetite for trying out new projects. However, we’re going to dig into the four most common ways that podcasts make money.
You don’t need to dive into every method at once!
But keep in mind, most seasoned podcasters recommend a combination of multiple revenue streams as the key to generating a part-time or full-time income. Here are the monetization models you should look at first.
Advertising & Sponsors
Ever listened to a show that took a quick break to run an ad? There’s a good reason. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, marketers spent $479 million on podcast ads in 2018.
And those numbers are only increasing year-to-year.
Why’s that? Sponsors and advertisers love to air spots on podcasts because they usually have highly engaged audiences. More than half of podcast audiences listen to a full episode of a show—and 41% of listeners will play through most of an episode.
This means the majority of listeners will actually listen to an ad!
Here’s how it typically works. John Lee Dumas, host of Entrepreneur on Fire, revealed that many sponsors use a CPM (cost per impression) model to pay, which is based on the total number of downloads.
- $18 per 1,000 downloads for 15-second pre-roll ad
- $25 per 1,000 downloads for a 60-second mid-roll ad
- $15 per 1,000 downloads for 30-second post-roll ad
Let’s say your show gets 5,000 downloads per episode and you air two ads per show. You can earn $117 for running a pre-roll ad and $162 for a mid-roll ad spot. And that’s just for one episode.
Not to mention, you’ll catch the eye of more advertisers as your audience size grows.
How do you find sponsors for your show?
There are two ways to approach sponsors. You can work with a media ad agency or podcast hosting platform to find a sponsorship for your podcast. However, you usually need to have at least 5,000 downloads per new episode (in the first month) before it’s worth your time to reach out to agencies.
So what if your numbers are lower than this? We’re glad you asked. You’ll probably have a smaller audience than this when your show is in the first year, or if your topic is really niche, but it doesn’t mean you can’t seek out sponsors yet.
The solution is to pitch them yourself. There are millions of companies out there who might sell the right products for your listeners!
This is the point where you identify which sponsorships would make sense for your audience. What products or services would make their lives better? Which companies do you already use and love?
Remember, your audience is tuning in each week to hear your thoughts. If you can recommend an amazing product you know they’ll be interested in, people will be excited to learn more about it.
Before you start pitching, you’ll need to identify a list of potential sponsors. Here are a few ways to brainstorm:
- Ask your listeners to recommend their favorite products.
- Listen to competing podcasts to identify the types of companies that sponsor podcasts.
- Check out trade publications and industry magazines to see who’s running ads.
- Google keywords in your niche and browse the paid ads sections.
- Join Facebook groups and communities for podcasters.
There are plenty of sponsorship opportunities out there if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do a little digging on Google.
Affiliate marketing is a smart place to start for new podcasters because you don’t have to pitch anyone or set up deals with a sponsor. You just have to sign up with a company who runs a program.
How does this work? It’s simple, you sell other people’s products and earn a commission off their sales.
There are usually two ways to do it:
You can promote companies’ products yourself. What this means is you’ll earn money every time someone signs up using your affiliate link. Likewise, you can invite the product creator onto your show and they can promote their products during the interview via your link.
It’s a win-win. All you need to do is work out a deal with them beforehand.
Jenna Kutcher reported that she earned 6-figures from affiliate marketing in 2018. She’s the host of the mega-popular Goal Digger Podcast, but the cool thing is that affiliate marketing isn’t even the main way her podcast generates income. Jenna only shares five affiliate offers with her audience over the course of a year.
They just happen to be products that she loves—that is the key to affiliate marketing.
(Just make sure you disclose any affiliate links with your audience. For legal reasons and to make sure you’re building trust with your listeners!)
The best part? You can get started with affiliate marketing even if you have a tiny audience. First off, come up with a list of companies that you love and Google their website with the keyword affiliate program.
You’d be surprised to learn how many companies already run affiliate programs.
Sponsor your own show with products/services
This is a no-brainer tactic to try out in your first year of running a show. Why’s that? Like affiliate marketing, you can sponsor your own podcast no matter how many listeners you have. It’s all about selling your products or services.
Think about this way:
You don’t have to sell directly on the show. If you’re a service provider, you can offer a free 15-minute consultation where people can book a call with you. Just make sure to set up a special link so that you can track who comes in from your show!
If you sell a physical product, it’s as simple as sharing an exclusive coupon code with your listeners. For digital products, you can attract listeners to your email list by offering a free lead magnet or a low-cost product (this is commonly referred to as a tripwire).
Then you can continue to connect with your audience via their inbox.
But how do you sell products authentically?
Many content creators worry about feeling sales-y or bugging their audience members. We’ve all been there. Don’t worry, if you focus on sharing incredible content with your people, you’ll naturally open the door to recommending your own products.
When listeners create wins in their lives based on your free advice, many of them will eventually want to take things to the next level.
Crowdfunding or Donations
Want to know something special about podcast audiences?
Listeners are loyal. A lot of people play episodes while they’re driving somewhere, as they cook dinner at home, or when they hit the gym for a workout. In other words, podcast listeners are inviting you into their personal space. This builds instant rapport.
And when people tune into your show regularly, they begin to feel like they really know you.
Once you’ve built up a loyal base of listeners in the first few months, you can start monetizing your podcast through a donation model. Here’s how it usually works. Many podcasters do this through Patreon.
If you’re not familiar with Patreon, it’s a crowdfunding platform commonly used by YouTubers, musicians, and comedians. Artists and creators use it to accept donations from their fans on a one-time or recurring basis.
This part is easy. Simply ask your listeners to support you by donating or pledging a small amount of money regularly.
For example, Podcast The Ride uses crowdfunding to make money from their ultra-niche comedy show about theme parks. You can join their Patreon membership by becoming an “Annual Passholder” and gain access to 3 bonus episodes per month for $5/month.
Let’s do the math. With 1,869 members to date, that means Podcast The Ride currently earns $9,345 per month via Patreon. Pretty neat, huh? Like affiliate marketing, you don’t need to meet listener or subscriber requirements to join Patreon.
That makes crowdfunding a massive opportunity for making money in your first year of podcasting.
How much money can a podcast make?
Joe Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” is widely considered to be one of the most popular podcasts in the world. According to Forbes, the stand-up comic earned $30 million from his show in 2019.
But this wasn’t an overnight success story. He launched his show over 10 years ago and averages over 190 million downloads per month. Videos of his podcast episodes are available to stream on YouTube, which also brings in millions of views (and additional ad revenue from YouTube).
So what about the rest of podcast hosts? Do you need millions of listeners to grow a profitable show?
There are plenty of folks with way smaller audiences that make money from their podcasts too! In 2019, Pat Flynn revealed he uses three monetization models: affiliate marketing, promoting his own products, and advertising. He’s since stopped publishing monthly income reports, so we don’t know the exact breakdown of his income from the show today.
However, in December 2017, Pat shared that he earned over $125,819 in one month.
Affiliate marketing was the majority of the revenue, but his podcast sponsorship also contributed $3,389 to his income.
Not too shabby, huh? Let’s take a look at another podcaster.
Note that not all of that revenue is profit. In his income report, Peter is also upfront about exactly how much the shows cost to run per month. After expenses, he took home $26,710 that month.
What would earning that income from your podcast mean to you?
How long will it take me to monetize my show?
The answer is… it depends. Before you can start making money from your podcast, you need to get in front of the right listeners first.
Building a loyal audience is the first step to creating a part-time or full-time income from your show. So how do you establish one? If you already have a following on social media or an email list, it makes it easier to speed up your podcast growth. But you can totally start from scratch by asking yourself these questions:
What do I really want to say?
It all begins with creating amazing content. If you share content that’s useful and engaging, your listeners will want to come back again and again. Be thoughtful about the guests you invite on your show and the resources you share with listeners.
Your content needs to be so good that it makes people want to tell their friends about you! And remember, the longer you run a podcast, the more your show becomes about building a community.
Which monetization model will I use?
Let’s not forget that you don’t need a huge audience to generate revenue. You can start with affiliate marketing and sponsoring your own podcast to make money in the first few months. Other models, like advertising, will usually take longer to become income streams because you need to build up listeners first.
The faster word spreads about your show, the quicker you can start making money through multiple routes.
What can I do until my podcast makes money?
⇒Step 1: Focus on mastering technical podcast skills
The trick to growing an audience is delivering consistent value.
Not only do you need to share helpful, interesting content but you also need to invest in your technical knowledge. Listeners crave high-quality production value. That means you’ll need to learn the basics of audio editing and production in addition to creating content.
For those of you who are ready to skip the learning curve, we’ve got you covered! Our self-paced course, Podcast Production School, will walk you through the entire podcasting process with 6 comprehensive modules, plug-and-play templates, and in-depth tutorials.
You’ll learn how to launch, manage, and grow podcasts for small businesses. This course takes a deeper look at everything you need to know about getting a podcast up and running.
⇒Step 2: Promote your show to new listeners
Sure, listeners will frequently discover your show organically via apps like Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. But we’re growth-minded here. If you want to reach a wider audience, you also need to promote your show on social media.
Does that mean you need to be on all the social media platforms?
Nope, that’s a recipe for overwhelm!
Just pick 1-2 social platforms for your podcast in the beginning. Figure out where your ideal listeners are hanging out and join the conversation that’s already happening.
⇒Step 3: Collaborate with guests
The simplest way to think of content creation is to keep switching things up. Novelty keeps people coming back for more.
We recommend you find guests in your niche to interview. In the beginning, you’ll probably have to do most of the outreach. But as your podcast grows, guests will start pitching you for interviews.
Be choosy about your guests. Decide whether or not they’re the right fit for your audience, and don’t be afraid to turn a guest down if you’re not aligned. The perfect guest will bring tons of value to your show. You get help with producing great content and win the opportunity to get in front of their audiences too.
What do I do first?
Are you a podcast junkie who dreams of hosting your own show? You can make it happen!
The reality is, making money from a podcast in your first year is hard work but it’s entirely possible to build an profitable income. Podcasts are a powerful way to build your authority—and develop a deep connection with your audience.
Focus on building your audience and don’t be afraid to experiment with different monetization models.
Remember, it will take time to figure out what works for you. But if you keep it up, you can make money from your podcast in the first year with a little sweat equity and passion for content creation.
- 2018 Full-Year Podcast Ad Revenue Study
- Entrepreneurs on Fire Income Reports
- Jenna Kutcher: How I Made 6-Figures in Affiliate Marketing in a Year
- Podcast the Ride on Patreon
- Crime Does Pay: ‘My Favorite Murder’ Stars Join Joe Rogan As Nation’s Highest-Earning Podcasters
- Smart Passive Income: 3 Ways My Podcast Makes Money
- Smart Passive Income: December 2017 Income Report
- The Defiance Podcast
- What Bitcoin Did: Income Report for December 2019