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There’s an old joke that the best way to make money from a podcast is to sell your equipment. Yet, despite what many claim, it’s absolutely possible to monetize a podcast. Plenty of show-runners are earning a living doing that, right now. Others are happy to bring in enough to cover their hosting costs or pay for a takeaway every few weeks.
Where else can you get paid to talk about your favourite things, after all?
‘How to Make Money From a Podcast’ was initially written in 2017. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in technology, our recommendations, and because we’re always learning new things!
This post also contains affiliate links to some products and services we think you’ll find interesting. We may earn a small commission should you choose to buy through them, though never at any extra cost to yourself.
Whatever your aims are when it comes to monetization, I’m going to cover all of the options in this article. Here, you’ll learn about the many different ways you can make money from a podcast.
Table of Contents
Bear in mind, as with nearly any way you can make a living, this is a long game. You’ve probably heard a lot about big-name podcasters earning chunks of cash. In the vast majority of cases, though, they’ve been at this a long time… OR, they came to podcasting with an established audience already.
Don’t let that put you off, though. With the right approach, it’s totally possible to start making a bit of income within the first six months and build that to something greater over a year and beyond.
Let’s get to it! Read on, or watch the video version below.
What to Have in Place BEFORE Trying to Make Money From a Podcast
I know, I know, you want to get to the cash. But you’ll only get there if you think of these first. Here are the three big factors we came up with which determine whether you’ll be able to make money from your podcast:
- Presentation, Delivery, & Performance
- Building Relationships & Community
Are you being “the best you?” Is your content and your podcast sustainable?
Get this right, and you’ll have the opportunity to profit, not just financially, but from relationships and by making a difference in people’s lives.
2. Presentation, Delivery, & Performance
How do you come across when you are behind the microphone? You can have the best topic and message in the world, but if the listener is bored, they either won’t care or won’t listen.
This doesn’t mean you should act like someone else, but be aware that in audio, your body language is channelled through your voice and your vocal inflexions. Audiences are drawn to passion and enthusiasm, so make sure that comes across in your presentation, and always strive to improve your performance.
3. Building Relationships & Community
It’s often said that if you don’t have time to build a community, then you don’t have time to do a podcast.
Audiences are galvanised by interactions and conversations, not only with you as the podcast host, but with other listeners who share a passion for your topic. If you have no community and no interactions, then it isn’t a conversation, and you are just talking at your audience and not with them.
People want to feel involved, and if you give them that, they will like you all the more for it. They will trust you more, and they will strive to support you.
Alright, now that we’ve got some solid foundations in place, how do we build a nice little podcast income generator on top of them? There is no shortage of ways to monetize a podcast, so here’s a question that can help narrow them down…
How to Choose a Method of Podcast Monetization
Firstly, ask yourself what your strengths are.
- a teacher?
- a coach?
- a thought leader?
- a performer?
- a creator?
Then, have a think about…
- What kind of podcast do you do?
- What is your topic, and who is your audience?
These are all relevant questions to the various podcast monetization options available to you. Once you know where you excel, you’ll be much better placed to choose the method that suits you below.
How to Make Money From a Podcast – Your Options
Let’s assume you’ve satisfied the requirements above – you know you’re creating something great, and you’ve thought about your strengths.
There are a few different options available to you. You can try as few or as many of them as you like, though it’s arguably better to focus on fewer and do them well rather than spread yourself too thin.
Besides, some of these methods will suit your show and your content much more than others.
So let’s dive into these 12 tried and tested ways to make money from a podcast…
1. Creating Courses
If you like to teach others the nuts and bolts of your subject matter, then this could be the method for you.
Here, you’ll break things down and explain them simply in course form. This could be in video, audio, or text. There’s a wide range of platforms out there that can help you do it, too.
Courses – Pros
These high-value products can bring in three (even four) figure sums.
Courses – Cons
They can take a lot of time to put together, which can eat heavily into your podcast creation time. Depending on your topic, they might also need to be updated regularly.
2. One-on-One Coaching
If you’d like to get on calls and talk people through processes, teaching them live, then this could be a great way to monetize your podcast. It’s an easier start than creating a full course since you don’t have to build anything. All you need is a booking form to take payment, and schedule a time!
For this, I use Book Like a Boss. It lets you set up times in your calendar, tie that to different types of appointments, and manage the whole process easily.
Coaching – Pros
This route can create deep, meaningful relationships with high-value clients over many years. These relationships can lead to other opportunities, too.
Coaching – Cons
One-on-one coaching relies on you being available. This can mean less flexibility and freedom regarding holidays and time off. With one-on-one coaching, you can’t “take yourself out of it”.
3. Sponsors & Sponsorship
Sponsorship and advertising are often seen as the “default” method when it comes to making money from a podcast.
One problem with sponsorship, though, is that many advertisers are still fixated on numbers rather than interaction and engagement. You and I know that 500 engaged listeners are far more valuable than 5000 casual listeners.
So, if you’d like to get a sponsor for your show, choose someone that fits your topic and your audience and approach them with real stories of your generated engagement. Explain how well this can turn into conversions for their sponsorship.
Try smaller or local companies, and talk to them about how they can benefit by supporting your podcast. Be sure to create a media kit for this, too.
Sponsorship – Pros
If you can find a sponsor that’s highly relevant to your audience and topic, then there’s the potential to create a long-term, lucrative, and valuable partnership for both parties.
Sponsorship – Cons
Unless you’re getting thousands of downloads or have a hyper-niche topic, sponsorship deals don’t pay all that well. You need to ask yourself if what you’d stand to earn is worth potentially interrupting your audience over.
4. Write a Book or eBook Based on Your Podcast Content
This is a popular method for making money from your podcast. A good book can be short and sweet, and pretty easy to create if you know your stuff.
You can print or self-publish an eBook on virtually anything. Find something that’s hot in your topic and write about it, but make sure the benefit for the reader is really, really clear. Can you identify a problem and solve it?
Or, take a lead out of Tim Ferriss’ book (pun intended…) and write a book that simply summarises the ‘best bits’ from your podcast, like Tools of Titans!
Books – Pros
You can use your episodes as a framework for the book, especially if you podcast in focused seasons.
Books – Cons
Books are ridiculously low-value. A book that costs $20 will be seen as expensive – even if it contains the bulk of the author’s lifetime expertise. On the flip side, a course containing 20% of the info on the book can sell for 20 times the price, and nobody bats an eyelid!
5. Sell a Product
Again, with this podcast monetization method, you need to think hard about the problems your listeners face. Or better still, set up a survey and ask them. Can you create a product that will make life easier for them?
An example of this is Alitu: the Podcast Maker. We kept hearing that you, our readers, were struggling a lot with podcast editing and production. For some, they could do it, but they didn’t have the time. For others, they just weren’t interested in learning about normalisation, bitrates, compression, file formats, and on, and on….
Either way, we create a product called Alitu that’s essentially an all-in-one ‘Podcast Maker’ tool. With it, you can record your audio, edit it, and publish it all within one easy-to-use interface. It’ll also automatically handle things like noise reduction, volume levelling, and even episode transcription.
Selling a Product – Pros
You’re 100% in control. Everything is on your own terms, and you’ll generally receive the biggest percentage of income generated as compared to all other monetisation methods.
Selling a Product – Cons
It can be a heavy workload. Creating a product of value will take time and effort.
If it’s physical products, you’ll also need to think about the manufacturing and distribution side of things. Are you prepared to ship around the globe?
6. Sell a Service
This is a step beyond the coaching we talked about earlier. Instead of teaching them how, you can do it for them, and call it a service!
A classic example is our very own Podcraft Podcast – it’s a show that teaches people everything they need to know about how to run a podcast. But, inevitably, there are plenty of people who heard our advice and realise they just don’t have the time or the inclination to do it themselves. So, instead, who do they ask to do it? The person they’ve just gotten to know on the podcast, of course – us! We used to get a lot of production work that way, back when we offered it. These days, though, many listeners like to work with us inside the IndiePod Community.
Selling a Service – Pros
A service can have all the benefits of one-on-one coaching, but this time you can hire staff to work alongside you. Building a team means your business can keep on scaling.
Selling a Service – Cons
Growth and scaling aren’t without their challenges. You can spend all your time working on the business instead of creating content on the topic you love. This route can grow arms and legs and go way beyond just how to monetize a podcast.
7. Affiliate Marketing & Income
Every podcaster talks about the stuff they love, and in many cases, that includes products or services. On Podcraft, we talk about microphones, hosting services, podcasting tools, and a tonne more. That’s just because we’re interested, and we know our listeners are too.
Now, every time you mention these products, your listeners might wonder about buying them, too. This is your chance to start earning some affiliate income.
Think of the products or services you love most and see if they have an affiliate programme. If it’s on Amazon, then that makes things easy – you can sign up for their affiliate programme in just a few minutes. If your beloved brand does sell on there, though, it’s still worth approaching the company directly and requesting to become an affiliate partner.
You can take this a step further, and combine it with the other methods too. There’s no reason not to create a free (or paid!) course or eBook with affiliate links.
Here’s our full guide on affiliates for podcasters. There you’ll find programs you can sign up for and start making money with your podcast right away!
I also mentioned our ‘Podcast Maker’ tool Alitu earlier on. Alitu has a competitive affiliate scheme offering a recurring 20% commission for each person who signs up. That means you’ll get a percentage of their membership fee, monthly, for as long as they’re a member.
Affiliate Marketing – Pros
You don’t need to create the products or run the services. The income you make isn’t quite work-free, but it’s lower maintenance for sure.
Affiliate Marketing – Cons
You don’t own or ultimately control affiliate programs. If you begin to rely on them as your main source of income, be aware that they could all be cut off tomorrow.
8. Premium & Exclusive Content
Here’s a simple podcast monetization strategy – sell the podcast itself!
For the average indie podcaster, selling the entire thing isn’t a good idea. You need enough people to listen for free, so they’ll like it enough to pay.
To solve that, some podcasters sell their back catalogue. For example, keep the most recent 50 episodes free, but to access the older ones, you have to pay.
Other podcasters create extra episodes which are for sale above and beyond their free content.
Premium Content – Pros
You created a product that you own 100%. And you create it by doing what you were already doing anyway.
Premium Content – Cons
This strategy will hamper your growth because not even the most popular podcast (Joe Rogan, for example) will get 100% of its listeners to pay for content.
Is it doing you more harm than good by limiting your free content to your loyal audience? If you’re in a position to do this, you’re also in a position to try any of the other podcast monetization methods. Is this really the best fit?
With all that said, this doesn’t need to be about limiting any free content. You could just sell some additional bonus episodes instead.
Making Money From a Podcast on Platforms Like Spotify & Apple Podcasts
Spotify has reinvented itself as a podcast network as well as a music streaming giant. But you don’t need to be “signed” by them to make money from a podcast on the platform – you can run paid subscriptions on Spotify. The caveat is, this is limited to US-based creators only, and you need to host your show on Spotify for Podcasters.
Apple Podcasts offers a paid subscription model these days, too. Here, you pay an annual fee to participate, and this depends on which country you’re in.
Apple Podcast subscriptions enable you to create ‘channels’ where you can group together multiple shows. You can also list some or all of your content behind a subscription paywall.
With Apple Podcasts Subscriptions, “you receive 70% of the subscription price at each billing cycle, minus applicable taxes. After a subscriber accumulates one year of paid service, your net revenue increases to 85% of the subscription price, minus applicable taxes. Your other podcast revenue — including any ads — will stay 100% yours.”
If your stats suggest that most of your podcast listeners are coming via Spotify or Apple Podcasts, then these might be good monetization options for you. But remember, you can also sell your content using a dedicated e-commerce platform, which would give you more “ownership” over your audience.
9. Make Money From Your Podcast Skills
It could be that the answer to the question “How to make money from a podcast?” is staring back at you when you look in the mirror.
Do you ever have clients, friends, or family asking how all this podcasting stuff actually works?
Or, are there any businesses in your niche that don’t have a podcast already? If you have the expertise, offer to make one for them.
If you’re a great host, you can tell a good story. And if you have the production chops to make it sound good, you can generate a living that way. In fact, we’ve written on how to get a job in podcasting before.
In this case, your own podcast acts as a portfolio piece, showing others your creative audio skillset and capabilities.
Monetize Your Podcast Skills – Pros
This is a great way to get paid to podcast. Whether you love to get behind the mic or spend hours crafting great-sounding audio in your DAW, there are folks out there who’ll pay you to do that for them.
Monetize Your Podcast Skills – Cons
If someone else hires you, will you still have time to run your own podcast? And will you enjoy it as much if it isn’t your own content or topic?
10. Patreon, Crowdfunding & Donations
This podcast monetization method is well suited to content creators and hobbyist podcasts. If you’ve built up a loyal listening community, why not ask them to help support you by pledging a small amount of money to the show on a regular basis? We’ve written about how to use Patreon in Podcasting here, as well as some great Patreon alternatives.
Crowdfunding – Pros
The work needed to get donations is the work you’re already doing – trying to create a brilliant podcast. That said, you can go a little further and create rewards and incentives to encourage listeners to support you too.
Crowdfunding – Cons
They can be fickle and hard to build any solid foundations around. You’re also relying on third-party platforms that you don’t own or control.
11. Create an Email List
Many a seasoned podcaster will tell you this is the most important thing you can do when figuring out how to monetize a podcast.
No matter what strategy you choose, make sure you have an email list. Not only do they help strengthen connections and interactions with your audience, they also help supplement each of the monetization methods we’ve mentioned above.
I use Convertkit for my email because it lets you set up automatic sequences easily. This can help you engage with and teach new subscribers, and it’s a great way to grow a loyal and action-taking list. Convertkit also makes it easy to offer paid placements in your emails.
You can see how it all works (as well as alternative options) in our email marketing for podcasters article.
Email Marketing – Pros
Aside from podcast monetization, email marketing is one of the most tried and tested ways of keeping in touch with your audience and building relationships with them. Many other community and social media platforms have come and gone, but email is as old as the web itself.
Email Marketing – Cons
Building an email list takes time and work. You need to put out quality written content regularly for this to work, and that can potentially take time away from running your actual podcast.
12. Sell Podcast Merchandise
A middle ground between selling a product you 100% own, and affiliate or commission sales, is running a merch store on a third-party platform.
There are services out there that let you set up your own shop. You add your own designs, logos, or artwork to their products, then they handle the sales and shipping for you.
Many hobby, fiction, and entertainment podcasters go down this route, selling things like t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, posters, mugs, and phone cases. Find out how to run your own podcast merch store right here. Here’s an example of our own Podcasting Store, too.
Selling Merch – Pros
It’s an “arms-length” way of making some money. You just need to promote and link to your merch store, and the rest will happen in the background. Podcast monetization aside, it can also be good for promotion and marketing. You have listeners walking around advertising your podcast.
Selling Merch – Cons
Commission rates for these services are typically very low. You’re unlikely to make much money this way, even if you have a large and engaged audience.
How to Make Money From a Podcast: FAQ
Now that we’ve run through the best ‘how to monetize a podcast’ options, let’s tackle a couple of frequently asked questions from our IndiePod Community.
WHEN Should I Think About Monetizing My Podcast?
There’s no “typical” example of someone monetizing their podcast. It can range from a hobbyist covering their hosting costs to someone earning enough to make podcasting their full-time job.
If you have a podcast with a captive audience, though, monetizing it on some level should be possible.
An “audience” could be anything from five people to five thousand. But there are too many variables in podcasting to put hard numbers on these things. Instead, it’s better to look at listener engagement.
So how do you gauge that? Well, if you have more than, say, ten people get in touch each month to tell you how much they enjoyed your latest episode, then you’ve definitely built a captive audience.
To put harder numbers on it, many sponsorship agencies look for 3000 to 5000 listeners per episode before they’ll take you on. But, if you’re doing it yourself, it’s perfectly possible to earn a decent sponsorship income once you pass the 200 to 300 mark, especially if you have a particularly niche audience. For more on this, of course, check out our main podcast sponsorship article.
SHOULD I Try to Make Money Podcasting?
There’s no shortage of ways to make money from a podcast. But should you try ANY of them? Not necessarily.
Few podcasters don’t like the idea of earning a little money back from their content. It definitely isn’t for everyone, though.
For starters, there’s an administrative cost. If you’re making money, you’re running a business, and that means cooperating with your country’s taxation system. Is this going to be a drain on your enjoyment and creativity?
Then, there’s the question of ownership and cost splitting if you run a show with others. Do you all earn the same share? And what happens to the income if you fall out? These are important conversations to have before you even think about making your first dollar.
Some podcasters just want to reach as many listeners as possible and never want to put any financial obstacles in the way.
Podcast monetization is an option, never a necessity. You don’t need to go down this route if it isn’t a good fit for you.
How to Monetize a Podcast: Where Should I Start?
Most likely, in the early days, you’ll throw a lot at the wall to see what sticks. And you’ll likely run a few methods in parallel.
Here’s a common sequence, which can work particularly well for podcasters who are teaching something.
A Common Podcast Monetization Path:
- affiliate marketing – You can get started really quickly, recommending products and services that your audience might like
- sponsorship – once the affiliate is working, you can use those conversion stats to justify charging sponsors a good rate
- coaching – start this up once your audience knows you well and are willing to pay for your time
- course – eventually, you’ll start to see the questions that come up again and again. Build a course to answer them
- product – last, you might build a product to help your coaching and course students to solve their biggest problem
So no shortage of options, eh? Whatever route you go down, be sure to join us in the IndiePod Community to share your updates, insights, and experiences. We’d love to follow along on your podcast monetization journey and chip in with some tips and advice whenever needed!