How Can You Earn Money From Your Podcast?

Mar 15th

Many podcasters have a goal of monetising their show, but podcasting is not always an easy revenue stream. Even podcasts with big celebrity names can have difficulty recuperating what was spent on the show (for example Megan Markles’ Archetypes, which was cancelled by Spotify after its first series).

However, plenty of independent shows without household names bring in enough money to keep production going, and even allow podcasters to make a living. Why do some podcasts succeed where others have failed? I think it comes down to having a clear strategy that matches the focus and values of your show.

There are a lot of ways to potentially monetise your podcast, such as advertising, listener support or selling merchandise. Every method of monetising has positives and negatives, but success can depend on choosing the right method for you. Your method of raising money has to fit into the way you make your podcast.

Below are some ideas to help you think about how monetising fits into your overall podcast ethos.

Think about your investment

Before you can think about making money, it’s important to think about what you are spending on your podcast – and I’m talking about both money and time. It is going to be easier for your show to pay for itself if you put less money in, but if you don’t have time to work on your show you might still find it difficult to break even.

To give your monetising an aim, set a budget for both the money you will put in and the time you will spend on the show. However big that budget is, there are three main areas you can then invest in:

  • Invest in marketing to build a large audience
  • Invest in building a community around your show
  • Invest in making a really professional podcast

If you are an independent podcast with limited resources, I’d suggest you focus on one to start with. Of course, if you have a lot of time and money to invest, you can always aim for all three! But there will likely be one area you focus on more and this is where you start your monetising plan.

If you’ve focused on marketing your show…

Monetise through advertising and affiliate links

We already know that podcast advertising commands the highest levels of attention and trust, and finding sponsors for your podcast is perhaps the most obvious way of trying to make money. We’ve written before about how to find sponsors for your podcast, and it can be relatively easy to find brands that want to reach your audience.

Unfortunately, because advertising often runs based on CPM (cost per mille) and affiliate links run on CPA (cost per action) you might need a big audience before seeing big returns. Even if you only spend a couple of hours working on an episode, you’d need thousands of listeners to make minimum wage.

As the saying goes, you often have to spend money to make money. If you’ve spent some upfront investment marketing your show and building a big audience, monetising through advertising could be lucrative.

If you’ve focused on community…

Monetise through listener support

If you are creating a show that is aimed at a particular community, you might not be able to build a large audience, but what you can build is a strong community. Shows that seem very niche are often very community focused. For example, Leanne Alie’s podcast Coiled was a very specific topic about the culture and history of afro hair, but it went viral on Black Twitter and won a British Podcast Award.

Despite its obvious success, Leanne spoke to us about her difficulty in funding the show through traditional means, and mused that listener support would have fit the show best:

“Upon reflection, because I had built an audience and built a community around that podcast, I could’ve tried to do a crowdfunder or something to fund the next season – but I’d have to do that straight off the back of the first series.”

As Leanne said, with a seasonal show crowdfunders could help raise revenue, and this is something that fiction podcasts do a lot. Re:Dracula is an example of a podcast that raised funds through crowdfunding before starting production, and the show is now multi-award-winning.

For always-on shows, asking for support via platforms like Patreon could be the better option. The important thing with ongoing support is giving a reason to join the paid community. This can be extra content, but it doesn’t have to be – it could also be a place to meet-up and talk about the show, a way to speak to you directly or a way to be involved in the show themselves, such as listener shoutouts or questions. Giving your paid community a fun name also helps, and sharing how much fun you have will give listeners FOMO if they don’t join.

Lastly, when fandoms build up around shows, another way to raise funds can be merchandise. Whilst selling merchandise does take time and money, it can be a really good way of rolling community, money-making and marketing into one.

Whichever way you choose to monetise through listener support, it’s important to pinpoint your call to action so that you feel comfortable saying it, and your community knows how (and why) to support you.

If you’ve focused on making a professional show…

Monetise through your expertise

If you are having fun making podcasts or are really community focused, you can sometimes get away with putting out shows that aren’t highly polished. However, if you are an audio professional or you are making a show based around your personal brand or business, it is worth making a really professional show.

Investing in top-notch audio quality, spending time researching your topic and sharing useful resources does take time and money. This can make it harder to see a direct return on investment when it comes to monetising, but it can open the door to indirect monetising from your podcast.

When you are a professional in your field, it can be good to think of your podcast as your business card. You can show your skills and expertise through the podcast, but point towards other offerings to make back the money. For example, do you offer 1:1s with clients about your topic? Perhaps you can use your podcast to show your expertise, but pitch articles to magazines and newspapers. You might build up your conversation skills through podcasting, and then pitch yourself to run workshops or appear on panels.

For those who work in (or want to work in) audio, your own podcast might not make money, but it could lead to paid work for other shows and production companies. You never know what opportunities your podcast could unlock.

Content is Queen recognises that it can be difficult for emerging creators to grow and monetise their content. That’s why our new Marketplace platform aims to provide a variety of opportunities to creators including advertising partnerships, commissioning briefs, and collaborative projects with other creators or commissioners.

If you want to learn more when it launches, sign up to the Content is Queen Marketplace waitlist now.