Curious how podcasts make money? Here are 8 ways to turn a profit

With a little creativity and hard work, there’s an abundance of ways you can make money online.

If you have a podcast, there are multiple options to turn your hobby into a business and your business into your full-time job. The trick is figuring out how to monetize a podcast in a way that makes sense for your business.

So, if you’ve ever wondered how to make money with a podcast (and how much money is possible), read on.

how do podcasts make money

How much do podcasters make?

As fun as podcasting can be, it still takes time. So, it’s only natural to wonder when exactly all that work will start to pay off. And if you’re as curious as we are, you’d probably like to take a look behind the scenes at some podcaster finances.

Lucky for us, WNYC Studio’s Werk It podcast surveyed more than 600 podcasters about how much they make. The median hourly earnings were between $30 and $44 an hour, which works out to $55,000-$80,000 a year.

We still wanted to see how these numbers lined up in the real world, though, so we reached out to a few podcasters:

Each of these podcasters monetizes their audience in different ways—and each has valuable lessons to share. Here are a few factors that impact how much your podcast makes:

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Business model

There are two basic business model categories for podcasters:

  1. Make a small number of high-ticket sales through sponsorships
  2. Make many small sales via digital or physical products, memberships, referrals, or affiliates

The Writer’s Co-op is a perfect example of how creators can build a successful business without charging a fortune. Here’s what Wudan Yan shared:

The Writer’s Co-op is a membership program, and people pay between $3 and $50 a month. $3 a month gets you access to discount codes for events and resources that we’ve made for individual episodes. For $9 a month, you get access to that plus a Slack group. And $50 a month is group coaching, in essence, mastermind groups.

-Wudan Yan, co-host of the Writer’s Co-op

The community and podcast for writers had total net revenue of $30,000 in its second year—75% of those funds went back into making the next season and paying the people who make the podcast possible, like editors and guests. 

The goals you choose for your podcast will vary depending on which route you take. If you want to leverage a large audience for lucrative sponsorships, you need to focus on growth. On the other hand, content creators that want to use their podcast to sell products or subscriptions need to strengthen audience fit and engagement.

So is one route better than the other? Nope! It’s a matter of personal preference and what your audience is like. You also don’t have to pick one or the other—multiple scalable income streams open the door for more earnings and impact.

Audience size and engagement

In general, the larger your podcast audience, the more money you can make. More listeners equals more people to sell your course, subscriptions, and products to. Podcast audience size also affects how much you earn from advertisers—sponsorship pricing uses a CPM rate, which stands for “cost per mille” (mille means thousand). As your audience grows, the CPM rate you can demand grows as well.

For example, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income has earned more than a quarter of a million dollars from advertising on his podcast. But he also has a huge audience. Pat noted that he experienced a CPM range of $18-$30. A podcast with 3,000 downloads would make between $54 and $90 an episode at that rate.

As Jenni Gritters mentions, though, you need to hit certain download thresholds to start partnering with the most profitable sponsorships. She shares:

Typically, to get a sponsorship with a larger brand, you need to be getting 10,000 downloads per episode. We’re not at that, but we actually have a really, really engaged smaller audience.

-Jenni Gritters, co-host of the Writer’s Co-op

The sheer size of your audience isn’t everything. Engagement matters as well—if your audience is enthusiastic, you can start making money with a smaller following. It all depends on how you choose to turn a profit.

Niche or genre

Your topic, and the role it plays in your listeners’ lives, can affect your profits. Typically, a niche or genre is more profitable when people are willing to spend more money to solve problems.

how do podcasts make money
Median podcast profits vary by genre, with business topics having the highest hourly rate. Image via WNYC Studios.

The WNYC Studios survey found that median hourly rates vary by up to $20 an hour between niches. While business podcasts earn a median of $45-$49 an hour, music podcasts were the least profitable, with a median hourly pay of $25-$29 an hour.

Pro tip: a clearly defined niche makes it far easier to build strong relationships with your audience. When we asked Ramli John what his advice for new podcasts would be, he said:

The temptation is to focus on trying to get as many listeners as possible to monetize your show. But, the quickest path to monetizing it is by building relationships with your guests. You’ll be surprised how many you end up working together or how many of them end up referring you to others.

-Ramli John, host of Growth Marketing Today

8 different ways to monetize a podcast

If you know you want to make the leap to podcast profit but aren’t sure how, look no further. We reached out to podcasters to find out how they use their podcast in their business and found eight unique methods for you to try.

1 – Donations and crowdfunding

If you want to ease into monetizing your podcast, start with a tip jar.

Asking for donations or setting crowdfunding goals is a great way to start pulling money from a podcast with a small audience. There’s little upfront work compared to creating a course or finding sponsors, and you can start by asking for small amounts.

How to get started: ConvertKit Commerce is launching a digital tip jar feature soon…stay tuned!

2 – Premium content and communities

If you’ve dreamed of creating a recurring revenue product, your podcast could be the perfect place to start. By building exclusive content or bundling podcast access with other resources, you can transform your podcast into a community.

Wudan and Jenni of The Writer’s Co-op podcast use multiple income streams, but at the heart of the TWC is a membership program. With a subscription that starts at $3 a month, freelance writers can access a Slack community of other writers, discount codes for events and resources, and group coaching. In addition, Wudan and Jenni offer one-on-one coaching, resources, courses, and monthly events with special guests.

How to get started: ConvertKit users can set up a recurring subscription product that works seamlessly with their email marketing and podcast landing pages.

3 – Affiliate marketing

No products? No problem. With affiliate marketing, you earn a commission for helping another company sell its product or service. So, you could team up with a content creator to promote their course on your podcast in exchange for a cut on each sale. You can also promote the software you use to run your business.

ConvertKit offers an affiliate program, and The Smart Passive Income podcast has netted hundreds of thousands of dollars recommending it. To use your podcast to make affiliate sales, try mentioning the product in your episodes and include affiliate links in your show notes and emails. Or, invite creators onto your podcast and talk to them about their product.

how do podcasts make money
Pat Flynn has used ConvertKit for years and recommends it to his audience. Image via Smart Passive Income.

How to get started: Think about the products you use and love, and see if they have an affiliate program in place. Also, reach out to content creators, authors, or businesses in your niche. They may want to advertise their content on your podcast.

4 – Sponsorships

Sponsorships are to podcasts what commercials are to TV shows. When you have a sponsor, you put an ad before, during, or at the end of an episode. While you might need a larger audience to earn more from sponsors, they can be a predictable source of podcast income.

Casey Carter and Naomi Raven use sponsors for their project, The Glow Up podcast. At the beginning of each episode, the co-hosts talk about the Soundcasting Network, which is a production and consulting company that works with podcasters.

how do podcasts make money
The Glow Up Podcast partners with a production company to create their art and entrepreneurship podcast. Image via The Glow Up Podcast.

How to get started: Start your search for relevant sponsors on industry websites and publications or by scoping out other podcasts in your niche.

5 – Online courses

If you already have an online course (or plan to create one soon), you can use your podcast as a marketing tool to grow your audience. While you can pitch your course on the podcast or in show notes, you might have more success getting podcast listeners into your email list. That way, you can build the relationship over time and keep listeners up-to-date on new courses and content.

Marissa Martino uses a podcast to promote her online courses and products.

I have introductions for each podcast talking about the show and what’s going on in my business. During these introductions, I talk about my online offerings. I am building a following, offering free content. If people like my approach, I see them follow me on social media and then purchase an offering.

-Marissa Martino, host of Paws and Reward

How to get started: You can use your podcast to help you choose a course topic and vice versa. If you’re already creating one type of content, analyze which topics your audience enjoys. Then, expand on it in a course or series of podcast episodes.

6 – Physical products

All of the money-making podcast models we’ve covered so far are digital. But it’s possible to use your podcast to sell physical products, too. Maybe you have print books for sale, and you want to use your podcast to reimagine your stories and promote your writing.

Any podcaster can explore swag, too. There are entire companies dedicated to creating and selling branded goods for podcasts, or you can be your own fulfillment center.

how do podcasts make money
You can create podcast-specific merch with catchphrases and logos or make products that a more general audience would enjoy. Image via Pod Swag.

How to get started: You’ll need to decide what to sell and how to fulfill orders. Before making the jump to physical products, consider pre-selling items to your list to test interest.

7 – Grants

Sponsors aren’t the only group that will pay you for a podcast episode—you can apply for grants. While you won’t get rich with grants, these payments from associations, foundations, and funds can get you up and running.

Wudan and Jenni supplemented their early business revenue with grants to help get TWC off the ground. Wudan shared:

It was completely free to listen to the first two seasons, and we were able to secure grant funding to pay for the hard costs like podcasting equipment subscriptions and paying for our assistant, editor, and producer.

-Wudan Yan, co-host of the Writer’s Co-op

Depending on the grant at hand, you may need to have some experience to show. Like sponsors, granters might want to see that you have a growing and engaged podcast audience before investing in your work. That means you may need to be a one-person show for a while and handle your own recording and editing while you get the podcast off the ground with minimal budget and equipment.

How to get started: Grants are likely niche-specific, so look for associations in your industry. The Writer’s Co-op also has a webinar about finding grants and fellowships.

8 – Referrals

Sometimes the connections you make while podcasting are more valuable than any affiliate sale or sponsorship spot. If you offer coaching or consulting, you can use an interview-style podcast to connect with people in your industry. If all goes well, your guests could end up referring you to people who need your help.

Earlier, we shared advice from Ramli John about the value of leveraging relationships. He understands the power of referrals from your podcast first hand since it was his first foray into making money from his podcast. Ramli shared:

One of my first guests, after only 18 episodes, asked what I’m up to. I told him that I’ve been teaching marketing on the side along with consulting. And he referred me to a huge, well-known company in the marketing education space. It ended up being a $15k contract over several months of live training and building a pre-recorded course!

-Ramli John, host of Growth Marketing Today

How to get started: Promote your podcast with your network and ask guests to share the episode to their social media accounts. Each new relationship expands your reach and could get you in front of a future client.

Make your podcast profitable with ConvertKit

Not sure if you’re ready to monetize your podcast or worried that your efforts could fail? Perhaps you’re intimidated by the time it could take to grow your podcast. Remember this—time will pass whether you start today or not. Turning a profit will take time and likely some trial and error, but you have everything to gain by starting now. All you need to do is take the first step and let the journey unfold as you go.

At the very least, you can set up a podcast landing page and start growing an email list to nurture the listener relationship. If you’re ready to sell courses or set up a premium content subscription, ConvertKit can help with that, too.

If you bring the talent, we’ve got the tools. ConvertKit helps you turn your podcast into a moneymaker—learn more about podcasting in our comprehensive guide.

The post Curious how podcasts make money? Here are 8 ways to turn a profit appeared first on ConvertKit.

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