Podcasting has become immensely popular in the last decade, and with podcast listeners being the fastest growing media audience, you know there’s a ton of potential fans for your show.
But even if you have a great idea for a new podcast and a knack for building engaged, online audiences—how do you make money podcasting?
Streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts pay out for streams, but the payout tends to be very low. Podcast sponsorships are one way, but for new podcasts, the likelihood of finding a high-paying sponsorship is slim unless you’re already a well-established figure.
Traditional sponsorships tend to be out of reach for new podcasters because businesses are less willing to risk investing in a podcast without an established audience.
So is it even possible for new podcasts to make money? The answer is yes.
By setting up a few automated revenue streams, new podcasters can accrue passive income that grows alongside their audience, giving them time back to focus on podcasting.
1. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is a performance-based form of marketing where a business offers rewards to affiliates who are able to successfully bring customers to them. Affiliate marketing is a great way for any creator to monetize their content.
In affiliate programs, businesses only payout after customers complete an agreed-upon action. Usually this action is making a purchase, but some affiliate programs may payout for email signups, page clicks, downloads, or content engagement.
Since there’s a lower cost per mille (CPM), there’s less financial risk for businesses that provide affiliate links, making them a perfect monetization method for up-and-coming content creators.
How does affiliate marketing work for podcasts?
Podcasters who become affiliates receive a URL (called an affiliate link) from the business they’re working with that they can provide to members of their audience. Since podcasting is auditory, it’s a good idea to make your affiliate link easy to read, remember, and re-type.
A good strategy is to have the URL simply be the businesses website, plus your podcast name (affiliate.com/yourpodcastname). Affiliate links can also be added to your show notes and RSS feeds, or sent to members of your email list.
When users access the page at that URL and complete the intended action, businesses are able to attribute it to your podcast and pay out a certain amount for the number of customers you send their way.
How do I find affiliate programs for my podcast?
Not all podcasts have the same audience, so the best affiliate programs for one might be very different from another. The key is to partner with a business that has a shared target audience with your podcast.
For example, if your podcast is about the latest gaming news, you’d want to partner with businesses selling gaming-related products. Also keep in mind that you can become affiliates of multiple companies, so don’t be afraid to test a few partnerships out and continue with the ones that are most profitable.
- Shopify Affiliates. If the subject of your podcast is anything to do with entrepreneurship, starting a business, ecommerce, marketing, web design, social media, or the tech industry, —then the Shopify affiliate program is a great fit. Shopify affiliates receive a 100% commission on the first two monthly payments of any subscription plan.
There are tons of potential affiliate programs out there, but in order to narrow your search, it’s best to focus on broad-ranging affiliate programs (that have a wide variety of audiences), and affiliate marketing networks, which give users access to many different brands and affiliate opportunities.
Best affiliate programs for podcasters
- Amazon Associates. Amazon’s affiliate program is one of the largest in the world. With millions of unique products and retailers, it’s easier to find products that are relevant to your audience.
- Rakuten Advertising. Rakuten is another ecommerce marketplace with a wide variety of merchants to choose from. Highlights of Rakuten’s affiliate program include data-driven partnership recommendations, the ability to curate product showcases more relevant to your audience, and access to training and educational tools.
- Skillshare Affiliates. Skillshare is a learning community with thousands of online courses and videos covering a wide variety of topics. Skillshare’s affiliate program allows you to direct audience members to any online course, making it easy to find one that’s specific to your target market.
Best affiliate marketing networks for podcasters
Partnering with an affiliate from a marketing network is as easy as creating an account with the network, finding a brand to partner with, and sharing a unique link. Here are the top affiliate marketing networks to check out:
Each affiliate program has its own pros and cons, so the best podcast monetization strategy is to diversify and try out different affiliates. Don’t be afraid to drop affiliate links that are underperforming and re-use affiliate links that perform well.
2. Sell custom merchandise to fans
Give your fans the opportunity to show their support for your podcast by selling custom merchandise like t-shirts, stickers, posters, mugs, tote bags, journals, and more.
Perhaps the easiest way to run a merch store is by using a print-on-demand distribution model. This is where a third-party prints and ships products on your behalf, at the point of purchase. That means there’s no overhead costs, no time wasted on shipping, no need to store inventory, and lower financial risk.
It might take a little time to create an online store and add products, but once finished, the process of running your store can be almost fully automated.
There are a number of print-on-demand apps and services available that fully integrate with Shopify. Pricing and product selection can vary, so feel free to explore your options and choose the service that works best for your podcast:
A model like this is perfect for podcasters (and other creators), because it allows you to have a fully automated merch store running full-time in the background while you focus your attention solely on your podcast.
Products like totes and t-shirts can act as moving billboard advertisements for your podcast, helping spread the word offline. You could also build fan engagement by encouraging fans to share pictures of their recently purchased merch, and use the merch as prizes in giveaways and other contests.
3. Offer tiered memberships through Patreon
Patreon is a very popular platform for monetizing podcasts because it allows fans (called “patrons”) to offer support in regular monthly payments. Creators can sort subscription options into different “tiers,” with each tier receiving different benefits.
Subscription-based models of income are great for independent podcasters, because they allow them to create a more steady stream of income while focusing primarily on growing their audience.
How to use Patreon as a podcaster
Patreon allows you to set-up different “tiers” for your audience, with higher-tier patrons usually receiving more content and other benefits. For podcasts, it’s important to keep two things in mind when you set up your tiers:
- Few audiences will pay to listen to a podcast they’re unfamiliar with. That means that in order to hook new listeners and turn them into paying patrons, you’re going to need to give away a large portion of content for free.
- Paying patrons will expect to get their money’s worth. That means in order to keep existing paying patrons, you’ll need to have enough exclusive content to be worth a monthly payment to your podcast.
A good rule of thumb is to consider the amount of regular content you intend on producing, then split it in half between paying and non-paying listeners. Free content can be hosted on a wide variety of streaming platforms, and paid content can live exclusively on Patreon.
Splitting your content like this helps maintain relationships with your current fans while giving just as much time to find new ones. The most successful podcasts on Patreon tend to use one of two content models:
- Alternate between producing “free” and “paid” podcast episodes, with the paid episodes being longer and exclusive to patrons.
- Release the first half of your podcast episode for free and direct listeners to become a Patron if they’d like to hear the episode in full.
Here are a couple of other best practices to keep in mind when building and nurturing your Patreon audience:
- Reward your higher-tier patrons. In addition to premium content, you could provide higher-tiers with additional benefits like discounts on merch, early access to new content, and exclusive access to bonus content.
- Keep subscription costs low. Charge a low amount of money for subscriptions and focus on growing your audience. Getting 50 people to subscribe for $1 a month is much easier than getting one person to subscribe for $50.
- Keep your fans updated. Invite your audience into your inner circle and keep them in the loop on the development of your podcast. Patrons will be more likely to continue supporting your podcast if they feel a deeper, more personal connection with its hosts.
- Release podcasts on a consistent basis. Whether you commit to releasing a podcast daily, weekly, or biweekly, make sure to stick to a schedule. Patrons expect a steady stream of content, and betraying that expectation could erode trust.
While there are other crowdfunding sites that you can use to collect funds from fans, they’re typically made to support one-time projects with financing goals that are harder to integrate with a podcast.
With the subscription-based payment system offered by Patreon, creators can generate a stream of recurring revenue that will help support their work and grow over time with the popularity of their podcast.
4. Host live podcasts and collect tips
Hosting a live in-person event can be a great way to make extra money as a podcaster, but finding gigs is tricky for new podcasts. Live venues may allow you to perform, but unless your podcast is big enough to bring a lot of business, they’re less likely to pay you to perform.
On top of this, most venues are still dealing with operation and capacity restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, making them less likely to book live events or public-speaking engagements.
But what if you didn’t need a venue to host a live event and collect tips? What if you could host your own podcast event, collect tips, and expand the reach of your podcast, all without having to book with a venue?
With livestreaming and tip collection tools, you can. In fact, it may actually be more advantageous for smaller podcasts. Virtual events have quite a few advantages over in-person shows:
- Little to no overhead costs. Since you don’t have to book a venue, virtual events can be done by any podcast, regardless of how new it is or the size of its listenership. Plus, with no venues to pay, all the money made on your live podcast goes back into the podcast.
- Reach wider audiences. Online shows can be discovered and viewed by fans all over the world, so there’s a much wider audience than for a show in a specific city.
- Production teams can work remotely. Your podcast host, guests, contributors, producers, and editors can work from anywhere in the world—cutting any costs associated with travel.
- Less planning involved. Since you don’t have to book a venue and sell tickets, you can go live online more often. You could even consider doing a weekly live show, accessible only to your highest-tiered patrons.
- Content can be repurposed. By recording your show, you can repurpose short clips as content on social media, attracting new audiences to your podcast. You could even host the full recording behind a paywall and sell access indefinitely, long after the live show has ended.
How to host a live podcast online
In order to host a live event, you need to start with a platform to host on. Most social media platforms have a live feature, so when choosing where to host your podcast, consider the platform that most of your audience members use.
- Patreon. Patreon uses Crowdcast to host live video events and allows you to create both free and patron-only live streams.
- Twitch. Twitch’s Squad Stream feature allows up to four creators to monetize and stream from the same window. Twitch is primarily used for gaming streams, so if your podcast is gaming-focused, it’s a great tool to use.
- Facebook Live. Facebook has the largest audience of any social media platform. Although Facebook Live doesn’t have a paid stream feature, you can monetize your stream by enabling in-stream ads.
- YouTube Live. With YouTube Live, you can monetize by enabling ads and accepting payments from fans using YouTube’s Super Chat feature. However, you will need to apply and be accepted to YouTube’s Partner Program to use these features.
Although some of these platforms offer monetization options, it’s a good idea to include an additional tool to collect tips. Here are the most common tip-collection tools used by podcasters:
The great thing about these tipping tools is that they don’t need to be exclusively housed on your livestreams. Add a tip URL to your social media pages, web pages, and show notes to make it easy for fans to show their support by tipping.
5. Write and self-publish a book for your fans
Like authors, podcast hosts are typically viewed as being a voice of authority on a particular subject, making the transition from podcast host to writer almost seamless. Perhaps that’s why so many popular podcasts have been spun off into books written by their creators.
For example, comedian Deborah Frances-White adapted her unscripted panel podcast, The Guilty Feminist, into a book exploring what it means to be a 21st-century feminist. Or how about the scripted science-fiction podcast The Bright Sessions, which was spun off into a series of novels.
Podcasters have a ton of advantage when it comes to selling books online:
- Strengthen the authority of your voice. No matter what topic your podcast covers, having an accompanying book will strengthen your credibility on that topic and give more weight to your content.
- You may already have it written. If you’re podcasting regularly, then you might have a head start on writing the book without even realizing it. Though it will take some editing, transcribed podcast content can serve as a good rough outline of your work. If you’re producing a scripted podcast, you could even simply publish the scripts for interested fans.
- Reach more listeners through a different medium. Increased visibility on literary blogs and marketplaces will boster the profile of your podcast and help introduce you to a wider audience.
- Books are evergreen. A book can serve as a form of evergreen content, equally enticing to new listeners as it is to old ones. Books can be sold alongside your other merchandise, making every new podcast listener a potential new buyer.
Learn more: How to Self-publish Your Own Book in 8 Steps
6. Join a podcast advertising network
A podcast advertising network is a platform that connects brands and podcasts that have a shared target audience, acting as liaisons for brands looking to advertise to podcast listeners.
It can be a great monetization method, but it will need to come a bit later, after you’ve built a sizable audience, since podcast advertising networks typically require a certain number of regular listeners to qualify (usually starting at 1,000 listeners).
One downside of using this method for monetization is that you won’t be able to keep the content of your podcast ad free, since you will need to include an ad. Although, if you wanted these podcast ads to be as unobtrusive as possible, you could include them as post-roll ads, which play at the end of your podcast.
What can a podcast advertising network help with?
- Finding advertisers with a shared audience. Advertising networks will help with finding a brand that has a shared audience that’s the right “fit” for your podcast.
- Creative feedback. Podcast advertising networks will assist in the creative direction of your ads with consulting services and can help with the development of your ad scripts and creating an ad that works for both audiences of the podcast and brand.
- Reporting and analytics. Not only are podcast advertising networks great for generating ad revenue, they also typically include tools to help plan podcast ad campaigns and evaluate the success of those campaigns.
If you’re looking to partner with an advertiser, here are a couple of the more popular podcast advertising networks to begin your search:
Remember that when you partner with an advertiser from a podcast advertising network, it’s important to test and measure the success of each campaign so you can be sure if the partnership is working.
Podcasts make money when they have multiple income streams
The most profitable independent podcasts use multiple revenue streams to create a steady flow of income as they focus their attention on growing their audience.
Since most of these methods use automation to accrue passive income, they’re perfect for podcasters who want to dedicate the majority of their time to podcasting and growing their audience.
Make money podcasting FAQ
How much money can you make from a podcast?
The amount of money you make from a podcast can vary greatly, depending on the size of your audience, the number of monetization channels you have, the effectiveness of your marketing, and the cost of producing your podcast.
How do people make money from podcasts?
The best way for new podcasters to make money is to use different monetization methods, which can run in the background while you work on building out your audience and expanding the reach of your podcast, bringing in more listeners and patrons.
Can you make money podcasting on YouTube?
Yes, but it’s best to diversify and make your podcast available on other platforms in order to expand the scope of your attainable audience. That being said, if you want to focus your attention on building your audience on YouTube, it’s best to learn how to start a successful YouTube channel.
What equipment do you need to make money podcasting?
Podcasting requires microphones for each podcaster and audio-editing software to edit and export your podcast. You may also benefit from a conference-hosting service, like Zoom, if you want to host guests remotely. For more info on starting your own podcast, be sure to check out How to Start a Podcast Successfully For Under $100.
How much money do you need to start a podcast?
A good podcast microphone can be purchased for around $100. If you’re not planning on doing too much mixing, you can use free audio editing software like Audacity or GarageBand, though if you’re looking for more advanced sound mixing options, you might consider more powerful audio editing tools like Adobe Audition, the price of which starts at $20.99/month.
Music production software like FL Studio, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro also have more than enough features to produce a podcast, though they’re a bit pricey if you’re using them exclusively for podcasting.