7 Ways To Monetize Your Podcast Without Getting A Sponsor

Whenever I speak to anybody about podcasting, whether that’s a hobbyist podcast of a podcast for somebody’s business the question on monetizing always comes up.

Sometimes it’s even the first thing a prospective client will ask me.

“Should I get sponsors?”

“How can I make money from this?”

So I’m going to answer these most asked questions and then you can decide if you want to monetize your podcast because let’s never forget my favourite answer when it comes to podcasting is “It depends”.

But before we go any further I want to remind you of my golden rule of podcasting. Your podcast is not for you, it’s for your listener.

Yes your podcast has benefits for you, but your listener should be at the heart of everything you do when it comes to your podcast. That includes deciding what topics to cover, deciding which guests to have on, how long your podcast should be and how you are going to monetize the podcast, if you choose to.

Should I get sponsors?

For Turn Up The Volume On Your Voice I always say Charlotte Foster Podcasts is the sponsor for the podcast. The business pays for the costs and I promote what I do on the podcast, as well as putting myself out there as an authority when it comes to podcasting.

I use it as part of my sales messaging and I don’t want to share that platform with anybody else. I’ve used this podcast to sell my podcast planning tool kit, planning sessions and my smash your series packages. As well as talk about my podcast confidence power hours. And look I’m subtly doing all that again…(ha!)

So should you have a sponsor? Well it’s up to you. The costs of podcasting can add up if you’re getting somebody else to do it all for you and it would be nice to get some of that money back right?!

So if you do decide to go down the sponsor route make sure it’s a sponsor that will benefit your listeners AND align with what you are doing.

If I wanted a sponsor for this podcast I would look for suppliers of podcasting kit. Ideally microphones or recording devices because that would 100% be something you as listeners would benefit from AND it’s something I can’t or don’t supply. FYI - If you are from Rode I will happily sponsor deals with you. Ignore everything I said about not wanting to have a sponsor.

If you had a pet related podcast you could look at pet food companies to sponsor you.

The downside to sponsorship is quite often potential sponsors go straight to the numbers of downloads you have and if they are not in the thousands they can quickly (and wrongly) write you off.

So when you are speaking to companies and brands about sponsorship I want you to go in there knowing your listener inside out and show them your engagement. This is particularly important if you have a particularly niche podcast. In fact a niche podcast is likely to do better when it comes to sponsorship because your potential sponsors will know exactly what you’re about and b) your audience is easier to sell.

How else then can I make money from this podcasting malarky?

Panic not, podcast monetization does not begin and end solely with sponsorship. There’s a few clever ways you can make cold hard cash from your podcast.

Sharing affiliate links

The first is through affiliate links. I do this. I will mention companies and organisations that I use that I think will be beneficial to you as a listener. I’ll then post those links in the show notes and accompanying blog. Always clearly shown as an affiliate by the way.

Over the lifetime of the podcast I’ve spoken about transcription services, podcast hosting sites and podcast recording apps. As well as business memberships and marketing memberships.

Transcribing, podcast hosting and podcast recording apps are obviously closely linked to podcasting - but I know that many of you are small or micro business owners and links to memberships such as Atomic and Janet Murray’s Build Your Online Audience course will be beneficial.

None of these take away from my offering of what I do when it comes to podcast services - let me remind you of those - podcast planning, podcast production and podcast editing.

And aligning myself with these brands is actually beneficial to me too for

a) a bit of affiliate money and

b) showing my values.

Podcast Recordings/Live Events

I’ve been to a couple of live recordings of podcasts and they are so much fun. You get to hang out with other fans of the podcast and the host or hosts. And as a podcast super geek I love getting to see how the podcast gets recorded. I’m sure I’m not the only person who thinks this either. Who doesn’t love getting a bit of behind the scenes sneaky peaks?

In the pre pandemic world and hopefully in the not too distant future too, this is done fairly simply by hiring a venue, charging people to come along and ta-dah you make your money back and then some.

But I think it’s even EASIER and more profitable in the pandemic world because you can do this all online. There are various platforms that allow you to have people in the virtual room as audience members as you record your podcast. Heck - even Zoom is workable for this. As is (this is an affiliate link). You can charge people for a link/ticket and they get the recording experience - warts and all. The unedited bits, the unpolished stuff and it’s probably polite to offer them a Q&A or extra session that doesn’t go out anywhere else as a bit of a thank you for paying you for something they could get for free…!

I plan on doing this sooner rather than later for my podcast because a) I love performing and b) I think having a live audience is so much fun for a podcast.

Sell Merchandise

I love a mug, a pen and whatever other merch you might have and I will more than likely buy it too. So if you’ve got a podcast phrase or saying get that on some merch and sell it. I’ve lost count of the podcast related t-shirts I own, but maybe that’s just me.

And when you’ve got people with your merch you can encourage them to take photos of them with the stuff, whack them on social media and share the podcast love. Because remember what I always say about telling people about your podcast - you need to be a massive podcast bore. Getting others to tell people about your podcast with a super cool mug is next level!

Repurpose your podcast.

I often talk about how my podcast is the base for my blog and social media posts and that is a great example of content repurposing - but it doesn’t really bring the money in because I don’t sell my blogs or my LinkedIn or Instagram posts. I should because my Canva designs are quite frankly outstanding. If the podcasting goes wrong I might just re-model myself as a Canva designer. If you don’t know why this is frankly hilarious I encourage you to follow me on Instagram and connect with me on LinkedIn.

But here’s the thing you’ve got so much content (or soon will have) in your podcast you should be able to repurpose it into something you can sell - such as a book or a course.

Much of the content in my Podcast Planning Toolkit comes from the stuff I’ve done on this podcast. Yes I had to tweak it to fit a different format but the main work has been done with the podcast. And yes I did pay somebody to make it look better than I would have made it (see previous Canva chat) but I’ve made my money back on that.

You’ve done all the hard work with the podcast content so use that as your first draft for an online course or book. Or workshop.

Charge your guests to come on your podcast.

This is not something I personally feel comfortable with because I worry it can end with you podcasts filled with only guests who can afford to go on whether they provide a quality experience for your audience or not. Remember your guest choice should be down to how they will benefit your listener.

But, I know it does happen, and I can understand why it does happen. You’ve spent time building up an audience and here you are handing that audience (and your association/stamp of approval) to somebody who may not have that clout. Shouldn’t they compensate you a bit for getting their message in front of your audience?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, about whether I can personally square the charging guests circle (and I’m not judging all of you who do, do it. Some of you, yes I think you’re pretty much scamming people, but others I get it.) The only way I think I could do it is to offer clients or potential clients a discount on a coaching session you might run, or a mastermind session or something. In return for the discount, they have their session recorded (sensitive information removed) and turned into the podcast episode. For everybody to hear!

This works great for you and your audience - people hear your coaching style and learn from what you’re saying to the guest on the podcast.

AND the guest on the podcast gets a discounted session AND loads of value AND gets in front of your audience

Ask for money!

OK, it’s not quite that crude but you can set up a virtual tip jar, buy a coffee account - that sort of thing and ask your listeners for a pay as you feel contribution. Twitter is by all accounts putting things in place for you to have a tip jar for your awesome tweeting so why not set up one for your podcast. It’s all entirely voluntary and that obviously means nobody has to contribute so it can be tricky to plan for how much money you might have each month. But you may also be surprised how much people value your podcast. I’ve sent virtual coffees to podcasters and YouTube creators who’ve helped solve problems for me with their tutorials.

It’s also a great way of getting people used to paying for what you do. There’s some sort of psychology about once people have paid once they’ll likely pay again. Or something. Don’t take my word for it, I may well be making that up.

Make your listeners pay for your podcast

Instead of popping a virtual tip jar in front of your listeners, put a paywall in front of your podcast.

You can make your podcast private apart from those who you allow to see it. I think this is a great idea if you’ve got a membership and you want to deliver content just for them; or if you want to offer a podcast just to clients who have signed up for a certain level of package.

Maybe you’ve run a conference or event and you’ve had it turned into a podcast series for attendees to listen to again, or to sell to people who weren’t there (FYI this something else I offer by the way). This is a way to make money from a podcast.

You may well have been hearing about podcast subscriptions recently - Apple has announced plans to allow hosting of subscription podcasts, as has Spotify. So it’s being talked about a lot. The comedian Ricky Gervais has said he’ll be creating a paid for subscriber based podcast too. In fact this is something that he has done before, way back in the mid 2000s - he put out a podcast series that cost money to access. But you bought it off iTunes so it didn’t count as an official podcast if I remember correctly. Which I might not.

Private or member only podcasts are only going to grow and they will be a great way to add value to your offering.

So monetizing your podcast doesn’t have to be about sponsorship.

It does, though have to be done with your audience in the front of your mind.

Let me know if you’ve started monetizing your podcast and how that’s going for you. I'd love to hear your experiences.

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