Podcasting today is filled with people wanting to turn a hobby into a full-time job. I’m not gonna lie – it’s not easy. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and the competition is fierce.
Starting a podcast is a lot of work too. You need high-quality equipment, a recording space, and a lot of time to edit and market the show. If you want any hope of making money from it, you need to spend a lot of time and money promoting it in the first place.
This is especially difficult to do when you’re not getting paid for your time. So while it’s possible to generate a full-time income from podcasting, it’s not easy, and it’s not for everyone.
If you want to try to make podcasting into a full-time job, you have to think of your podcast as a startup and you have to treat it like a business. This means researching your market, discovering how to provide value to your audience, and figuring out revenue streams. If you have no background in running a business, this can be a very steep learning curve.
There’s a difference between earning a small amount of money on the side and getting a paycheck that will let you match or surpass your current standard of living, afforded to you by your day job.
So instead of asking yourself if you can make money from podcasting, ask yourself if you have the time and energy to start a business? If you don’t, then you might want to continue podcasting as a hobby.
Hard truth: The failure rate for startups is high, as high as 90%. It’s really, really hard to succeed.
If you were to start a business, you would require capital. You’d need to invest money in building and improving your “product” (your podcast in this case), and then you’d need to advertise it to consumers.
Think about how much capital you’re ready to invest. If you are quitting your day job to do this full-time you would also need enough savings to survive for several months. And you would need to live extremely frugally to stretch every penny. Are you comfortable with that?
If none of this fazes you, then you’re ready to get started.
If you don’t have a background in running a business, the first thing you should do is find a business partner. You need someone with experience who can run the day-to-day operations. Someone who can take care of the numbers, the paperwork and so forth.
You might need to pitch your podcast to this person and convince them that this is something that will make money.
Having a partner can make this endeavour less stressful, and it can help you achieve your goals much faster. You could handle the content and your partner could handle the business and the monetisation.
You could also hire a business manager. The only convincing he or she would need is the salary you are willing to pay.
Now that you have a partner, you’ll need to figure out revenue streams.
1. A lot of podcasters make money by selling ad space on their shows.
This is a great way to generate revenue if you have enough listeners. But, like George Carlin said, “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.” If you don’t have a lot of listeners, advertisers won’t contact you. You could, of course, try writing to advertisers. There are third-party services that claim to link podcasters with advertisers. But if you don’t have thousands and thousands of listeners, these services won’t be much help.
2. There’s good old Patreon.
Patreon is a service that allows podcasters to get paid by their listeners. It’s one of the few ways to make money if you have a podcast with low listenership. You set up a Patreon page, and people can choose to donate money to you every month. But, again, you need lots of listeners for your Patreon to bring in good money. Remember, only a small percentage of your listeners are likely to contribute.
3. There are other options like selling your merchandise or using affiliate links in your show notes.
But it all comes down to one word: listenership. The more listeners you have, the more opportunities you have to make money. Also, keep in mind that you would be racing against time. You have to be able to monetise your show as soon as possible because your savings will start to run dry pretty soon.
So it’s obvious that you need to boost your listenership rapidly for any of this to work.
Most people in the podcasting community agree that the best way to grow your podcast is through word of mouth. This means getting listeners and getting them to tell more people about your show. This also means having a great show that people are eager to share with others.
You will need to pump out quality content consistently. Nothing less than one episode a week. Remember that capital we talked about earlier? This is where you use it to hire interns and employees (either part-time or full-time) to help you with research, writing scripts, booking guests, handling social media, creating and managing a community for the fans and editing and producing your show. You may need to rent office space, although this work could be performed remotely as well.
Once you have a core group of passionate listeners, start rewarding them by organising giveaways or sending them personalised gifts. This will turn them into evangelists who will feel a sense of loyalty to you and your show. They will become your best promoters.
You could also buy ads to promote your show. A lot of podcast apps offer promoted listings.
Once you see a steady uptick in your numbers, you could consider hiring a publicist to help you generate more media attention. A publicist would help you gain exposure by pitching your show to journalists, bloggers, and other podcasters. You or your staff could try doing this on your own but publicists come with a strong network of contacts.
You could also reach out to podcast networks and pitch your show to them. A podcast network is a group of podcasts that work together to pitch to an advertiser, offering them access to a combined listenership. They also use the network to cross-promote each other’s shows.
A podcast network could help you find advertisers, promote your show and even share revenue with you. The downside is that they may impose restrictions on your show – like you may have to give up some of the rights to your content or some of the creative control. They may dictate what you can or can not talk about.
All this is a lot of work. And you have to be ready to take the risks and live frugally until you see some returns. There’s no get rich quick scheme for podcasting.
But if everything falls into place, and you work really hard, you could find yourself making a full-time income from your podcast.