Monetizing Your Podcast: The Unrealistic, the Sleazy & the Go-Tos
Monetizing Your Podcast: The Unrealistic, the Sleazy & the Go-Tos

Monetizing Your Podcast: The Unrealistic, the Sleazy & the Go-Tos

Podcasters know that it takes some major investment to get a financial ROI from their time and money. And there are plenty of people out there not only making bank from their podcasts but also sharing how you can do it, too.

But before you jump into trying to make money through sponsorships and ads, listen up: Many of the strategies you hear from big-name podcasters are just unrealistic for smaller businesses. And some tactics are just plain sleazy, in my opinion.

This week on the podcast, I’m sharing some of the ideas for podcast monetization that are unrealistic and sleazy, and some go-to ideas that just might work for you!

Mentioned in This Episode Podcast


Welcome to episode 224 of The Content Experiment Podcast, a podcast for service-driven business owners who know that content is important but there’s so much more to marketing and business growth.

Here we talk about showing up for your audience that they want to hear, in a way that’s sustainable for you. This might mean publishing a weekly podcast or blog, but it also means paying attention to your email list, leveraging other people’s audiences, building relationships, and getting over the limiting mindsets that often hit when we’re reaching for the next level in our business.

I’m Abby Herman, content strategist and podcast manager for business owners who want to make their marketing feel easier and more streamlined so they can get back to serving their clients and making those sales. I’ll show you how OR do it for you, while you do business in a way that works for you–I can help by supporting you through building a content and marketing strategy, taking care of the podcast management for you, or giving you the tools and resources to take this on yourself.

I help business owners launch their podcasts and I manage podcasts and content strategy for clients. One of the things that comes up a lot is a desire to monetize content, specifically podcasts.

And I get it. You want your podcast to make money because it takes time and money to produce, whether you outsource it or not.

You want to see the ROI from your podcast, to get clients directly from the podcast. You want to see sales when people listen to the podcast.

Unfortunately, this isn’t reality. I mean, unless you’re Pat Flynn or Amy Porterfield, John Lee Dumas or even Erica Mandy who hosts the daily Newsworthy podcast. Same for Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnet on the Smartless podcast or Sarah Stewart and Beth Silvers from the Pantsuit Politics podcast and Dax Shepard from Armchair Expert.

These are people who have been around forever, before podcasting was popular, and have built a huge audience over time so they could sell sponsorships. Or maybe they’re charging guests to be on their podcast. And for others, they already had huge fanbases and could sell sponsorships and promote affiliates right out of the gate.

If you’re listening to this, my guess is that you aren’t these people. You don’t have a massive following of tens of thousands of people. You have a small but mighty and growing business and you have a message you want to put out there so you can help others. And your audience is likely business owners. Most of the podcasts I mentioned? They’re B2Cs, not B2Bs. And yes, I know there was one clear exception.

The fact that you’re not well-known with a big audience is not only is that okay, that’s freaking amazing. Because you’re here, doing the work and growing a business.

AND you can’t expect to monetize your podcast in the way you might want to monetize it.

Sure, maybe you can get a sponsorship or two. But unless your listenership grows significantly, any sponsorships won’t pay for the cost of producing your podcast.

Again, that’s okay.

On today’s episode I’m going to talk about what monetizing your podcast truly looks like from the perspective of someone who has more than 200 of her own podcast episodes under her belt and who has produced hundreds of other episodes for clients.

Let’s start with the ways that I think are less lucrative for a small business owner or someone who is brand new to podcasting, with a very small audience:

Sponsorships and advertising
To do this, potential sponsors and advertisers will want to see your download numbers, and you’ll need a significant number of downloads for anyone to sign on.
Affiliate income
If you have a product or service that you particularly like, you can become an affiliate for it. I’m an affiliate for ActiveCampaign, my favorite email marketing provider. And while I don’t promote it often, I do earn a small commission every time someone who used my affiliate link to sign up pays their bill.
The challenge with affiliate marketing is that I personally want to be very familiar with the product before recommending it to anyone. So I will only become an affiliate for products I’ve used. I’ve had people ask me to be an affiliate for programs I’ve never participated in and I just won’t do it.
Again, with affiliate marketing, a big audience is required if you’re going to turn this into real monetization.
Sell merchandise
If you’re a B2B, selling merchandise is going to require some serious brand loyalty. And obviously that’s the true goal, right? But unless you’re a household name, merchandise is going to be a tough sell.
I know brands who have done this, but the merch sales are more driven from the brand loyalty and email marketing than the podcast itself.
Create a Patreon or premium content
Creating a gate to some of your more premium content is a monetization option – maybe unedited guest interviews or more in-depth content. Maybe you house back episodes in a Patreon or curate a special feed to create an audio course or something.
This isn’t a bad idea, and it could definitely generate some revenue from content you already have. Depending on your price point, you might earn back some of what you’ve spent.

And now I want to talk about some of the slimy methods for monetizing your podcast that came up as I was researching for this episode. Personally, I think these are icky and I wouldn’t recommend them at all. But I wanted to mention them here to explain why.

Charge your guests
Those big name podcast hosts I mentioned at the beginning of the episode? At least one of them charges their guests. This is like someone saying that you get paid by exposure for speaking for free at an event. Just yuck.
Now, I get that the host who charges their guests has a HUGE following…maybe in the hundreds of thousands. But I can’t imagine forking over cash for a big, generalized podcast, even if some of my ideal clients are listening. I’d much rather be a guest on smaller podcasts where I have a relationship with the host.
This is along the lines of paying to be considered for an award or to be listed on a “best of” article. I’ve been asked and I’ve turned it down every time. If I land an award or a list or even a guest spot on a podcast, I want it to be because of my own merits and not because I forked over some cash.
So please don’t charge your guests. Look for guests who can offer loads of value to your audience. And if a guest wants to be paid for being on your podcast? Hard pass. They’re not worth it. Big names are nice to have, but I guarantee they won’t share their episodes like us regular folks will.
Only host your clients
I love a good before and after or success story on a podcast. It’s fun to see the growth that people make, and this is a great way to showcase how you work with clients. Plus, the idea of letting your clients showcase themselves and their own expertise? Love it.
But most likely your listeners want more than that. They’re looking for expertise in different areas and want to hear from other voices.
Don’t exclude everyone except current clients from your podcast guest lineup. You’re excluding so many important perspectives, and that’s only hurting your listeners.

And here are ways to monetize your podcast that are more indirect. Someone isn’t going to go from listening to your podcast to buying something, but it’s going to make an impact when you do it right.

Grow your email list
Your email list is your direct contact to your listeners. Make sure that there’s a way for listeners to get on your email list. Have a freebie that they can sign up for and create a pretty link for it so it’s easy to mention on the podcast.
Don’t forget to include those links in your show notes too.
Your freebie can be anything you want, but it needs to be more than simply asking people to sign up for your list. Some recommendations include: a free challenge or mini course about a topic you talk about a lot, access to a free playlist with some of your most popular episodes, a getting started guide for a service that you offer, something that’s going to offer some value to your listeners and now email subscribers
If you’re maximizing the value of your email list, once new subscribers are on your list they’re getting a short welcome sequence where you’re talking about your products and services. And you’re then sending regular emails every time a new podcast episode is released. You’re staying in front of your audience and they’re seeing value and eventually they’ll buy
And you know what? Some people only want the free stuff you offer. They’re never going to buy from you. And that’s okay. I would bet money that there are people out there who you follow who you will never buy from. That’s okay too!
Talk to your guests about being on their podcasts
I don’t care how a guest comes to be on your podcast…they pitch you, you reach out to them, you already have a relationship with them, someone recommends them. No matter how the interview comes about, you’re hopefully going to do some research on them ahead of time so you can ask intelligent questions that align with your podcast strategy.
During that research, you’ll discover that some of your guests have their own podcasts. I like to look at some of the things they’ve talked about on their podcasts and think about how I want to address certain topics on my podcast.
When you get on your podcast interview, you’ll know already, if you’ve done your research, if you would be a good guest on their podcast. It takes 10 seconds to ask to be a guest.
You’re already connected. You’re already doing something for them, having them on your show, know how you can support their audience and ask to be on theirs. It should be an easy yes for them.
I’ve also done this via email prior to the recording and I’ve done it at the end of the interview, suggesting that we continue the conversation on their podcast. Most of the time they say yes!
Being on someone else’s podcast is a good way to monetize your own, in an indirect way, because it’s very easy for their audience to move over to your podcast and subscribe. You’re getting in front of other people’s audiences, which is THE BEST way to grow your audience. I talk about this in episodes 197, 176, and 177.
Create real value so people will want to work with you
This is probably the most overlooked way to monetize your podcast, and it’s because it’s so indirect, it takes time and effort, and it doesn’t feel like you’re moving toward monetization at all.
Marketing is a marathon. An ultra marathon. It’s not a sprint and you’re not going to see results right away. It takes time and it takes consistency. You can’t publish a couple episodes and expect big download numbers or to have people rushing to buy from you.
Value matters. Create a strategy for your content. Really think about the message you want to deliver to your audience. Curate quality guests who offer real value to your listeners. Watch the language you use so that it’s value-based, not sales-based. Then sit back and enjoy the long game. Because it really is a long game.
You won’t keep listeners around or bring in new listeners if you scare them away with inconsistency and episode topics that don’t align with what you promised to deliver to them in the first place.

And now the methods that I think are extremely valuable and aren’t done nearly enough. I honestly think this is the most valuable one. So much so that last week’s episode was dedicated entirely to this topic. So check out episode 223 with Nikki Rausch for more.

But the best way to monetize your podcast is to use it to sell your own products and services. Now before you go off and make every episode salesy, listen to episode 223 for help. And also let me explain here.
Your podcast is a marketing tool. It’s your way to get your message out there. You talk about things you’re passionate about, that you have expertise in, that you do with and for clients. Why aren’t you actually sharing that you these are things that you get paid to do?
At the very beginning of this episode, I mentioned that I help clients launch podcasts and that I develop content strategies, which includes podcast strategy and management. That’s my livelihood.
I love doing this podcast, but I also have to leverage it. Otherwise it’s a hobby, and a time-consuming one at that. If you’ve hired a podcast manager or any support at all for your podcast, if you’re not talking about your services and how your expertise has helped clients, you have a very expensive hobby.
Again, go back to episode 223 to help you finesse the language a bit, but you should be talking about your products and services often on your podcast. Definitely in every single episode, but more than just in your intro and outro. And you should even be talking about how people work with you in your guest episodes. And when you’re a guest on other people’s podcasts.
It’s not slimy or salesy, unless you make it that way. There’s a way to do it that creates an ah-ha moment for your listeners. Like how I just did it. I reminded you that these are things I do for clients…I help them create the right content for their podcast…and blog and social media too. Me mentioning this in the middle of telling you that these are things you should do might be an ah-ha moment. (Or maybe it feels a little awkward because it’s super meta right now. I don’t know.) But did you KNOW that this is what I do for clients? If not, now you do!

But honestly, you started a podcast so it could help you grow your business. Is it doing that for you? Did you expect to launch a podcast and have clients flock to you? Are you struggling with how to really create the value you want?

Friends, unless you have a giant audience, chances are monetizing your podcast in the way you hoped to…through ads and sponsorships…is going to be difficult. But there are so many other ways to monetize. They take time and effort and maybe an investment in support. But if you’re taking the right action, your podcast will become a huge asset for you.

If you want some support in getting there or you want to get your podcast started, let’s talk. Book a free 20-minute call with me and let’s see if we’re a good fit for working together.

If you found value in what you learned here today, be sure to share it on social media. Take a screenshot of the episode on your phone and share it over on Instagram stories. Tag me at thecontentexperiment. Or head over to LinkedIn and connect with me. Be sure to tell me you found me on the podcast when you send the connection invite! The more you share this podcast with others, the more we can get it into the hands of more business owners, just like you, who need to hear the message that they are not alone.

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