How to Make a Living as a Podcaster Without Counting Downloads
Many people asked me if there are ways to make decent money through running a podcast. If the answer is no, then they ask “What’s the point?”
By the way, if you are new to podcasting, every 10,000 downloads translate to just about $400 in sponsorship revenue. [updated in 2021: Cost of average podcast sponsorships: For a 30-second ad, the cost per mile (or cost per 1,000 listeners) is $15-18. For a 60-second ad, the cost per mile is $25-30, but it can be as much as $40]
Most podcasts struggle to reach 10,000 downloads per month and $400 a month isn’t enough for anyone to work on a project full time. Podcasting can be labor intensive. On average, it takes hours (if not days) to produce one episode.
Running a quality podcast, seeking interesting guests is a great deal of work. Getting people to listen to your podcast is no easy task. But, the monetization model doesn’t need to be downloads exclusively. This guide covers some of the unusual factors and opportunities to make a profit through podcasting.
I discovered these unusual methods along the way and shared with marketing gurus, New York Times Best Sellers (such as Dorie Clark). These methods even made their way to a new book called Entrepreneurial You.
The bottom line is, they are much easier to implement, achieve and sustain than the “usual path”, which is to grow your podcast to X number of downloads per month (usually in the millions), then look into ads and sponsorship opportunities.
After nearly 6 years of working on Feisworld Podcast (average about 1 episode a week), I’ve not monetized my podcast. I don’t mind you asking – I’ve only generated about between 100,000-150,000 downloads total. The buffer stats are due to our podcast published on multiple platforms, some of which aren’t tracked under the same RSS feed. We don’t spend much at all on ads to promote the podcast, so most if not all of these downloads are organic.
To help us stay focused, I will not get into the debate as to how advertising works, or who should sponsor your podcast. There are plenty of articles online covering this topic).
Instead of sponsorship, there are a few other ways to generate revenue from your podcast.
Podcast Guests Turned Clients
I noticed this “niche” after releasing the first ten episodes of Feisworld. (If you haven’t listened to Feisworld Podcast, it’s an audio show where I interview sung and unsung heroes from all walks of life. If your podcast doesn’t involve guests or focuses exclusively on you and your services, this method might not work.).
A number of Feisworld Podcast guests proactively reached out to me within 2-4 weeks of their podcast release and asked: “You’ve prepared a lot for our interview. You really seem to know me and care about what I’m trying to do. Will you be my _____ (PR agent, brand ambassador, digital strategist, web designer and developer, etc.)?”
This was incredibly eye-opening to me.
My guests were able to “fill in the blank” because they cared to learn something about me too. Some of them asked me straight-up about my background and personal interests. Some did extensive research via my LinkedIn profile, or listened to multiple episodes (that’s at least a few hours) to get to know me.
20% or so of my podcast guests reached out directly asking to partner with me in some capacity. If you aren’t working in sales, 20% is rather a high (to very high) percentage of leads and client acquisition without additional marketing cost.
It doesn’t stop there either. Because of podcasting, most of my guests already have a good understanding of what Feisworld is and who I am. As a result, they “pre-qualify” themselves as good client leads for my consulting service.
Podcast Guests Referring Other Potential Clients
If my podcast guests don’t have immediate needs to work with me, they are much more than likely to recommend me to work for other friends and highly valued connections.
Here’s usually how it works:
My guests initiate the introduction email. It’s never generic. Rather it often sounds like this: “Hey John, I just appeared on Feisworld Podcast, check it out here [url]. Fei is a freelance consultant who helps small businesses and people achieve their goals. She’s a one-stop shop for all your marketing and digital needs (including design and tech). I think she could help you with X, Y, Z. Check out her services on her website”
Though not every client lead is a qualified lead, owning a podcast, connecting directly with your guests and others, is a wonderful way to market your business and gain trust.
Listeners Turned Clients
Some of these “Listeners turned clients” are a) those referred by previous listeners and 2) employers who discovered me via LinkedIn, social networks but have never met or spoken with me before. Instead, these potential clients turned to Feisworld Podcast simply to get an idea for whom I really am.
When I was interviewed at a few small marketing agencies for freelance work, the first thing people bring up is my podcast. Specifically, they will tell me “how they’ve enjoyed Feisworld” or “hey, it’s pretty cool to have your own podcast, I will definitely check it out someday.”
It makes me smile.
I don’t quiz people to find out if they actually listened to my podcast. But I am always interested in learning how they first discovered it.
Everyone who interviewed me (for full-time and freelance gigs) and confirmed that they knew Feisworld Podcast exists, has hired me, without exception. I don’t think many of them became avid listeners (but I can tell you that at least a few turned into very interesting guests to on my show).
To conclude, you don’t need a Top 50 podcast to drive revenue, attract new clients and close the deals.
In fact, Feisworld Podcast isn’t on the radar of most households, yet it has helped me in ways above and beyond financial means. I also know (for sure) that these relationships with my guests and new clients are going to last for a very long time. I already value many of them as lifelong friends.
Now, it’s your turn.
Have you thought about how you could engage and help your clients with what you know? Look, you really don’t need to be a digital marketer like me to make that happen.
Please write down 3 things you offer, and 3 guests or listeners who may be able to benefit.
3 Things You Offer:
3 People Who May Be Able to Benefit: