How much money can you make podcasting?
The chances are, you listen to a podcaster who's achieved financial freedom through podcasting, or at least some steady side hustle cash.
So, we know it's possible to make full-time money from podcasting, but how often does it actually happen, and how big does your show have to be before it becomes a reliable income stream?
This article will show you how successful podcasts leverage their podcast audience to support themselves financially, and will help you gauge the amount of money your own podcast could generate.
Below are three scenarios to give you an idea of how much you can make based on your audience's size. Each of these scenarios assumes that you:
- Are listed in all the major directories (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc.)
- Post a new episode once a week (four/month)
- Have a presence on social media platforms
- Have a baseline of at least 1,000 downloads per episode
Remember, if you try to monetize your podcast too early, you risk stunting your audience growth and jeopardize future plans. But once you meet the above criteria, you're on your way!
Take a look at which of the following scenarios best fits your own podcast!
Scenario #1: 1,000 downloads per episode
At 1,000 downloads per episode, you’ve entered the realm of moderate success, having a proven podcast that consistently delivers value to your audience. At this point in your podcast’s life, the last thing you want to do is stunt your growth.
Podcast advertising, by its very nature, takes away from the listener experience (“Let's take a break from the podcast to convince you to buy something totally unrelated!”), so it’s best to use strategies that aren’t as obtrusive. Here a few of the best revenue streams for this stage of your podcast's growth.
Amazon Affiliate Sales
Amazon’s Affiliate program enables you to share links to products on their website and get a percentage of sales when someone clicks on your link to purchase an item.
Anytime you mention a product available on Amazon, include a custom affiliate link in your episode’s show notes to give your listeners a quick and easy way to learn more about the product.
Anything they purchase on Amazon within 24 hours of clicking your link will earn you a commission. In other words: Amazon will give you a “finders fee” for sending people to their website.
Roughly 1% of your audience will purchase through your affiliate link (at an average of $15 for each sale.)
Buzzsprout Affiliate Marketplace
If you host your podcast with Buzzsprout, you can start monetizing your show through our affiliate marketplace —regardless of audience size.
All of the companies in our marketplace meet a strict set of criteria, so you can be sure the products are reputable. When you make a sale, affiliates pay your earnings via PayPal; Buzzsprout doesn't take any commission or middle-man fee from your sales.
To access the marketplace, log in to your Buzzsprout account, and select the Monetization tab.
You can browse our list of affiliates to find the products most relevant to your audience. Once you find the right product(s) to promote, fill out the affiliate form to get your link within 48-72 hours!
Like Buzzsprout's marketplace, Podcorn is open to podcasts of any size, there's no middle-man fee, and you get paid in cash via Stripe or PayPal.
Podcorn's self-service platform for podcast sponsorships is an excellent alternative to traditional CPM models, or searching for sponsors on your own. Their open marketplace connects you with unique sponsorships that match your podcast's branding and message.
You can access Podcorn through your Buzzsprout dashboard > Monetization tab > Find a Sponsor with Podcorn. Sign up for a Podcorn account, enable Podcorn tracking, and search through the available sponsors to find one that's relevant for your audience.
Once Podcorn matches you with sponsor opportunities, you can pick which companies you'd like to work with, submit a proposal to the sponsor, and negotiate the details (prices, formats, schedule, etc.) so you have control every step of the way!
Once you have 1,000 downloads per episode, you can make some extra cash via monthly listener donations. NPR and other radio stations have been listener-supported for decades, and it’s becoming a popular revenue stream for independent podcasters, too.
Patreon is the most popular fan-funding site and for a good reason: it makes it easy to get financial support from your listeners. Of course, having a Patreon page means you need to spend extra time creating exclusive content for donors, so make sure the amount your earnings are worth your time.
You can expect approximately 2% of your podcast listeners to become patrons ($5/month is typically the most popular donation level).
Online courses are one of the most lucrative passive income opportunities on the web right now. Whereas your podcast offers general advice, your online course lets you pull out all the stops and dive deep into one particular topic.
To get started, identify your top three most popular podcast episodes and brainstorm how you would help someone achieve success in their life for those topics. You can write down the process you would take someone through and use it as your course's backbone.
So you don’t get sidetracked and spend a ton of hours building out a custom website, we recommend using sites like Podia to launch your online course and start collecting sales. Make sure to advertise your course on the podcast and discuss why your listeners should consider investing in what you’ve created.
A well-made course takes time to create and average around $197. You can expect 0.5% of your audience to purchase each month (which adds up quickly.)
Monthly Earnings: $1,235/month
• Affiliates links — $150/month
• Patreon — $100/month
• Online Course — $985/month
Scenario #2: 5,000 downloads per episode
Once you hit 5,000 downloads per episode, you can start to do some serious damage. You’ll continue to use the monetization strategies you began when you were getting 1,000 downloads per episode, but now you can pull the trigger on additional income streams, too.
Once you hit this level, it’s time to looking into podcast sponsorships. Your audience understands that ads are one of the components that fuel your podcast, so they won’t be a huge momentum killer (especially if you offer an ad-free version of your podcast for those that support you on Patreon).
Also, once you’ve reached this audience size, you’re in a better positioned to provide sustainable value to the sponsors you attract. Happy sponsors mean consistent income for you.
Most sponsors prefer to compensate you based on CPM (per 1,000 downloads), so a 5,000 download episode will net you in the ballpark of $100.
To promote a sponsor, most podcast hosts feature a midroll ad that runs about halfway through the episode with a promo code that gives their listeners a unique discount. This way, your sponsor can track how well your ad performs and give your audience an incentive to try the product.
To find companies interested in sponsoring your podcast, see who is already spending money on podcasts in your genre. Listen to podcasts related to yours and try to discover who is sponsoring similar podcasts.
You can also use Google search to reveal which companies are advertising to your podcast audience. Find the contact info of their Sales or Marketing team and ask to speak with the person who handles online advertising.
At this level, you can charge $20 CPM and expect to have one sponsor/episode.
Monthly Earnings: $2,470/month
• Affiliate links — $750/month
• Patreon — $500/month
• Sponsors/Ad Revenue — $400/month
• Online Course — $820/month
Scenario #3: 10,000+ downloads per episode
When you start to average more than 10,000 downloads per episode, you hit an inflection point. You’ve cultivated a loyal following of people who find value in your content, and you can easily generate a full-time income from your podcast.
And at this stage of the game, there are several new, even more lucrative possible revenue streams.
Partner Affiliate Programs
Listeners are smart and easily pick up on disingenuous advertising. Partnering with companies whose products you actually use is an excellent way to authentically promote products you believe in without losing your listener's trust (or attention.)
Companies often have affiliate programs specifically for their products, with compensation rates ranging from 25% - 50% of all sales you create.
To get started in affiliate marketing, research the products you currently use and love to see if the company has an affiliate program; if they do, the sign-up process is usually pretty straightforward. Researching affiliate companies on your own can take some time and negotiation skills,, so try to be patient as you work to strike a mutually beneficial deal.
Podcastingis a gateway drug to the world of public speaking. All that time spent in front of the microphone gives you a leg up on other experts in your industry; you're a knowledgable and trusted resource in your field and engaging as a communicator.
When you first start speaking, it’s best to offer free talks as a way to get your foot in the door, get some experience, and network with conference organizers that might like to hire you in the future. Once you’ve established yourself as a high-quality speaker, you can earn thousands of dollars in exchange for a single speech.
[Blog] How to Find Paid speaking Opportunities in Any Industry
With over 10,000 downloads/episode, you'll likely average six speeches per year at up to $5,000 per speech.
Thousands of people listen to your podcast for a reason, and the chances are a handful in that group who would pay you for personalized help consistently. People are willing to pay for saving time learning things on their own, whether or not you're the number one authority on the subject. As long as you know something your listeners don't, and can help them solve a problem, you have a service to sell.
You can expect to have three consistent clients and charge $1,000/month.
Monthly Earnings: $12,140/month
• Affiliate links — $1,500/month
• Patreon — $1,000/month
• Sponsors ($25 CPM, 2 sponsors/ episode) — $2,000/month
• Online Course — $1,640/month
• Partner Affiliate Programs — $500/month
• Speaking Engagements — $2,500/month
• Consulting Services — $3,000/month
Increase download numbers and grow your podcast!
Success in any area of podcasting ultimately comes down to hard work and valuable content — engaging, purposeful content is the bedrock of a successful show that could make money in the future.
So until you reach that first threshold for monetization (1,000 downloads/episode), we think your time is best spent creating strong, consistent, valuable content and building up your listener base.
Here are some resources to use as you work toward your monetization goals!