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14 ways to make money podcasting

September 9, 2021


Melissa Guller


Transparency Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may earn a commission if you make a purchase. This is at no additional cost to you, so it's a great way to support Wit & Wire. So thank you! Full disclosure here.

Have you ever wondered how to make money podcasting (or even if you should)? Or maybe you’ve felt like your audience isn’t big enough to monetize if you don’t have thousands of listeners. 

Either way, while most people only talk about sponsorship, the truth is that there are tons of other income streams for podcasters to consider, whether you’re hoping to cover your costs or earn a full-time income.

This comprehensive post is your guide to learning the different ways you can make money from your podcast, no matter your audience size. 

How do you monetize a podcast? 

A lot of podcast hosts wonder if it’s possible to earn money from their podcast.

And while I can’t make any guarantees, the answer can be yes…but it might not be in the way you expect.

That’s because most podcast hosts expect sponsorship to be their primary monetization strategy. But as you’ll see coming up, it’s actually one of the harder ways to earn money as a podcast host (unless you have a sizeable audience).

To start, the question you should ask yourself is this: 

  1. Is my podcast a revenue channel, where I’m earning money by creating podcast content?
  2. Or is my podcast marketing channel, where I’m earning money by influencing my listeners’ buying decisions?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but too often people only think about getting paid to be a podcast host. These direct monetization strategies include things like sponsored ads, asking for donations, or paid communities. (Full list coming up below.)

But what I want to help you consider are indirect monetization strategies, which often work better for small and new podcast hosts. In these cases, you’re promoting products and services to your audience in exchange for sales or commission, and these are often much more lucrative than direct monetization alone.

That being said, you don’t need to limit yourself to only one or the other. Don’t be afraid – and I would actually recommend – trying different strategies to see what works. That being said, don’t feel like you need to try and do everything at once.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most common monetization strategies for podcast hosts so you can start to decide which might be the right fit for you.

Direct podcast monetization strategies

1. Sponsored ads

Sponsored ads are the most well-known way to make money podcasting. When you book a sponsor, they’ll pay you up-front to promote their products to your audience. You’ll earn money based on how many thousands of listeners you have per episode, in a metric called cost per mille (CPM).

Here’s an example of a sponsored ad for Podcorn at the beginning of this episode:

Here are some quick points about sponsored ads:

  • The most common spot within a podcast episode for a sponsored ad is either pre-roll (15-30 seconds) and mid-roll (30-60 seconds)
  • It’s the most well-known way to earn money podcasting, but it’s typically a better fit for shows with a larger audience
  • Podcast listeners are used to ads, but the products you promote will make an impression. It’s crucial that any sponsors you team up with make sense for your audience, so make sure it’s a company you believe in, and that listeners wouldn’t be surprised to hear you talking about it. (So if your podcast is about business, a gardening product won’t make sense.)

As a pro tip, I believe that the best way to find a great sponsor is to pitch a business you love directly. Listeners tune into your podcast because they know, like, and trust you, and they’ll be able to hear the sincerity in your voice when you read a sponsored ad for something you truly believe in.

But there are also marketplaces if you’re curious to browse brands that are actively seeking partnerships. In that case, my favorite option is Podcorn, a marketplace that makes it easy to find and secure sponsors at any size, and you’re in full control of your rates, creative formats, and scheduling.

2. Ask for donations

One of the most straightforward ways to earn money podcasting is to ask your listeners for donations. This is a strategy a lot of people talk about, but if I’m being honest, it’s not one I typically recommend.

Psychologically, people are more likely to pay if they get something in return. That’s why instead of asking for donations to support your podcast – which only benefits you, the host – many profitable podcast hosts use the next strategy instead (paid subscriptions).

The one type of podcast that I think could use donations well is a podcast tied to a non-profit or a cause. If there’s a bigger platform that someone’s donation would support, then I think donations can be a great fit.

3. Paid subscriptions

With paid subscriptions, your listeners pay a small monthly fee to unlock additional benefits. Those benefits could include:

  • Extra episodes
  • Ad-free episodes
  • Live chats or hangouts
  • Access to join a private community
  • Merchandise
  • Or countless other creative perks

Depending on your audience size, some of these perks may not be the right fit. (For example, it’s tougher to start a community if you only have 10 members.) But if your bonus is something like extra content, then you can start at any audience size.

One podcast that does this well is Doughboys, a podcast about chain restaurants. They have three different tiers:

14 ways to make money podcasting 3

The gold standard and longtime favorite tool for paid subscriptions is Patreon. Just like the screenshot above, you can use Patreon to set different subscription tiers and redeem benefits to your subscribers.

Another option is Buy Me a Coffee, although most successful creators I know recommend Patreon. Both options allow you to create tiered levels, create a membership program, share exclusive content, and more. 

4. Paid community

A lot of the perks offered in paid subscription models can work just as well individually. One perfect example would be to offer a private paid community for your podcast listeners.

Your listeners likely have a lot in common, whether it’s parenting problems or a shared passion for a TV series. So connecting them in a community where they can meet like-minded people is a huge gift. 

Your podcast listeners will often want to continue the conversation with each other, and this helps your podcast grow because people can interact without depending only on you. 

Here are some tools you can use to run private (paid or free) online communities:

5. Private paid podcast

There are two options with a private paid podcast. You can either make some episodes paid, or you can make the entire podcast paid.

Having a private, paid podcast is less common than some of the other monetization options, especially since people are used to getting podcasts for free. But if you do go in this direction, consider having 1-5 sample free episodes to give potential listeners an idea of what they can expect from you. 

If making your entire podcast private doesn’t seem like a good fit for you or your audience, some podcast hosts will put their older episodes behind a paywall instead.

Recommended platforms include:

If you’re curious to learn more about podcast hosting platforms, you can read our full review on the best podcast hosting platforms.

6. Merchandise

People love to rep their favorite fandoms, and that’s why selling fun merchandise can be a great fit for a lot of podcasts.

For transparency, it might not make up a full-time income, but it could certainly help cover costs. It’s also a great marketing tool because friends of your podcast listeners might see your merch and ask to learn more about your podcast.

Here are a few platforms that can help podcast hosts share merch with their listeners:

  • Patreon: (as an option for subscribers)
  • Printful: This is my favorite choice for on-demand merchandise fulfillment. They handle everything in one place, including an online shop, fulfillment, and merchandise.
  • Printify: Another similar, great option.

7. Live Recordings

Certain podcast niches can be successful in hosting live recording events (in-person or virtual). This is a good way to not only monetize your podcast, but also connect with your audience in a new way, and sell other services you may offer. 

If you have a podcast membership option, hosting a live recording for members only can be a good bonus or perk.

Some tools you could use include:

  • Eventbrite (for ticket sales)
  • StreamYard (for a great virtual experience)
  • Patreon (if you’re including with subscription)
  • Zoom, Google Meet, or another virtual streaming and recording platform (for virtual live recordings)

Indirect podcast monetization strategies

Now that I’ve shared direct ways to monetize your podcast, let’s take a look at some indirect options. 

8. Sell online courses

Wit & Wire’s online courses are the number one way I earned money as a podcast host. So if you’re using your podcast as a means to build authority or empower others to make a change, creating and selling a course could be a great option.

How to determine what your course should be about:

  • think of the main issue(s) your ideal listener deals with
  • the answers to FAQs you get from listeners 

Course creation is our specialty here at Wit & Wire, so here are a few additional resources if you’re curious to learn more:

📌 You can also click here to learn more about our signature program, Course Builders.

9. Sell coaching or services

If you’re using your show to share your expertise and build your business, then offering coaching or other services can be a great way to monetize your podcast. You could even put together a mastermind class or group as a way to connect with your audience on a deeper level. 

I recommend ThriveCart (use this link for special lifetime access) to help you build a user-friendly cart and checkout page. ThriveCart can also help you with upsells, and affiliate campaigns.  

10. Sell digital or physical products

There are many options when it comes to selling digital products as a way to monetize your podcast. You can sell physical or digital products to go along with your show as a whole or items that correspond to individual episodes.

Depending on what you plan to sell, a few tools that might work for you include:

📌 You can read our extended writeup here: 10 profitable digital products to sell (to earn $1k+/mo)

11. Sell your book

A lot of podcasters have either already written a book or dream of writing one someday. And if you’ve already published a book, promoting it to your podcast listeners is a perfect fit, because they’ll get to continue learning from you in a new way.

Authorship was such a popular topic that I dedicated a full Wit & Wire podcast episode to sharing how podcasting can help you write a book

12. Speaker fees

One of the benefits of being a podcast host is that you’ll build up credibility as an expert or go-to person in your field. And as you build up authority in your niche, you may be invited to speak at different events and workshops.

Speaker fees can vary greatly. But to help you get started, this HBR guide can give you a general idea of what to charge. 

13. Affiliate programs

Affiliate programs are a good way to monetize your podcast because simply put, you recommend products or services you love. It’s a natural way to start incorporating monetization into your podcast. 

As with sponsored ads, you want to make sure that whatever it is you’re an affiliate for is related to your podcast topic. I also highly recommend sticking to items and services that you actually use and love. Your audience will likely be able to tell if it’s not, and this can lead to a lack of trust. 

For example, I’m a partner for both ThriveCart and Kajabi, two course creation platforms I regularly recommend. I can talk about my real experiences with their products and then refer people to witandwire.com/thrivecart or witandwire.com/kajabi (for an extended 30-day trial not available on Kajabi’s site) for anyone who wants to learn more.

14. Amazon affiliate program

One of the more well-known affiliate programs is through Amazon. With this program, you earn money when people buy products you recommend. As an example, I’m often asked about my favorite podcast microphones, so all of the links in my roundup go to Amazon affiliate links, and I’ll earn a small commission if anyone makes a purchase.

Monetizing your podcast this way can be a natural fit for many niches, but Amazon is strict about affiliate disclosures. Because of this, I recommend carefully reading the terms and conditions so you can properly disclose any affiliate links.  

How long does it take to start making money on a podcast?

The short answer is: it depends. For some options, you can start right away, but the strategies available to you will depend on your audience size. 

When can you start monetizing your podcast?

For most hosts, I recommend focusing on great content first. After you release your first 10 episodes, you’ll have a better sense of your listeners’ needs and your workflow. But it always depends on your starting point and goals as a podcast host.

Final thoughts on how to make money podcasting

Podcasts of all sizes can earn money, but different strategies suit different hosts and niches. The strategies you use will likely evolve as you go, so it’s important to try different things to see what works, but don’t try to do it all at once. 

If you’re just starting, I recommend checking out affiliate programs so you can start getting paid to refer people to products you already use and love.

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