There are lots of different reasons why people choose to start podcasts. But whatever their inspiration is for starting a show, it will always fit one of two categories: To make money or not to make money.
According to some interesting data we just pulled from our podcast planner tool, 41% said they saw their new venture as a source of additional income, whilst 29% told us they want to make their podcast their main income source.
This doesn’t come from a small sample of data either – this is 29% of over 1,700 new podcasters. So, just over 500 people.
But how realistic is it to make your podcast your main source of income? And if you’re already making money from your podcast, how do you make more?
How Much Can You Really Earn From Podcasting?
It’s not crazy to think you can make a decent income through your podcast as an independent podcaster. If you’re creating great content for a small but enthusiastic audience, you’re definitely on a winning track.
Nowadays, you can monetise a podcast fairly quickly (very few shows couldn’t bring in $5 a month on Patreon, for example). But making your podcast a main source of income? That’s going to take a lot of time and effort. Or, require some exceptional circumstances (or both!).
So, the important thing to clarify here when talking about making a living off a podcast is that… most people don’t. And as many parts of the world are currently experiencing a cost of living crisis, it’s harder than ever to do right now.
But if you were going to hit the jackpot with your podcast, these are the most likely ways you would do it.
Advertising & Sponsorship
Podcast advertising is seen as the default monetization strategy. But it’s worth highlighting that you need either huge numbers, or an extremely niche topic with a hardcore audience, in order to make a living off this sort of income.
If you go down the big numbers route, CPM (cost per mille) is around $25 per 1000 downloads (downloads which happen within the first 30 days of the episode’s release). So, if you want to earn the current median US salary of $1,028 per week with your weekly podcast, you’d need to generate 41,120 downloads per new episode.
To give you an idea of how realistic that would be, average podcast download stats suggest that 4683 new episode downloads in 30 days would put your show in the top 1% of podcasts. So, hypothetically, you’d need to get your show in the top 1% of podcasts then pretty much 10x your growth to earn a living this way.
It’s not impossible, but that’s one hell of a mountain to climb.
If you have a small but hardcore audience built around a niche topic, there might be a very expensive product that your listeners are interested in. This in turn may lead to a higher-value sponsorship than a standard CPM model. But it still might not generate enough revenue for you to earn a living from.
Product & Service Sales
Instead of getting paid to advertise other people’s stuff, some podcasters create their own products or services.
For example, through our podcast, Podcraft, we learned that many aspiring and early-stage podcasters really struggle with editing and production. So we created our ‘podcast maker’ tool Alitu to solve that problem for them.
Or, let’s say a podcaster runs a show on bodybuilding, financial wellness, or parenting. They might get into a position where listeners will pay for one-on-one or group coaching with them.
In these situations, earning a living becomes much more realistic. But does this technically mean the product or service is paying the bills, not the podcast? Or is this just splitting hairs?
To flip this on its head, many aspiring podcasters already have a product or service they’re selling, and they’ve started a podcast as a new way to promote it. 34% of respondents also told us they want their show ‘to make people aware of their business or brand’. Whatever way round you do it, the ‘problem > solution’ approach is as solid a monetization strategy as you’re likely to find.
How to Make Money From Your Podcast
Though making a full living from your podcast alone might be unattainable for most people, there are still loads of ways you can create a bunch of diverse income streams that will at least give you a decent second income.
For example, you can make money through paid podcast subscriptions, affiliate marketing, offering premium exclusive content, or using donation platforms like Patreon.
In fact, there are so many different ways to monetize your podcast that we have a whole guide dedicated to helping you get started.