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Joe: Now let’s get on with the show. Hey, everybody, Joe Casabona here. Welcome, welcome to Episode 188 of How I Built It. We’re gonna talk about four ways to monetize your podcast today. This episode is brought to you by Yes Plz Coffee, TextExpander, and iThemes you’ll learn about them later on in the show. But first, here’s what you’re going to learn about in the bulk of the show today. It’s four ways to monetize your podcast.
I know that a lot of people have been interested in starting a podcast, but there are some barriers to entry. How much will it cost? Will it be a waste of my time? Will I be yelling into the void? What if it takes away from paid work? And I’m here to tell you that there are lots of ways to make money with your podcast. Sponsorship is not the only way. It might not even be the best way. So we’ll get into those four ways. They are sponsorship lead generation, crowdfunding, and membership. But before we do that, how about a word from our first sponsor Yes Plz Coffee.
Sponsors: This episode is brought to you by Yes Plz Coffee. Upgrade your morning with Yes Plz. This fantastic coffee subscription will send freshly roasted beans to your door with no fuss. Pick your size and how often you need beans and they’ll ship you a unique blend of expertly sourced and roasted coffee beans. I’ve been drinking Yes Plz Coffee for a few weeks now and I have been loving it.
Each week I get to try a new blend of flavors that helps me mix up my mornings. And the best part is I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have to go to some new roasters website, look at all the flavors and wonder if I’m actually going like it or not, and then finally order. Every week, Yes Plz just send me coffee, and it’s new and different, and delicious.
Each shipment even comes with an info card about the beans and some other information, like playlist and extra stuff that I just enjoy getting in the mail with my coffee. So if you’re ready to upgrade your mornings with unique blends of coffee beans, sign up today. Head over to HowIBuilt.it/yes, and use the code HIBI for $5 off your subscription. And don’t worry if you’re going on vacation or you have a little too much some weeks, you can skip shipments or cancel anytime. Again, upgrade your mornings with coffee, great coffee from Yes Plz at Howibuilt.it/yes, and use the code HIBI for $5 off. Fantastic, delicious coffee beans shipped right to you.
And now back to the show.
Joe: All right. So thanks again to Yes Plz for sponsoring this episode and most of the season. I’ve been drinking their coffee all summer long. It’s great. It’s light. It’s a little fruity. I love it. It’s fantastic. Okay, let’s get into our first way to make money which you just heard it. It’s sponsorship. Sponsorship is having brands pay for an ad during your podcast episode. So this is the most common one way. I shouldn’t say the most common, I should say it’s the most visible way. When you think of podcasts that make money, you probably think about the sponsorship dollars that go towards that podcast.
So this is a difficult road for getting funding but it is the most obvious. It’s a way that a lot of people explore. So what do you do if you want to get sponsors? The first thing you need to do is have a pitch deck. I make mine public over on howibuilt.it/sponsors. You should have information about your show, the number of downloads, your target audience, and pricing.
Before you start thinking about the high dollar amounts that your podcast could be worth, you should reach out to brands that you have a personal relationship with or brands that you really use. The first few episodes of my podcast I had sponsored by hosting companies or WordPress plugins that I had a relationship with or I used.
You should also start low. Again, before you start thinking, oh, maybe a spa is worth $300 or $400, start at $25 or $50. The reason you do that is because that’s nearly always yes money, right? If you find the right brands, and you have that line up with who their target audience is and who you talk to, $25 or $50 is a no brainer. Especially if you take my advice of leveraging your entire audience and not just your listeners. This is known as calculating your overall reach.
So if you have a podcast with 20 downloads a week, but you have a mailing list with 1000 people a week, or you have a Twitter following of 3,000 people, then you combine those numbers, and you say, “Hey, my podcast is going to reach—I forgot what I said—4,020 people. So that is how you calculate your overall reach and leverage your entire audience and add even more value to that low dollar sponsorship.
If you are going to have sponsorships, or you’re going to pursue sponsor money, then make sure you install analytics on your website from day one. Now, Podtrac, I’ll link that in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/188, Podtrac is a good podcast focused analytics platform. It’ll give you I think accurate download numbers as well as demographics. But if you have a website for your podcast, and you should, you should also try installing Google Analytics or the facebook pixel because that will give you even more analytics. It’ll give you breakdown by age, by gender, potentially by occupation. Again, these are all things that sponsors might want to know. So to recap the sponsor, getting sponsors reach out to brands, you have a relationship, start really low $25 or $50, have a pitch deck with information about your podcast, leverage your audience and install analytics.
But again, sponsorship can be really hard because you’re trying to convince brands to give you money to promote their product. And starting low works for a little while but eventually, you’re going to want to raise those rates. And as you raise those rates, then people will need to figure out if they’re getting a return on their investment. So the longer you go on with sponsorship, if you are not growing your show fast enough or if your sponsors aren’t seeing the return that they thought they would, maybe there’s a mismatch, those sponsors are going to fall off and you’re going to have to be in this continuous sales cycle.
Something else you might try is lead generation. Lead generation is selling your own products or services through your podcast by establishing yourself as an authority. So how do you get leads from your podcast when you don’t have a direct signup? Well, at the top of this show, and if you’ve been listening for a while at the top of many of the shows since at least the summer, you might have heard me come in early before we actually start the show with a call to action to sign up for my mailing list Build Something Weekly. That is a clear call to action for you. I tell you the benefits and I tell you how to do it.
Building your mailing list is the best way for you to generate leads. You need to have that clear call to action at the top and bottom of your show. But aside from that, you also need to establish yourself as an authority on whatever you’re selling. So if you are selling a product on how to build bicycles, your podcast really shouldn’t be about your favorite birds because that doesn’t tell people you know what you’re talking about. If you have a service, or a course, or a product, where you help people build bicycles, your podcast needs to show people how much you know about building bicycles.
So as you are generating leads, this could be for products or services, make sure that you build your list by having a compelling opt-in to get people to sign up, make it based on your episodes. So for example, in my podcast-based episodes, I will tell you to sign up at a specific place. And maybe you’ll get a free checklist for launching your podcast. That would show Hey, Joe knows what he’s talking about podcasting, and I get this freebie. Then you build your list based on that.
Make sure to keep that list warm too. Don’t just have people sign up, and then whenever you’re ready to sell to them email them. Because if you wait too long, and this has probably happened to you before, you get an email from somebody and you’re like, “Who is this person?” So build your mailing list, email them weekly. If you have a podcast, it could just be, “Hey, the latest episode is out. Here’s what you’ll learn.” But even better, it will add personality, it’ll include that podcast episode, and it will continue to help you establish your authority on whatever you’re selling.
So build your list, have a clear call to action, have a compelling opt-in to get people to sign up. If you are selling products, you should still build your list. You could say go to my store. But you should still build your list. Because again, your list is going to be the thing that helps keep you top of mind for those subscribers. And the enticing thing might be a discount. Say, “Hey, if you are interested in my bike building products, then sign up for my mailing list, get a 15% discount, and get even more tips and tricks for how to build bicycles.”
Again, with your newsletter, be consistent. Keep it regular. It doesn’t have to be every day. It could be every week or every two weeks. Just as long as you are frequent enough to keep you at the top of people’s mind. Your call to action should be again consistent every week top and bottom of the show. Because your podcast itself might not convert. Maybe people don’t listen every single week. Maybe they only listen to the episodes that jump out at them. But if you have that consistent call to action and they sign up for your mailing list, now they’re inviting you into their mailbox, and you can show up every week, they will at least see your name.
So that’s lead generation. And I should say that building your list no matter what you’re doing with any of these including sponsorship, building your list is so important because it’s the way that you talk directly to your listeners. So that’s really important.
Let’s get into crowdfunding. That’s the third one. But before that, here is a word from our next sponsor.
Sponsors: This episode is brought to you by iThemes. Did you know that 60% of website breaches occur because a vulnerability could have been patched but wasn’t? That means having software with known vulnerabilities installed on your site gives hackers the blueprint they need to take over your site. Every day it gets harder and harder to keep track of every disclosed WordPress vulnerability. You have to compare that list to your plugins and themes by version and make sure you’re constantly updating.
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iThemes Security Pro also includes a ton of other features to help you keep the bad guys out. Brute force protection, two-factor authentication, password list logins, uncompromised password protection. Plus, a whole lot more to keep you safe. If you want to start securing your sites today, head over to howibuilt.it/ithemes to get the best WordPress security plugin to secure and protect WordPress. iThemes is giving How I Built It listeners a 20% discount by using the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout. Again, that’s howibuilt.it/ithemes. That’s howibuilt.it/ithemes, and use the code “HOWIBUILTIT” at checkout for 20% off.
And now back to the show.
Joe: And we are back. So let’s talk crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is or memberships, either one of those, they’re basically the same for the purposes of this topic, is getting your listeners to pay for bonus content. So what you would do is your members or your listeners would subscribe to your podcast monetarily, maybe they pay, let’s say five bucks a month and they get member benefits. So this could be like ad-free episodes, bonus segments or bonus episodes, members only newsletters behind the scenes content. Whatever makes sense for you and your show and your audience.
I think this is actually the hardest one. Because with sponsorships, you’re probably reaching out to companies that have a budget for such things. With lead generation, it’s a longer slower build but you’re hopefully attracting warm leads people that are interested in your products or services. With crowdfunding, you’re reaching out to an audience that might not be keen on the idea of paying for content that they’re getting for free. So you need to have a big following or lots of loyal followers.
Again, building that list will help. Take it from me, I thought when I hit 100,000 downloads lifetime, I could just roll out my Patreon and the money would start coming in. It did not start coming in. I made a lot of mistakes there. One is I didn’t warm up the audience, I didn’t have a big enough audience at that time for people to want to pitch in, and I didn’t make the benefits clear.
So if you’re going to do this, make sure you warm up your audience, make sure you build your list because those people are listening and then opting in. Again, those are the people who are most interested in what you have to say. Make sure your benefits are super clear. What am I getting? What extra am I paying for? On that same token, really think about your benefits. Don’t just throw something together.
This is another mistake that I made. I just looked at other podcasts and YouTube channels. And I was like, “Yeah, I could do that.” But what I didn’t realize was I was adding a ton of work. If you’re doing everything for one subscriber, right, if you have no subscribers, if nobody crowd funds or becomes a member, you don’t have to do any of the extra work. But as soon as you get one, having to add, let’s say three to five hours of extra work a month for $5 minus whatever Patreon takes is dejecting. So when you think about your benefits, think about the things that are low effort for you, high value for your listeners.
There are a few platforms that will help you do this. Patreon is the most popular one, but Memberful has come out the gate with really targeting podcasters. So that’s something worth looking into especially if you want to have a private member’s only feed. Or you can, if you have a WordPress site, use a membership plugin. I am over on my YouTube channel at some point, and in the podcast Liftoff Course, I am exploring how I can add a “members” area with a members only feed using Wishlist Member.
So crowdfunding can be hard. I think it’s the hardest one because you need to have a bigger audience or you need to have a bunch of loyal listeners. You need to build up that membership and really make the value worth it. Then you need to make sure the benefits you’re offering are worth the amount of time you’re putting into the membership for both you and your members. If you just have a bunch of crummy benefits, then people aren’t going to support you for very long. So that’s a tricky dance. The great thing is that you can get feedback from your members. If they’re paying monthly for access to you, then they’re probably willing to give feedback. So keep that in mind as well.
There’s one more that I saved purposely for last because I think it’s the lowest barrier to entry. But before we get into that, let’s hear from our last sponsor.
Sponsors: Today’s episode is brought to you by Smile and their product TextExpander. Save time typing and boost your productivity with TextExpander. You know I’m all about automation, and TextExpander is a great way to get started with automation. It allows you to create your own snippets for a repetitive text that you tend to use everywhere. Add the text, create the snippet, and boom. Save precious time and keystrokes. One of my favorite snippets is for my address. So instead of typing out my full address and risking typos, I simply type #addr and my TextExpander does the rest, filling in my full address for me. I also have snippets for my street, my city, and my zip code.
I also use it for common links, email messages, which I can completely customize with fill-ins and drop-down menus, and even date calculations. I’m currently writing a book and TextExpander has been instrumental with that. TextExpander is available on Mac OS, Windows, Chrome, iPhone, and iPad. So pretty much anywhere you do computing. If you’ve been curious about trying TextExpander or automation in general, now’s the time. As a listener, you can get 20% off your first year. Just visit TextExpander.com/podcast and let them know How I Built It sent to you. That is TextExpander.com/podcast for 20% off your first year.
Now back to the show.
Joe: Okay, we are back. I just teased you by saying, hey, here’s the easiest one. Of course, maybe I didn’t tease you because I mentioned it at the top of the show. So far we’ve talked about sponsorships, we’ve talked about lead gen or lead generation. We’ve talked about crowdfunding/memberships. But there is one more way that I recommend where you can make money off of your show. And that’s affiliate income. You can add affiliate links to your show, and your show notes.
I think this is the easiest path, the lowest barrier to entry to get started, not necessarily to make a ton of money. With anything that’s worth it in life, you’re not going to make money overnight. But you can start generating some income today with affiliate income. So if you’re not familiar with affiliate income or affiliate links, you recommend products and tools on your show. You have a special link where the company you’re recommending tracks the sales back to you and then you get a small commission for the recommendation. So you can recommend products and tools on your show and add affiliate links. If you have guests on your show, you can link to their products with affiliate links.
This is great because if you already have a show or show notes, you can go back and update your show or your show notes with affiliate links. Also, you should have show notes and transcripts. Those are great for SEO and they’re great for placing affiliate links.
So implementing affiliate links. First of all, you do need to have an affiliate disclosure. So you need to say somewhere on your website where you’re embedding the affiliate links “This site uses affiliate links.” If you have an affiliate link spoken in the show, make sure to mention that it’s an affiliate link in the show and let people know you get a kickback. But it probably will not affect the cost to them. That’s how most affiliate programs work.
When you have that disclosure, there are a couple of other things. Make sure you have speakable URLs. Most affiliate links are unspeakable messes. So you should use a redirect service like Bitly or if you have a WordPress plugin, I use ThirstyAffiliates. I think it’s fantastic because it also auto links certain terms in the show notes and transcripts, which cuts down on the amount of work for me. So I’m a big fan of affiliate links for that reason.
Again, you’re not going to make a ton of money, at least starting out. But for me, it’s been a pretty slow build. This year has been very kind to me. What you should do is look at products or services that you use, and see if there is an affiliate program for you to join. So I just mentioned for example, ThirstyAffiliates. They have an affiliate program. The link in the show notes for this episode will have an affiliate link to their service.
If you’re having trouble coming up with stuff, there’s always like big box stores. Amazon has an affiliate program. Target has an affiliate program, WordPress and Squarespace and Shopify have affiliate programs. Hosting companies have affiliate programs and pay pretty generously. That’s the skinny on affiliate programs.
So if you want to start making money today, I would recommend start with affiliate links and start building your mailing list. Now, I should say here that this was a quick overview of what is going to be an hour or so of content, maybe more with the tutorials over in Podcast Liftoff. So if you’re interested in launching your podcast, yes, but also going more in-depth, like creating consistent content and specific ways that you can monetize your podcast, how to put together a pitch deck, how to use some of the tools that I’ve mentioned on this show, head over to podcastliftoff.com and sign up for the course.
Right now as I record this, it’s priced before the added content. And if you use the code “build” at checkout, you will get 15% off. So if you get it before October, let’s say before like October 10, you are getting the lowest possible price because when the modules are added, the price is going up. So you get the lower price with the discount “build” at checkout. Again, head over to podcastliftoff.com for that.
Outro: Thank you so much for listening to Episode 188 of How I Built It. We talked about ways to monetize your podcast. Thank you to our sponsors Yes Plz, TextExpander and iThemes. If you want to get everything that’s been mentioned on this episode, from the mailing list to tools and links to a link to Podcasts Liftoff with a discount code, head over to howibuilt.it/188. Thanks so much for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.