How Do Podcasts Make Money (+ how mine breaks the rules)

Podcasting can absolutely make you a ton of money–as long as you know which strategies to implement.  

In this post, I’ll guide you through some of the best ways to monetize your podcast effectively. I’ll also share my personal strategy for making a living off your podcast, and the best part is, it doesn’t require a massive number of listeners. 

So, get ready to explore the exciting world of podcast monetization and learn how you can create a sustainable income stream from your show. Let’s dive in!

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Table of Contents

What Your Podcast Needs to Make Money

money-from-podcast

Before we can dive into how podcasts make money, we first have to clarify what’s needed for a podcast to make money. 

Far too many people think they can just record an episode with poor audio quality, upload it, and start making it rain cash. But if you really want to make money with a podcast, there are a few basic things you’ll need.

1. High-quality Content

To monetize your podcast, exceptional content is key. With numerous podcasts out there, it’s crucial to find your unique positioning that sets you apart. That’s why I put a lot of thought into my podcast, realizing that there was a gap in the market—couples seeking guidance on money problems and finding clarity in their Rich Lives. This niche premise distinguishes my show from the sea of money-focused podcasts. Remember, invest effort into your podcast too. Discover your distinct angle, deliver valuable content, and stand out. This increases your chances of success and attracts the audience needed for monetization. 

2. Professional Equipment

It’s true that most podcasts fail. But when you consider that many wannabe podcasters are just speaking into an outdated iPhone and trying to upload the recording, you can clearly see why. Listen, you absolutely need to invest in professional podcast equipment. But that doesn’t mean you have to go all out and get overly extravagant. All you truly need are a few essentials: a good quality microphone, a decent pair of headphones, and reliable audio recording and editing software. Trust me, I’ve made these investments myself. Just take a look at my podcast episode below to see just how simple my setup is. 

“I make $300k but we might have to live in our car”

3. An Engaged Audience

If you want to make money with your podcast the traditional way, you definitely need to have an engaged audience. And I’m not talking about listeners who only listen once. No, you’ll need to have an audience that eagerly tunes in week after week. The key to achieving this is consistency. Whatever schedule you set for releasing episodes, you must stick to it religiously if you want to actually have dedicated listeners. And If you opt for the traditional methods to monetize, you’ll need a substantial number of loyal listeners before you can start making good money. However, I have a different approach that allows you to begin monetizing right away. Just take a look at the next section to delve deeper into my approach.

4. Have an Email List

This is the secret sauce that has allowed me to monetize my audience, even when I had just a handful of podcast episodes available. So while other podcasters wait years to build up a big enough audience to get sponsorships, I was able to monetize immediately since I followed a different (and more effective) strategy. When individuals join your email list, you gain ownership of the traffic. This means you have the power to pitch them whatever you want. In my case, I primarily sell courses to my audience. The best way to see how I do this is to actually join my email list which you can do here.  

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How to Make Money from Your Podcast

After you have everything you need to make money from your podcast, you need to focus on actually making the money. Fortunately, with podcasts, making money from them is pretty straightforward. There are really only a handful of ways to monetize. You just need to pick the strategy that works best for you. Let’s take a look at a few approaches.

1. Programmatic Ads

If you’re wanting a more streamlined and automated way to monetize your podcast, programmatic ads are a decent option. These ads are basically automatically added to your podcast based on an algorithm. When listeners hear the ad, you’ll be compensated for giving the company access to your listeners. The downside to this approach is that your revenue can fluctuate greatly so it’s not the best option for podcasters. 

2. Affiliate Marketing

Many podcasters like taking the Affiliate marketing approach when monetizing their podcast. This just means that they sell another company’s product, and when listeners purchase said product through the podcasts affiliate link, the podcast gets a cut of the sale. This approach is popular for a reason–it works really well. The only issue with this approach is that you need a significant amount of listeners if you want to make a substantial income. 

3. Sponsorships

Every day, more and more companies are jumping on the sponsorship bandwagon. So, if you have a dedicated listener base, it can definitely be a reliable money maker. But even though this is a tried and true model to monetize your podcast, there is a downside. To attract sponsorship from major companies, you’ll need a substantial number of downloads. So if you’re just getting started or haven’t really found your stride, you’re likely not in a position to start reaching out to companies to sponsor your podcast. 

4. Sell Physical Products

Are you even a real podcast if you don’t have merch? Many podcasts offer physical items to their listeners like tshirts, mugs, hats, etc. So if you have the type of podcast that would lend itself well to physical products (which is most of them), then this could be a good option for you to monetize. Just keep in mind that, like most of these other options, you need a good listener base for it to make a difference in your wallet. 

5. Sell Courses

This is my favorite way to monetize and is actually the way I monetize my own podcast. And the reason why I love courses so much is because you’re able to monetize your podcast immediately, even if you have less than 100 listeners. That’s because courses solve problems. And if your podcast is something that solves problems for listeners, it only makes sense to create a course that goes into more detail on the solution. My course Earnable actually teaches you how to build out this type of system so you can start monetizing your podcast the smart way. 

Should you monetize your podcast?

The answer to this question is straightforward. If you have everything in place to monetize your podcast, it’s worth exploring. The real question is which strategy to choose. There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as it aligns with your podcast’s theme. In my opinion, selling courses is the best option to start with. It has worked well for me, and if you need help getting started, my course Earnable will show you step by step how to set up a system for selling your own courses. 

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Written by

Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.