How To Make Money From Podcasting (Even With A Small Audience)

May 18, 2022

Make Money From Podcasting

Chris Hines is a podcaster, podcast monetization coach, and soon-to-be author. He helps podcasters of all levels monetize their show, regardless of the audience size. Listen to learn what to consider, where to focus, and what to do to find, attract and get sponsors for your podcast.

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The Biggest Podcast Monetization Myth

As far as podcast monetization is concerned, many podcasters believe they need to have 5,000 or 10,000 downloads an episode but that isn’t the case.

Chris said it, you can monetize even if you only have 500 downloads each episode. Those 500 people may be people who support your brand, so if you were to sell to just 10 of them at $100 a piece, you would be making $1,000 in a month.

You don’t need a high number of downloads to make money with your show. In fact, according to Chris, you should think about podcast monetization as you launch your show. Ask yourself ‘How am I going to monetize my show?’ from day one.

Chris Hines

Chris’ First $ With Podcasting

Over the years, Chris has successfully monetized multiple shows.

When thinking about the first time he did it, his mind blows. He had launched a music podcast where he would talk about music along with a buddy of his.

They went to a company and discussed the idea, proposing segments in which they were going to interview artists too.

The company really liked the concept, so Chris and his co-host invited them to sponsor the show. They could promote concerts and sell tickets – they eventually came up with the agreement of $150 per episode, and this happened before episode one was even published!

And not only that but they managed to agree on a 2-month package of two episodes a week at $150 an episode… and this was before Chris even had an artwork for his podcast.


The Top 5% of Podcasters Make Money

True, only the top 5% of podcasters are actually making money from their podcast, says Chris, but it’s important to have a positive mindset.

“Saying to yourself ‘I can’t get a sponsor and I won’t make money until I reach this number of downloads’ is going to lead to exactly that. It’s not going to happen. You CAN start to monetize on day ONE of your podcast!”

Don’t be one of those podcasters who’s obsessively looking at stats and refresh their analytics pages. Think about how you can monetize your show instead.

Chris’ mission is to help that 95% of podcasters who aren’t making money with their show – whether you want to make $100, $1,000 or $10,000 a month.

Podcast Sponsoring is Attracting Companies

In reading articles on a monthly basis, Chris always keeps himself up to date with what’s happening in the industry. 

It’s quite impressive to think that in January 2022 alone, HelloFresh spent something like $14 million in podcast advertising.

And other companies too, like GEICO, VPN services, and BetterHelp, are spending millions of dollars.

To you, this means that there are monetization opportunities out there. It does take time but it’s doable.


3 Podcast Monetization Tiers

There are 3 different tiers Chris uses in his client work and that can help you understand where you are and what you should put your podcast monetization efforts toward.

The first is the beginner tier. That’s where everyone starts from. When you’re here, your main focus should be working with companies as an affiliate because you don’t have a lot of credibility just yet.

Without much of an audience, it’s going to be harder to get sponsored. So, what you want to do at this stage, is to look at companies that sell something your audience loves – be it software, clothing, books, or something else.

The second tier is the experience level. This is where you’ve published 25 or more episodes and have a clear system in place for your podcasting workflow.

You can focus on podcast sponsorships because brands will take you more seriously thanks to the content catalog you’ve produced. Some of the companies you’re an affiliate for could possibly become sponsors too.

The third tier is the advanced tier. This is where you’ve passed the 100-episode mark, have built a community and have a good network of connections in your industry and market.

This is where not only you should be focused on getting sponsors of a certain caliber but you should consider creating your own products and services to serve your audience.

Each tier has its own strategy so it’s important for you to begin the process by understanding which tier you’re in – beginner, experience, advanced – and then knowing what to focus on.

Some beginner podcasters, for instance, focus on creating a course without actually asking themselves ‘Who’s going to buy my course?’. What they should do at that stage isn’t building a course but finding companies to be an affiliate for and focus on producing their show and building a community around it. 

For an experienced podcast (with 25+ episodes), on the other hand, it makes more sense to think about a course. Pre-selling it to the audience to see whether the topic resonates and whether people would buy it or not is going to be an easy way to jumpstart that process without actually having to immediately build the course.

Pre-sales first, course-creation second.


How to Be a Remarkable Affiliate

When it comes to being an affiliate, you don’t want to be an anonymous one. Chris, for instance, emails the company, connects with it and its CEO on LinkedIn and Twitter.

This is a great way to stand out. Even if they don’t work together, the company and its key decision-makers are going to know who Chris is. It’s a long-term game.

Think that Chris connected with Røde Microphones back in 2018 but they didn’t work together until 2021. It takes time, patience and some effort, but it does work.


What Podcasters Need to Know About Dynamic Ads

Dynamic ads work in a similar way than commercials. The hosting platform will connect with a brand and invite them to become an advertiser for their network of X number of podcasts (for example 20,000 podcasts) for a certain amount of dollars. All with a minimum number of downloads guaranteed.

As the host, you get paid a percentage of that but it’s a very small percentage… That’s why, when you go the commercial route, you typically don’t generate as much revenue.

Ads with other sponsors, on the other hand, are different because you have built a relationship with the sponsor. You connect with the company and focus on getting a deal with them.


How NOT to Approach Potential Sponsors

Chris warns against simply finding a company you’d like to be a sponsor and sending them a DM on Twitter or Instagram saying ‘Hey, I have this podcast, you should check it and sponsor it!’.

That’s the worst approach…


How to Find and Approach Potential Sponsors

For Chris, the best approach to finding potential sponsors for your show is to compile a list of 500 companies and divide it into 3 categories:

– Big Brands (100 out of the 500 companies): companies like Apple, Google, Nike, etc. You probably aren’t going to get them to sponsor your show but contacting them is still a good idea. You’re probably going to get a response, even if it isn’t the one you were hoping for, but that’s progress anyway.

– Small Businesses (200 out of the 500 companies): these are brands that we know exist but aren’t as big as the top companies listed above. You can find them by doing Google searches for terms like ‘Top 10 Brands for Apparel’, ‘Top 10 Brands for Coaches’, etc. You can use Google, the Better Business Bureau’s website or even use social media to look inside at your particular market and find their business pages.

– Companies That Are Already Sponsoring Podcasts (200 out of the 500 companies): don’t think of other podcasters as ‘Oh, that’s competition!’ Because these sponsors are looking to get a bigger market share. Your podcast represents an additional opportunity for them, and they love it. You can look at companies that are already sponsoring YouTubers too.


What to Offer Sponsors as a Podcaster

As a podcaster, it does make sense to offer your show to sponsors, particularly by focusing on the so-called pre-roll and mid-roll – Chris doesn’t recommend putting much emphasis on the post-roll because very few people typically listen to it.

You shouldn’t stop there, though.

Chances are, you have an email list, perhaps a Facebook group too. So why not offer every piece of your “digital real estate” as long as it makes sense?

And remember: every sponsor is different so it’s a good idea for you to keep that in mind.

Chris doesn’t suggest offering the same package – with the same pricing – to different potential sponsors, one with a $500 budget and one with a $3,000 one. Craft an offer that’s tailored to that particular company and make it as compelling and relevant as possible.


Gold in Facebook Groups..? 

When talking about podcast sponsorships and Facebook groups, there are two routes to consider.

The first one is to offer a promotion inside your own Facebook community, if you have one.

If not, there’s a golden nugget Chris has been implementing time and time again. Make a list of Facebook groups whose members you think would be a target customer for a potential podcast sponsor.

Then, get in touch with the admin and negotiate the opportunity to publish a couple of promotional posts, showcasing the podcast sponsor, in exchange for some money.

Let’s say a sponsor paid you $1,000 and you’d offer $100 to a Facebook group admin for 2-3 posts. You’d still have $900 all to yourself. 

Podcast monetization is really a space that has plenty of opportunities for you. It’s about having the right attitude, understanding that it’s a long-term game and that you’ll have to actually put some work in… but once you do, and you do that consistently, you’re going to see results.

If you’d like to connect with Chris, you can do so on Twitter or Instagram over @ChrisPodcasting. And don’t forget, his book The Business of Podcasting comes out on May 28th, you can pre-order your copy now!

About Chris

Chris Hines is a true veteran of the podcast industry. Currently hosting the Business of Podcasting and the Personal Branding Playbook, you can always rely on Chris to give you the details on growing and monetizing shows. He even helps podcasters build incredible products to make their personal brands profitable. Chris has generated over $50,000 through podcast sponsorships working with some of the biggest brands in the world. He’s spoke at events such as Podfest, the Outlier Podcast Festival and much more! You can always reach out and connect with Chris to grow or monetize your show!

Resources mentioned: 

Chris’ website

Chris on Twitter and Instagram

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