Want To Make Money Podcasting? Get An Audience!


(By Dave Jackson) People ask if they should launch a crowdfunding campaign with their podcast, and while there are no “rules” in podcasting I feel focusing on monetization before your audience is asking you “Do you have a Patreon or PayPal account?” may be a misstep.

Let me illustrate with a story.

Bobby wants a puppy
Bobby loves Shi-tzu dogs. He had one as a child and would love to have another one. Bobby doesn’t make much money and to get a pure-bread Shi-tzu costs quite a bit.

So what does Bobby need? He needs money.

What does Bobby do?

He spends time going to the pet store looking at all the toys.
He looks at all the hair accessories and brushes.
He spends money on dog grooming class.
He spends time looking at all the great beds in wonderful colors.
He spends a night on the Internet researching the best dog food.
He spends a lot of time watching Shi-Tzu videos on YouTube.
He spends some time going over the collars and leashes figuring out which one would be the best for his dog some day.

For me, this is a bit like Patreon. Patreon is a great platform for those who have a really engaged crowd. It is, after all, a crowdfunding platform. I see people spending huge amounts of time agonizing about what perks to fit at what levels. They get disappointed at the lack of numbers. They might even quit doing their podcast. If you were to look at their activity, a large amount of time was spent in their Patreon dashboard — not because it’s hard to set up, but because it is what they are focused on — when they should be focused on growing their audience.

Meanwhile, they just published episode four.

What Bobby should do…
If Bobby had taken all the time he spent at grooming class, at the pet store, researching dog food, watching YouTube, looking at leashes, toys, and more he could have delivered pizzas, driven for Uber, etc.

Bobby would’ve had enough money to buy his dog.

Step one of having a dog is get a dog.

Step one of crowdfunding is get a crowd.

If Bobby had taken the steps to get the money, he would have a dog. Then he could add all those other things later. He might be able to go to a thrift store and get them much cheaper. Then, in the meantime, he would have the love and joy of having a dog. The joy that the dog brings him would inspire him to save money and get those extra items because the dog was worth it.

A podcaster could start because they have a passion and love talking about their subject. If they deliver value, they may receive feedback, make connections, and start to build a community. They could buy their gear on eBay. This community fuels them until the community is large enough to monetize. Instead of spending tons of time trying to monetize to nobody, they could be spending that time creating amazing content that would inspire their listeners to tell a friend.

While there are plenty of people who say “I don’t have the money,” there are many who say that sipping their Starbucks coffee. I use to drink two 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew a day at work ($1.50 each). That adds up to $60 a month. If money is so tight that the $30 a month it takes to run a podcast will potentially stop you from paying your bills, go get a job — not a podcast. You pay for things with one of two things: time or money. Which one you have the most of is what you use for currency.

Patreon has said on their blog that you can expect 1-5% of your audience will become patrons. So if you have an engaged audience of 100, expect three-ish people to sign up. If you’re doing it for the sole purpose of making money quickly, don’t. Let me save you some time. Don’t. It just doesn’t work that way. Sure, there are people who say that you can make money from day one. Those are the people who put generic ads on your show that pay (not making this up) .0017 cents per download. If you are lucky enough to have 300 downloads you will make 51 cents.

For me, setting up a Patreon when you don’t have an audience is like fertilizing the ground when you haven’t purchased the flowers. It’s buying the Hershey’s chocolate syrup when you don’t have the ice cream. It’s buying the peanut butter and jelly when you don’t have the bread. (OK, I think you get my point.)

Dave Jackson is a 2018 Podcaster’s Hall of Fame Inductee and the founder of the School of Podcasting. He is also the author of the book More Podcast Money, and a featured speaker at podcasting events.