Move over, P.T. Barnum. Make way, Sarah Bernhardt. Today, anyone can make an income being a headliner thanks to the upsurge in popularity of the humble online podcast.
Though podcasting has been around for more than 20 years, it’s only recently begun to take off. Just how big is the podcast scene? Spotify boasts no fewer than five million titles. Apple Podcasts promises millions as well. And those are just two of the many places to find podcasts to whet your appetite.
Here’s the thing, though: You aren’t relegated to just listening to podcasts. Thanks to the low barrier to entry, you can work your way to the top of the podcasting charts and start earning an online income. Plenty of podcasters with significant followings have hit the big time. Had you heard of Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark before 2016? Maybe not — the duo’s rise to fame was on the spectacular success of their My Favorite Murder podcast.
In other words, your next side hustle might be behind a shiny new microphone setup. And the hustle could net you a pretty penny. Although not every podcaster gains traction with listeners, many do. If you’re able to monetize your popularity, you can enjoy a sustainable online income stream. Who wouldn’t want an extra few hundreds (or thousands) flowing into your account every month?
What’s the catch? Only that you have to put some measures into place to increase your chances of doing well. You can’t just set up a podcast and hope all goes well. Planning is essential, starting with seven of the biggest podcasting must-dos and must-haves.
1. Name and claim your topic area
Every solid, memorable podcast focuses on a particular subject matter. It doesn’t matter what the subject is — politics, sports, midwifery. Anything goes. You just have to bring some interest and passion to your show.
This is very important and shouldn’t be trivialized. Unless you care about something deeply, don’t make it the core focus of your podcast. You need to be able to create multiple episodes, after all. Therefore, write down what interests you and try not to hold back.
Once you have a bulky list of potential things to discuss on your podcast, start labeling them. Which are most intriguing to you? Which would offer the most opportunities for tangential topics? Are there any that would be easy to get guests for? Eventually, you’ll hit upon something that makes sense — and maybe be a bit provocative like some top podcasters.
2. Research similar podcasts
Guess what? You can’t come up with a great podcast title yet. Sure, you’ve figured out your preferred topic. However, you don’t want to enter a red sea with lots of competition. In order to drive an online income from it, you want your topic to be differentiated in some way. The best way to do that is to know what other podcasts are out there.
Spend a couple of weeks listening to podcast shows with subjects related to the one(s) you’ve chosen. Take notes on what you’re hearing. What’s the show’s format? How do they present the topic area? Hopefully, you’ll realize that there are a few gaps that you can leverage.
For example, let’s say that you want to talk about dogs. That’s a broad subject. Accordingly, you narrow it down to dogs representing larger breeds. But wait: After conducting some research, you see that you’re still not going to stand out with a large dog breed show. Unless, of course, your podcast features some aspect of large dog breeds that few other podcasters are discussing. Maybe it’s end-of-life considerations or training for older large-breed pooches. The objective is to present a fresh spin on your subject.
3. Publish on the right platform
You can go many publishing routes when you’re a podcaster. However, you won’t make as much money if you’re not on a platform that’s going to help you. Not all platforms are built the same, particularly if you’re hosting a podcast to augment your income. Your job is to find one that makes the process as streamlined as possible.
Take ShowPlatform, for example. The site features 35 modules set up to assist with everything from managing guests to building a website. (More on advertising later, by the way.) By investing in an all-in-one platform, you’re making life simpler. You’re also taking the guesswork out of trying to turn on a podcasting income stream.
Ideally, look for software with a free trial period. Even if you don’t actually upload and publish your first podcast during the trial, you’ll have time to investigate. Learn the software ins and outs so you can quickly get your podcast up and running every time.
4. Buy decent equipment
Forget about having to outfit a room in your house with soundproof flooring and walls. And toss the notion that you’ll go broke buying podcasting equipment. Just go for middle-of-the-road tools that you won’t be paying off for months on your credit card. As long as you have a somewhat insulated room — yes, walk-in closets count — you’ll sound decent.
What equipment do you need to get started? Obviously, you’ll want a mic. Remember the earphones, too. You need to be able to hear yourself. From there, you should order an audio mixer. While not absolutely necessary, pop filters will remove scratchy and annoying sounds.
Some equipment suppliers like Shure and RODE offer all-in-one podcasting kits. Buying in bulk has its pros and cons, though. On the one hand, everything should work well out of the box. On the other hand, you don’t get to be selective. Just don’t go extremely cheap. You want your podcast to sound as professional as your budget will allow. Adding a video element can be a nice addition, but you may not be ready to invest in videography equipment right away.
5. Decide on a format
Podcasting consistency on all levels will encourage more people to tune in to your episodes. Consistency isn’t just about publishing your podcasts regularly, however. It’s about having a systematic framework that all your podcasts follow.
As an example, you might want to start all your podcasts with an overview of the angle you’ll be covering. Just give a taste so people know what they’re about to hear. Hit the 35,000-foot overview. You’ll dive into the weeds later on either with a solo setup or perhaps with a guest or panel of guests. Then, you could do a quick wrap-up.
Having a regular format for your show gives it personality, punch, and predictability. Record one or two podcasts after determining what kind of setup appeals to you. Afterward, listen to them. Do you still like the way everything’s arranged? Or do you feel you should switch up your original format? Making changes before you have too many podcasts online will get you to your podcasting “sweet spot” faster.
6. Bring in advertisers
When you start to get some traction with audiences, think about becoming an influencer. Many brands are willing to advertise with podcasting influencers. You’ll need to show that you’re an attractive match, of course. Buzzsprout suggests you should have no fewer than 200 downloads to snag a sponsor. Obviously, the higher your provable listenership, the more you can ask.
You won’t get rich instantly by bringing aboard advertisers. A standard rate is around $18 per 1,000 impressions per Influencer Marketing Hub. That means you’ll need to up your game to start seeing more online income revenue. But what better incentive to improve your show than to know your efforts will literally pay off?
As with setting up and publishing your podcast, you can use different platforms to connect with advertisers. There’s nothing wrong with asking entrepreneurial friends if they want to sponsor your show as well. They might say yes. And if the fit is right, it could benefit you both.
7. Develop your online presence
Social media and the Internet have made it incredibly streamlined to get your podcast noticed. You can’t just set up a website (mentioned above) and business social account and expect it to attract people. You need to stay up to date with SEO and social media trends. Otherwise, you’re basically ignoring would-be listeners (a.k.a., the people helping you make your online income.)
While you definitely need some kind of website, you only need to be on one or two social sites. It’s very hard to control your social posting on more platforms. Unless you don’t have a day job, take away your stressors and just choose a couple of social sites. The best ones to pick are those where your target audience “lives”. For instance, maybe you’re trying to reach the estimated half of all podcast listeners ages 35+. In that case, Facebook is going to have your back. TikTok? Not so much.
In addition to staying active with all your online accounts, be sure to use them to connect with readers. You can’t just post and disappear over and over. To become a podcast other people want to tune into, you have to interact. If you can’t find the time, you may need to outsource the role to someone else on an hourly basis.
Entering the gig economy isn’t limited to driving for Uber Eats or opening an Etsy shop. With a bit of ingenuity and spirit, you could launch an online show to net you a nice, steady online income. It’s hard to imagine anything better than a hobby that more than pays for itself.
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