You can wait for existing revenue models to notice you, or you can make your own, right now.
I don’t care about the download numbers. Not anymore. The ratings, reviews, chart positions, none of it. For two years, I’ve cared about the numbers, thinking they were what would lead me to a space in time and in growth where earning a living from my podcast was a possibility. And maybe they would have in three more years, but I’m already two years down, and your host is done waiting. On January 1st, 2021, I am making massive changes to the way I publish my podcast and manage its social community. I am doing this because I can either wait for the numbers say I’m worthy of getting paid, or I can decide I was worthy of getting paid for my work all along. Welcome to Option B.
Every week, I host, record, edit, and publish A Single Serving Podcast, where it’s my goal to change the negative narratives around being single, so that single people can stop wasting time feeling like shit and more time noticing we get the whole bed. It has been, for an out-of-nowhere independent effort, pretty damned successful. Peaking at #11 on the Apple Podcasts chart for Relationships and #6 on the same chart in Great Britain, she’s the little podcast that could, but I think she can do a lot more.
I host guests on my podcast each week, and we talk about things like how being single doesn’t actually suck and maybe online dating deserves to die a swift death, especially when the society pressuring us to partner up boasts a 50% divorce rate that its hypocrisy loves to ignore. I work to change the narratives around being single in the hopes that single people feel better about themselves, and…perhaps idealistically, society stops making them feel terrible, too. My podcast launched on April 8th of 2019, and its growth has been entirely organic ever since. My goal for the podcast has always been twofold. First, help people. And second, earn a living helping people. We’re good on the first, but the second goal has been a taller order.
A lot of this has to do with the truths involved in making podcasts as independent creators who aren’t publishing on platforms like Wondery, Dear Media, etc.. It is an amazing thing, the ability to create a podcast on your own and make it real, but earning money via that podcast entirely on your own can present challenges.
You can google “how to make money podcasting” and within nanoseconds (is that still what they’re called?) you’ll have 27 dudes telling you all about how to monetize your podcast using ad services that operate on a scale that relates to the size of your listener base and typically earns you about .67 cents per episode. You can also reach out to brands individually with no guarantee that all the time and effort you spent doing that is going to net you a profit, or you can join platforms that connect podcasters with people who want to advertise on podcasts. But at the end of the day, due to CPM advertising models used in podcasting, even these options are only going to make actual money for people who are pulling in 10K+ listeners per episode. After two years of podcasting once a week and seeing consistent organic growth, these days I’m pulling in about half that. If you’re wondering if my podcast is any good, here’s a look at its growth over time in terms of downloads.
Image via Buzzsprout.
There is one caveat to all the revenue frustrations in podcasting however. There’s one way to be instantly successful and revenue generating from the very first day your podcast exists: Be famous. Celebrity podcasts are instant hits. There’s no way around it, and there’s no way for us normals to compete with it. In the podcast space, you can strive for those chart spots all you want, but more likely than not, a celebrity who launched their podcast two weeks ago is going to beat you there. It is what it is, so I’ve decided to devise my own revenue model that is NOT.
I took all these things into account, the minimal earnings available through advertisements, the insurmountable competition from celebrities, and that fact that after two years and 400K organically earned podcast downloads, I still wasn’t getting paid for the job that was taking up the majority of my time. I decided that if there wasn’t a structure out there that could support me, I’d make a new one.
Starting January 1st, 2020, my podcast will publish for free once a month to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, etc., instead of four to five times per month. All remaining weekly episodes will still be published, but they will only be accessible via my Patreon, at the $5 per month tier and up. Additionally, my podcast’s Facebook group, which has organically grown to over 3,000 members in 20 months, will be shut down, and in its place, all Patreon Patrons at the $5 per month tier and up will be given access to a new Facebook group, where the community will continue.
Will my new model work? I really hope so. Because I want to keep podcasting forever, but I’ve reached the limit of work I can create for free. I like to think I have evidence this is a good idea. I find it in the emails, DMs, and comments from people who have found and consumed my work, and felt better about their single lives as a result. I think any time we create something people need, want, or enjoy consuming, we’re doing something right, and I happen to believe that our work is worth paying for, despite an internet that raised us all to take things for free. I also think we should get paid for our work before our podcast has grown from nothing into something that can compete with J*e R*gan. Because that could take a lifetime.
So onward, creatives, into a wild new structure, one that gives more agency and ownership to the creator who wants to be paid for her work and doesn’t want to wait years for the existing models to validate her desire. Whether you’re creating a podcast or some other original work of value, if you want it to be your living, make it so. And if the world hasn’t yet come up with a way to make it happen, you can feel frustrated and angry, or you can figure out something new that works. This is the internet. We can do whatever we want.