You’ve got a voice and a lot to say. Now you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is. If you’ve started a podcast for fun, or are considering doing so, and you think it’s got the potential to gain attention and bring in some cash, now is the right time to turn your podcast into a business. With 104 million monthly listeners in the U.S. tuning in to close to 2 million available podcasts, according to Podcast Insights, there’s a growing opportunity to monetize your hobby and turn it into a legitimate business.
In today’s rapidly expanding podcast market, you have to do a lot more than produce a show — you have to run it like you would any other business. Here, we offer some insights on why and how you should turn your podcast into an LLC, and how you can make money over the digital airwaves.
How to Start a Podcast Business
As mentioned, you have to begin by viewing and treating your podcast as a legitimate business, rather than a hobby or something you do “just for fun.” It takes time to earn money with a podcast, so keep your expectations realistic. You won’t be rolling in cash after a single episode, and maybe not even after 100 episodes. But if podcasting is something you’re passionate about, and you put the time, energy and planning into making it a success, you can eventually earn an actual income from your show. First, follow all the steps to plan and start your own original podcast. Then, take steps to turn that podcast into a legitimate business, keeping these considerations in mind.
Why an LLC?
No, you don’t need to form a legal business entity to create a podcast or even to earn money from it, but the benefits of having an LLC for your podcast, just like with any other business, is worth the effort. An LLC distinguishes your business as a separate legal entity, which means your personal assets are protected in the case of lawsuits and litigation. In a public-facing and media-adjacent industry like podcasting, this protection is a must. Beyond that, filing an LLC for your podcast lends to its credibility, which could be the thing that tips the scales when a sponsor or advertiser is looking to do business with you.
What Will It Cost?
Podcasting does come with some startup costs and overhead, including the equipment you’ll need to record and produce your show, but getting your business going isn’t all that costly. You can file a $0 (+ state fee) LLC through Incfile, and get started running your business right away. If you’re new to audio production, you may consider hiring someone to take care of post-production to ensure high-quality audio, but it isn’t necessary starting out. With the technology available today, you can produce a podcast with nothing more than your smartphone, laptop, a couple inexpensive microphones and free or low-cost production software.
How Do I Distribute My Podcast?
There have never been more avenues to get your podcast in front of an audience than right now, but competition is fierce. Forty percent of podcast listeners say they find new podcasts by browsing the directory on their listening app, but with so many different apps available, how do you know which one is right? Your safest bet is to go with the biggest players, including Apple Podcasts and Spotify, which together make up a majority of all podcast consumption. For the most part, the smaller apps don’t even come close. And now that Amazon Music is promoting podcasts as well, the balance may shift again. Find out where the listeners you want to target get their podcasts and make sure your show is listed in the directory with a clear, catchy description and appealing artwork.
How Do I Make Money?
When it comes to generating a profit, think of your podcast business in the same terms as traditional radio. You can flip to your favorite station and listen as long as you want, but you’ll have to listen in on some commercials before programming resumes. Those commercials are what drive revenue for the broadcast, and the same could be true of your podcast. However, with niche audiences able to easily access the content they want, you may want to explore other ways of monetizing your podcast, such as:
Sponsorships: These are a lot like those old-school radio commercials and can be placed pre-roll (before the show), post-roll (after the show) or mid-roll (during the show). Most sponsor spots run for 15–30 seconds, and most sponsors will provide an approved script. There are services that can match sponsors with your podcast, but keep in mind, most sponsors won’t be interested in a show with fewer than 1,000 listeners, so you’ll need to work on audience building before you start earning ad money.
Affiliate Advertising: You may have noticed when reading your favorite blogs that many products are linked throughout. That’s because every time a reader makes a purchase via those hyperlinks, the blogger gets paid. The same is true for podcasting. You can make recommendations on products or services, then drive your listeners to a unique URL. If they make a purchase, you get part of the proceeds. Just make sure your affiliate URLs are easy to read and easy for your audience to remember.
Listener Support: If you’ve got something to say that people want to hear, why not go directly to the source when seeking funding? There are a number of crowdfunding platforms out there where you can seek financial support straight from your listeners. Sites like Patreon set your content up as a subscription and ask users to make a monthly donation to access your podcast.
Upselling: Once you’ve developed a loyal following, you may consider selling branded merchandise to interested fans. You can also host ticket-based live events or offer premium gated content for paying listeners only.
How Do I Learn More?
The best way to learn about running a podcasting business is to immerse yourself in the world of podcasting by — you guessed it — listening to podcasts. There are a number of great podcasts out there for small business owners, covering a wide variety of business-related topics, but there are also numerous podcasts focusing on turning your podcast into a viable business. Here are our top picks:
Mike Murphy Unplugged: Perfect for DIYers, this podcast helps you build the skills you need to produce and distribute your podcast and turn it into a money-maker.
The Feed: This show focuses on marketing your podcast, finding your audience, using social media to build your brand and much more.
The Podcast Report: This industry-focused show features trends, best practices and evolving changes in the world of podcasting so you can stay ahead of the curve.
Profitcast: This show is focused solely on monetizing your podcast, giving you tips and tricks you can start implementing now to make your podcast a legitimate income-earning business.
Ready to create your podcast business on your own? You can DIY your way to a successful podcasting business, but you don’t have to go it totally alone. Get some support as you get started with Incfile’s free DIY course.
Wendi is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, IN, with over a decade of experience writing for a variety of industries from healthcare to manufacturing to nonprofit. When she isn't working on solutions for her clients, she can be found spending time with her kids and husband, working in the garden or doing more writing (of the fiction variety).