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SPI 766: How to Monetize Your Niche Podcast with Lauren Popish

Podcasting is a powerful way to generate revenue, but what are your monetization options if your niche podcast isn’t reaching a massive audience yet? The thing is, big sponsors expect a minimum of ten thousand downloads per episode. So, how can you leverage a small but loyal following instead?

Listen in because we’re back with another incredible Teaching Friday session. When members of SPI Pro take over the show and share their superpowers with us, the content is always wildly valuable. Today’s episode is no different!

Lauren Popish, our guest host, is the founder of The Wave Podcasting, an educational platform and production agency helping women-led shows grow. Through her work with her clients, Lauren has uncovered the best strategies for podcasters at every level. If you’re in a small niche or just starting out, tune in and take advantage of her expertise!

This episode is a deep dive into affiliate marketing, listener donations, subscriptions, premium content, and selling your products and services through podcasting. For more from Lauren, visit to download her free Monetization Blueprint!

SPI 766: How to Monetize Your Niche Podcast with Lauren Popish

Lauren Popish: Podcasts are perfect places for people to get to know you, come to respect your expertise, and share in authentic moments that build trust. Knowledge, respect, and trust happen to be the necessary components of convincing people to buy from you.

This is the reason that a podcast is such an incredible tool for selling products and services. It acts as the top of the funnel, drawing lots of people in, answering their questions, and allowing them to get to know you before putting them through more targeted selling.

Pat Flynn: Hey, hey, it’s Pat here. You’re about to listen to something a little different on the show today. It’s not our usual Friday format where I follow up on Wednesday’s episode. Don’t worry, those aren’t going away forever. Just a little break to bring in something even more special, in my opinion, our Teaching Friday series, which we do with our SPI Pro members.

We have an incredibly talented pool of people within SPI Pro, so we thought Why not give our pros the spotlight and teach you here on the podcast every once in a while? It’s just one of the perks of being a part of pro in fact is this possibility with each episode You get to hear a different pro teach you something special from their area of expertise without further ado I’ll let them take it away Oh, and if you want to find out more about spi pro and be a part of it You can go ahead and apply at SPIPro.


Announcer: You’re listening to the Smart Passive Income Podcast, a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network, a show that’s all about working hard now, so you can sit back and reap the benefits later. And now today’s guest host, she can beat you at a cheesecake eating contest, Lauren Popish.

Lauren Popish: If you listen to podcasts like this one, then you’ve definitely heard ads for companies like Athletic Greens, Casper Mattress, or the famous ad on cereal for MailChimp.

What you may not know is that in order to get big name brands like these to pay you to read an ad on your podcast, they expect a minimum Of 10,000 downloads per episode. Yep, that’s a lot. You may be looking at your analytics platform with a few thousand or even a couple hundred downloads, and be thinking to yourself, how am I ever going to monetize my podcast?

As a podcasting coach, an educator, I get this question literally every day, the answer as it turns out. Isn’t by finding ways to grow your show big enough that brands will finally give you the time of day or at least it doesn’t have to be. If you want to start making money from your podcast today, there are monetization techniques that use the loyal existing audience you’ve already built and turn them into customers.

In this episode, I’ll share four ways to make money podcasting that work no matter how many downloads you have. But first, a little bit about me, your guest host. My name is Lauren Popish, and I founded the first podcast production agency for women by women. My agency takes all of the time consuming and tedious tasks, podcasters have to complete like editing show note writing and creating marketing assets and does it for them so they can spend more time on money making activities. As the owner of a podcast agency, I get to work with a lot of amazing podcasters. And I also get to see a lot of examples of what works and what doesn’t.

One of the biggest misconceptions most podcasters have about monetizing their podcast is that they have to do it the way they hear their favorite shows doing it, with ads. Don’t get me wrong, having companies pay you to read ads on your podcast is a very real way to make money podcasting.

In fact, according to a recent report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Podcasting ad revenue in the U. S. grew 26 percent year over year in 2022 to 1. 8 billion. That’ll buy you a lot of Casper mattresses. No, it’s not that advertising on podcasts doesn’t work. It’s that it isn’t accessible to most independent podcasters.

What do I mean by independent podcasters or indie podcasters as we lovingly refer to ourselves? An indie podcaster is someone who isn’t represented by a podcast network, and therefore does all of the creative direction, production, marketing, and monetization deals on their own. Without the help of a big team or a budget that can afford to put your podcast on a billboard, independent podcasters often don’t have the reach that network podcasts do. The problem is that advertisers really want reach. They want to get their ad into as many ears as possible, which is why most brands require a minimum number of downloads per episode before striking a deal with a podcaster. The industry standard used to be 10,000 downloads per episode within 30 days of release.

Now, we’re seeing the rise of the micro podcaster, similar to the micro influencer trend we saw on social media about 10 years ago. Advertisers are now doing deals with shows that have slightly smaller but highly engaged audiences, with episode downloads between two and seven thousand downloads. Even with that smaller reach size, advertising still remains out of reach for the majority of podcasters.

Now, lucky for us indies, not advertising doesn’t mean there’s no money to be made in podcasting. In fact, there are some monetization strategies that work better with small, dedicated audiences. That’s because podcasting remains one of the best ways to build an authentic audience and anytime you have a highly engaged audience you have the chance to profit.

So what are these monetization techniques and which one is right for you? I’m glad you asked. Let’s dive into it. Technique number one, affiliate marketing. This is one of Pat’s favorite monetization strategies. And for a good reason. There is virtually no barrier to entry, making it the perfect monetization strategy for newbies and pros alike.

In fact, I know podcasters with tens of thousands of downloads who prefer to monetize through affiliate marketing, even though they could have paid sponsors, because they make more money as an affiliate. Here’s how it works. Hundreds, even thousands of companies have existing affiliate programs that will pay you a portion of every purchase made by someone you told about their product or brand.

Some companies will want to vet you before you can sign up for their program, while others will allow you to sign up automatically right from their website. They typically track your sales by giving you a unique URL or a code that you then share with your family and friends and podcast listeners.

Think about it. It’s a win win for both parties. The company gets its products promoted to niche audiences they may not have known about before, and you get a piece of the pie, just for making relevant recommendations that you’d likely have made anyway without incentive. That brings me to my number one tip when exploring affiliate marketing only recommend products and services you’ve actually used, genuinely enjoy and confidently believe would be beneficial, not just to you, but to your audience as well. Even though the company isn’t paying you to advertise these products, or at least not in the traditional sense, talking about a product or service on your podcast could still sound a lot like an ad to your audience.

All of us are a little more skeptical than we once were about being sold to on free platforms like podcasts, social media, and Google search. Your listeners have a finely tuned sense for sniffing out advertising that feels disingenuous, mass produced, and well, like a sales pitch. When you actually believe in the product or service you’re marketing, you can use real life anecdotes and success stories, you can suggest specific use cases to your audience, and you can accurately answer questions from curious listeners after your episode airs. In other words, you build and maintain trust with your audience. Which is essential to selling anything. One challenging part of affiliate marketing is that you only get paid if the company or brand you’re marketing knows that the sale came from you.

That means you don’t just want your audience to search for the brand online and purchase from their website. You want them to use the identifying link or code that the company provided you. The more products you promote, the harder it is for listeners to remember which code or URL to use. Was it The Wave or the Wave Podcasting?

Was it forward slash Lauren or forward slash Lauren P. You can see how easy it is for a listener to simply skip the code altogether. If you choose to promote multiple affiliates, try something the pros at Sounds Profitable recommend, instead of using a unique code or link for each brand, have an offers page on your website that is easy for your listeners to remember.

Promote this offers page on your podcast and link out to each unique affiliate URL from there. Now you can create an evergreen internal ad that you promote on your show. It would read something like this. If you want to learn more about Casper Mattress and all the other great companies we love to work with, visit, repeat it on every episode for every brand and ensure that your listeners never forget where to go when they want to use a product approved by you.

Technique number two, listener donations. If you’re a public radio listener like I am, then you know just how powerful a request for listener donations can be.

Despite my best efforts, I always find myself donating to my local radio station during the donation drives they do a few times a year. Now, NPR really tends to beat you over the head with their requests with a full day of pleading, but the sentence that always gets me is when they say, If you enjoy listening to high quality and thoughtful reporting for free every day on your commute or on your way to the grocery store, consider donating to your local public radio station.

We are made possible by listeners like you. It works because they’re right. I love the stories I hear on NPR. They have limited advertising and I get it all for free. Why wouldn’t I want to give a bit of my monthly budget to something that brings me true value and joy on a weekly basis? The same can be said for your loyal listeners.

While they get to benefit from the insight and stories that you share, they’re asked for nothing in return. Why wouldn’t your dedicated audience want to help you create more of the content that they love? In fact, many of them would be happy to do so. The best part of using listener donations to fund your podcast is that your incentives are aligned.

By donating money to your show, your listeners become even more committed to your success. They’re more likely to listen and share with their friends because they’re invested, literally, to your content. On the flip side, you as the podcaster want to make great content for listeners who are sponsoring your work, you work hard for them, solicit ideas from them and feel a sense of obligation to consistently deliver to them.

See? Aligned incentives. It’s a beautiful thing. While platforms like Patreon are popular for donations and delivering premium content, something I’ll get into next, my favorite tool for collecting listener donations is called Buy Me A Coffee. I like it because the donation is so quantifiable. I would buy a cup of coffee for a friend or a colleague or someone who I wanted advice from.

So why don’t I buy a virtual cup of coffee for my favorite podcast host? A 5 virtual coffee from 100 listeners is likely enough to offset the cost of your hosting platform, maybe some editing and some of your marketing tools. If your show is lean enough, you may even be able to pay yourself a little bit as well.

While asking for money can feel awkward, I recommend treating your request like an internal ad. Either pre record it or live read it, but you should include it on every episode. Your listeners might not do it after just hearing your request for donations once, but they might after hearing it five, six, or seven times.

Remind listeners of the hard work that you put into your show and the important role that your listeners can play in helping the show continue creating content they love. Be sure to include the link to your donations platform in your show notes. Technique number three, subscriptions and premium content.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking your listeners for money, you can give them something in exchange for their donation. Subscriptions and premium content are a way for you to get paid for doing a little bit more of what you’re already creating for your podcast. Patreon is probably the most popular platform for helping you set up tiers of subscriptions with the highest paying members, getting the most extra goodies, but platforms like Apple podcasts are now making it easier than ever to charge listeners for subscriptions to special content.

Premium content can be something as simple as releasing your episode to your paying members a day early, or it can be as complex as offering additional episodes or unaired questions with your guests. Some listeners will pay to get access to the unedited version of the same episode you aired that week, while other listeners will want more access to you through events and AMAs, ask me anything sessions, whatever you choose to offer your listeners as a part of their subscription, just ensure that you aren’t creating so much additional work for yourself that you offset the donation. When quantifying the value of premium content, don’t forget to factor in the cost of your time. Spending hours of extra production time in exchange for a 5 donation doesn’t add up and it can keep you from spending your time on more profitable activities like creating and selling products and services a little hint at what’s to come.

But before we get into my final strategy and arguably the way to make the most money from your podcast, I want to offer you a little gift to say thank you for taking your precious time. The time you could have been spending recording a podcast episode or plotting your next money making effort to instead listen to me, I’d like to give you a resource that busts podcast monetization myths and outlines the monetization strategies we discussed today with even more detail and insight. It’s called the Monetization Blueprint, and I offer it to my paid clients and students. I’m making this resource available for free to SPI listeners.

You can grab it by going to, or using the link in the show notes of this episode. That’s, for a map of how to create a show worth paying for, how to select the best monetization strategy for your show, and special tips and resources for executing my favorite strategies, including the ones from this episode.

Thanks to you and to Pat for allowing me to make a longtime dream come true. And with that, I give you monetization technique number four, sell services and products. If you’re a business owner or coach who already sells products and services, then you must, I mean, must use your show as a funnel for new sales and clients.

This strategy is by far the easiest to implement and can result in huge paydays if done correctly. As a digital course creator, imagine that you sign up 15 students at 300 per seat for your next course. After surveying each student at checkout, you realize that 3 of the 15 students decided to buy after listening to your podcast.

Your podcast just made you 900! Just like that. It would take a lot of listener sponsored coffee to get to 900. Podcasts are perfect places for people to get to know you, come to respect your expertise, and share in authentic moments that build trust. Knowledge, respect, and trust happen to be the necessary components of convincing people to buy from you.

This is the reason that a podcast is such an incredible tool for selling products and services. It acts as the top of the funnel, drawing lots of people in, answering their questions, and allowing them to get to know you before putting them through more targeted selling. As I just hinted, selling a product or service is more of a journey than a single stop.

We refer to that sales journey as a funnel. Because prospective buyers start at the top and they make their way through each phase of the buying process. The top of the funnel is typically the awareness phase. Next on the journey is the consideration phase. Prospective buyers are then filtered to the conversion phase. And finally, the smallest number of customers will enter the loyalty phase. You shouldn’t expect people to buy or convert directly after listening to just one of your podcast episodes because they’re at the beginning of their journey, or the top of the funnel. You simply want to get them through the awareness phase and onto the next step in their journey.

So instead of encouraging your listeners to buy now from your episode, you should put your energy into getting your listeners into your email list. Yep. It all comes back to the email list. Always. The bulk of your selling should happen through a series of intentional emails that gets them through those phases of the funnel until they’re ready to hit purchase.

Now, Pat has a lot of resources on building an email list, so be sure to explore his tips and tricks for setting up a list if you don’t already have one. The time between when a customer first hears your podcast episode and hits purchase can be days, weeks, or even months. So in order to know how much money your podcast is bringing in, you need to get some tracking in place.

First, use a unique link when people are signing up for your email list and tag them as podcast listeners as they make their way through your sales email series. In the checkout form, include a survey question that asks, where a buyer learned about your product or service. Similarly, if you conduct discovery calls in order to close coaching or high ticket clients, use a unique signup URL in your podcast show notes so you can see who is signing up from your podcast.

When you do your end of month or end of quarter accounting, separate out sales by source. You might be surprised to see how many customers learned about and ultimately purchased from your business after getting to know you on your podcast. Phew. That was a lot. I hope that instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of this information, you instead realize just how many options there are to making money as an indie podcaster.

Let’s recap the strategies we discussed that podcasts of all sizes can use to start monetizing today. First, affiliate marketing is a low barrier way to get paid a portion of the sales that you make when recommending your favorite products and services. Listener donations are a great way for your most loyal fans to say thanks for the free content you deliver. Or if you don’t want a free lunch, try offering a piece of bonus content like an ask me anything interview in exchange for a donation or subscription. Lastly, if you’re already selling products and services, use your podcast to help build awareness about you and your brand and convert listeners to customers with the help of your email list.

Depending on your show, audience and skills, you can find a monetization technique that doesn’t require you to negotiate ad deals with big brands. As Pat says, 1000 true fans is enough to build a brand create a following and turn listeners into happy customers. Thanks for your time today. If you want to learn more about me and my production agency, visit And don’t forget, there’s a free resource that builds on what we learned today called the Monetization Blueprint. Grab it at Thanks for listening. Keep podcasting and enjoy the ride.

Pat Flynn: Thank you so much for listening to the Smart Passive Income podcast at I’m your host, Pat Flynn. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. Our senior producer is David Grabowski, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. The Smart Passive Income Podcast is a production of SPI Media, and a proud member of the Entrepreneur Podcast Network. Catch you next week!

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