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How to build sustainable income streams with an online show

by Ana Lopez
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Move over, PT Barnum. Make way, Sarah Bernhardt. Today, anyone can earn an income as a headliner thanks to the rise in popularity of the humble online podcast.

although podcasting has been around for more than 20 years, it has only recently started to take off. Just how big is the podcast scene? Spotify has no less than five million titles. Apple podcasts promises millions also. And those are just two of the many places you can find podcasts to whet your appetite.

Here’s the point, though: you’re not relegated to ordinary 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 income online. Plenty of podcasters with many followers have done well. Had you heard of Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark before 2016? Maybe not – the duo’s fame was due to the spectacular success of their My Favorite Murder podcast.

In other words, your next lateral pressure may be behind a shiny new microphone setup. And the crowds can earn you a pretty penny. While not every podcaster gains traction with listeners, many do. If you can monetize your popularity, you can enjoy a sustainable online income stream. Who wouldn’t want a few hundred (or thousands) extra deposited into your account each month?

What’s the catch? Only that you need to take some measures to increase your chances of doing well. You can’t just put on a podcast and hope all goes well. Planning is key, starting with seven of the biggest podcast must-dos and must-haves.

1. Name and claim your subject area

Each solid, memorable podcast focuses on a particular topic. It doesn’t matter what the topic is – politics, sports, obstetrics. Everything goes. You just need to bring some interest and passion to your show.

This is very important and should not be downplayed. Don’t make it the core of your podcast unless you care deeply about something. After all, you have to be able to make multiple episodes. So write down what interests you and don’t try to hold back.

Once you have a sizable list of possible things you’d like to discuss on your podcast, start labeling them. Which ones are most intriguing to you? Which would provide the most opportunities for tangential subjects? Are there people you can easily get guests for? Eventually you will come across something that makes sense – and maybe a little provocative like some top podcasters.

2. Research similar podcasts

Guess? You can’t think of a great podcast title yet. Sure, you’ve found your favorite topic. However, you don’t want to enter the red sea with a lot of competition. To monetize it online, 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 few weeks listening to podcast shows with topics related to the one you’ve chosen. Take notes of what you hear. What is the format of the show? How do they present the themed area? Hopefully you realize there are a few gaps you can exploit.

For example, say you want to talk about dogs. That is a broad topic. Accordingly, you limit it to dogs that represent larger breeds. But wait: after doing some research, you see that you’re still not going to stand out with a major dog show. Unless, of course, your podcast features some aspect of large dog breeds that few other podcasters discuss. Maybe it’s end-of-life considerations or training for older large breed puppies. The goal is to put a fresh spin on your subject.

3. Publish on the right platform

You can go down many publishing routes if you’re a podcaster. However, you will not make as much money if you are not on a platform that is going to help you. Not all platforms are built the same, especially if you’re hosting a podcast to boost your income. It’s your job to find one that makes the process as streamlined as possible.

To take ShowPlatform, For example. The site contains 35 modules set up to help with everything from managing guests to building a website. (By the way, more on advertising later.) By investing in an all-in-one platform, you make life easier. You also take the guesswork out of trying to turn on a podcasting revenue stream.

Ideally, look for software with a free trial. Even if you don’t actually upload and publish your first podcast during the trial period, you’ll have time to research it. Learn the ins and outs of the software so you can get your podcast up and running quickly every time.

4. Buy decent gear

Forget about equipping a room in your house with soundproof floors and walls. And throw away the idea that you’re going out of business buying podcasting equipment. Just go for mediocre tools that won’t pay off your credit card for months. 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 want a microphone. Also think about the ears. You must be able to hear yourself. From there you should order an audio mixer. While not absolutely necessary, pop filters will remove scratchy and annoying noises.

Some equipment vendors, such as Shure and RODE, offer all-in-one podcasting kits. However, buying in bulk has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, everything has to work well out of the box. On the other hand, you cannot be selective. Just don’t go extremely cheap. You want your podcast to sound as professional as your budget allows. Adding a video element can be a nice addition, but you may not be ready to invest in videography equipment right away.

5. Determine a format

Podcast consistency at all levels will encourage more people to tune into your episodes. However, consistency isn’t just about publishing your podcasts regularly. It’s about having a systematic framework that all your podcasts follow.

For example, you could start all your podcasts with an overview of the angle you’ll be covering. Just give a preview so people know what they’re about to hear. Hit the 35,000 foot overview. You dive into the weeds later, either with a solo setup or maybe with a guest or guest panel. Then you could do a quick roundup.

Having a regular format for your show gives it personality, punch, and predictability. Record a podcast or two after determining what kind of setup appeals to you. Then listen to them. Do you still like how everything is arranged? Or do you feel you need to change your original format? Making changes before you have too many podcasts online will help you get to your podcast sweet spot faster.

6. Enable advertisers

When you start to gain some traction with the public, consider becoming an influencer. Many brands are willing to advertise with podcasting influencers. Of course you have to show that you are an attractive match. Buzzsprout suggests you should have no less than 200 downloads to get hold of a sponsor. Obviously, the higher your demonstrable listening skills, the more you can ask.

You don’t get rich instantly by bringing advertisers on board. is a standard rate about $18 per 1,000 impressions per Influencer Marketing Hub. That means you need to up your game to see more income from online earnings. But what better incentive to improve your show than knowing that your efforts will literally pay off?

Just like setting up and publishing your podcast, you can use a variety of platforms to connect with advertisers. There’s nothing wrong with asking enterprising friends if they’d like to sponsor your show too. Maybe they say yes. And if the fit is right, it can benefit both of you.

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 a business social account and expect it to attract people. You need to stay on top of SEO and social media trends. Otherwise, you’re basically ignoring potential listeners (aka the people who help you earn your online income).

While you definitely need some kind of website, you only need to be on one or two social sites. It is very difficult to check your social posts on more platforms. Unless you don’t have a day job, strip away stressors and just pick a few social sites. The best ones to choose are the ones where your target audience “lives”. For example, maybe you are trying to reach the estimate half of all podcast listeners aged 35+. In that case, Facebook has your back. TikTok? Not so much.

In addition to staying active with all of your online accounts, make sure you use them to connect with readers. You can’t just post and disappear over and over again. To become a podcast that other people want to tune into, you need to communicate. If you can’t find 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 store. With a little ingenuity and mind, you could launch an online show to give you a nice, stable online income. It’s hard to imagine anything better than a hobby that more than pays for itself.

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