Sponsorship is one of the many ways to make money podcasting. It's maybe the most well known way, but it's not necessarily the best way. In a previous episode of this podcast, I walked through my SMASH framework,- five ways that you can make money with your podcast. The M in SMASH is membership, and that's what I want to talk to you about.
What are memberships, why and when should you do them? What you should consider, and a couple of ideas for actually implementing the membership.
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Sponsorship is. One of the many ways to make money podcasting. It's maybe the most well known way, but it's not necessarily the best way. In a previous episode of this podcast, I walked through my SMASH framework, Five Ways That You Can Make Money with your Podcast. The M in smash is membership, and that's what I want to talk to you about. What are memberships, why and when should you do? What you should consider and a couple of ideas for actually implementing the membership. That's what we are going to talk about today on Make Money Podcasting. So let's get into it. All right, so first, what is a membership? I think I wanna talk about membership and subscriptions because people generally conflate the two and they're very. Closely related, but they're not the same thing. Membership is access to something that not everybody has access to. This could be free or. So, for example, I am a member at a cigar club. As a member, I have access to the lounge after hours. I have access to events that are for members only, and I get some special financial benefits, like a discount, a subscription is paying. At a regular interval for something. So it could be monthly, it could be weekly, it could be yearly. For my Cigar Club membership, I pay an annual fee, and so that is the subscription part of the membership, but they don't. Need to be the same, right? You can become a member of the Y M C A for free, maybe, uh, or you could become the member of some other organization for free. You don't necessarily need to pay for that. Similarly, subscriptions aren't always memberships, right? So Netflix is a subscription, but it's not a membership you're paying to get access to, uh, Netflix is library of content. That's not really a benefit. You're just paying for access to that. So that's the, Or a subscription box for example, right? That's not a membership box. It's a, you're paying for the box on a monthly basis and that's the, that's the only benefit. So it's not really a subscription. So I wanted to just lay those two terms out for you. Most people use them interchange. I'm going to use them interchangeably in the rest of this episode, but they, they could be, You don't necessarily need to pay money for a membership, and paying for a subscription isn't necessarily a membership. So the benefits of offering a membership for your podcast or you're going direct to consumer, so you're not necessarily at the WHI. Of a advertising budget, for example. So if you have one or two major sponsors, right? This is like the big mistake that a lot of freelancers make. They have one client maybe that accounts for 70% of their income. And if that client decides tomorrow, Hey, uh, we don't wanna pay you anymore for your services. We've hired somebody in house, 70% of your income. The same thing could happen to podcasting. And actually it happened to me very recently, right? Where my sponsorships, uh, were running out and I started reaching out to people and the people who normally support my show didn't want to renew. And if that was my only source of income, I would've been in trouble. Now, quick side. I changed my process a little bit. I updated, or I reached out to some new companies and I do have, I have sponsors now for how I built it through April, so I'm very fortunate in that regard. But the point is that I, as a podcaster, you don't wanna have this one source of income that could be as capricious as the economy, right? Everybody's talking about a recession. As I, as I record this, that could. Fewer advertising dollars. So a membership allows you to go direct to consumer where you have a core set of listeners and they wanna pay you to keep making your show, or usually for benefits, extra benefits on top of the main show. That's why you would have a membership. If you're wondering if you should launch a membership, that's a little bit of a different question, and it's not about number of downloads, right? If you have a million downloads, but 10 people who are engaged with your show, No, you shouldn't launch a membership, right? But if you have like a thousand downloads and a hundred of those listeners are engaged, that's a good time to launch a show probably. So how do you measure engagement? There are a couple of ways You could see who's interacting with you on Twitter or via email. You could have a community via Discord or Slack or Facebook or whatever you want to have that community on. This is one of the reasons that I tell you your call to action should be joined my mailing list, right? Because when someone joins your mailing list, they are opting in for more engagement. They're saying, Yes. I wanna hear from you more often than just weekly on your podcast. You are allowed to send me emails because what you are doing is valuable. So if you have a lot of people joining your mail mailing list, Is engagement and it gives you an avenue for marketing your membership to them. And if they are engaged, then you understand what your membership benefits should be because this is the other big mistake I think a lot of podcasters make, a lot of creators make really, when they're trying to figure out what their Patreon benefits should be or what their membership benefits. They go too big because they worry they're not delivering enough value. So when I first launched my Patreon way back nine months into my podcast, because I hit a hundred thousand downloads and I thought number of downloads is the way to measure if people will buy my membership. I threw a bunch, I stole a bunch of other people's benefit. They didn't work for me for a bunch of reasons, right? They weren't things I wanted to do, but they also, uh, were very time consuming and I only had three paying members. So for like less than 10 bucks a month, I had to create all of this additional content and that just didn't work. So if you're ready to offer a membership or you're wondering if you. See how engaged your listeners are, and then come up with benefits, at least at first, that are low energy or low effort and high reward for your listeners, low effort for you, high reward for your listeners. One example, a common example is add free extended episodes of your podcast. For me, that's low effort because I don't have the ad reads embedded into the show. So I just create a version, or my editor creates a version where the ads aren't included and then he chops off the extended version and we ship that as the free version. And then for the members, uh, or they, and then well, We chop off the end, we add the ads and that's what the, the, the free listeners get. The members get no ads in the extended version. That is low effort for me. High reward for my members who, a number of them never want to hear podcast ads, right? So like the five bucks a month they're paying is worth it to never hear an ad in the middle of an interview, especially for. Midpoint. My editor's usually good about not cutting off sentences, but still if like, if we're in, I don't leave, I don't structure the questions perfectly so that like at the halfway mark we can have an ad break, right? So that's, that is low effort for me, High value for my listeners. Another thing I was doing for a while is the live streams. I would do live streams for free on my YouTube channel. Then I would make them private and available only to my members, and that was a really good driver of the membership. For a while, it was content I was already making, but the replay had value for my members. So if you are considering your membership benefits, I would encourage you to think about what is low effort for you and high value for your listeners. To figure out what's high value for your listeners, email them. They've opted into your mailing list, right? Hey, do you listen to my podcast? You probably do cuz you're on this mailing list. If I were to roll out a monthly or annual membership, what kind of benefits? Which of these benefits would you like to see or leave it more open-ended and say, If I offer a premium version of this podcast, what? What do you wanna see? Or if you don't care for that, then let me know that as well and try to extract value from that. So I know that you don't really want to lead, right? You don't wanna say, like, would you, would you pay $5 a month for ad freak extended episodes, right? Would I maybe, Right? Would you Pay is not actual paying, so you want to ask. Potential members. Your listeners, what? How can you get more value from this? How can I deliver more value to you? Whatever that is. If you're a fiction podcast, maybe it's behind the scenes stuff. Here's how you put together this episode, right? Uh, if you are like a business analysis podcast, leave the best analysis for your members. If you're a tech news podcast, maybe leave some of the hot takes for the members only, right? Some of the more controversial. So it really depends on how you deliver value for your free show and how you could deliver more value for your members. So we've covered the what, the why, and most of the how I wanna show you if you're watching the video on YouTube. Otherwise, I'll, I can talk through this. Uh, so you don't need to watch the video, but if you. Check the show notes. There's a link to the YouTube video. Um, I wanna show you a, a couple of examples of membership offerings for podcasts. The first is mine. I'm about to roast my own membership offering cuz it's not good. My offerings up until May. Were. Very confusing, and this is a remnant of that. So if you go to join creator crew.com, uh, or creator courses.com, like that's the first problem, um, then you'll see what is essentially now my premium podcast offering. This was something else. And so the first lesson you can extract here is make your offer as clear as possible for your listeners. Give them the value proposition up front. The only way somebody visiting this page might know that this is bonus content for how I built it, is the single artwork square that they see here. Otherwise, I just have a bu and the rest of the page is pretty good. Right? I have got, I've got great, uh, uh, testimonials. I have sample content. But then the benefits are a little bit unclear, right? As a member, you'll get a, for extended episodes, okay, that's, that's good Bonus. Weekly and monthly episodes. And then like lots of other great benefits like a community, live streams and automations, library, and then some more small text here, right? Um, so first of all, there's a lot, right? I'm offering maybe too much, uh, and it's not like a very clear list. I have some more testimonials and then join. So this is unclear. It's not even really clear that it's for how I built it. As I build out this page again and relaunch it for the new year, it's going to be over at How I Built slash Pro. Probably, um, probably just gonna call it pro I've, I've spent too much time coming up with a cheeky name for it, but it's gonna be scaled back and really clear what my members get now. I was trying to appeal to too many people. If we contrast that with Relay dot FM's membership over at relay.fm/membership, the value proposition is really clear. And they do this well, I think because they're a podcast network. They're not a single podcast. So first some copy a bulleted list of a small number of perks. Okay, This is tangible. I can see myself enjoying these. Then they basically have buy buttons for, if you want members only versions of select podcasts. So if I sign up for more power users, I get a members only version of that podcast and all of the relay.fm perks and their page makes this clear. So it's not that there's a, it's not that my offering is too complicated. I made it too complicated and convolute. Whereas relay.fm lays out the benefits very nicely here. Now let's talk about how you can implement this yourself. We'll do a separate. Evaluating membership tools, but if you wanna get started today, there are a couple of ways to do it. I think buy me a coffee is probably the fastest way for you to start taking money from people. I set up a buy me a coffee. That's buy me a coffee.com. I set that up in minutes, right? And they made it as easy as possible and they have Zapier integration. You can, when someone buys you a coffee or, or subscribes, you can integrate with a premium feed. The premium feed is really the hard part though, right? So, um, for premium feeds, I use Casto. Casto is my audio host for how I built it. And one of the reasons I went with them is, Of the private podcast feeds and they have zap your integration as well. If you don't wanna use Casto, like if you don't wanna sign up for like a whole separate service just for, or if you don't wanna sign up for a new audio host, I guess is the way to put it, just for the private feed. Uh, because they, they limit their plans based on the number of private. So like for 19 bucks a month, you could have up to a hundred private subscribers. Um, and that makes sense for them because they have a bunch of other stuff included. Uh, you could check out Hello audio.fm. This basically is special. I, I just recently heard about this. I want to test this, but it's basically they're specializing in a private feed. So you have unlimited episodes, unlimited listeners for 14 bucks. And they also have Zapier integration. So either Casto or Hello Audio is a good, is a good path for you to offer private feeds. Uh, and then as far as payment goes, the way I'm going to do it is through Convert Kit. I use Convert Kit for free. Or I'm sorry, I'm a paid convert kit member or a subscriber. But you can start using it for free. I'll have an affiliate link in the show email@example.com slash two 20. And they have a feature called Convert Kit Commerce, where you can start selling digital products really quickly. And so they have a few use cases on their site, uh, for like eBooks and paid newsletters, musics music and presets and coaching. But something that you could do is offer a private podcast, right? You set up a subscription, somebody signs up, they become tagged as a member in Convert Kit and then you could use Zapier to set up either a Hello Audio or Casto Feed and then you can revoke those if if somebody churns out. So that's probably how I'm going to set it up moving forward is using Convert Kit Commerce with Casto or Hello Audio. Probably Casto cuz I already have cast. I think that's a pretty quick way to get things set up. Now, probably the fastest way is Patreon. Um, the thing I don't like about Patreon though, is their, their pricing. Maybe they've, it looks like they've clarified this a little bit, but their pricing for like light, which it's very unclear if. This offers like, uh, podcast feeds or private RSS feeds, which is the thing you're looking for, but their pricing is pretty high, like 5% of your monthly income plus payment processing. So that's close to 8%. Pro is 8% of your monthly income. So like you're kind of getting published for being more successful, Whereas Hello Audio and Casto, you know, it's a little bit more work to set it up, but it is a flat fee. I think my recommended workflow is either buy me a coffee or convert kit and then connect using Zappy or connect that to your private feed using Hello Audio or Casto, not the easiest in the world and maybe Hello. Audio has like a a, They probably don't have like a way for you to pay like payment gateway, but. I think that it's a good, it's a good first step. So if you're thinking about starting a membership, again, you wanna look at what benefits you're gonna offer, how engaged your audience is, and how you're gonna implement this in the podcast Liftoff. I have a lot of resources on starting a membership and tutorials, so, uh, if you're interested in that, check that out over at podcast liftoff.com/playbook. I'll go, I go in depth into everything I talk about on this podcast. There are guided videos that show you how to do things and you'll get more direct access to me. So that's it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know, are you thinking about starting a membership? You can reach out and get all of the show notes firstname.lastname@example.org slash two zero. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, I can't wait to see what you make.