Ultimate Guide to Paid Guests

Every podcaster has basic needs. In addition to food, water, and shelter, as a podcaster, you’re also gonna need credibility, listeners, and revenue. Probably in that order. The problem is that all of those things are more elusive than they sound, and if you’ve been podcasting for any length of time, you’ve probably found that to be true.

I know I did.

The way it stands now, most don’t even consider credibility – which is a real shame, because it’s the building block for more listeners and revenue. Growth, though most would say that’s their goal, is even more difficult than credibility because of the lack of transparency that exists in the podcast space. Revenue? LOL. Literally. Most creators would just be happy to not lose money every month because getting sponsors seems so far away…and it probably is.

Am I saying all of this to discourage people from starting shows? Definitely not. I’m a huge proponent of starting your own show, and I highly recommend doing it. Just figure out another way to bring in credibility, growth, and revenue. But how?

Interview marketing.

Interviewing top guests on your show and being interviewed on other shows not only increases your credibility but also grows your show and leads to revenue. Right now, however, the problem is being tackled the wrong way. The solution on the market is PR and booking agencies. Many of them do great work and provide excellent service. Many do not. But none of them offer to pay the creator themselves, even though the creator is the one doing the hard work that others aren’t willing to do.

That’s when the light bulb went off. I started asking shows if they accepted paid guests on their shows, and to my surprise, they would say, “no!” Usually it was because of some sort of artistic integrity, which I can appreciate being a podcaster myself. But then I would follow up with two questions…1) Do you accept sponsors on your show? And the answer was usually something about how they don’t currently have enough downloads, but they’d like to one day. 2) Do you accept pitches from booking agencies? To which the answer is almost always a resounding yes.

That is where we saw an opportunity. Here’s the thing. A good guest spot is nothing but a longer sponsor spot. Sure, you have a great conversation, you add value to your audience whether it’s through entertainment or education, but ultimately, you as a host are promoting that person and their offers to your audience. Even if you say that you don’t accept “pay to play” bookings, if you’ve ever worked with an agency before, you do accept them. The only problem is, you’re not the one getting paid.

Based on a study done recently, the average price that a booking agency charges their client for an appearance is $400. They don’t differentiate between downloads on shows, ratings, host quality, or anything else. Just a flat fee. Again, I think there are great agencies out there that are doing their best to deliver a great result and they obviously are still doing a good enough job because more and more agencies are popping up all over the place. BUT, that still means that they charged their client so they could make an email intro to you, and everyone in the situation wins except for you. The agency makes money from the client, the client makes money from your audience, and you got an episode that took up your time that you don’t monetize.

The bottom line is this: People are already paying to get on your show. They’re just not paying you. Now, I’m not suggesting being a sellout and taking any John or Mary that’s willing to pay you money. I encourage creators to treat it like a sponsor. Hear their pitch, ask yourself if what they offer is valuable to your audience, and if it is, then charge them a number that makes sense for both parties based on how many people your show reaches in a given episode. Their offer will “sponsor your episode.”

But here’s where it gets interesting. It’s not just a 30 second mid roll ad read, although I recommend you offer that for extra value as well. It’s a 30 min+ guest spot. since it’s a much higher touch point where you’re endorsing this person and their offer, you can charge closer to $100 CPM instead of $15-$20 CPM like you would on a regular sponsor spot. (Or $2-$5 CPM for those YouTubers reading this)

This way, if you aren’t “pee your pants excited” about the guest that is being pitched to you, but you think they would still be a cool conversation and you like the product/service/book/offer they have to promote, you can simply reply with a sponsored guest fee and start making real money on your show. Even if you have 200 downloads per episode, your guest fee would be $20. If you increase your release schedule and start taking on more guests, at 5 guests per week, you’re making $400-$500 per month being an interviewer! Not too bad compared to waiting for that magical day when your show somehow jumps from 200 downloads/ep to 200,000.

After seeing too many podcasters and creators working their fingers to the bone for nothing and eventually adding their show to the podcast graveyard also known as your favorite podcast player, I knew there was a problem that needed to be addressed. Why? Not because there isn’t money to made in podcasting. Quite the opposite, actually. The agencies are making a killing. The people promoting their offers on shows were doing well, but the podcaster? They got left to figure it out on their own.

All I’m trying to say is this. Stop thinking that it’s bad to get paid for bookings. You’ve worked hard to provide value and build an audience. You deserve to get paid for it. But if you are going to venture into this world, here’s my two cents:

1) Don’t sell out. Only bring on sponsored guests who align with your values and have an offer that actually makes you excited.

2) Don’t overprice your show for no reason. Be fair and realistic. If you get 1,000 downloads an episode, don’t be the person that tries to sell it at $5,000. Even if you get one person to bite, it’s gonna leave a bad taste in their mouth and you’ll lose in the long run.

3) Base your pricing off of “per episode” metrics. Remember that person is only sponsoring one episode.

4) Get creative. Maybe you don’t want to offer a full guest spot. That’s okay. Just do a 10 minute promo segment at the end of your regularly schedule programming. Just remember to charge accordingly.

5) Disclose to your audience. If someone paid to get in front of your audience, simply let them know just like you would for zip recruiter. A simple “This episode of the show is sponsored by today’s guest who just recently came out with a book about blah blah blah”. The point is, tell your audience they sponsored it, but that you are very serious about properly vetting those people to make sure they’ll still add value to the conversation.

6) Don’t feel like the episode is a sales webinar. They didn’t pay for you to sell their product. They just paid to have the conversation. If I paid to come on your show, it’s not to ONLY promote Guestio. The process works better if you still have a value add conversation that just also has a clear call to action at the beginning and end. Just know that you don’t have to change the format of your show to talk about their offer the whole time. Your audience comes first, so do what’s best for them and provide some real value with that person. If you don’t think they’ll deliver what your audience needs, then turn down the pitch! It’s that simple.

It all leads back to your three basic needs. Interview marketing is the best way I’ve seen to solve those needs. It provides credibility, opportunities for growth, and now, with Guestio and sponsored guests, it leads DIRECTLY to revenue. We look forward to seeing you all get paid to create and talk about the things you love to talk about.

Just don’t forget us when you’re famous


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