In terms of creative funding, I see authors, YouTubers, and podcasters making money in 7 primary ways. This episode will be a broad overview. In the future, we will have deep dive episodes on each of these ways. In short, creators can make money with merch, products, affiliate revenue, advertising, sponsorship, crowdfunding, and patronage. 

We will also have guests on who will share their stories of using one or more of these methods to fund their creativity.

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#1 Merch

  • Tangible Goods Like Hats & Shirts
  • Merch allows members of your tribe to find each other in real life.
  • This works best for YouTubers and Bloggers where they communicate visually.
    • Philip Defranco’s “Why Be Informed When You Can Use Your Feelings as Your Facts” shirt is a great example of this. He has a fact-based news show, and this shirt resonates with his viewers.
  • Also can work for podcasters with inside jokes.
    • The History of Rome podcast has sold a lot of Livia did it t-shirts.
  • If you print your shirts on demand the margins are low.
    • In general, you need a fairly large audience before merch can become super profitable. If you can print them in mass, your cost per shirt is a lot lower, but you risk having hundreds of unsold wrong sized shirts in your garage.
  • I plan to have creators who’ve made money with merch on the show to share what they have learned.

#2 Products

  • Can be intangible goods like courses and software.
  • This is the primary way we funded the Novel Marketing podcast for the first several years.
    • MyBookTable WordPress Plugin
    • MyBookProgress WordPress Plugin
    • 5 Year Plan to Become a Bestselling Author
  • Can be tangible:
    • CD or MP3 download of your bands music.
    • Your book on Amazon

#3 Affiliate Revenue

  • This is where you recommend a product and if your fans click your link to buy it, you get a commission.
  • The key here is to be very transparent about the affiliate links. If your fans love you, the transparency actually boost link clicks.
  • This was scary for me, but I have started moving the affiliate disclosure away from the legalese in the privacy policy and started putting (affiliate link) right next to the link.
  • Amazon has the most popular affiliate program, partly because they sell pretty much everything and the affiliate program is super easy to use.
  • Making it easier for Authors to use Amazon’s affiliate program is one of the primary motivations behind our plugin MyBookTable.
  • Amazon is not the only game in town. There are thousands of other affiliate programs out there. Some of which give 50% or more in commissions.

#4 Advertising 

  • This is YouTube’s monetization, Google’s Adsense, that sort of thing. Tends to be algorithmic. The creator does not have a relationship with the advertiser and the platform acts as the intermediary.
  • With this monetization method, you are at the mercy of an algorithm that you don’t control or fully understand.
    • YouTube giveth and YouTube taketh away.
  • This is easy to setup once you meet the qualifications and easy to lose. Unless you are a big dog, it can be very hard to get a human to talk to you about why you’ve been demonetized.
  • As a general rule, making money is all about how many views, or listens you get. This monetization method works best if you have a popular topic.
  • This also works for bloggers. I learned this lesson the hard way with my first viral blog post.
  • For podcasters, you typically have to be in a podcast network to get these kinds of 3rd party ads.

#5 Sponsorship

  • With sponsorship, the sponsor typically has a relationship with the creator and picked that creator specifically. The nice thing about sponsorship is that it can work well for creators who have a small focused group of subscribers, but those subscribers are very focused on a niche that is valuable to the sponsor.
    • The Podcast is a good example of this. The podcast is focused on WordPress developers and there are a lot of web hosts and software companies who are willing to pay to reach his focused audience WordPress developers.
  • Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you are popular as well. If you have a million subscribers to your YouTube channel on makeup, there are a lot of makeup brands that will pay a lot of money to sponsor your show.

#6 Crowdfunding

The next monetization method is crowdfunding. The primary platforms for this are Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

I’ve used both platforms.

For most creatives, I like Kickstarter better. For technology products there are some good reasons to go with Indiegogo.

The classic crowdfunding campaign is for an artists is an album.

Musicians typically charge:

  • $10 for digital copies,
  • $20 for CDs a
  • $30 for signed CDs.

The goal is to make just enough to afford the studio time and production of the CDs.

The funding is all or nothing. So if you need to raise $2500 for studio time and only raise $500, your backers are not charged and you don’t get any money. This keeps you from being on the hook for the remaining $2000. It also motivates your backers to spread the word.

For authors it is almost the same:

  • $10 for ebook copies,
  • $20 for the ebook + the paper copy
  • $30 for signed Copy of the book.

Backers also like to get credit in the book or printed CD.

I used a version of this for my Kicktarter campaign that raised $11,000 for my book Courtship in Crisis. You can see a link to that campaign in the show notes.   

A lot more I could say about crowdfunding, but I will leave it there.

#7 Patronage

Patronage will be the primary focus of this show, because I think it has the most untapped potential.  

The basic model is a PayPal or Facebook donate button. The person who is doing this the best is the podcaster Dan Carlin. He host one of the most popular single host podcasts and he funds nearly all of it with PayPal donations.

The best way to do this is with a platform like Patreon makes it easy to reward your backers based off of how much they donate. For example, Patreon creates a patrons only RSS feed so podcasters can create a patrons only podcast with special patrons only episodes. Or you can post videos that only backers see or that backers see first.

So while on Kickstarter you might fund a podcast season or a band might fund an album you have to start over for the second season or album. Patreon, on the other hand, allows you to raise monthly donations song by song, episode by episode, or month by month. It is continual funding that is much less stressful.

In general, this is a much healthier way to make money. Making all your money for the year in one month requires a lot of financial discipline not to blow your money in the first few months.  

The patronage model also creates a better long-term relationship with your patrons and allows for more two way feedback.

Full disclosure, I am an affiliate with Patreon and have my own Patreon page for this show. That said, to date, I have made a lot more money off of Kickstarter and Products than I have through patronage. I plan to talk about Kickstarter’s drip program, especially once they open it up to the public.

Other Ways to Make Money:

  • Getting paid for song plays on Spotify
  • Being paid to go on TV to be in someone’s ad.
  • Superchats
  • Brave Browser
  • And much more


I hope you see that there are a lot of ways you can fund your work. You don’t need to do all of these to make a living. The more you use, the more stable you will be financially. There is no reason to be a starving artist. If there is an audience that loves your work, you can make a living doing what you love.  

If you are overwhelmed, stick around. We are going to break down each of these methods and answer your questions. You are not alone. We are here to help.

We also need your help, if you are willing, we would really appreciate a review on iTunes. With your help, we can hit iTunes’ new and noteworthy list which will help us get amazing guests.

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