The Pros & Cons Of Making Guests Pay To Be On Your Podcast

Podcasters making guests pay to be on their show is not an entirely unacceptable idea. Whether you should do it or not is on a case-to-case basis, and Tom Hazzard is here to discuss its major pros and cons. Tune in as he presents some of the best situations where making guests pay is highly recommended, and several circumstances when doing it is a big no-no. On the other hand, Tom also talks about when and why you should pay to be a guest on another podcast, detailing how to do your own due diligence when choosing the show to be in.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

The Pros & Cons Of Making Guests Pay To Be On Your Podcast

In this episode, I want to talk about a topic that I get a lot of questions about from some of the podcasters that we support. I want to talk about the pros and cons of making guests pay to be on your podcast. The footnote or subtitle to this is also the Pros and Cons of Paying to be a Guest on Someone’s Podcast. These things go hand-in-hand. I’m going to talk about it from both perspectives a bit here.

The big thing that I want to share with you is context is very important as you consider this. There’s not one universal answer. That’s why I’m saying it’s the pros and cons of doing it, of either making guests pay or paying. If you want to get more exposure for your personal brand, your podcast, or your business, paying to be on someone else’s show, is it worth doing? As I said, context is very important.

I do think that in the independent podcaster community, which is the vast majority of podcasts out there, if somebody asks you to pay to be a guest on the show or if you as a podcaster are considering asking guests to pay a fee to be on your show, it can feel scammy or it can set the wrong kind of tone or send the wrong message. However, depending on the context of the situation, I see it happening a lot and in some situations, it does make sense.

 

 

Brand-New Vs Established Shows

Let me first share though where I think it doesn’t make sense. If you’re a brand new podcaster and you’re launching a brand new show, I don’t think it makes sense for you to require guests to pay to be on your show. You’re going to drastically reduce the pool of guests that are willing to be on your show. It’s going to send a message that you’re only in it for the money and that maybe there’s not a good reason why they should do that. Also, what kind of value are you providing or intending to provide to your audience?

As a brand new show and as an independent podcaster, there are large corporate commercial shows, PR agencies, and all sorts of different organizations that are probably paying a lot of money to get people as guests on certain podcasts but that’s not what I’m talking about. For the small independent podcaster, especially starting a new show, probably it’s not in your best interest because it’s probably going to send a lot of people running, not just walking or turning and leaving, in the other direction to not want to be associated with you or not interested in being on your show.

If you have a well-established show with metrics that you can share and you can make the value case or sell the value proposition this person’s going to get a lot of exposure on your show. Also, there is a value to that, and you want to require a fee for them to share in that value because they’re going to get exposure through your show. If you can show that and make that case, then charging people on your show may be just fine.

I will tell you the best cases where I’ve seen this are two things where a podcaster does a lot of effort in promoting the show and they have a lot of costs and expenses in doing that. Also, they ask their guests to contribute to that. That can be received a little better or even more so, by giving your guests an option to say, “We pay to produce this show and we do promote it, but we have some additional promotion opportunities to reach even more people. If you’re willing to pay for that, your episode can reach more people.” Also, you can position it as “There’s a premium opportunity to get more exposure if you’re willing to pay.”

I’ve seen some shows do that but that still is met with some limited success and sometimes is met with a healthy dose of doubt and skepticism that, “Why wouldn’t you do that anyway for the show? Why make me willing to pay?” Hopefully, the perspective is you, the host should benefit from that in your business maybe more so than the guest. Also, the guest is providing their time and their mind share to be on your show and be interviewed.

There are different ways people look at this. Some podcasters think, “I’m getting this guest to come on my show and that’s a wonderful thing. I don’t want to charge them for it.” Others are like, “I’m doing a heck of a lot of work. I’m spending a lot of money. I want the guest to help share in that if they’re going to be on my show,” and some people do require it.

Jumping The Line

There are benefits and there are drawbacks to considering this. The ones that I’ve seen that I think have the most integrity and work the best is that we have a customer here at Podetize that the show is so popular and there are so many guests who are already booked and lined up. They are scheduled for a year. They’re not even going to be interviewed for a year. Forget then when it’s going to publish.

Now, I keep telling that customer, “That’s a pretty deep calendar of guests. You might consider publishing more than one a week if you’ve got that kind of depth.” It’s easy for me to say, but then it doubles the cost of producing those episodes over that period of time. This particular customer reads the book of their guest and does a lot of research, homework, and puts a lot of thought and energy into the interview.

That’s very hard for her to do more than one a week so I can understand that but what she’s done is pretty interesting because she will have people that want to be a guest and they’re like, “Wait a minute. You’re not even going to interview me for a year. I’m not interested in that,” or, “That’s far out in the future. What I’m doing and what I want to share with your audience is more timely.”

What she offers is the ability for the guests to pay to jump the line to, “There are many other people who are scheduled and signed up ahead of you to be interviewed. Many already have been and they’re just being produced and scheduled over the next couple of months. If you want to be interviewed now and want your episode to air within the next six weeks or sometimes maybe within a month, I’ll do that, but you’re going to have to pay a fee of $300, $400, or whatever it is. I think those are the range of what she’s charging for that.

That to me makes a lot of sense because people can understand, “You just come now to ask to be interviewed on this show. I’m very happy to do it, but you’re going to have to get in line behind all those people. If you want to jump the line and get your recording done now and your episode published sooner, that’s fine, but you’re going to need to pay. The other people who got in before you understand, “They didn’t pay and they’re waiting for the natural time to happen and their episode will publish.”

To me, you’re paying for a premium publishing date happening sooner, not having to wait. That I think is a reasonable and good reason why someone might charge a guest to be on their show or for a certain context or timing of being on their show. They don’t have to and choose not to charge everyone for that but a pretty deep recording schedule is a reality for some shows.

Show Marketing

There are some that are spending money to market their shows. At Podetize, we have now a new promotion program where our podcasters are paying and their podcast audio clips of their recent episodes are being advertised on literally thousands of mobile phone apps. Not podcast apps, but to raise awareness to new listeners every month and there’s a cost to that. It works. It’s driving people to go and click from that ad to go to their podcast page on their website, their YouTube channel, their show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever they want them to go but they’re paying money to do that.

They can show, “This show is being advertised to hundreds of thousands of new people every month. The impressions of those ads, they’re reaching and being heard by hundreds of thousands of people every month and you’re going to benefit from that if you are willing to pay a fee.” What they do then is have that episode with that guest be some of the sound bites that are played in those ads. That’s just one marketing program that’s working now to raise listenership and raise awareness of a podcast that a lot of podcasters are doing with us here at Podetize.

Other programs that other podcasts engage in pay agencies for social media promotion and to get exposure. They’re paying people to get more exposure to the YouTube channel. If there are some real costs and the podcast can show that to the potential guest, “Here’s the good reason why we request,” and that’s a polite way of putting it or in some realities, it may be more require a fee for you to be a guest on the show when you’ve been accepted to be a guest.

Non-Profit Podcasters

You can at least understand why that is. There’s a good reason why and they’re going to get great value and exposure from it. That’s why they should pay. I think there are an awful lot of guests that are willing to do that. Another one that I think is very important and worth mentioning is that we have some nonprofit podcasters and they’re looking for donations and things to help support. We have some nonprofit podcasters that are entirely supported by donations. It’s a passion project, what they’re doing for the podcast and they are trying to help cover the cost of production so they can keep serving their community and a lot of these are really good causes.

They’re asking, not requiring, but asking and recommending every one of their guests contribute $200, let’s say, to help cover some of the cost of their podcast. A lot of their guests on these nonprofits are willing to do that and some of them are even willing to contribute and donate more because they agree with the message, the cause, and who the podcast is supporting out there and they want to help do that.

You can use things like Patreon and some of those other things where you can just take credit card payments over your website. I see some doing that and some doing it through the booking process to book to be a guest, even if it’s an option. The option is right there for them to do it. I’m seeing a lot of people willing to do it. I know a lot of you new podcasters reading this might be thinking, “This is a whole nother level. I wasn’t thinking of ever charging someone to be a guest and it’s overly complicated.”

Feed Your Brand | Making Guests Pay
Making Guests Pay: Setting up a Patreon to collect donations is a good monetization approach for non-profit podcasts and a way for people to book as guests.

 

Don’t worry about it. Don’t think about that right now. Get your podcast established and over time, there may be an appropriate situation and good reason why you might want to charge a guest to be on your podcast but it’s not for everybody. I don’t believe I’ve ever charged anybody to be a guest on any one of the podcasts that I’ve done over the years but I have a different purpose for my podcast and what I’m doing. Also, I don’t need to charge someone and I never did.

Paying To Be A Guest

Now, I do different kinds of monetization through sponsorship. This is one way people monetize their podcasts is by charging their guests to be on the show but now, let’s talk about whether should you pay to be a guest on someone else’s show. I’ve got an example here that I want to share. There are some shows and somebody I do business with who’s not a podcaster but has a marketing agency asked me, “Tom, I have had someone approach me about being a guest on their podcast and they’ve given me all these criteria. They’re not charging a whole lot of money. It’s a couple hundred bucks, but can you look at it and let me know if you think that it’s worth doing?”

Initially, when he told me this on just a phone call, I had my doubt and skepticism meter going up a little bit. I’m like, “You got to be careful. You got to evaluate it,” but he sent me the information. When I saw the metrics of what they say their listenership is, you have to take a little leap of faith there because you cannot conclusively prove that. Even if they provide you with screenshots and things, you have to trust they’re true.

I have seen some shows, doctor that stuff, I’m sorry to say. I’ve seen some shows absolutely fabricate their numbers and that doesn’t help us all in this industry when we are providing an offer that has value to the potential guests. He forwarded me this email, I reviewed it and it was $269 that they charged. When I looked at their website, I saw their podcast and I was able to look up some things. I said, “This is a legitimate show.”

The owner of the marketing agency I was talking to says, “I’m always trying to get exposure and it seems like their audience is a good fit for me. Less than $300 is not a huge expense for me. I’m willing to do it. Do you think it’s worth it?” I said, “Yeah.” After looking at it, I said, “I don’t always think it’s the best situation to set a precedent for paying to be a guest on shows, but in this one, in your particular context, you’re not a podcaster. You own an agency and you want to share some of your wisdom with a podcast audience and you’re willing to pay to do it. They seem to have a decent audience and from what I could see, it was at least believable. The podcast was well-established and they had a long history.” I said, “I think it’d be worth doing for you,” and that was my opinion.

Passive Income Podcasts

Now, let’s go to another whole level and I’m going to provide this last example in terms of context that many of us podcasters have heard about because it was one of the early very successful podcasts that is one of those what they call passive income podcasts. I don’t think it’s that passive because I know that the organization behind it does an awful lot of work but I know others who have paid as much as $5,000 to be a guest on a single episode of a very big podcast.

The one that I am remembering and that I know. I spoke to this person. I didn’t pay to do it, but I spoke to someone that did. This is I guess secondhand information, but I also have done a little homework and believe it to be true at that time. I don’t know if they’re still doing it today, but the show is Entrepreneurs on Fire by John Lee Dumas. They are well known for being a huge podcast with a very large listening audience. They pitched that they provide a tremendous amount of value for every guest on their show.

At that time, and it may be more now or they may or may not doing it anymore. I did not do that level of homework for this episode because it really doesn’t matter what I’m sharing with you. It’s because there are other shows that I know do charge large amounts of money for someone to be a guest. At that time, they’re charging about $5,000. I talked to a couple of people that did that and it was quite a big value proposition, but not a lot of them got the return they were expecting out of it.

I’m not saying everyone does not. I am not bashing the Entrepreneurs on Fire podcast in any way. I think that depending on certain situations, there could be value in that but that’s a very different proposition. I’m not a fan of paying huge amounts of money like that. That’s an awful lot of money. In the podcast world, it’s almost the equivalent of putting a huge money in your budget in an ad on the Super Bowl and hoping that’s going to make your year of advertising.

It’s a big bet. And if you do something like that, just make sure you understand what you’re getting into in the full context and make sure that’s within your budget to afford. Also, how are you going to measure success, I think that is the biggest thing that I would recommend for anyone. Whether you are charging someone to be a guest on your show, I think you need to think about what’s the value proposition and what are they getting in return for that payment. Also, can you make that case and deliver that value?

If you can, then great. You can charge for someone to be a guest on your show but when you’re paying to be on someone’s show, I think you have to do your due diligence and make sure it’s worth it to you. Either you’re doing it as a donation or it’s a goodwill thing because you want to support the podcast and you’re going to get some value of exposure from it that’s going to last for as long as the show hopefully is in existence.

We still get emails, calls, and people reaching out to us from episodes of podcasts that we produced years ago and even ones that we’re not even recording any new episodes on anymore. The ones that we’ve pod faded, but they’re still out there because they’re providing value to some people. We still do get calls from them. We’ve done it where we’ve been guests on other shows and we’re still getting value from that.

There is a value proposition. Again, I want to return to the context that is important, and for certain shows, I can understand when you evaluate that. If you think, “I’m going to run in the other direction. I am not going to pay to be a guest on that show because it feels like they’re using me the guest as a profit center.” If you’re not willing to do that, you don’t have to do it but there are many situations where it makes perfectly good sense. There’s an equitable exchange and you absolutely can provide good value for the fee you’re charging or get good value for the fee that you’re paying to be a guest on someone else’s show.

Think about that exchange of value. Is it equitable? Is it reasonable? Is it fair? Is it a win-win? If it is for you, by all means do it. If it doesn’t feel right to you, then don’t do it. I would also say to talk to others. If you’re considering paying to be on someone’s podcast, there are other people who must have paid to do that before. Ask that podcast for some references of other people who have paid to do it and they should be able to provide you with some that you can contact. That’s another thing.

If you are considering paying to be on someone’s podcast, others must have done the same before you. Ask them for some references and recommendations. Share on X

What I’m saying is do your due diligence and I’m not here to give you a checklist of due diligence items, but any of us can do our homework. Any of us can do a little Googling about that show. We can do a little Googling about that person. You can learn an awful lot and see, “Are they for real or are they not?” Other people will do that to you as well and that’s okay. Listeners want authenticity. I think all of us who are in the independent podcasting world for sure are trying to be real, and authentic, and bring real value to our listeners and I think we can also bring real value to guests.

I love the pay to jump the line. I think that’s legitimate and works for a lot of shows. Paying for exposure and promotion can work very well. I love also the nonprofit donations helping contribute to support the show. If someone’s in there for the right reasons, they’ll do it. I’ve not talked at all about paying an agency to place you as a guest on other shows. That’s an entirely different thing. That was not the subject of this podcast and there is merit and value in that.

That’s something we’ve talked about in some past episodes and probably something we should revisit again because we do see lots of people who are not podcasters using an agency to pay to get to be a guest on other podcasts for their own marketing purposes and value. Some podcasts won’t accept you unless you are a podcast host. There are some shows that won’t accept you as a guest unless you have your own podcast and might be willing to do a podcast swap in terms of an interview swap.

Feed Your Brand | Making Guests Pay
Making Guests Pay: A lot of people who are not podcasters using an agency to pay to become guests on other podcasts for their own marketing purposes and value. Meanwhile, some podcasts won’t accept you unless you are a podcaster yourself.

 

However, there are lots of shows that accept guests who are people in business or authors with a new book. That’s one of the most common things but anyone who wants to market and grow either their personal or business brand can pay an agency to do that. I do think there’s lots of value potentially in that with the right agency but other than that, we’ll save that topic for another day.

Closing Words

I hope you found this useful and valuable. Again, it’s the pros and cons. I’m not saying you absolutely should or you absolutely shouldn’t. There are good reasons why you might want to, and then there are some good reasons why you may want to. Context is important. Evaluate it for yourself. You’re going to have to make a judgment call at the end of the day as to whether it’s a fit for you to do it, either to charge your guests or to pay to be a guest on someone else’s show. I leave it up to your good judgment to do that and evaluate it for yourself. Thanks so much, everybody. Next episode, Tracy will be back with me finally off of her jury duty stint, which is going to be exciting. I look forward to seeing you or speaking with you on the next episode.

 

Important Links

Picture of Tom Hazzard

Tom Hazzard

As a top influence strategist for speakers, authors & experts, Tom Hazzard and helps major publications, sports stars, and entrepreneurial influencers ‘Brandcast’ their original messages via podcasting and videocasting. Tom is a real inventor and successful product designer with over 40 US patents issued and pending. He has been rethinking brand innovation for 30 years. His latest SaaS (Software-as-aService) and MaaS (Marketing-as-a-Service) innovation, Podetize, reinvents podcast hosting, advertising, and brand marketing with an obsessive podcaster-centric focus on solutions to get hosts seen, heard, found, and rewarded in our noisy digital world.
Scroll to Top