Youโ€™re reading an excerpt of Stop Asking Questions, by Andrew Warner, a veteran podcast host of 2000+ episodes. The book explains how to lead high-impact interviews and learn anything from anyone. Master the craft of interviewing with this complete digital package. Purchase now for lifetime access to the book and extensive audio and video resources.

It took me a year of publishing three episodes a week to finally feel โ€œreadyโ€ to sell ads on Mixergy. The truth is, I had no idea what I was doing. But step-by-step, I built a sponsorship revenue stream that took my little podcast from a hobby to a full-time business with multiple employees.

In this section, Iโ€™ll share my story of how I landed my first podcast sponsor, scaled ad revenue from less than $50K to over $400K in three years, and created a system that makes money with minimal effort.

Some podcasts will be ready to sell ads faster than I was. Some slower. No matter what, your podcast sponsorship journey will go through three stages: startup, growth, and maturity.

The Startup Stage

The startup phase began a year after I started interviewing and felt ready to look for my first sponsor. At the time, I didnโ€™t know what to charge. I didnโ€™t even know how many people listened to my podcast because the publishing software I used didnโ€™t keep track of listenership.

The startup stage of sponsorship sales is full of unknowns for both creator and sponsor. Thatโ€™s why you should start with learning, not selling. Then, when you start selling, prioritize getting data from sponsors over making money from them. And, to eliminate the uncertainty for them, guarantee results.

I first needed to answer a simple question: How much could I charge? Thereโ€™s no ad platform for podcasts that will automatically tell you the value of your show. I had to find someone with some experience who would be friendly enough to help me. Scouring online message boards, I met Sunir Shah, an ads buyer from FreshBooks. At the time, FreshBooks bought a lot of advertising on podcasts similar to mine, so I asked Sunir if heโ€™d help me understand ad sales. I sent him a link to all the interviews I had recorded to show I was serious. He and the FreshBooks team gave me invaluable advice. They taught me how they bought ads, which sites performed well for them, and what great ads looked like.

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