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Why I Quit Podcasting – Love Your Work, Episode 308

August 10 2023 – 07:30am

Quit PodcastingAfter nearly eight years of the Love Your Work podcast, I’m quitting. Here’s why, and What’s Next.

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Podcasting is a bad business

This is not the immediate reason I’m quitting, but it is at the root: Podcasting is a bad business. When the indirect benefits of an activity run out, it’s hard to keep doing it if it’s not making money.

I realized long ago podcasting is a bad business, but I kept going for other reasons. I’ll explain why in a bit.

Though I didn’t start my podcast with dollar signs in my eyes, I did at least hope I would grow to earn money doing it. I’ve earned about $32,000 in the eight-year history of Love Your Work. More than half of that has been from Patreon supporters, many of whom support for reasons other than the podcast.

During that time, I’ve spent:

In raw numbers, I’ve made a “profit” on the podcast. But, as I broke down in my latest income report, my “wage” was about $6 an hour. My podcast comprised about 5% of my income over these eight years, and took much more than that portion of my time and energy.

Of course, I don’t think about whether the podcast was worth it in terms of an hourly rate. Creative work happens in Extremistan, not Mediocristan, and I’ve made massive life choices to be free to explore creatively without worrying so much what I’m earning in the short-term.

Ways to make money podcasting

But there are many different ways to make a podcast a solid business, and none of them worked for me, for various reasons.

Here are some of these business models, as they apply to the “thought-leader” space (I’ll ignore the more entertainment/infotainment space that podcasts like Gimlet’s inhabit).

  1. Be so massively famous, you can pick-and-choose advertisers, while demanding a lot of money. This is where Tim Ferriss and Joe Rogan are. They both started with large platforms, and applied whatever talents that helped them earn those platforms to make their podcasts huge. After more than fifteen years as a creator, I have a modest platform, but orders of magnitude smaller.
  2. Build a “content machine” that manufactures ad slots. I won’t name names, but you’ve heard these podcasts. They’re formulaic and don’t seem to discern much who they have as a guest, nor what sponsors they accept. This business model is why my inbox is still full of pitches – they think I actually want more guests, because more guests would mean more ad slots. It takes a very rare set of circumstances for me to be excited to interview someone.
  3. Share information that directly helps people make money. If you have tactical and actionable information that’s useful to professionals in a specific industry, you can charge for premium podcast content. I’m not as interested in the tactical and actionable as I am in the abstract and exploratory.
  4. Cover a niche topic. If you have a leading podcast about a very specific topic, advertisers within that niche will be willing to pay high rates to reach that audience. I didn’t want to build my podcast according to a specific topic – more on that later.
  5. Have a “back-end” business. If you have a thriving consulting business, or training programs to sell, you can attract more clients and customers through your podcast. As I wrote in my ten-year reflections, “I want to make a living creating. I don’t want creating to be merely a marketing strategy for other things. Is that completely insane?”

I flirted with success in a few of these business models. Early on, I hoped my podcast would be famous enough to pick and choose advertisers at high rates. For a while, it looked like I had a chance. I was approached by a podcast network, and I had some reputable advertisers such as LinkedIn, Skillshare, Casper, Audible, Pittney Bowes, and University of California. Various times, I thought I was on the cusp of my “big break” – such as when Love Your Work was featured on the Apple Podcasts home screen.

But the more I tried to go the “get famous” route, the louder the siren-song of the “content machine” route got. There were plenty of opportunities to do “interview swaps” with hosts I wasn’t interested in interviewing. There were a few advertisers that had money, but whose products felt sleazy. Joining a podcast network would have pressured me to crank out content even if I didn’t feel like it. There was (and still is) the never-ending stream of pitch emails for guests. I had too much wax in my ears to go the “content machine” route.

Not included in my lifetime revenue-estimates for Love Your Work is money I made through the “back-end business” route. I was somewhat comfortable with this model, but I haven’t made a course in years, as I’ve been focused on writing books. And as bad a business as people say writing books is, it’s better than making a podcast.

The podcast has helped me sell books in more ways than one. One way is that people who listened to the podcast bought my books. The other way is, making my podcast helped me write my books.

This brings me to the reason I kept making my podcast, even after I realized it wasn’t a good business.

Make for what making makes you

In my sixteen years experimenting with different business models as an independent creator, I’ve settled on one thing that works: Make for what making makes you.

If making a podcast, writing a book, sending a weekly newsletter – you name it – merely makes you money, and doesn’t make you who you want to be, what’s the point?

Sure, sometimes you don’t feel like creating, and you do it anyway. Yes, sometimes you pick one project over another because you think it will be more lucrative. But you can only redirect the river that is your creativity so much before it overflows and returns to its natural path.

I learned from my guests

When I started Love Your Work, and was struggling to make it big enough to work with an ad model, even if I wasn’t bringing in lots of ad revenue, I was still connecting with and learning from my guests. It was an incredible privilege to have in-depth conversations with people like Seth Godin, Elise Bauer, and David Allen. It was like having my own personal advisory board of heroes.

Talking to them helped me learn how to go off the beaten path and find my calling. I was able to find patterns in their stories that I could apply to my own life and career. I would be a completely different person today if I hadn’t had those conversations.

It was time to explore

But there came a point when doing interviews was no longer serving me the way it once had. It was when I had gained the confidence – thanks to my previous guests – to explore further my own ideas.

That’s when I stopped interviewing guests, so I’d have more time to explore. Love Your Work shifted from my personal advisory board to my personal sounding board – a sort of “open mic,” where I fleshed out ideas. I got to see how it felt to effortfully explore each idea. I got to hear how they sounded when I read them aloud. I got to feel how they resonated (or didn’t) with others.

It helped me write my books

A couple years after I started Love Your Work, I started writing a book called Getting Art Done. Getting Art Done turned out to be three books, two of which I’ve published. Love Your Work has been there to help me explore the ideas in these books. The Heart to Start was full of conversations from my early guests, and came from my very real struggles in gaining the confidence to take my ideas seriously enough to pursue them. Mind Management, Not Time Management came from my very real struggles to harness my creative energy and push my ideas forward.

As I work on the final book in the Getting Art Done trilogy, Finish What Matters, I’m asking myself, What struggle does this book come from? Clearly, I’ve finished a lot of creative work: three books, over two-hundred consecutive weekly newsletters, and over three-hundred episodes of this podcast. But as I’ve dwelt on that final word in the title, matters, I’m asking myself if I’m really working on what matters?

Love Your Work and Getting Art Done have been an exploration in creative productivity. But at some point, writing about Resistance becomes a form of Resistance. I don’t feel I’ve reached that point yet, but I don’t want to. If I’m going to learn enough to write Finish What Matters, I have to really test my ideas of what matters.

I’ve probably explored enough ideas, through Love Your Work, that I want to develop further in Finish What Matters. But for the time being, I need space to explore what matters. That’s the biggest reason I’m quitting Love Your Work. I had considered doing so in the past, but I kept hoping I’d know What’s Next before I quit. I’ve come to realize that I can’t know What’s Next until I have the space to explore.

What’s Next is finding What’s Next

It’s a little scary to have that void. But it’s also exciting. Furthermore, I’ve faced The Void many times before: when I started on my own, after finishing each book, and a little bit after each podcast episode or newsletter. What’s scarier now than facing the void is that I’ll stick with what’s safe, and distract myself into dying with my best creations inside me.

I could just say I’m taking a break, or not say anything at all and stop until I felt inspired to make a new episode. I’ve talked before about how I struggle to burn my boats and close doors. So, I’m calling it quits, knowing I could always drop another episode in the feed down the line if I wanted to. But I hope I find something that matters more, before that ever happens.

Thank you for listening!

Thank you for listening to Love Your Work. Thank you especially to my Patreon supporters, who can of course feel free to stop supporting, or keep supporting for the bonus content, and to support What’s Next. To learn What’s Next once I find it, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter at

One last time, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Image: Pierrot Lunaire by Paul Klee

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Theme music: Dorena “At Sea”, from the album About Everything And More. By Arrangement with Deep Elm Records. Listen on Spotify »

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