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To Pay or Not Toupee

To pay for guests? Hold on a minute

I’ve had guests on since the first year I started podcasting. I’ve found the experience to be both challenging and rewarding and overall, the people who’ve agreed to join us have been fun, charming, knowledgeable and engaging. The people who we’ve had on has definitely enhanced the reach and entertainment value of our show.

With this all being written it’s worth discussing if a host should pay for a guest to appear. Now, I’ve been a guest on many a pod and I’ve never considered asking for monetary compensation. In our particular case we’ve engaged in a cross-promotion strategy where exposure is the price that we’re paid, and I’d like to think that my appearance will draw some in my audience to the shows where I make my appearance. In this way both shows benefit without money ever exchanging hands. As for me, I've never paid for guests, and I've honestly never expected that anyone would ask to be paid. I don't even know other podcasters who've paid for guests and some of them have had some pretty famous people on. Considering my experiences with the whole matter I think that I'd rather shave off all my abundant hair and wear a toupee than to pay someone for an appearance . . . perhaps this was too harsh, so let me expound on this.

The situation is slightly different when inviting subject matter experts who are not blatantly promoting a product or content. For example, should one pay a geneticist to appear on a science podcast or an economist to be at a finance pod?  In my view people who might consider being a guest on your show recognizes the value of your show and the audience that it brings.

You see, I recognize that there are some people who might ask for payment for an appearance. They see their time as valuable and they want to be fairly compensated; however, I don’t think that most people ask to be paid because, in the first place, they genuinely enjoy sharing and teaching, and, secondly, they recognize the value of the exposure.

I don’t mean to trigger the reader with the phrase or notion of “paying for exposure.” We’re all aware of the cautionary tale of young people, usually creatives like illustrators or singers, who agree to forego cash payment for their services for a chance to get exposure.

Remember Your Value

Consider instead that the host is not hiring the artist to sing or draw, nor is the host asking the geneticist to sequence a DNA strand. The purpose of their visit is for conversation and to share their knowledge and experience with a wider audience. To add to this, I can’t overstate the value it is to the guest. Many people will want to be on your show for the networking and camaraderie it offers, and many more will want to be on your show because they have something to promote or sell, even if it’s not the main reason or top of mind for them. A recording artist might have a new song that they’d like folks to download from Bandcamp or an author has a self-published book to promote. Even a film aficionado, or a math professor who doesn’t have anything tangible to promote are promoting themselves as experts in their fields. They’re coming on your show because you have something to offer, so don’t sell yourself short. There is, after all, another way of looking at this.

It is as easy to state that a guest might be paid for an appearance as it is to say that the podcaster should be paid to have a guest on. There are some podcasts out there that charge guests for appearances, so, even though this is not something that you might do, it serves you well to recognize your value. It also serves to recognizing the risks that you take on when you have guests. Obviously, you’re looking for folks to elevate your show and possibly expand your audience, but there’s a chance that the guest could have a negative effect. They might not be the person that you thought they’d be, so you might not have chemistry with them. They might be a dull person with nothing of interest to contribute and with no ability to carry a conversation. They might have the worst internet or audio equipment that makes remote connecting tedious. They might be a total stinker who turns off your audience.

It’s important to remember that, the ultimate question is: can you have a good conversation with this guest that your people will want to listen to? No one should be pressured to pay guests to come on their shows. If a guest is asking for monetary compensation, then that just means that your show lacks the audience demographic or audience size for that particular guest; however, as you continue your work, then your show will continue to grow, and you will find incredible people who will want to spend some time with you and your audience.

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