Podcast Burnout: How to Avoid It

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Love time on the mic but hate all the planning? Worried it's going to cause you to quit podcasting?
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You can prevent some forms of podcast burnout by changing the way you prepare for, and think about your approach to podcasting.

Burnout is a real thing for podcasters, but it’s not unlike any other activity you can get burned out from. If you really love the idea of podcasting, but are frustrated by all the other things that you’ve discovered come along for the ride, here are some tips for overcoming podcast burnout.

First of all, I’m going to break some blogging protocol here and give you five other resources you should read on the general topic of burnout. Because if you’re actually dealing with deeper issues, like stress or depression, you need to come to grips with those.

Important resources on ‘real’ burnout:

How about handling podcast-related burnout? Maybe we should first come to grips with the most likely causes of burnout, and talk about how we can prevent or neutralize them.

Since there’s not a lot of content out there reflecting podcasters dealing with burnout, I’ll use the comments I’ve seen in Facebook groups, on Reddit, in this single article on podcast burnout from DiscoverPods (and the author’s podcast series on the subject in his podcast, BitRate), and my own experience.

We burn out over performance anxiety

Most of us podcasters are novices. Amateurs. Hobbyists. Sidegiggers. We may have taken public speaking courses, but we don’t spend the majority of our time on a mic, entertaining, informing, or educating others.

Surely that’s one potential source of our stress. Imposter syndrome. Or maybe stage fright.

We’re worried about how we come across to others — the quality of our voice, the way we laugh, how well thought-out our opinions are, or some other factor.

What’s a remedy for this?

Let me preface my answer (and my other answers below, with this: I’m no doctor. And I don’t play one on TV. So take my words of wisdom as just that: words of wisdom. Not clinical advice.)

Embrace who you are right now. Not the version of you that you aspire to be, someday. The one you are right now. The communicator you are right now. The podcaster you are right now.

Cast off any pressure you feel to be The Host of Podcast X, as though people whisper it when they see you walk by in Target, instead of just being you, a person who happens to host a podcast.

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We burn out over the pressure to record

It’s Tuesday, let’s say. And you once promised your audience that they should expect new episodes from you every Wednesday. You did it because you wanted put yourself on the hook publicly, thinking it would force you to step up.

Does this describe you?

So here you are, finished with your day job, done eating dinner with the family, it’s 8:30pm, and you’re not 100% sure what you want to address on this week’s episode or how you want to structure it. And the tension creeps in.

What’s a remedy for this?

Remedy #1: Switch to seasons. Feeling pressure like this every once in awhile is okay, but if you’re feeling it every week, just switch to seasons, with 10 episodes per season.

Switching to seasons gives you a finish line, even if it’s temporary. That finish line is a time to take a breath, recharge, rethink your show’s style or format or personality.

Switching to seasons also means your listeners know there’s a finish line. They know you’ll be taking a break for whatever period of time you take in-between seasons to do those things. One month? Two? Longer?

Remedy #2: Just take a stinking break. It’s your show. Record a fresh intro letting people know that you’re bringing a past show from the archives back to the forefront because ‘life got in the way this week.’

If you don’t have sponsors that are going to crush you for doing this, you don’t owe anyone anything. Even the greatest television programs have reruns. They don’t run continuous all the time, with ne’er a break in the action.

Remedy #3: Start planning further ahead. Beyond mapping out your future episodes, write outlines for those episodes when you have free time.

Stress can reduce with the right amount of preparation. The less stress you feel in doing your podcast, the less likely you are in ever feeling burnout.

We burn out because we’re doing it all ourselves

This is a quote from one podcaster in the Podcasters’ Support Group on Facebook:

I think it’s hard pushing through with something you’re doing entirely off your own back that involves a lot of creativity, thinking and hours of work. We all get those moments when we think why are we doing this. 

Lisa Francesca Nand

This is a hard one. Most podcasters are DIYers. We’re the host, the showrunner, the audio engineer, the marketer, and more.

One day we’re asking questions about LUFS, later that day we’re sending out emails to land more guests. One day we’re creating a new audiogram to promote our shows, later that day we’re grappling with how to get more ratings or reviews…while stumbling on comments that they’re irrelevant for getting more exposure.

You get the idea. You can relate.

What’s a remedy for this?

Remedy #1: Find people who believe in you who are willing to give you a hand. Start there.

Eric Cacciatore, a friend and host of the Restaurant Unstoppable podcast, has a handful of talented people in his corner. They believe in what he’s trying to do for the restaurant industry, and they believe in him and want him to be successful. So much so, that one person manages his website, another helps him land sponsors, and another is now doing all of his video recording and editing as he adds that dimension to his podcasts.

Do you have friends who would love to lend you a hand? You may be surprised. Ask around.

Remedy #2: Take a look at resources like Fiverr or GenM. There are inexpensive resources like these where you can find people to whom you can outsource bits and pieces of your one-person podcasting empire.

Want someone to build your audiograms? Check. Need someone to write your show notes? Check.

Decide what it’s worth to you in time to simply pay someone to do these things and do them or stop doing them. But don’t fret over it for months on end. Either invest, or realize it’s part of the podcasting game.

We burn out because we’re overpreparers

There’s something to be said for getting it ‘about right, on time’ versus obsessing over every little detail of your podcast. We have a tendency to compare our internal stories — our struggles and our worries over mic choice, podcast music, guests, our download numbers, our followers on social media — with others’ external stories.

What I mean by that is we compare what we know about ourselves with what we think we know about others, but it’s only based on what’s visible from the outside with those others.

They seem to always be excited about their podcast. They seem to put out an episode like clockwork every week without any stress. They have great cover art. They give all the right answers in the Facebook groups as though they don’t have a care in the world.

But we don’t know their internal struggles. We assume they have none.

So we prepare, and obsess, and think through every little detail as though if it’s not perfect, our episode will be a failure.

What’s a remedy for this?

Remedy #1: Just chill out. Even if you want to turn your podcasting into a full-time gig, right now you probably don’t have a full family, or countless employees, pinning all their hopes and dreams on each of the details you’re fretting over.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t have all of your questions written down that you want to ask your guest?

Asking yourself that very question — “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” — is a great remedy for many of our stresses in life. Because the worst thing that can happen is usually pretty innocuous. There’s no long-term damage.

In fact, I’ll challenge you to do this: Let the ball drop on something for one week. Feel the nervousness or anxiety over it. Then look back afterwards so you can realize it wasn’t that big of a deal.

Remedy #2: Plot out your podcast episodes in HelloCast. We give you places to store everything. Your advance research, your files, your links, your guest’s contact details. Everything.

If you’re prone to wanting to get everything orderly and easily accessible, there is no alternative to HelloCast that’s as thorough. Yes, you can hack together an Airtable database or build your own Trello board(s) to manage your podcast. Or use a free-form tool like Evernote. But no tool exists to put everything in one place like HelloCast.

If you can’t beat the Overpreparer Demon inside of you, give him a place to let it all out in an orderly fashion. That place is HelloCast.

We burnout because of our unrealistic expectations

I’ve seen podcasters post in Reddit about how antsy they are to land sponsors when they’re getting 50 downloads per episode and they’re very early-on.

I promise you, I am not mocking this person. But I am pointing it out via link because those are just flat-out unrealistic expectations. Don’t do this to yourself.

If you started podcasting because you were presented the stories of 10 other podcasters who had started earning a nice income from their podcast after 30 days, well, you were the first person to be presented with such a lineup of podcasters. Those people don’t really exist.

There are plenty of full-time podcasters, don’t get me wrong. But they didn’t get there within 30 days, nor with 50 downloads per episode, and most likely not within their first six months or year.

What’s a remedy for this?

Time. It takes time.

You’ve got to be realistic. There’s a reason established podcast networks won’t take on new shows at all, and typically won’t take on existing shows with less than 5,000 downloads per episode consistently. They can’t monetize those kinds of podcasts very well.

Most successful podcasters today — those who are doing this full-time — have either a past in radio broadcasting, or they brought an existing following with them from their OTHER business(es), or they’ve been at it for 3-5 years, or they invested heavily in promoting their show. Like, invested significantly in advertising and promoting and collaborating with well-known online entrepreneurs.

Heck, some of the gurus of podcasting — the Elsie Escobars, the Dave Jacksons, the Aaron Dowds, the Addy Saucedos, the Rob Walchs — have DAY JOBS. They’re talented and wise and experienced, and their podcasts are side gigs. They work for Libsyn or Simplecast, or whomever.

Be in this for the right reasons.

Serve a specific community. Pay your dues. Keep yourself grounded. Don’t obsess over your stats six months into hosting your first podcast.

Prepare for your episodes, but don’t go OCD on every little detail. Vent to, and just generally positively interact with, other podcasters in one or more of the numerous podcast groups on Facebook.

And get more advanced help if your problems originated outside of podcasting. We want you to keep podcasting, and sometimes that requires proper self-care.

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