What’s Creator Burnout & How Can Podcasters Overcome It?

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Start a podcast, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. It probably started out as fun and exciting. Then, a few episodes in, you start to feel the wear constant creation has on your creative reserves.

Pretty soon, Bo Burnham’s Content song is the most relatable piece of music you’ve heard all year.

“Getting up, sitting down, going back to work might not help, but still, it couldn’t hurt… Look, I made you some content… “

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Every type of creator is susceptible to burnout. At first, you feel lucky that you have the opportunity to make a podcast — maybe you’re even getting paid to do it. But, it starts to dawn on you that you’ve got to come up with something new every. week.

Creator burnout can be a very isolating experience. If it’s worth anything, though, all creators go through slumps. That’s because you’re withdrawing from an empty bank account — you’re running on an empty tank. Creativity doesn’t come from thin air. You have to deposit new experiences and information into your account before you can use any of your savings.

Otherwise, it’s like trying to run a marathon when you haven’t eaten or drank any water for three days. It’s physically impossible. (Don’t @ me, masochistic marathon runners.)

In order to overcome creator burnout, it helps to understand what it is and why it happens. So, today we’re covering three big questions:

  1. What is Creator Burnout?
  2. Why Do Podcasters Burn Out?
  3. How Can Podcasters Overcome Burnout?

Let’s dig in.

What is Creator Burnout?

Creator burnout looks different for everyone. However, the catch-all definition of burnout from the World Health Organization is…

“… a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Definition of “burnout,” World Health Organization

WHO goes on to say that burnout is characterized by three dimensions:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  3. Reduced professional efficacy (inability to perform tasks)

Creator Burnout Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic lists more symptoms of burnout, including…

  • Cynicism towards work
  • Trouble getting started with work
  • Irritability and impatience with coworkers
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of satisfaction from achievements
  • Disillusionment towards your job
  • Self-medicating with food, alcohol, or drugs
  • Altered sleeping habits
  • Unexplainable headaches, stomach issues, or other physical complaints

Typically for creators, we start to feel these negative effects because of the constant pressure to create. It’s the literal act of doing our job that causes burnout. Although, it could creep up from other external forces as well — a manager, the work environment, the work culture.

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And, many times, it’s a mixture of things that cause creator burnout. It’s nuanced for every individual. That’s why it’s difficult to put your finger on one cause and cut it out from your work.

Creator Burnout Causes

Other than running low on creativity, possible causes of creator burnout include…

  • Lack of influence over decisions that affect you
  • Unclear job expectations
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Extreme monotony or chaos
  • Lack of social support
  • No work-life balance

The thing with creator burnout is that many creators are working almost entirely solo. So, dysfunctional workplace dynamics and lack of influence over decisions aren’t normally the root of burnout. They can be, though, if you’re a creator with a full-time gig.

Why Do Podcasters Burn Out?

We know what can cause creator burnout. But, burnout in podcasters is even more nuanced. And it largely comes about due to pressure — real or imagined — to constantly push out content.

Doing It Alone

In an interview with Caroline Crampton from Hot Pod News, podcaster Sophie Harper attributes her burnout to…

“… pressure to meet the agreed schedule. I’d get sick, or my daughter would, and I’d be forced to keep working around the clock regardless. I was doing the whole thing alone.”

Sophie Harper, Producer of Not By Accident

Even though Harper’s audience started to build up and she began generating ad revenue, it was only enough to cover the time she’d spent making the ads.

Unrealistic Expectations

Crampton explains that a supposed accessibility makes it possible for podcasters to churn out high-quality material on a weekly basis. Yet, other creators like authors and filmmakers aren’t held to the same unattainable expectations. They’re given advances and time to culminate their ideas.

As long as you have a computer, you’re somehow expected to make a thoughtful and listen-worthy podcast episode every week. Oh, and you should be able to do the whole thing on your own, too. And you may or may not make money from it. Why is this our outlook on podcast production, but not for other creations?

The Perfect Storm

It seems like the combination of three main components is what typically causes podcaster burnout:

  1. Creating in relative isolation
  2. Unrealistic expectations around the amount and quality of content that’s created
  3. Lack of reward (money)

So, how can podcasters combat these burnout instigators?

How Can Podcasters Overcome Burnout?

Just like the causes of burnout, treatment looks different for everybody. But, there are a few specific things podcasters can do to overcome burnout.

[READ: Wanna become a more productive podcaster? Here are 15 hacks that could work for you.]

Adapt Your Goals

Did you know that there are other goals you can have for your podcast besides growing an audience? Audience growth might not be the most appropriate objective for your show.

Other goals you might have for your podcast include…

  • To build relationships with industry influencers
  • To build relationships with potential customers
  • To reduce customer churn
  • To train or inform employees

It’s not always about increasing your listenership. In fact, if you focus on a different purpose, your audience often grows in response.

If revenue is a priority for you, you’re actually better off building relationships with potential customers as opposed to growing an audience. Your podcast is the perfect place to build trust and rapport with people who could buy from you.

By focusing somewhere other than audience growth, you can jumpstart your creativity. That’s because you’re focusing on collaborating with your guests instead of worrying about the number of downloads. This way, you address the issues with working in isolation and — ultimately — generate more reward for your hard work.

Take Breaks

We don’t normally suggest that Sweet Fish customers bundle their episodes into seasons with breaks in between. But, that’s mainly because they have a whole team of podcast production experts to support them. In an indie creator’s situation, it might be best that they do a seasonal show.

Give yourself a month or two in between seasons to catch up. It’s difficult to change your mindset from “create, create, create” to “create, recharge, create, recharge.” However, it’s pretty apparent that’s what a lone podcaster needs. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You can’t meet unrealistic production expectations if your tank is empty. Either the quality or the frequency has to suffer. If you choose to ax quality, your listenership is going to suffer more than if you took a break to fill up your tank.

Collaborate With Other Podcasters

Creativity doesn’t live in a vacuum. Neither does inspiration.

If you feel isolated or a lack of inspiration, one of the best things you can do is to reach out to other podcasters. Chances are, they’re experiencing something similar.

Support each other. Collaborate with each other. Brainstorm together. Talk about something completely separate from podcasting for a while. Don’t look at yourselves as competitors — you’re both creators.

People can listen to more than one musician. People can listen to more than one podcast in the same genre, so don’t worry about losing listeners. If anything, you’re feeding into each other’s audience.

You’re Not Alone

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The biggest thing to remember when you’re experiencing symptoms of creator burnout is that you’re not alone. There are tons of people going through the same stuff. It’s the nature of being a podcaster.

If you’re at wit’s end, consider three ways to overcome podcaster burnout:

  1. Adapt your goals. Maybe you’re vision and strategy aren’t aligned.
  2. Take breaks. You can’t withdraw from an empty account.
  3. Collaborate with other podcasters. Reach out to the people who are experiencing the same thing.

Lastly, check out our new show all about B2B podcasting. It’s called Mic Club and you can subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Emily Kingland

Lead Writer at Sweet Fish Media

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