As Zach and I host Between 2 Mics podcast, we’ve had the opportunity to hear behind-the-scenes insights from dozens of fellow podcasters.
We’ve heard from a husband/wife podcasting team, a celebrity pod producer, a startup founder turned podcaster… and the list goes on. While each of these show creators come to us with a different story, different content and different goals for their podcast, they all share one major thing in common: they’re always seeking inspiration for new episodes.
That might sound simple, but here’s a bit of a news flash — it’s not.
Even the most creative of creatives can struggle to stay inspired on a consistent basis. When you’re juggling conceptualizing your podcast with other work responsibilities and the tedium of daily routines and frustrations (bad sleep! crying kids! carpool! grocery shopping!), inspo can be in short supply. And if you’re trying to produce new episodes of your show on a regular basis, you need as much of it as you can get.
We’ve heard our guests share a wide range of interesting tips on where to find that inspiration for their own podcasts. Here are a few of our faves. Hopefully, they can help you when you’re hungry for inspiration in the future!
1. Keep listening to a LOT of other podcasts
So you’ve launched your podcast. Awesome! Getting a new show up and running is no joke.
Now that you’re a bona fide podcaster, you might find yourself with a little less time to tune into the other shows you love. After all, you’re busy running your own pod. Right?
Bradley Denham, creator of Record Edit Podcast and Head of Audio Productions at full-service podcast production company Kast Media, is a big proponent of listening to lots of podcast content even when — well, especially when — you have a show of your own. Early in his podcast career, Bradley used this approach as a networking strategy for finding his way in the industry.
“When I first got started, I would comb through iTunes, downloading all the small shows that would interest me,” he says of those days. “I knew the top dogs were basically untouchable, but anything that only had a few reviews on iTunes, I thought I might stand a chance if I reached out.”
Listening to other podcasts — like, a lot of them — is also a great way to mine for inspiration for your own show! Make time to listen to pods with a similar subject matter or target audience. We obviously don’t endorse copying another podcaster’s approach, but you might be surprised by how much other shows will give you a fresh perspective on your own.
Follow Bradley’s example — if you want to play in the podcast industry, you need to keep listening.
2. Think back to the stories your family has told you
Podcasting may not be your mama’s storytelling medium, but that doesn’t mean your mama’s stories can’t inspire you in your podcasting journey!
Take Isidro Salas, host of the 10,000 TACOS podcast. The show was inspired by the years his family spent running a Mexican food truck in Silicon Valley in the 1980s and 1990s. While Isidro hasn’t quite eaten 10,000 tacos, he’s eaten quite a few in his day. He estimates the grand total is somewhere around 35,000 — but his show is less about the tacos and more about the people who made them.
“I want to portray them as heroes, because they are heroes,” says Isidro of his family. “They fed a lot of people in Silicon Valley.”
Isidro’s goal in telling stories on his pod quickly turned to making that heroic portrayal happen. “I’m telling the story of my parents and my family and myself,” he says. “My parents’ stories are special and I want the world to know them before they pass away. I’m on a time clock.”
When in doubt, dig deep into your own personal history. There may be tidbits of wisdom and inspiration there that need to be heard by your podcast audience!
3. It’s all about curiosity
Sue Stockdale is an executive coach and the host of the Access to Inspiration podcast. A sense of curiosity has been key to her success in those roles, but it really came in handy back in 1995 when she became the first British woman to ski to the magnetic North Pole.
“I sent off for details about the expedition and when the brochure came back, it said, ‘Are you man enough for the ultimate challenge?’” Sue says of that experience. “And it was all pictures of men. That, to me, was like a red rag to a bull. I thought, Wow, they’re just assuming women can’t get on this expedition team. I’ll prove them wrong.”
Today, that same sense of curiosity fuels much of her podcast process, especially when it comes to making connections with her guests. Her goal on Access to Inspiration, she says, “is to bring out the brilliance of somebody, switch them on so they just light up and the best of them comes through in the conversation.”
By asking good questions of your guests and learning more about what they do, you might just find unexpected inspiration for your podcast. This kind of curiosity will raise the bar on individual interviews and can get your wheels turning for future shows, as well.
4. Look to your audience
Your listeners aren’t just the people who are out there receiving the content you create. They should be inspiring the content you create. What can you offer them? How can you give back?
“Anything you want other people to do for you, you should be doing for them,” says Jay Connor, co-host of The Extraordinary Negroes. “There are so many people clamoring. But what are you doing to make people want to support you? You should be supporting other people.”
Since the launch of his podcast in 2016, Jay has used it to promote his writing, but he says he’s been careful not to make the show about him. When you prioritize serving the unique audience of your podcast, your eyes will be open to a wealth of new content ideas. It always helps to operate with a sense of purpose. And what’s more inspiring than people?
5. Pay attention to criticism
No one especially enjoys hearing criticism. But that doesn’t mean criticism doesn’t have value.
In fact, Rob and Sherry Walling — both are business owners and podcasters — find inspiration in the not-so-great feedback they get on their shows. Sherry is the host of the ZenFounder podcast, and Rob hosts TinySeed Tales and the Startups For The Rest of Us podcast.
With three podcasts between them, there’s a lot of praise and criticism coming at the Wallings. They’re not afraid to use all of it to inspire their work — more specifically, to make them vulnerable storytellers. While managing criticism is a skill that Rob tells us he’s had to build, embracing it has paid off.
“That vulnerability, I think some people are really good at handling it naturally, but I don’t think most people are,” he says. “It’s a muscle of feeling that fear of [launching] something that makes me open to criticism and then waiting for it and then dealing with it.”
Once you’ve dealt with that feedback, though, you can use it to drive future content and inspire changes to your podcast.
6. Create space for inspiration to find you
Getting into a consistent cadence of new podcast episodes is important, but releasing fresh content regularly won’t matter if you’re too burned out to feel inspired. Scott Bradley, the host of Hellbent For Horror, learned this lesson firsthand.
Scott grew his scripted show and developed a cult following, prompting him to turn his passion for the horror genre into a book. But doing so required him to change up his podcast schedule. Prior to starting the book, he released three original shows per month. After experiencing burnout in the writing process, he cut back to two new episodes per month. The decision was hard, but it opened up space for him to find inspiration for the book, which could ultimately serve him on the show, too.
“The book is a love letter to all things that go bump in the night, and how horror not only reinvents itself to reflect each generation’s anxieties, but it can also be healing, as well as thrilling,” Scott says.
Making time to actually write that love letter — even if it meant scaling back on the podcast for a bit — was a great way to foster extra inspiration for all of Scott’s projects. What changes can you make to create that kind of space in your routine? Make those changes and watch the inspiration roll in.
7. Leverage your skills
There’s one thing no other podcast — except yours — can have… and that thing is you.
If you’re looking for the kind of inspiration that’s going to set you apart from the competition, it might be as simple as reflecting seriously on the special skills you bring to the table.
This is exactly what Addy Saucedo did when she created The Podcast Planner. Having attended audio engineering school and gained a reputation as a mentor and educator in the industry, she realized she offered a very unique set of experiences and abilities. Her workbook became a resource to help podcasters dig into the nitty gritty details of planning their shows.
“While I was working with clients, I would create these documents and resources from scratch,” Addy reflects. “Multiple times, they kept saying, ‘You should just put this in a book.’”
Take a step back to consider the skills you consistently get positive feedback about from the people in your circles. With that information, you may have new insights on how to continue to grow your podcast and brand.
8. Prioritize diversity
If you feel like you’re in a rut with your content, it might be time to diversify your guest roster. Bringing in guests with different worldviews and life experiences will attract new listeners, offer a fresh perspective and inspire you for future episodes.
Self-proclaimed “professional podcast listener” Arielle Nissenblatt, who is the founder and creator of the EarBuds Podcast Collective, is a big proponent of diversity in the industry, more generally. She’s particularly concerned with the underrepresentation of women in podcasting.
“In podcasting, we’re in a unique spot, because we’re still in the infancy,” Arielle says. “I actually think right now is the time for us to be so vocal about it [the lack of gender diversity] and to call out when we see problems, because that means that we can nip them in the bud early.”
Bringing diversity in terms of gender, race, sexuality and background to your own show will give you the chance to set that early tone, but it can also provide some serious inspiration.
9. Let people share their own stories
When Amelia Lin started Keep Life Stories in 2018, her aim was to help families preserve stories of their loved ones. The company prompts customers with questions about their history. Customers then call a special phone number to record their answers. The audio storybooks are shared privately with family.
Amelia may not be a podcaster per se, but her business model is a great reminder of the power that exists in letting people share their stories. Audio has major impact!
“It was so much more emotionally powerful to hear [our customers] talking,” Amelia says.
You may be a great podcaster and storyteller, but don’t underestimate the power of someone telling their own story. Stories you’ve heard secondhand might not translate as well as they would if they were coming straight from the source. Consider inviting more people to your show to share their stories! Their personal experiences could end up being really inspiring.
10. Stop stressing about ‘winning’
Podcasting is competitive, but if you’re expending all of your energy on figuring out how to beat other shows, inspiration is not going to come your way. More than “winning,” Mark Asquith — host of the Podcast Accelerator and the mastermind behind Rebel Base Media — believes podcasters should focus on impact.
“If you’re always reacting, then you’ll never push forward. You’ll never be the leader. You will never ever do anything but follow,” Mark says. “If you can just sit back, be quiet, shut up, listen and build something that is actually innovative and revolutionary, the day that you launch that thing is going to be an absolute tidal wave because suddenly you are doing things that no one has even thought of.”
Taking the “sit back, be quiet” approach will shift your creative focus so that you’re making content based on what inspires you rather than what the competition is doing.
The tips here are based on episodes of our podcast, Between 2 Mics. Be sure to subscribe to the Between 2 Mics podcast for further inspiration and to get future episodes directly in your preferred podcast player.
Alli Hoff Kosik is a writer, editor, content manager and podcast editor based in Philadelphia, PA. She is the host and producer of The SSR Podcast. Alli is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Temple University. This content was produced collaboratively with PodReacher.