If you’re a freelancer or professional whose interest was piqued by this article, you most likely have experienced freelance burnout. You probably already know what burnout is, and I may not need to explain further.
In a nutshell, burnout is the overwhelmed exhaustion we feel as professionals due to our line of work. It’s a combination of physical and mental exhaustion that takes a toll on our productivity and personal lives.
As freelancers, we often have so much on our plate that it drives us to work long hours. Finding the balance of taking care of yourself, and not reaching freelance burnout, is key to ensuring you keep doing what you love and not give up.
So are you experiencing freelance burnout? Let’s read on to find out, and discover how to keep from doing so.
Freelance burnout is real: here’s why
The World Health Organization classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019. WHO identified the three main dimensions of burnout:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
According to Nature Reviews Cardiology, stressed adults have a 1.1-fold to 1.6-fold increased risk of incident coronary heart disease and stroke. So basically, burnout increases the likelihood of your untimely demise.
Deloitte’s survey of 1000 people has found that 77% of respondents experienced burnout at their current job. Additionally, according to Gallup, highly engaged teams mean 21% more profitability for your firm.
These data suggest that burnout isn’t just an employee wellness issue, but it also negatively affects the performance of employees.
As freelancers who don’t have regular employee contracts, we may not be entitled to benefits such as insurance or paid vacation leaves. Instead, many freelancers power through burnout and deal with them at their own expense and volition. This makes burnout a more critical problem for freelancers than regular employees.
5 Ways to avoid freelance burnout
Many managers seem to be stuck in the old way of looking at productivity: the more you do, the more productive you are. However, this leads to sleepless nights and missed meals.
As freelancers, there are ways to avoid freelance burnout while fulfilling our duties to our many clients. Your well-being is just as important as getting paid for your projects. Here are a few ways to avoid freelance burnout:
1. Focus on your health
Your mental and physical health are interconnected. Taking a mental break from your tasks does a lot for your physical well-being. Healthier people are happier and more productive when they return to their desks.
Here are a few tips for staying healthy while working freelance:
- Exercise more often. As a freelancer, you have the best benefit of all – flexible hours. That means you can schedule your gym days and go jogging more often than salaried employees.
- Eat healthier. As freelancers, your options aren’t limited to what’s being served in the office cafeteria. Get some greens from your local farmer’s market and make a meal plan for yourself.
- Depending on the kind of work you provide as a freelancer, your day-to-day might look different from other freelancers. If you spend all day slouching in front of your laptop, set an appointment with a chiropractor or physical therapist who can help correct your posture.
- Avoid drinking too much caffeine. Wake up early and prepare a healthy breakfast for yourself. While coffee may give you that needed productivity boost, too much of it can cause insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, and even discomforting stomach ulcers.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Schedule your deadlines with a rigid, fixed, set-on-stone sleep schedule. An inconsistent sleep schedule ruins your body clock and health. Many students and workers fall prey to poor quality of sleep.
Focusing on your health makes you more active and resistant to freelance burnout. It’s amazing how simply looking after yourself can make you more of a powerhouse freelancer.
2. Maintain a work-life balance
You’d want a day-and-night distinction between your work and your personal life. As freelancers, our flexible times can also be our curse. We fathom the thought of flexible hours and, as a result, tend to procrastinate and have totally random personal and work hours.
The point of freelancing is to have more control over your personal and work life, not to blur the line between the two. How does this prevent freelance burnout?
By clearly distinguishing between work and play, you become more productive at work and more relaxed outside of those hours, instead of your whole day just becoming a cluster of work and play hours shuffled together.
Here’s how you can maintain a work-life balance as a freelancer.
- Set concrete work hours, and dedicate the remaining hours to your well-being. It would help if you still had time for yourself, your friends, and your family.
- Before those work hours, do what you need to do for your morning routine. This includes making breakfast, walking the dog, jogging — whatever it is that will help you get a good start to your day.
- Aim to finish a task within your work hours, so you don’t have to exceed those hours frequently.
- Minimize distractions during your personally-set work hours. Work on being present and enjoying time with friends, family, or whatever hobby you like.
- When you give a timeframe to your clients, always provide them a reasonable timeline given your personally-set hours. Don’t overload your schedule if it’s not necessary — you are your own boss, after all.
- Reward yourself for a productive day. After you call it a day, watch some Netflix or cook something nice.
- Observe lunch breaks. Don’t push yourself for 7 or 8 hours straight. You need time to rest, loosen up, and recharge.
- Use the many freelance tools to speed up your workflow. For example, a freelance writer could use an outline generator, or a video editor could use the latest version of Adobe Premiere.
Following the bullet points above will lower your freelance burnout and make you even more engaged with your projects. An important aspect of work-life balance is proper time management. You can’t just slack on your work hours then freely go about your off-hours guilt-free. Learn to manage your time to balance your work-life properly.
Work-life balance shouldn’t just be a corporate responsibility to their employees. It should be every individual’s concern, freelancers included.
3. Take up a hobby
A hobby is something you do outside work that keeps your mind off work. Many of us probably already have hobbies, whether it’s knitting, video games, sports, or Netflix. But if you’re a workaholic, you probably don’t have an outlet preventing you from thinking about work.
Here are some great hobby ideas:
- Exercise and wellness
- Caring for a pet
- Learning to play an instrument
- Sports and recreation
- Movies and video games
- Volunteering at the animal or homeless shelter
Your hobbies are not counter-productive. Observing a proper work-life balance increases your productivity. Your hobbies only ensure that you enjoy work-life balance’s “life” aspect. Just be sure that before you indulge in your hobbies, you’ve finished your work for the day.
4. Market your services
Let’s move on to changing the way you do things. As a freelancer, one of the biggest challenges is getting clients. It takes up a significant portion of our day-to-day, especially if we haven’t built our network yet.
Marketing your services will generate potential clients for you, minimizing the work input you have to put into attracting clients. This allows you to focus more on creating quality work, lessening your work hours, and reducing the chances of freelance burnout.
- Create a website portfolio. As a freelancer, you’re your own business. You’re your own company. And a key to business success in the digital age is a helpful website. Clients can refer to your website for your wide range of expertise.
- Create a marketing campaign. You’d want people to know your business exists. Ideally, you should be investing your services in SEO and social media marketing since these are the places (Social Media and Search Engines) where prospects spend time looking for relevant services. Setting up a detailed marketing budget can help you on your path to bigger and better things.
- Collect client testimonials and use them for marketing collateral. This will serve as your word-of-mouth, besides your quality work.
- During your downtime, prepare some content for your freelance business’ content marketing efforts. Content marketing can increase demand for a product and convince those looking for your type of service to go with you.
Conducting a marketing campaign with the right objective for your services reduces the need to approach potential clients personally. A marketing campaign’s performance may be checked once a week instead of cold-emailing every day.
If you want to reduce freelance burnout and increase the quality of your work, market yourself.
5. Increase your pricing
If you aren’t already charging enough to sustain your needs, you should. The freelance industry is competitive, with most companies going with those who bid the lowest. However, this shouldn’t be the case if you’re confident with your skills, hence the earlier tip telling you to market yourself.
Submitting the lowest bids won’t be beneficial to you. You might have a better chance of landing the project, but it will come at the expense of earning the amount you truly deserve.
Charging too low will also affect potential clients’ perception of your work. Instead, set a rate that will sustain your needs and allow you to set something aside for yourself while reducing your need to work extended hours.
Charging higher doesn’t only reduce the amount of time you need to work to live a normal life, but it also enables you to produce quality work. That quality work will attract more prospects willing to pay your higher rates. But how will you convince companies to pay that amount for your service?
- As mentioned earlier, market your skills and capabilities. Show potential clients your expertise before you even do their project.
- Show companies you care about their growth. Make business suggestions related to your expertise.
- Charge your bigger clients more. Bigger clients typically come with bigger needs and more risk — so don’t undervalue your work.
- Understand your value. Look for a baseline within your industry (e.g., wedding photographers, video editors, content writers), and gauge your worth. If the average is $25 per hour, and you believe yourself to be more efficient than the average, perhaps you can charge $27 per hour. If your clients return, you’ll know you’ve set a good price-to-quality of work ratio.
- You can charge higher if you’ve taken online courses, garnered certificates and awards, and professional recommendations.
If you’ll go to Upwork and engage in a bidding war for clients, you’re not only hurting the freelancer industry, but you’re also devaluing your skills. On top of that, you’re increasing the frequency at which you’re burned out.
These tips aren’t just for preventing freelance burnout. They’re also essential to being an efficient freelancer and a better individual whose personality isn’t tarnished by stress and burnout. But what if you already have freelance burnout? What if you’re already sluggish, unmotivated, and feeling lazy?
Already have freelance burnout? Here’s some tips to recover
You may have overworked yourself if you’re experiencing freelance burnout, whether you drained your physical energy or didn’t spend enough personal time.
Take a break
First, drop everything you’re doing and take a break. Once you start to feel the fatigue getting to you, step back from your workstation and stretch out. Not only will your health suffer if you prolong your agony, but your quality of work will deteriorate if you insist on working despite the fatigue.
It’s not enough to watch your favorite show or lie in bed. If your mind wanders back to your work, it’s just your physical body resting. Your mind is still working, which defeats the purpose of taking a physical break.
Taking a break also involves focusing on your health, as mentioned in a previous tip. The idea of a break is to take you away from work momentarily. Here’s how you can “take a break.”
- Have a day off. Dedicate this day to anything but work.
- Spend a day with your friends and family.
- Exercise and play some sports.
- Get outside.
- Get adequate sleep.
You’ll know when you feel well-rested. You’ll be much more energized and motivated to produce quality output when you get back to your project.
See a professional
Freelance burnout can lead to heart disease and depression. Worse if yours’ leads to both. To prevent these extreme instances, see a professional when you feel that something isn’t right. Here are some signs that freelance burnout is taking over:
- Chest pain
- Loss of appetite
It’s not just for freelance burnouts. As a general rule, you should consult a doctor or therapist for help if you notice something’s not right with you. This will prevent whatever it is you’re feeling from becoming worse. You may even catch something early if you seek help now.
Sign up for health insurance
As freelancers, we don’t work under the care of a single company. Hence, we don’t likely get the health benefits that workers employed by companies enjoy. As individuals, it is in the best interest of our well-being and those around us for us to have an insurance plan. This will minimize the financial toll of critical illnesses that may result from burnout.
While health insurance doesn’t prevent freelance burnout, it stops burnout from becoming worse and taking a toll on your health. Depending on your plan, you’ll be insured against the most common burnout effects.
As a freelancer, you probably already have a colleague within your network selling insurance. Send them a message and ask for your options.
Stop freelance burnout in it’s tracks
Freelance burnout takes a toll on your health and productivity. Combating it will improve your overall health and better the quality of your projects.
Focus on your health, maintain a work-life balance, and take up a hobby. Don’t forget, even if you may be the best freelancer in your industry, you’re still a human with human needs. Attend to these needs, and you’ll combat freelance burnout. A better state of health and well-being also means increased productivity.
As per your day-to-day operations as a freelancer, market your services so that clients know your expertise. This also reduces the need for client outreach that may take more time than you can spare.
Since you’d be marketing your expertise, charge higher and accordingly to your skillset. This reduces the amount of time you’d have to work, effectively combating freelance burnout.
If you get freelance burnout, take a break and see a professional. Look for an insurance plan to ensure you against the acute effects of burnout. Follow these steps, and you will effectively immunize yourself against freelance burnout.
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