Some people enter the freelancing world looking for better work-life balance. In theory, this seems to make sense since having more flexibility over when and where you work can open up time to weave in personal tasks during the day. But in practice, most people who have freelanced as their main source of employment will attest that it’s no piece of cake. Freelancer burnout is a real thing.
In fact, many freelancers end up working even harder, with longer hours, than they did for an employer. Because of this, freelancers, contractors, and other self-employed workers are at high risk for burning out, even if they love their job.
6 Tips on How to Avoid Freelancer Burnout
1. Choose Wisely
When you first start out as a freelancer, you may have a “beggars can’t be choosers” mindset. Your primary goal may be to make as much money as you can (or at least to start making some money) as quickly as possible. That may suffice as a short-term strategy, but over time, taking on too many projects or clients will put you on the fast track to freelancer burnout.
Instead of operating from a scarcity mentality, hone your ability to take on projects that are the best fit for your interests and skill set—and recognize a reasonable workload and know when enough is enough.
2. Change Your Outlook
Even though you may have the ability to work from anywhere, freelancers can easily get into a rut by sitting at their same old desk, day in and day out. To keep things fresh and give you a new perspective, why not grab your laptop and work somewhere different from time to time.
3. Create Workday Boundaries
Another big red flag for freelancer burnout is a willingness to work around the clock. Though ambition will help win you happy clients, there’s a limit to how much you can do in a day—especially day after day. While occasional short-term crunch periods are expected when you need to make a deadline, you should avoid falling into a regular habit of overwork if you want to be able to be a long-term freelancer.
Figure out—and then stick to—at least semi-regular working hours rather than watching night after night disappear at your desk. You can always use flexibility when you need it, but keeping a work schedule that’s at least partially predictable and not excessively long will help you stay fresher all week.
4. Shake Things Up
As a freelancer, you’re the ultimate flex worker with total control over when and where you get your work done. But if you work five days a week, 9-to-5, month after month without variation, it might be time to shake things up by working different hours once in a while.
Spend some of those daylight hours on recreation and try the evening shift for a while. Or, if you’re a notorious night owl, switch it around and work days this week so that you can reclaim some nights for different activities.
5. Maintain Balance
Freelancers in the zone can become almost machine-like in their commitment and willingness to crank out deliverable after deliverable for their clients. If this sounds familiar, you might start feeling more like a worker than a person.
Remind yourself that part of the reason you wanted to freelance in the first place was to have more balance and flexibility in your life—and then find ways to put this idea into practice in your own freelance business. It’s hard to do, but important: even with deadlines looming, you still need to eat properly, exercise enough, and spend time on other things in your life, like pursuing personal interests and seeing friends.
6. Skip a Day
All work and no play…well, you know how the saying goes. To avoid becoming a dull boy (or girl), pick a week and alternate days for client work with days to rub shoulders with peers or colleagues.
Networking is an important part of growing your business, but if you’re always cranking out work for existing clients, you’ll never meet anyone new. Take a time out once a month to integrate networking days into your schedule. You might attend a conference, participate in a brown bag lunch, or plan to meet a friend who works in an industry that relates to your freelance work. Most of these events can be done virtually, too, if that’s your thing!
Beat Freelance Burnout
The bottom line is too much work and too much repetition in your daily experience can lead you to feeling stressed and burned out. Give yourself a lift by mixing things up for greater well-being and better results.
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