In the course of your career, whether you’re a freelancer or traditional employee, you’re likely to feel burned out. It’s a fact of life, exacerbated by the stresses of daily survival, social commitments, and a capitalist society. As a freelancer, you must take active steps to avoid burnout. Freelancer burnout often stems from isolation, over-committing to too much work, or obsessing over whether you’re running any aspect of your business correctly. With the right strategy, you can address these challenges and thrive.
Although there isn’t one single adaptable solution to alleviating freelancer burnout, there are ways you can lessen its effects on your life and, in some cases, avoid it all together. Below are some tips geared to freelancers on how to avoid getting burned out.
Don’t Over-Commit Yourself
Over-committing to work is the downfall of many freelancers. The fear of saying “no” turns into a mania of saying “yes,” often booking jobs that may overlap, pay substandard fees, or simply not fit your skill set. As your own boss, you have direct control over the type and number of jobs you take.
Even more important is the responsibility you have to yourself to accept only as much work as you can comfortably handle. Learn to say “no” and establish boundaries. When considering a job, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have time to do this job adequately based on my other current commitments?
- Do I feel qualified for this job?
- Do I want to do this job?
- Do I really need the money?
These questions help you focus on projects you actually like, which typically leads to less burnout. If you realize that taking the job forces you to shortchange other commitments, it’s definitely not worth your time.
Take Care of Yourself
As a freelancer, you might find this the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to sit at your desk for nine hours a day surfing the internet and doing work. It’s harder to get up, take a walk, cook a healthy meal, or enjoy fresh air, but all of these things are necessary.
If you’re not feeling well, whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional, you aren’t as productive as you could be, which means you’re losing money. You might be able to live off of cheese balls and soda for a little while, but doing so eventually catches up to you and affects your work.
Join a gym, purchase equipment for your home, or take a cooking class. Do things that force you to treat yourself better and stay healthy. Remember, you don’t get paid sick days, so do things that help you avoid getting sick altogether.
Treat Your Social Commitments as You Would a Paying Gig
Sometimes you’ve simply got to cancel a meeting with a friend for coffee in order to complete a project. And while they’re your friend and they likely understand, that’s beside the point. Cutting yourself off from your social circle or family is a sure way to burn out, especially mentally and emotionally. If you can spare the hour or so for a coffee break, take it. If you’re up against a deadline and need to work, then reschedule the commitment. Maintaining your friendships is just as important to your health as a jog around the block.
Prioritize Your Workday
You have lots to do, but some tasks are more important than others. Checking your email or reading through the latest news of the day might be the perfect thing to do in the morning while you’re enjoying your first cup of coffee and waking up. It might be best to schedule your work for mid-morning when you’re fully awake. Take your list of tasks and order them based on importance. This helps you run your day more smoothly.
If You Travel, Make It More Enjoyable
If you travel frequently, consider making the process more enjoyable by investing in a few travel necessities. If you fly on short trips, pack as light as possible and get a nice carry-on bag that can fit in the overhead bin. Make sure it can roll smoothly and holds up to the rigors of air travel.
If you mostly drive, consider your vehicle. Is it big enough for what you need? Does it get good gas mileage over long distances? In the long run, a newer car with a higher efficiency rating pays for itself in lower gas costs and maintenance.
Also, try to keep up with your exercise routines as much as you can on the road. Find a hotel with an adequate gym, or make sure your gym membership allows you to work out in other locations. Try to get up and go to sleep as close to your normal times as possible so that you don’t get overly fatigued. And of course, drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated while on the go makes your day a little better.
Ask for Help
Chances are, you can’t do everything yourself. If you have a spouse, enlist their help for household tasks, cooking meals, or childcare. If you find yourself with a busy work week, look for others you can outsource this some of this work to.
You might know a few other friends who freelance and would like the extra work, or maybe even a few friends who have full-time jobs but want to earn a little extra cash. While you may want to do everything on your own, don’t underestimate the value of sending up a flare and getting a little aid.
Know Your Strengths
Freelance accountants likely don’t have a hard time maintaining the books or filing taxes. But if you’re a graphic designer, you might find those two tasks challenging. On the other hand, maybe you’re a consultant that finds marketing, networking, or website design akin to watching paint dry. The beauty of today’s interconnected world is that you don’t have to do these tasks yourself; you can hire an expert to help.
Accounting tools such as QuickBooks Self-Employed are one way to keep all of your expenses in one place, mark them as personal or business expenses, and track the amount of taxes you owe at the end of the year. If you struggle to make sense of websites and design, do-it-yourself sites such as Wix or WordPress are great resources for putting together a functional and professional-looking site. If keeping track of your jobs or client correspondence is hard for you, online solutions, including Basecamp and Smartsheet, can help you keep all of that information in one place.
Set Freelance Goals and Ways to Reach Them
As a freelancer, you alone determine your earning potential and career trajectory. While your initial goal might have been simply to not work for someone else, your longer-term goals should evolve as your business grows. Look at setting goals that can help you grow as a professional.
Do you want to acquire a new skill? Increase your rates or client base? Set achievable goals and layout the necessary strategies to reach them. Doing so helps keep you from feeling as though you’re just working in circles.
Burnout can be detrimental to your career and your personal health. By following the tips listed above, you should be able to avoid or reduce your level of burnout. If all else fails, here’s another solution: take a break. Not just for an hour or so, but maybe take a day or two for yourself. You can stay local, or take a vacation or road trip. The important thing is to step away from your desk, computer, or phone, and give yourself room to breathe. The QuickBooks Self-Employed app helps freelancers, contractors, and sole proprietors track and manage your business on the go. Download the app.