How to Avoid Burnouts

Posted on September 12, 2017
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It has happened to all freelancers at some point. We take on all of the jobs we can get, thankful for receiving work, but suddenly we cannot get anything done. Even with endless lists of jobs waiting, freelancers can reach the point where even completing one contract seems slow and painful. This is what we call burnout.

Burnout happens to workers of any industry, but it especially happens more easily to freelancers. As freelancers do not have one person overseeing their work and an endless sea of potential clients, it can be too easy to get carried away, resulting in an inability to complete even the simplest of tasks. Don’t worry, however; there are some things that you can try to prevent burnout before it happens, as well as steps you can take to get back on track if it does happen to you.

Prevention

The best thing you can do is to stop the burnout before it happens. Regardless of whether you feel a burnout coming on, paying attention before it strikes can stop it in its tracks.

Know your Limit

This is especially tricky since most freelance work is feast or famine. Once you have come out of a dry period, you are likely to say “yes” to jobs you may have otherwise passed on. It is ok to say “no” to jobs that are paying you below your standard fee, overlap on a schedule you are already working on, or not really working with what you are good at. If you were totally out of jobs, taking something subpar would make sense. But do not take on jobs that are not worth your time if you are already working. You especially don’t want to take a mediocre job if it could take attention away from a well-paying job.

Really use a Schedule

Do not rely on a mental task list of everything you need to get done in a given day. Allow yourself to plan it out, adding in your daily routine tasks and blocking off time to do some freelance work. Perhaps you have ten minutes while waiting for a bus in the morning to check your email and respond to clients. Knowing where you have some free time will make the tasks easier to accomplish without feeling completely spread thin.

Learn to take Breaks

Some freelancers squeeze in their work at any opportunity. Meaning a stay at home mom may do work in the evenings after her children have gone to sleep, or a college student may put in some work in between classes. The issue is that many freelancers already have a packed daily schedule. Squeezing in work time means that there is no rest or down time. You will need to learn to turn off the computer, take yourself for a walk, and make sure you are eating well. Separating yourself and taking a breather can help your mind refresh and keep you working well. Good diet and exercise are essential as well to maintain a good energy level.

Don't forget your Family

It is incredibly tempting to postpone dates with your significant other or change plans with a good friend when you are trying to pound out some work. They love you and will understand the need to be pushed aside. But this is a dangerous routine. Cutting yourself away from your family is bound to send you down the rabbit hole of emotional burnout. Don’t cancel a coffee date or dinner out with your spouse. Enjoy that time to keep your mental fitness up to par.

Make a Financial Goal

You can also prevent a burnout by knowing how much money you need to bring in to keep things in your budget balanced. If you have already accepted jobs that are paying more than your needed income, you can feel safe in telling a new job “no”.

Solution

Burnout can happen unexpectedly, even with some planning. But do not panic if burnout is happening to you. There are ways around it.

Re-evaluate your Goals

If your to-do list seems insurmountable, review what your goal is. Find out where you need to break even moneywise, then turn down the jobs that do not fit your financial needs and are less than ideal jobs. Revisiting what your aim is can help you concentrate better on the tasks at hand.

Take a Vacation

I know what you are thinking. If you are feeling overburdened, a vacation is the last thing that you have time for. But burnout means that you are burned out of your daily grind. To get your attitude and commitment restarted for work, one of the most beneficial things you can do is to walk away from it for a few days. Unplug the computer, turn off your phone, and go take a breather away from your tasks. Outside of a pressing deadline, you can explain to clients that you are taking a few days off. Part of the stress of burnout will make this task hard, but once you do it, you will wonder why you didn’t try it before.

Change your Work Environment

Where are you currently working on your freelance work? Are you at home? In a coffee shop? If you are in the midst of chaos while trying to get work done, it is going to cause you more stress than if you had a dedicated workspace. See if there is anything you can do about where you are working and find a solution that will give you a more focused environment.

Go out to Lunch

Sometimes all you need is to step away from your desk for an hour. Going out for a healthy lunch in the middle of the day can give you more energy physically while allowing your brain to take a break as well.

Make a To-Do List

Depending on how severe your burnout is, you should only expect of yourself tasks that are achievable. Look at what has to happen right now versus what can take a few days. Knowing what goal is a priority can help you push less important goals on the backburner while you rest your mind.



Burnout really can happen to anyone of any profession, but it does seem that it happens more frequently with freelancers. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Take a deep breath, calm down, and then tackle those to-dos.

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