Unless you had the boss from hell or a job where you never stopped and you couldn’t catch your breathe for 10 hours a day, then it is quite difficult to actually burnout on the job.
For freelancers though, we are often handling all aspects of our little (or not so little) businesses. We often do everything from the creative work to chasing bills to marketing to doing the books.
Quite often there is no one there to tell you that you need to take the evening off instead of burning the midnight oil for the 5th night in a row on that “urgent” project. If you’re working another weekend, only your romantic partner may be moaning at you but you may feel that it’s quite necessarily. Be aware that can easily lead to becoming a workaholic.
All the way along toward eventual burnout your work quality and production rate will be suffering right along with you. Writers cannot put in extra hours to catch up on projects without their writing quality beginning to suffer after a while. Those late nights where you work slower with more errors begin to catch up with you, and clients may leave.
Danger signs are there if you take the time to look for them. However, a better plan is to not wait that long. Don’t wait for your annual vacation (even if you take one) to get some recovery from trying to do too much.
How To Avoid Burnout
1. Take regular breaks. Taking a short 10 minute break every hour may seem not very productive, but it can actually refresh you. By doing so, you can work faster, more efficiently and with fewer mistakes that need to be corrected later or if not spotted may upset a client.
2. Get some regular exercise. Sitting at a desk all day, you’re pretty sedentary. This as well as your diet may begin to rear its ugly head when you start to notice that you’re putting on unwanted extra weight. Grab a 30 minute walk at lunch-time to get your heart rate up.
3. Protect leisure time. Whilst it can be tempting to work late every night and not protect your weekends either, the reality is that you need at least one full day of rest and recovery each week in order to be at your best. Having personal free time on weekday evenings is also vital so you don’t begin to feel that work never stops. You do need a life outside of work.
4. Stay in touch with friends & family. Keeping in touch with your friends and members of your family is important for most people, but especially true for freelancers who may work alone all day in their home office where they don’t see a soul. That personal connection is vital for both male and female freelancers.
5. Be careful about commitments. For people who don’t like to say no or who need to get extra money in, they can often overcommit. This can lead to putting in extra hours to get everything done. By overcommitting you’ll block yourself into a corner of either overworking or letting clients down. Either way is not a good outcome. Get real about how long it takes you to complete each task or project.
6. Continual learning. Most people get bored if work becomes stagnant. It’s important not just for your role in an industry but also for your sanity to keep busy learning new things. Take a part of each day to read, try new software, experiment with new ideas and to grow further in some way.
7. Work with good people. Often a bad client will wear you down with micro-managing, complaints and generally making a problem of themselves. This can create a lot of unnecessary stress to your work life, which can also overlap into your private life too. Working with good people is far more rewarding.
8. Work on interesting projects you believe in. If you can locate clients who have interesting projects that you’re excited to be involved with, then this can give you a new lease on life. Boring assignments do the opposite. Try to get into a position within your industry segment where you can pick and choose your assignments.
9. Eat regular meals. Some freelancers have some of the worst unhealthy diets imaginable. Recent research showed that the brain needs a regular supply of glucose which is converted to energy. Without sufficient glucose, the brain switches from long-term thinking to short-term thinking. This could potentially lead to making poor strategic choices for your business because you’re not eating quality balanced meals and consuming healthy snacks between meals to keep your energy levels steady.
10. Drink plenty of water. Especially true if you are working in a hot climate and lack air conditioning. When we feel hungry, quite often it’s actually means that you’re dehydrated. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty – this means you’re already dehydrated – drink water regularly throughout the day.
11. Play a sport. If your fitness is good enough, consider joining a team of some kind in order to get more human contact and physical activity. Team sports can help to make you more outgoing and give you something else to look forward to each week.
12. Consider outsourcing. When you reach that point where your business is expanding and you can no longer cope with everything you need to get done in a day, consider outsourcing. Unlike hiring a full-time or part-time employee, you can hire people just for specific one-off or regular tasks, so it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think.
13. Take vacations. Seeing another country, a different city and having a complete change of pace is very necessary for busy freelancers. We worry about how much money we’ll lose because of the loss of income whilst we’re spending big on our chosen vacation, but really our rates should properly factor in time off to recover, renew and feed our soul.
14. Develop routines. In order to minimize lost time due to lack of organization or proper planning, develop simple routines that you can follow. For instance, this may mean scheduling your laptop’s weekly check-up with a virus and malware scan every Friday late afternoon just as you’re winding down.
15. Stay organized. Find a To Do list and project planning system that works for you and stick to it. This will reduce your overall stress level as you’ll feel that you’re managing things well and they are not overwhelming you.
16. Change your scenery. Don’t always stay at your desk throughout the day. Take a stroll outside. Stretch your legs. Go somewhere that you’ve never gone before. Eat at a new place. Vary up your routine to keep things interesting between periods of work.
17. Avoid staying in contact 24/7. With the advent of smart phones, tablets and 4G LTE cellular services, it is easier than ever to reach people. Clients are also global rather than only local now. This has a serious impact on freelancers who are dealing with multiple time-zones and being able to be reached late in the evening. If you don’t log out of your business email and Skype, then you’ll never disconnect from work. It’s important to set boundaries with work hours and make clients aware of these times so that you can genuinely tune out during your downtime.
18. Raise your rates. Raising your rates can alleviate the need to commit to more projects than you realistically have time to complete within a normal working week. New freelancers with low rates are more at risk of burnout than anyone.
If you can following a few of these suggestions, then you will find that you have an easier time managing work and personal commitments. Quality output is likely to go up, speed of productivity is likely to improve too because you’re getting more rest. Therefore, avoiding burnout can actually help create a happier, calmer, more successful freelance business.