Being a freelancer is a popular business choice that allows you to be your own boss and set working hours that fit into your life. With great power, though, comes great responsibility. It’s important to take your mental well-being into account when planning out your workload and determine a healthy work-life balance. When you have nobody to report to but yourself, the line between work and personal time can become blurred, leading to an unhealthy relationship with work and burnout.
Burnout is particularly complex as a freelancer, as you are expected to be your own motivational force, but this is far easier said than done when your brain is working out autopilot. One study found that freelancers and entrepreneurs have an elevated risk of burnout due to “the process of discovery or creation of attractive economic opportunities, the assessment of these opportunities, and the decision on the exploitation of opportunities.” We live in a strong hustle culture with an emphasis on productivity – especially in the United States – self-care is often pushed to the bottom of the priority list to make way for simply toughing it out and getting your work done.
The reality is that burnout is harmful not only to your mental and physical well-being but your overall productivity. Constantly pushing yourself to complete projects can wear you out and make it more and more difficult to get your work done promptly, which will only cause you to become even more burnt out! Here at GYDE, we understand the importance of taking some time for yourself as a freelancer. When you’re feeling your best, you’re able to not only produce better work but have a better quality of life! Whether you’re already experiencing burnout or hoping to prevent a future slump, get started today with some of our favorite tips.
It’s your life, so put yourself first! Engage in activities that bring you joy and peace that have no relation to your workload. Treat yourself to a long, hot shower, go to a yoga class, create some art – it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s fulfilling for you. Include time for self-care in your daily routine so you have no excuse but to relax at some point every day!
Although you are in control of your daily schedule as a freelancer, it can still be beneficial to set boundaries in your workday. It’s easy for freelancers to pick up their computers and do some work at odd hours of the day, but sometimes this can produce pressure to keep working simply because you can, leaving little room for a personal life outside of work.
Consider giving yourself a set window in which you get your work done every day. Maybe you enjoy a traditional 9 to 5 schedule, or maybe you are more productive in the evenings and want your mornings to yourself. Perhaps you want to give yourself 3-day weekends and front-load your work from Monday to Thursday. Whatever schedule works best for you, commit to going offline outside of those working hours and being fully present in your personal life!
Screens are a nearly unavoidable aspect of daily life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take some time away from them! The blue light emitted from screens can strain your eyes when looking at them for prolonged periods, which can lead to discomfort and make it harder to get through your day. Additionally, the endless streams of content available across the web and social media can become exhausting and harmful to your mental health.
Whether you’d prefer to limit yourself to specific hours of the day or a set amount of time, setting these boundaries can make a world of difference when dealing with burnout. Plus, many devices now have controls available that allow you to limit screen time to a set amount of time every day. You’re likely already spending your entire work day with your eyes glued to a screen, so limit your screen time when you can!
Another beauty of being a freelancer is that you have full control over choosing the clients that you work with. If a client is causing too much stress or taking up too much of your bandwidth, it may be worth reevaluating your partnership.
Spend some time thinking about the qualities that you might want in future clients, as well. Do you prefer working with people in the same time zone as you to avoid late-night meetings and emails? Would you be comfortable compromising on your values to complete a project if your client has a different viewpoint than you? How much time do you have available to commit to a new partnership? These are just a few questions you may want to ask yourself when looking for new clients.
When dealing with burnout, tasks may take longer than normal to complete. Whilst it may not always be feasible to get an extension, don’t push yourself to meet deadlines if it’s going to compromise your well-being or quality of work. Be transparent with clients about how long it will take for you to complete any upcoming projects and pad deadlines when possible. This will ensure that you have enough time to get things done without feeling rushed.
It's important to know your worth and set rates that are commensurate with the value you bring to the table. Especially in these times of economic distress, not making enough money can put additional stress on you, thus contributing to burnout. You go to work to make a living, so when you’re not making enough to live comfortably it can have a negative impact on your motivation. Do some market research on average rates for marketers with your experience level and skill set and update your rates accordingly. Remember, you’re in control of your business as a freelancer, so don't be afraid to ask for what you're worth!
Above all else, remember to give yourself grace. We are all human, and if taking a complete pause from your work is what you need to recharge, schedule some time off – you deserve it!