How Do I Deal with Burnout as a Freelancer?

You’re successfully building a freelance business, but along the way caught the burnout bug.

Fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, and illness are some of your everyday battles.

How Do I Deal with Burnout as a Freelancer?

You have no motivation to write. Productivity is dropping. And creativity has left the building. What do you do when you’re burned out?

You have no motivation to write. Productivity is dropping. And creativity has left the building.

Freelancers wear many uniforms.

From accounting, marketing, and admin, to client work, the overwhelm can add up quick, so it’s no surprise when burnout makes an inevitable entrance.

But how do you deal with it and run your business at the same time?

Be Honest with Yourself

Before you implement the extra needed TLC, it’s important to be honest with yourself.

Take a few days to feel sad, tired, and angry instead of avoiding your feelings. Accept your burnout, then soak up some alone time, whether it’s going for a walk or taking a bath, to think about the why behind it.

Are you working too many hours? Are you not feeling fulfilled?

Are the ups and downs of business directing your emotions? Are you unhappy with the direction your career is going?

Once you narrow down your “why” you can come up with a solid plan of action.

Create a Burnout Relief Plan

Use your burnout realizations to create relief methods.

For example, if you’re burnt out because you’re not fulfilled, find ways to add depth to your career. Look into helping people, coaching, building a work community, and focusing on gratitude.

Learn a new skill to add to your list of services and constantly challenge yourself with a new goal at least every month.

Once you’ve narrowed down the steps you want to take, write them down and organize into your personal plan of action.

15 Tips to Deal with Freelance Burnout

There’s no one quick fix to healing burnout, but there are some tips you can implement to make your life and business easier until you feel better.

1. Hire a Therapist

Mental health isn’t taboo anymore, just as it should be.

Hire a professional counselor to work through your burnout symptoms, get to the root of the problem, and allow a safe space to vent. Investing in your health pays off.

2. Take Time Off

For some freelancers, time off is terrifying.

We don’t have paid vacations or sick days, but we also realistically can’t work every day of our lives either. If you can, lower your overall work hours, plan at least one day a week off, and outsource some responsibilities.

To ease income anxiety, you can reduce home expenses, like canceling an unused subscription.

3. Find a Support Group

The power of community is highly underrated.

Being able to relate to other freelancers who’re in the same boat as you can help you feel less alone.

Find Facebook groups, forums, or co-working spaces. You won’t regret reaching out!

4. Manage Your Money

Money is the most common stressor for everyone, whether you’re a freelancer or not.

But since freelancers have added control over our income, we have more money-managing options: diversifying income, asking for upfront payment, selling retainers, and establishing a pipeline of future work. It adds an extra sense of security you might need during burnout.

5. Use the 3 E’s

Exercise, eat right, get enough sleep.

These 3 keys are some of the most important aspects of staying healthy as a freelancer, but they’re also the most ignored! When one is out of balance, usually another is, too.

Incorporate at least 30 minutes of movement during workdays, replace processed foods for whole foods, and strive for 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Your body will thank you.

6. Keep Work + Personal Life Separate

Ever wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work?

Either you have a stressful client call the next day or don’t have a great work/life balance.

But if you’re burnt out, chances are it’s the latter. Don’t work in bed, plan out your day beforehand, and schedule time for yourself. You need it!

7. Stay Organized

Staying organized is no small feat for small business owners, but it can make a huge difference for your mental health.

Keeping both your environment (office, desk, car, wallet), business, and mind organized can help with stress and overwhelm.

Clean your office weekly, use freelancer-friendly business apps like Trello, Quickbooks, and ToDoist, and write down all of your goals, ideas, and intentions to clear your head.

8. Say No

One of the most impactful words to any relationship is “no.”

It sets boundaries, commands respect, and allows clients to take you seriously on a whole different level.

And with burnout, it’s incredibly necessary when you have to turn down clients you don’t have the bandwidth for. But most of us don’t like confrontation or disappointment, which means you’ll just have to practice saying it.

9. Find a New Hobby

Burnout can de-motivates us, even when it comes to hobbies we usually love.

Why not try to re-ignite that spark by finding a fresh source of fun and relaxation? It can help you get out of a funk, meet new people, and try something you’ve always wanted to but haven’t yet.

10. Do the Most Important Thing First

When you don’t have a lot of energy, prioritizing is essential to your dipping productivity because you just can’t do everything.

Number your to-do list from most important to least, and only do the top 3! Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

11. Schedule Breaks + Me-Time

Schedule time for yourself, even if it’s just a quick trip to the coffee shop or a walk on the treadmill.

It bolds that necessary work/life balance line and helps your mind wrap around the idea that work isn’t everything – there’s room for you, too.

12. Set Work Hours

Freelance comes with a lot of freedom, which is great, but not so great if you abuse it.

Our brains love routines and habits because it’s one less thing to think about. Use this to your advantage if you’re burnt out. Create a healthy routine with set work hours and try not to go any longer than scheduled.

13. Charge Existing Clients More

Let clients know your rates are going up and courteously fire those who won’t comply.

This way you’ll have less work but similar amounts of money and can spend more time healing rather than working overtime.

14. Find Better Clients

Penny-pinching, disrespectful clients can be a huge contributor to burnout.

They can make you and your work feel worthless, disregard your precious time, and suck the daylights out of you. You don’t have to deal with them. Learn to weed out the bad ones and look for big long-term payers instead to reduce admin, marketing time, and overall energy expenditure.

15. Ask for Referrals

This also cuts down marketing time. Tell clients you’d appreciate their referral.

They rarely say no, and it adds an extra boost to your future client pipeline.

Boss Freelance Burnout

Why are you burnt out? It’s okay if you don’t know right away, but it’s important to remember that you can’t cure burnout unless you’re solving the root of the problem.

And that’s going to look different for everyone: e.g. workaholism, chronic stress, loneliness, lack of control, poor work/life balance, or too much multitasking.

As you figure out how to lead a happier, healthier life, use the above tips! Self-care for writers is so important.

Because when we’re healthy, our businesses can thrive.

Emma is a health + wellness freelance writer & cookbook author, who lives for food, mental health, and fitness mumbo jumbo. When she's not talking to her dogs, she's writing content that makes money, saves time, and cures headaches. (*may or may not be scientifically proven*)

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Emma! Thanks for this well written article! I love your encouragement to accept one’s feelings, not to ignore them! This is such an important step for healing; it allows us to live empowered lives, leave our ruts behind, and move on to greater things! Tips 10, 13, and 14 are some of my favorites. I believe that asking yourself good questions, leads to better thinking. When you can look at your income streams and determine who’s bringing in the most, you can focus your energy and reduce or cut out what isn’t bringing in sustainable income or value! (It reminds me of the 80/20 principle. Check out the Wiki on the “Pareto Principle” for more info!)Reply to Logan
Thanks so much, Logan! And yes, 100% agree. I’ll definitely have to check out the Pareto principle!Reply to Emma