I think there comes a time in every freelancer’s career where they start to lose the excitement of being self-employed. Motivation starts becoming harder and harder to find. They start dreading client projects. They do other things during the work day instead of their client work. So what happened to being excited to go to work every day doing something you love?
There are often several reasons why freelancers start becoming less excited about their work and start feeling burnout. Maybe it’s because they have been working all day every day to stay on top of their project load. Maybe things just aren’t clicking like they used to, or they aren’t landing the type of projects they want. Everything starts to work against them and they start questioning their decision to freelance.
If you are starting to experience burnout, you may not know how to get back to the excitement you once had about your freelancing. While the feeling of burnout hits everyone at different times in different ways, we are all vulnerable to it and may find ourselves needing to make some changes to shake us out of it. Let’s talk about a few ways in which a freelancer can start to combat that awful feeling of freelance burnout.
Take A Vacation
Probably the most obvious solution is to plan and take a vacation. You’ve been working hard and constantly devoting more time to your freelancing and less time to things you enjoy. Since you are starting to see yourself as all work and no play, one of the best things you can do is to take a break and get away. Plan a trip with family and/or friends and go somewhere you have always wanted to go.
The key is to not take your work with you, or anything that reminds you of work. Leave your laptop at home, cut off your email on your phone, and don’t answer your phone unless it is friends or family. Bringing work with you on vacation, or letting yourself get sucked into answering work email and phone calls will only hurt your chances of shaking the burnout feeling. What’s the point of taking a vacation if your work is coming with you?
Start a Side Project
Have something that you have been wanting to work on, but haven’t had the time? While you are feeling burnout from freelancing, it could be a great opportunity to take on a side project that really interests you. As freelancers, we tend to have tons of ideas of cool things to make or do, often of which turns into side projects.
Whenever you are feeling burnout, start working on a side project that brings excitement and interest into your day. When you start enjoying the side project and putting considerable time into it, the feelings of burnout often fade which will allow you to come back focused on your work. Just don’t get yourself in trouble by spending all of your time on the side project and none on your freelance work, as that is why it is called a “side” project!
Regain the Sanctity of Weekends
Most freelancers, myself included, are guilty of working through the weekend and not taking time to ourselves to do things we want to do, such as spend time with friends and family. When you work seven days a week, it’s not hard to start feeling like all you do is work, because all you do is work. You can help fight against burnout by taking a break every week and enjoying your weekend.
However you classify a “weekend,” be it Friday/Saturday, Saturday/Sunday, or Friday/Saturday/Sunday, make a commitment to not work on the weekends. You may find yourself so busy that you have to work on the weekends, but when you take the weekend off, you come back to work refreshed and motivated, and you would be surprised at how much work you get done in a short amount of time when you are rejuvenated and relaxed after having the weekend to yourself.
Learn Something New
When all you do is work, you often start telling yourself you don’t have time to do things you want to do, or sometimes have to do. Freelancers have to take charge of their careers and learn new emerging trends so that they are always on top of their game, or risk falling behind and becoming irrelevant to clients.
If you start feeling burnout, you can shake that feeling by taking time to learn something new. The excitement of learning something that you have wanted to learn and finally understanding it is often enough to make you want to start using that new skill in your freelancing. I did exactly this a couple of years ago and started learning WordPress. Now it is a growing part of my business and I am always excited when I can work on a project involving WordPress.
Re-evaluate and Make Changes
While all the tips above can help you shake the feeling of being burnout, it doesn’t tackle the reason(s) why you are burnout in the first place. If none of the above seem to help you combat freelance burnout, then often what is needed is a long hard look at your freelancing career. Asking yourself things like “do I enjoy the type of work that I am doing,” “what is it that I dread doing the most,” and “what seems to cause me the most frustration while I am working” are all great places to start.
Remember to be honest with yourself. It might not hurt to talk about these things with someone you know and trust, such as your spouse or a close friend. Talking through the reasons can help you figure out where you need to make changes. If you are feeling burnout in your freelancing career, then more than likely some big changes are needing to be made and you have to figure out what those changes are. It could be that you stop providing a particular service that doesn’t bring you joy, or possibly firing a few of your extremely difficult clients.
There are many ways you can shake off your freelancing burnout such as taking a break or doing something that interests you. The main thing to remember is that you want to get back to that state where you were when you first started freelancing: being generally excited and motivated to be your own boss. If some of the tricks above don’t help you shake that burnout syndrome, then evaluating your current freelancing is the next best thing in order for you to become happy and excited about your career choice again.
Have you found yourself in a freelance burnout? What ways did you combat it and did it help?
Worried businessman photo from Shutterstock.