If you choose to take a ride down the freelancing path, being your own boss and having the freedom to scale your monthly income will be just a few of the luxuries you’ll enjoy.
However, suffering from freelancer burnout will most likely be one of the challenges you face.
Most freelancers, in their quest to increase their income and live a better life, are more inclined to accept multiple projects.
Doing this on a regular basis can become overwhelming and force them to work long hours while only getting to enjoy very little sleep.
There are many ways one can avoid freelancer burnout, but before we focus on that, I believe it’s vital to understand the common causes and how to tell if you’re already suffering from it.
Common causes of freelancer burnout
Although there are many causes of burnout among freelancers, the most common ones include:
1. Unmanageable workload
As noted above, most freelancers take on many projects at a time. With multiple projects comes an added burden to meet tight deadlines. This, as a result, leads to fewer time-offs and limited sleep.
2. Unreasonable deadlines
Most freelancers often find themselves having to accept technical projects with unreasonable deadlines for fear of either disappointing a client or failing to land another gig. After all, they’ve got bills to pay.
3. Lack of “gig” security
If you’re starting out as a freelancer or you do not have repeat clients who’ll give you regular tasks, you can never say you’re assured of making money at the end of the week.
The lack of security or assurance of getting jobs means freelancers are less resigned to saying “NO” even when they already have multiple pending assignments.
4. Inability to take time off
Seasoned freelancers know they need to take some time off and will often rest on weekends.
However, new freelancers and those with lots of financial obligations will push themselves above their limits trying to meet their weekly and monthly goals.
As a result, taking some time off to rest is off the table.
5. Fluctuating schedule
Some freelancers, especially those dealing with academic essays, have to deal with what they call “low and high season”.
They experience seasonal surges and dips in the number of jobs available to them. Such fluctuating schedules force them to overexert themselves to get more jobs in anticipation of times when there won’t be many jobs.
Signs of freelancer burnout
Look out for the following telltale signs of burnout that could be affecting your productivity as a freelancer.
1. You feel exhausted most of the time
This is the most notable sign of burnout you need to look out for. You will constantly feel physically and mentally drained, and will often find yourself unable to even execute the simplest of tasks.
2. Constantly postponing tasks
Are you unintendedly putting off working on pending projects? Do you feel bored and the thought of working on your pending projects makes you feel like a punishment?
These are signs your mind and body need rest.
3. Reduced productivity
If you’re not postponing any tasks but you still notice a significant drop in your productivity, the probable cause could be burnout.
This could be because you’re taking longer than usual to complete tasks and you feel less motivated to start working on new projects.
4. You dread workdays
Another common sign of a burned-out freelancer is the lack of desire or motivation to wake up in the morning with the knowledge that they have projects to fulfill.
You wish you could stay in bed all day and still get the projects miraculously done.
5. You regularly miss deadlines
If you’re not the type to miss deadlines or submit your projects late then gradually you start missing deadlines, this could be a sign you’re suffering from burnout and you need to have a rest.
6. Persistent physical symptoms
Burnout can lead to persistent headaches, backaches, and neck aches. If you’re experiencing any of these physical systems then you need to take some time off and rest.
How to avoid freelancer burnout
Now that you’re aware of the causes and signs of burnout, it’s time we talk about ways to avoid it.
Below are 10 practical ways to avoid freelancer burnout that any freelancer can implement.
1. Be selective on projects you accept
Although being selective might not be a luxury you can enjoy, choosing only the most appropriate projects based on your skills and expertise could do the trick. You should match your skills and expertise with project requirements.
If you use a “bid account” then you should only bid on projects you know you can work on pretty comfortably. This way, you will not struggle to fulfill project requirements or submit the task on time.
2. Avoid over-committing
Learning to set boundaries, not over-committing, or saying “NO” is a great way to avoid freelancer burnout. Most freelancers think that when they reject a project then the client will never give them another chance.
The truth is your ratings (which are based on the quality of your work) and relationship with your clients are what you need to focus on.
Let your client understand why you cannot take on their project. The reason could be that you have multiple pending projects with short deadlines.
Helping them understand why you said “NO” could even increase the chances of them assigning a project to you in the future.
Because they’ll feel you’re honest with and value your clients and always aim to deliver quality work rather than taking on dozens of projects only to miss deadlines or underdeliver.
By learning to say “NO” or not to over-commit, you will only take the right number of projects. As a result, your projects will not put you under pressure, which means you can comfortably meet each deadline without having to work 18 hours a day.
3. Outsource some tasks
Outsourcing some tasks can also help you avoid burnout as a result of overworking yourself. If you have multiple projects and you feel you cannot meet all the deadlines in time, it would be wise to outsource some tasks and focus on the rest.
If a project requires someone with multiple skills, such as an SEO copywriter + graphic designer, you can choose to focus on the part you are most suited to. You can decide to write the content yourself then outsource the graphic design task.
A good alternative would be to get in touch with your client and request more time rather than working overnight only to submit a poorly done assignment.
4. Raise your freelance rates
In case you’re getting too many offers from clients, it means they would rather have you handle their projects and not anyone else. This is a great opportunity to increase your rates and let them know in advance.
Inform them in advance of your decision to increase your rates and a justification for doing so. Be honest and clear with them. Some will understand and stick with you while others will look for cheaper alternatives.
Although you will lose some clients, the ones that remain will pay you better and you will have a reduced workload. You will avoid burnout and still generate fairly the same amount of income, if not more.
5. Get better-paying clients
One of the main causes of getting overworked as a freelancer is when you pick clients at very low rates. This forces you to work on a ton of gigs to earn a decent income.
Some clients take advantage of new freelancers with zero ratings trying to find their first client and rating. This can go on over time when they sense you struggle to find jobs and are willing to accept their low rates.
The solution to this problem is relatively simple. If you already have a few positive ratings, start bidding on projects that pay well and only accept clients with reasonable rates.
This means you will get fewer but better-paying gigs allowing you the time to take a break and rejuvenate.
6. Build long-term relationships
Any freelancer understands the hassle of finding well-paying jobs. In most cases, some freelancers can go for days before finding any meaningful work.
This is one of the reasons why most are willing to take on as many projects as they can for fear of failing to get gigs days later. They then overwork themselves as a result.
To avoid this and avoid unnecessary burnout, freelancers should aim to build long-term professional relationships with well-paying clients. By doing so, you will most likely get assigned the project by that client every time they need assistance.
Such long-term relationships will have you doing less bidding giving you ample time to focus on well-paying projects from your repeat clients.
7. Establish work and life balance
Establishing a balance between your work and personal life is an effective way to avoid burnout as a freelancer. You need to understand that for your body and mind to perform at optimum, you need to rest and re-energize.
Set schedules on when to work and when to take breaks. As much as you want to work harder and make more money, getting enough rest will keep your physical and mental health in a good shape as well as improve your productivity.
Most seasoned freelancers will tell you taking time off is very essential. Some do so on weekends, while others take the rest they need when they feel the time is right, even mid-week.
8. Take care of yourself
Taking care of your mind and body is essential if you are to maintain high productivity levels as a freelancer.
This could be by getting enough sleep, taking breaks during work hours, spending time to socialize with friends and family, or going on a vacation once in a while.
If you can’t afford to go on vacations, then think of doing things you love and enjoy (hobbies). It could be reading novels, watching movies, gardening, painting, or anything else that takes your mind away from freelancing.
Your productivity is highly dependent on your physical and mental state, and taking care of yourself will keep you in good shape.
9. Embrace regular exercises
Keeping your body active is really good for you. You need to resist the urge to stay glued to your desk all day. It’s so easy as a freelancer, especially if you’re new to the game, to work all day, every day.
Exercise is key to reducing stress and releasing those happy hormones. Besides, you’ll always feel motivated and ready to take on the next project if you exercise at least once a day.
10. Have a dedicated workspace
Another good way to avoid freelancer burnout is by ensuring you have a dedicated workspace. Unfortunately, most freelancers work from the comfort of their homes or rented apartments. This makes it almost impossible to separate work from personal life.
It will serve you well if you can find a dedicated workspace that allows you to separate freelancing work from your personal life. Your workspace will keep you grounded to complete your tasks while your home will give you a tranquil environment to rest and re-energize.
Almost every freelancer has at some point suffered from burnout. That’s why finding a balance between your work and your personal life is important.
I hope the tips shared above will be invaluable in your quest to remain productive without compromising your mental and physical health.