Dealing with Writing Burnout as a Freelancer

Dealing with Writing Burnout as a Freelancer

Anyone can experience burnout from time to time, whether they are a homemaker, roofer, or writer. In fact, burnout is so common that it’s now an officially recognized medical diagnosis. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as a syndrome stemming from chronic, unresolved stress at work that leads to symptoms such as fatigue, trouble concentrating, and a feeling of disconnect or mental distance from one’s job. The development of negative feelings toward work can lead to lower productivity, and it certainly affects quality of life. So, what’s a writer to do? Try the following tips for a quick pick-me-up.

Get out of the house.

Freelancers live in front of their computers most of the day. There’s no getting around that. It’s possible to have an active social life online. You might check in with friends on social media periodically, for example. However, digital relationships can’t compare to face-to-face human contact. If you feel burned out, there’s a good chance that social isolation is part of the problem.

Look for excuses to get out of the house more. Meet a friend for a jog around the park, for instance. You’ll kill two birds with one stone by getting both exercise and social interaction. You might also consider looking for a local freelancing project that requires face-to-face interaction, like journalism. Check with your local papers to see if they have opportunities.

Dedicate more time to your passion project.

Freelance writers typically gravitate to the field because they love the power of the written word. Most freelance writers love to read, and many of them have plans for novels, poems, or nonfiction books. The problem with these long-term plans is that there’s no guarantee they’ll generate any income, and it certainly won’t happen any time soon. As a result, grand plans for trilogies and epic poems get shuffled aside in favor of paying clients.

When you’re feeling burned out, you might feel frustrated that you don’t have enough time to devote to your passion projects. It’s definitely a common problem, but solving it could be as simple as changing your mindset. No, writing a novel won’t pay the cable bill due next week. But it may pay toward a down payment for a house in the next five years. Think of your passion project as an investment in your future income. This subtle shift in mindset may help you feel less guilty about setting aside time to work on it instead of doing work for clients that will pay more quickly. Start by devoting just 10 minutes per day to your project. After a month, check out your progress and congratulate yourself!

Take up a new hobby.

Freelancers spend much of the day typing and clicking through websites. They definitely do produce a product, but it’s nothing tangible that you can hold in your hand. As a result, it can sometimes feel as if you don’t accomplish much during the course of a typical day. If you think your case of freelancing burnout stems from this common issue, it’s time to find a new hobby—one that has nothing to do with computers or the Internet. Look for a hobby that produces a physical product you can feel proud of. Learn how to knit a sweater, compile a fancy scrapbook, grow a garden, or create chainsaw art in old tree stumps. If you’re feeling particularly daring, you might even consider looking for workshops designed for people who want to learn the antiquated arts, like blacksmithing, chair-caning, or cheese-making.

Set office hours.

One of the wonderful things about freelancing is that your office is right in your home, and so there’s no commute. One of the terrible things about freelancing is that your office is right in your home, and so you can never escape from it. In other words, there’s always more work to be done. It might be tempting to get back to the computer after dealing with dinner and getting the kids to bed in order to get ahead for the next day’s deadlines, but you need a break too. Establish office hours and abide by them. When the day’s work is done, power down your computer, shut off your phone, and enjoy some screen-free downtime with your loved ones.

Consider outsourcing certain tasks.

Outsourcing can be a tricky thing for freelance writers. If you outsource writing work to other writers, the quality may suffer and you might lose clients. Your contract may also prohibit outsourcing. But even though you might not be willing or able to outsource your paying assignments, you might consider delegating other tasks. You don’t have to do everything yourself. It’s perfectly all right to hire the kid next door to mow the lawn. The hour you’ll save could be put to work completing a writing assignment for more money than you paid the kid. Determine what your biggest, non-writing time-wasters are and hire someone else to do them.

Consider firing certain clients.

It’s natural for you to feel loyalty toward your clients, especially to that first client who took a chance on you and gave you that first paying gig. But there may come a time when they aren’t paying you enough to justify the time spent doing the work. Or perhaps those clients are engaging in scope creep—expecting you to do more work for the same amount of pay. It may be time to gracefully and professionally end the relationship, and search for clients who pay more. One way to fire a client is to tell that client that you’ll be raising your rates in 30 days. Either you’ll get more money or the client will hire a cheaper writer. In either case, you’ll get what you want.

When you need a change of pace or a different sort of project to work on, you can find your next assignment on Writers Work. Our curated job board is updated daily, so check back often to get in touch with new clients and explore new opportunities. Not a member yet? Join today for access to training tools, an online portfolio, and more!

Blog Comments

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