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4 Ways to Avoid Freelancer Burnout

By Maurie Backman – Apr 19, 2019 at 8:36AM

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Burnout is serious business when you're self-employed. Here's how to prevent it from happening to you.

The great thing about being a freelancer is getting to work on your own terms. That means setting up shop at home, your neighborhood coffeehouse, or even the beach if you so choose.

But freelancing isn't all rosy. Having the flexibility to work anytime and anywhere can often lead to scenarios where you're working all the time. And that, in turn, can cause you to burn out. Once that happens, your productivity might suffer and your outlook and health (both mental and physical) might take a serious turn for the worse. Your best bet, therefore, is to avoid burnout by following a few key rules.

Woman at laptop holding a pair of glasses in one hand and pinching between her eyes with the other


1. Set boundaries

You'd think that freelancers would have a better work-life balance than salaried employees, but often, the opposite holds true. The reason? When you're a freelancer, it's hard to unplug when your work is virtually staring you in the face all the time.

That's why it's so important to establish some work-life boundaries. To this end, create a calendar and block off time for work purposes and personal matters. And then stick to it. For example, if you're tired after a long day of tackling a major project but see that you're only scheduled to work until 8:00 p.m., you may be more inclined to pull yourself away from your desk at that point if your calendar tells you to.

2. Allow yourself to take breaks

As a freelancer, you know all too well that the more you accomplish, the more you get paid. As such, you may be inclined to constantly power through projects in the hopes of getting them done quickly and freeing up more time for additional work. Doing so, however, can leave you feeling worn and drained on a daily basis.

A better solution, therefore, is to allow yourself to take breaks during the workday, whether it's a late morning walk or a mid-afternoon cup of coffee. You might even decide to tackle household chores as a mental break of sorts during the workday so that you don't feel guilty about not being productive in some shape or form.

3. Learn how to turn down work

Many freelancers find that it's feast or famine on the workload front. If that's been your experience, then you may be hesitant to say no to new assignments, even when you're completely booked.

Taking on too much work at once, however, can rapidly lead to burnout, so instead, focus on getting your name out there and building relationships so that you're more comfortable turning down work when you really can't handle it.

4. Actually take vacation

For many freelancers, going on vacation means doing their jobs from a different, and perhaps more exotic, location. But not giving yourself a full-fledged break from the grind can cause you to burn out more quickly than you'd expect.

Rather than pay a small fortune to plug away on a laptop in a room with an ocean view, schedule a vacation, and make sure to leave your job-related equipment at home. Forcing yourself to unwind might seem counterproductive at first, but it's a necessary means of retaining your sanity.

Being a freelancer is more challenging and demanding than outsiders might think. The more of an effort you make to avoid burnout, the greater your chances of succeeding as a self-employed worker in the long run.

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