To those who don’t freelance, it sounds like a dream. You get to choose your projects, make your own hours and work remotely. Well, as many of us know, those same benefits can quickly become a problem if you’re not careful.
Burnout is possible with any job, but when you’re your own manager and your home is your office, you can quickly run out of steam. Graphic designers, writers, website designers and all freelancers in between understand this struggle.
From someone who gets it, here are five ways to avoid burnout as a freelancer:
Establishing a Positive Workspace
Establishing an environment that encourages productivity and positivity will keep you ready to work. If possible, pick a space in your home that is separate from your sleeping and lounging areas.
Be sure to decorate your home office in a way that makes you excited to walk into the room. For some, this means lots of houseplants and natural light. For others, the perfect office is cozy and warm. I like my desk to be situated against a large window so I can take a quick visual break from my screen every once in a while.
The state of your physical workspace also has an effect on your mindset. Clean your desk, play some uplifting music or do whatever else you need to stay positive and productive while you work.
If you work remotely as a freelancer, it can be hard to set boundaries with yourself and your clients. It’s not uncommon to struggle with work boundaries. Often, we say it doesn’t bother us to answer emails at 9pm or to work on the weekends, but it can take its toll.
A great way to set boundaries with yourself is to turn off notifications for emails and phone calls when you are done for the day. You can also create physical reminders that you’re finished working by shutting your office door or turning off the lights at your desk.
It’s much easier to set boundaries with yourself than it is to set boundaries with clients. Some clients have the idea that you will be available 24/7 whenever they need you. It’s important to make your boundaries clear at the very first meeting. Here are some ways to do this:
Clearly outline, in both verbal and written format, your working hours. Make sure the client understands that you may not answer their emails or calls outside of those hours.
Be sure to explain that the client needs to factor edits into their project timeline.
Turn down projects you don’t have the capacity for.
The most important thing is that you stand firm when it comes to your boundaries. If you have a client that just can’t seem to respect your boundaries, it’s okay to end that professional relationship. To make the process easier, check out our article on how to fire a client.
Your clients are choosing you for a reason. If they want your services, they’ll need to agree to the terms.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a vacation every once in a while. In fact, it’s great for your health. A study from the University of Mannheim shows that the inability to fully detach from work while on vacation leads to lower life satisfaction and quicker burnout.
We all know that it’s important to take breaks. But this also means taking work-free breaks. Whether it’s a day off, a weekend, your lunch hour or a full week away – breaks are important for reducing stress at work.
Prioritizing Mental Health
A healthy mind is necessary for productive and fulfilling work. While all of the above things can help you improve your mental health, there are other things you can do as well. You can:
Form an enjoyable routine that provides something to look forward to. For example, I enjoy my morning coffee on the patio.
Find an enjoyable hobby or activity that can distract your mind when you are not working. Some people are just meant to stay busy, so find something non-work related that keeps you busy.
Set aside time to be with people. Working remotely can be isolating, having a group of friends or family members that you can spend time with can make a difference.
Get some fresh air. Believe it or not, there is plenty of psychological research to support the benefits of being outdoors on mental health.
Above all else, be sure to find time for the things you love doing outside of work. There’s nothing wrong with being fulfilled by your work, but it’s also important to take a step away for your mental health.
Keeping the Passion
You’re probably in a specific field because you love it. As a copywriter, I love learning about new industries and finding ways to effectively communicate with others. I can’t help it – I’m just naturally curious. However, when I feel stressed, that passion can quickly dissolve.
Loving what you do always makes a difference in your mindset at work. If you find that you’re constantly dreading starting work in the morning, maybe you need to do something differently. That may not mean changing your field. Perhaps it means working with a group, rather than as an individual. Maybe it’s your clients that are making work difficult.
There are so many factors that could cause you to lose interest in your work. As much as we need breaks from working, it’s critical to remember that it is life giving. It feels good to work, to accomplish something important.
Remember that you are your own boss — set boundaries, take breaks and do what you love.