In the freelance world, all roads may lead to burnout. Here is why.
The more you work, the more you achieve, right?
The more you work, the more likely you are to feel exhausted.
Your productivity drops. Your mind and body lose precious energy. Your creativity is stifled.
Even if you’re passionate about your work.
All roads lead to burnout
As a newbie freelancer, I used to believe that burnout was reserved solely for the corporate world. Hierarchies, short deadlines, pressure to work extra hours, dealing with large clients and large sums were the most likely culprits of exhaustion. My world was culprit-free.
Freelancing means freedom after all, doesn’t it? Freedom to decide where and with whom you work, to choose your projects and work environment. No hierarchy, no stress, no problem.
But that’s where the problem starts.
Too much freedom can lead to burnout as well.
Because you might get stuck in the analysis-paralysis mode, unable to take any decision.
You might get overwhelmed by the number of choices you have: Shall I work from my home office, or from the café around the corner for a change of scenery? Or maybe I could work from a garden to finally get exposed to this rare phenomenon called summer?
Shall I start my work with my creative business ideas or my clients’ projects? Shall I go to the networking event on a Friday night to expand my network, or rather stay in the office to complete that not-so-urgent project?
Everything may seem equally important. Or equally trivial.
Too much freedom means disturbance. People know you’re flexible so they nonchalantly pop in at your house or on your phone screen: Can I pass by during lunchtime to pick your brain? Can you quickly drop this package at the post office? Can you do the laundry while working at home?
Too much freedom means no borders. No borders when it comes to projects you keep accepting and clients you keep serving. No borders when it comes to how much income you can earn. And that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially if you happen to live in a welfare state, where every hard-earned penny above the designated limit may lead to heavy taxes, making your hard work seemingly fruitless.
All these roads may lead to burnout.
Drawing the map
The self-employed are in no way more prone to burnout than those employed. Burnout happens when you don’t take time for yourself. When you don’t set boundaries. When you don’t create routines, schedules, or plans that could help you complete your tasks without distractions.
That’s where your personal map comes in. A clear outline that will keep you away from all the roads leading to burnout.
What to include in your map?
One idea is to draft your daily plan to create a healthy routine. That’s how you limit the number of choices that may paralyze you. It could be a short self-care routine in the morning, followed by work on the paid projects, followed by a break, then followed by your creative business ideas. You can also define your working hours and environment, with some room for an occasional change.
Another key ingredient is boundaries. Without clear boundaries, you’ll get easily distracted and carried away in the wrong direction. That’s the fast track to burnout.
Finally, include your passions. Freelancing might give you the freedom to design your work, but it doesn’t mean you should work non-stop. Or to ignore your passions and social life.
No matter how busy your day seems to be, it’s worth taking breaks to focus on non-work-related activities. Moments spent outside of your office can be your most resourceful and inspirational time. Usually, that’s when the best ideas pop into your head, completely out of nowhere.
Burnout is a war. And all good leaders know that it’s better to prevent than to wage a war. As a good leader of your own freelance life, don’t forget to sketch a map with all the roads leading to burnout.
Then take a detour.
Do you want to find out more about preventing burnout, or learn about other ingredients of a healthy freelance business?
Grab a copy of my new book, “Successful Freelancer’s Mindset“, to discover a smooth road to your rewarding freelancer’s life.