I wish I could say that freelancing is the next best thing after cake. Unfortunately, it isn’t.
Sure. You get to choose your projects, clients, time, and even your very own workplace. However, freelancing, despite being synonymous with dreamland, is not always rainbows and butterflies.
In fact, freelancing presents a whole new level of problems that can be overwhelming most of the time.
And although a lot of people think that freelancing and work-life balance come hand-in-hand, I can guarantee you that this line of work isn’t easy.
Just like the nine-to-five scene, stress and burnout in the freelancing world are real. And when it comes, not only will you feel tired and unmotivated, you will also end up accomplishing nothing.
This is why it is vital for us to discuss some ways on how to handle freelancer stress and burnout.
1. Get rid of the “beggars can’t be choosers” mindset.
Easier said than done, but doable…
I know that all of us want to make as much money as quickly as possible, hence the mass acceptance of tasks. But choosing projects that are out of your scope can be troublesome, not only for you but also for your client.
The fact of the matter is — accepting tasks that you have zero knowledge about will only give you a headache.
Moreover, taking in beyond your threshold of projects and clients is a surefire way to reduce your efficiency. A miracle might ring the bell and save the day. But chances are, your output is not at par with what the client expects it to be.
This leads to an unsatisfied client, not-so-happy feedback, and a lesser-chances-of-being-hired freelancer.
2. Understand how much you can accomplish in a day.
You might not notice it, but you are totally in control of your workload. This is one of the things that freelancing has blessed us with.
Being unaware of it though can be a major source of burnout. Deadlines can pile up and it will end up haunting you in your dreams… that is if you still have the time to sleep!
This is why it is important for every freelancer to understand his or her limits in dealing with certain tasks, including the amount of time it takes to finish them.
Learn how to negotiate with these in mind and schedule all of your projects beforehand.
Moreover, don’t forget to schedule regular breaks for yourself. Remember, we function best when we’re happy and energized!
3. Leave work … at work.
Freelancing in itself is not the way to achieve a healthy work-life balance — setting boundaries is.
So if your client is in another timezone, refrain from replying to their emails during your off-hours. Answering them even after your shift means you are accessible at any time of the day. That’s another way of saying “give me work any time as you please.”
However, before you start moving away from your desk and shutting your clients out for the night, paint a clear picture of your professional process first, including your end-of-shift time. Explain it to them. And be sure to hand over your deliverables within the timeframe set.
Be consistent with your off-hours. Leave some time for yourself, your hobbies, or your family. Strictly, leave work at work.
4. Have a clean and organized working space.
Sounds basic, really. But according to studies, avoiding clutter enhances productivity.
Meaning, less distraction causes fewer mistakes. And fewer mistakes means less redoing. You get the idea.
Additionally, research shows that clutter increases stress and exhaustion levels. This means that a messy workplace reduces focus and delays a person’s decision-making process.
So if you’re working from home, select an area in your house with great lighting and ventilation. You will be performing different tasks so it’s imperative that you remain comfortable as you sit in your chair for the most part of the day.
You may also choose to go out and work someplace else. Doing so can enliven you out, and can definitely help you keep a fresh perspective every day.
5. Figure out your work style.
What kind of workstyle helps you maximize your time and productivity?
Experiment with different patterns and find out which one helps you achieve your best output. Generally, people like to accomplish tasks in one sitting or divide the project into smaller batches.
If you ask me, I like dividing my tasks into smaller portions so I can take breaks in between. As a writer, I don’t plan my article points ahead of typing because some ideas can pop out randomly. My attention span is also quite short, so there’s that.
Additionally, I found out that my creative side comes out more if I let my brain rest once in a while. It may not be ideal for some but to each his own.
Lastly, don’t forget to add your clients’ preferences, needs, and deadlines to your workstyle equation.
If you figure out which one works best for you, not only will you be able to boost your productivity. You can also enhance the quality of your output like lightning and finish your task in no time.
6. Keep an eye on your budget.
One of the primary causes of a freelancer’s stress is the lack of a steady income that comes with the “feast-famine work attitude”.
It’s a fact that most freelance platforms are already saturated, which means more competition for jobs on our part.
Furthermore, late invoice payments can also make our lives a little difficult. And as much as we hate to admit it, we only have a little control over this part.
However, this doesn’t mean we’ll remain penniless. We can look after our expenses to keep ourselves up and going despite the momentary lack of projects.
Come up with a monthly budget. Be sure to cover all your expenses including utilities. Cut unnecessary spending and save money regularly. Do all of these while submitting job proposals to obtain clients.
Another tip is to look for hourly projects. Most of the long-term jobs are found in this area. You can also opt for fixed-price tasks on the side. Remember to set your rate based on your skills and the quality of your output.
Do not settle for less especially if you already have loads of experience and a portfolio to boast about.
7. Try coworking spaces.
Most (if not all) freelancers work from home. However, even with the best workspace, being stuck in your house all day can be draining.
To be honest, working from home, in the long run, can be a little isolating.
Fortunately, coworking spaces are slowly becoming a thing. Aside from cafes and coffee shops, more and more properties are providing alternative venues for freelancers like us.
Using these rented spaces can help us avoid some home-working blues. And of course, the feeling of being burnt out.
Check out some of these new spaces within your vicinity. If you’re feeling a little down right now for some unknown reason, a change of environment might just do the trick.
However, if you’re completely fine within the walls of your home, you might want to take a stroll or quick drive somewhere.
Doing this once in a while will definitely keep your sanity in place.
8. Immerse yourself in a hobby.
One of the best ways to avoid the dreaded burnout?
Go for a break and have some fun. Indulge in your passions and hobbies. Leave your desk for a moment and reward yourself for a job well done.
Picking up a hobby enables you to switch your focus and amplify your creativity even further. Taking a break once in a while isn’t so bad. We’re not robots after all.
But if you want to keep the daily grind spirit, you can also opt for projects that involve the things you love doing the most — like crafting social media kits, infographics, or even giving movie reviews.
9. Show yourself some love.
Self-care is the key to a healthy mind and a happy body.
In freelancing, stress comes in many ways. It can manifest itself through unhealthy habits, or even in a constant state of irritation.
Burnout, on the other hand, can make you feel empty, unproductive, and mentally exhausted. It’s like you don’t want to do anything other than sleep.
While it is true that freelancing helps you earn in the comfort of your home, freelancers often find themselves glued to their PCs most of the time.
And it’s often been reiterated by medical experts that a screen-based life isn’t good for one’s sight. Freelancers also experience back pain from sitting for long periods.
Worst of all, facing your computer for the majority of the day can lead to muscle degeneration, organ damage, and other serious medical problems.
This emphasizes the need to show yourself some love. Avoid health-damaging habits like snacking on junk foods and not getting enough sleep. Workout if you can, or exercise once in a while.
Do what you can to get out of your stress bubble. You can even opt for a massage, a warm bath, or even a quick nap to re-energize yourself.
What’s important here is that you take care of yourself.
Remember, freelancing is more often than not, a one-man business. So if you can’t take care of yourself, then who else will?
If you have any other suggestions on how we can avoid freelancer stress and burnout, don’t hesitate to throw them in the comments section below!