Not everything about freelance writing is bunny slippers and bon bons. Sure, we have the best life. We have flexibility and the abililty to work anywhere we please, pick and choose our own clients and set our own rates. With all the perks, freelance writing also has a dark side. We already explored what happens when clients don’t pay in a previous “Dark Side” post. Today we’re going to discuss another topic we don’t touch on enough here at FWJ, burnout.
What is Freelance Writing Burnout?
I think every freelancer has experience burnout at one time or another. For me, burnout happened mostly at the beginning of my career. I took on many different clients and spent more time working than doing anything else. I was waking at 4:00 each morning and working until my family got up and went about our day. I’d also work late into the night, functioning on only a few hours of sleep. That’s not a normal scenario for all writers, though.
Basically when writers spend a lot of time churning out articles, especially for projects they’re not enjoying it can lead them to, well, not want to work anymore. It affects everything. You don’t want to work but you can’t keep your mind on anything else because you know the projects are looming. You even consider giving up writing for good.
When you don’t like what you do anymore because you’re spending all day writing topics you don’t want to write in order to meet unrealistic deadlines, you’re going to suffer from writing burnout.
How to Avoid Burnout
Honestly, the best way to avoid burnout is to be more selective with your gigs. My own personal philosophy is to avoid freelance writing jobs involving unrealistic quotas. I remember writing for a couple of web masters and clients who expected a certain amount of articles each month, not all of them were topics I enjoyed. I always ended up putting off those projects until the last minute.
If you’re putting off all your writing until the end of the month, and rushing to do 50 articles in the last week of the month, you’re not enjoying what you do. Chances are by the end of that week, you’re not loving your job. I don’t write for clients with quotas anymore. I mean, a couple of posts a week is one thing, but I’ll no longer commit to 20 or 30 articles a month.
It’s hard to tell writers to only take jobs they love when they have no choice. I know what it’s like to have to take jobs I didn’t like in order to build up a client base and make ends meet. However, when you have too many projects or, especially, you have too many projects you don’t like, you’re going to burnout. There are a few things you can do to avoid this:
- Don’t take projects you’re not feeling
- Take periodic breaks
- Do more non-writing related projects
- Give up the work you don’t enjoy
To truly avoid burnout is to not allow writing to consume every waking moment. We’re freelancers because we want to enjoy our lives, how can we do that if we’re stressed out over our writing?
When to Step Away from the Desk
If the stress of freelance writing burnout is too much and you find it’s affecting your health, it’s time to step away from the desk. If you can’t sleep, you have headaches or you can’t focus on your work, it’s time to take a break. If you find yourself unable to meet deadlines because they’re not realistic, you need to rethink your gig.
The bottom line is this: we should all enjoy our work. If it’s going to cause stress, we may as well go back to our office jobs. If we don’t enjoy what we do, what’s the purpose of doing it? Every writer pull the occasional all-nighter, but this shouldn’t be the norm. If you find every day is a chore, you either need to find another gig or give up freelance writing altogether.
Do you ever have burnout periods? If so, how did you get through them?