Do You Recognize the Early Warning Signs of Freelancer Burnout?

warning-signsYou just love your job as a freelancer, but lately it seems like you really have to force yourself to get the work done. Perhaps you’re getting sick all the time–you always catch whatever illness seems to be going around. Maybe you don’t have any problems getting started on your projects, but seem to find yourself spending a lot of time on Facebook, or Twitter, or playing online games.

If you can relate to these problems, then you could be suffering from freelancer burnout.

If you’re suffering from freelancer burnout, it could be serious. Burnout, when not dealt with, can threaten your business, your relationships, and even your health.

In this post, we’ll discuss the reality of freelancer burnout and describe a few steps you can take to ensure that it doesn’t snuff out your freelancing career.

The Reality of Freelancer Burnout

We freelancers tend to be a proud bunch. Many of us would never admit to feeling burnt out by our work. After all, we chose to be freelancers. Burnout is something that only happens to the nine to five bunch, those miserable souls still trapped in cubicles…or so we like to think.

The truth is that burnout can happen in any profession, and freelancing professions are not immune from it. Freelance designers or writers can suffer from burnout just like designers and writers in the corporate world can suffer from burnout for much the same reasons: too much work, too much stress, and too little control over the work. When you add in the isolation that many freelancers feel from working alone and the financial worries that many freelancers face you can see that burnout is very real possibility.

One of the most important steps for dealing with freelancer burnout is admitting that it exists. You can’t deal with the problem if you refuse to acknowledge it.

Now that we’ve acknowledged the reality of freelancer burnout, let’s take a look at some of the early signs of freelancer burnout.

Early Signs of Freelancer Burnout

Whether you’re a freelancer, or not, one of the dangers of burnout is waiting too long to deal with it. If you’ve gotten seriously ill or irreparably damaged a client relationship or faced any other serious consequences from burnout then you’ve probably waited too long to deal with the problem.

Fortunately, there are early warning signs that you may be facing the danger of burnout. Here are ten signs to watch out for that could signal the start of freelancer burnout:

  • Frequently feeling sick with no real underlying medical reason
  • Dreading the start of each work day
  • Feelings helpless about which projects you take and your work in general
  • Jumping on every excuse to not work
  • Being afraid to say “no” or negotiate any changes to your projects
  • Getting bored with what you are doing
  • Experiencing unexplained physical problems (headaches, muscle pain, etc.)
  • Thinking about your work while you should be doing other things
  • Worrying about your projects so much that it keeps you awake at night
  • Letting your work cause relationship problems with those you care about

A good thing about freelancer burnout is that it can often be managed. In the next section, we’ll take a look at some steps you should take if you feel like you are on the verge of work-related burnout.

How to Deal with Burnout

If you recognized yourself in the signs listed above, it’s possible that you are experiencing freelancer burnout (or soon will be). The first very important step to take is to talk with your doctor, especially if you are experiencing physical symptoms. He or she can help you rule out any underlying physical or psychological problems.

Once you’ve ruled out any health problems, you can take some other steps to reduce your stress and minimize your chance of burning out. Here are ten steps that could help:

  • Be realistic about what you can do and don’t accept too much work
  • Learn to say “no” to rush projects or projects that don’t pay well enough to be worth your time
  • Evaluate the types of projects you accept and identify those that you enjoy the most so that you can target that type of work for the future
  • Discuss any problems with the project, including scope changes and unforeseen challenges, with your client
  • Examine your rate to see if you are undercharging for the value that you provide
  • Set aside blocks of time as personal time and don’t schedule over them
  • Develop a hobby that you enjoy (often exercise can combat stress)
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake once in a while
  • Take a few days off (the world won’t stop while you take a break–really, it won’t)
  • Help someone else–it’s strange, but often helping someone else who really needs the help (whether it be as a volunteer or some other way) can take your mind of your own problems

What Do You Do About Freelancer Burnout?

As we’ve discussed, freelancer burnout is a very real problem whether we like to admit it or not. Even the most enthusiastic freelancer can suffer from burnout from time to time.

Have you ever faced freelancer burnout? How have you dealt with it?

Share your experiences and advice in the comments.

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