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How to Avoid Burnout as a Freelance Writer
As a freelance writer, I know how easy it is to become burned out from doing the same work over and over. In fact, I am just now recovering from a six month period of burnout. Nonetheless, if writing is what helps pay the bills, it is important for a freelancer to be on their “A” game as much as possible. Take it from me—burning out will cost you money! Here are some tips to help prevent and work through burnout.
The energy and fervor that a new freelancer brings to the table each day is a wonderful thing. However, entering into the full-time freelance writing world without developing the stamina and work schedule necessary to be successful in the field is the kiss of death. The lure of more money and opportunities can easily cause a new freelancer to overextend their resources. I recommend giving freelance writing a whirl during free time before committing to it on a full-time basis. If nothing else, write just one article a day for a week or two, and then build up the commitment from there. Find a pace that is comfortable and sustainable for the long term. This may mean writing no more than four or five articles per day. Only you can determine what works for your schedule and your energy level.
Have Other Gigs
If you possess skills in other areas besides writing, try diversifying your work schedule to include other work from home jobs. Once I burned out from freelance writing, I was completely unemployed for two months. eBay, a service I have used on a part time basis for over 10 years as a seller, became my only stream of income. I finally realized that I needed to utilize my information and teaching skills. As a former librarian, I decided to take indexing classes, enabling me to index books for publishers on a contract basis. On top of this, I started offering my skills as a genealogy and family history researcher online. Finally, I found steady work as an adjunct at an online university. Writing need only be one aspect of a successful freelancer’s portfolio!
Do Things You Love
One of the things that caused me to burn out from freelance writing was a lack of passion for the work I was generating. I started to associate the art of writing with drudgery, instead of treating it as the joy it once was. The antidote to this malaise involves taking the time each day, or as often as possible, to work on a writing project you love. In between writing keyword-rich content, I take an hour out daily to brainstorm for, write, or edit the novel I am working on. Even if your work is not The Great American Novel, creating something valuable to you will rejuvenate the mind and the body.
Take a Vacation
It sounds cliché, but it works: taking a vacation will clear the mind and relax the body. For best results, take at least a week off from writing every 2-3 months. Remember that, as freelancers, we truly have the luxury to be able to set hours as we see fit. Going away for a few days, or even having a “staycation,” may just be the fix for your sanity. The best vacations are physical. Go rock climbing, surfing, swimming, or take a ski holiday. The last thing you want to do on your vacation is to sit around for hours on end like you do when working.
Have a Social Life
It is easy to become cut off from society at large when working from home. Having an active social life outside of work is critical to being a successful freelancer. Conversing with people is a basic human need that must be met. Finding friends as a freelancer can be challenging, as we cannot draw upon the interoffice social network. Taking classes, attending local gallery openings and other cultural events, and connecting with people at your place of worship are all great ideas for meeting new people. Setting up shop at your local coffeehouse occasionally can also help. Meeting people outside of your profession is a good way of generating new ideas—a very practical application of this advice! If you are single, make a profile on a dating website. If, like many writers, you are of the nerdier persuasion, try OkCupid for both dates and new friends. It is completely free!
Revisit the Old Grind
If you had a day job prior to becoming a freelancer, try revisiting the old grind for just one day. Get up at whatever time you used to wake up, shower, get dressed in your fancy clothes, and set off on the road. Make sure you leave the house in time for rush hour traffic! Think about the money wasted on gas, the expensive clothing necessary to look “professional,” and the frustration experienced out on the freeway during rush hour traffic. Doing this for one morning may help you appreciate your current job more.
In conclusion, the life of a freelancer is not always sunshine and roses. Like those that work in other professions, freelance writers can suffer from burnout. The next time you feel tired and hopeless, take these steps to help ease away the tiredness and frustration that can come from this line of work. You will be happier for it!