Welcome back to another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. This is part two of a
small series, just two episodes about how to deal with burnout. So if you’re listening to this episode, and you haven’t yet heard the episode that comes immediately before it, now would be a great time to go back and listen to that episode because it is really all about how to recognize burnout and how to prevent burnout before it happens. And of course, the more mindful you can be about the problems related to burnout, the easier will be for you to stop that cycle before it even starts.
The reality is that far too many freelancers and business owners find themselves stuck in that cycle of burnout.
It can be very, very toxic and overwhelming when you’re coping with burnout. A lot of us don’t even recognize burnout until we’re so far into it that it’s very difficult to walk back and figure out how to remove some of those stressors from our life.
Burnout will look different from one person to another. So for you, it might primarily manifest in physical terms. But for someone else, it could be more of a mental or emotional challenge. So recognize that if you’ve witnessed a friend or family member go through burnout, that it might not look the same for you as it does for others. There are three primary reasons why somebody ends up feeling burned out. Some of them are kind of interconnected or more complicated than just one simple thing.
The first reason you can experience burnout in your freelance business is your potential clients.
Who are you working with? Are you working with the right people? And are they making you feel overwhelmed? Are you working on projects that you don’t love? And are you working on a project that you do love, but the client is so overbearing and difficult to deal with that you’re waking up with night sweats and you’re dreading every single day?
I’ve worked with a number of different aspiring and currently six figure freelancers who have found themselves working with toxic clients. And if you have not listened to that podcast episode, I strongly recommend going back and listening to the episode all about toxic clients because we go into what it really means to say somebody that is a toxic client. It’s called “Toxic Freelance Clients: You Can’t Afford to Keep Them”. It is Episode 71 of the podcast. And it is very powerful to go back and recognize that you might be working with those clients, if you previously were unaware.
You might have more than one toxic freelance client which really increases your chances of feeling burned out and overwhelmed.
When you’re working with people who are very difficult, who are demanding too much, or who want you to kind of be at their beck and call and available to communicate all the time, you can easily get very, very overwhelmed and stressed out. And a lot of times what’s great, even though it might not seem like it in the moment, about the situation of being with a freelance client that is not the right fit is that you can fix this aspect of burnout. There are some things that lead you to a state of burnout that are not really so much in your control. But this one about deciding who you do and don’t work with. It definitely falls within your control.
Don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you’ve worked with somebody who isn’t the right fit.
Somebody who’s overbearing, somebody who expects too much, somebody who puts additional stress on you by paying their invoices three months late, or anything like that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be toxic for it to be overwhelming or triggering towards burnout for you. But it can definitely be something that causes you to feel like that’s carrying over into aspects of your business and your personal life. So the great news about discovering that clients are the source of your current burnout is that it is within your power to fix that situation.
Now, if you primarily have one anchor client, and that’s the client that’s causing you to burn out, it’s going to take a while to build up the business to the point it feels like you can walk away from that. And I’ve also seen coaching clients who hold on to that anchor client even when it’s not the right fit. And then that client can also decide not to work with you anymore.
When you’ve got all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak, that can also put you into a very difficult situation. Because if you suddenly feel like, “You know what, the straw has broken the camel’s back, I cannot work with this client for one more moment.” or their business folds it can put you in a tough situation.
I’ve had coaching clients who’ve had their clients literally close down their entire business because it was mismanaged.
Where if the client just decides not to work with you anymore, you don’t want to be counting on that one client or those one or two anchor clients for your whole income. So you want to start building in that buffer and working towards having other clients on tap. Now, if you want to learn more about why it is so dangerous to have just one client, you’ll want to go back and listen to Episode 76. That’s “Don’t Put All Your Freelance Eggs in One Basket”.
So now that we’ve covered the fact that clients can contribute to you feeling burned out and overwhelmed, that’s probably going to be the easiest one to detect. Is there anyone on your schedule where you are feeling so bad about opening their emails, you hate having to talk to them on the phone, you really wish you could just fire them and move on? That is going to be the easiest place to find potential burnout and to deal with it from there.
The second set of problems that can contribute toward a higher risk of burnout include outside stressors.
Outside stressors could be anything that’s really not so much in your control even if you have taken proactive steps to minimize or to try to completely control that issue. For example, maybe you have somebody in your family or the caretaker for an elderly member in your family. Perhaps you have a child with special needs. Maybe and your partner work different shifts. You work the day shift and he works the night shift and so on. Childcare is always very stressful and you have very little time to work on your business. Those are kind of outside stressors that you can’t easily change, or can’t be changed at all.
So the two things that you can do to help with these outside stressors are to eliminate problems wherever possible and to build in support.
So if there’s something in your day to day process in the structure of your business that
could be changed to help you minimize the chance of burnout, you want to take those proactive steps. First, for example, maybe you do have a situation at home where it’s very difficult to have no background noise. Maybe you’ve already tried to have everyone in the family be quiet or tried to do your sales calls in the closet. And it just hasn’t worked right. So maybe you need to adapt your business model to figure out how you can close people in other ways where you’re not relying on having a quiet backgrounds. So that would be eliminating problems.
You could also address that problem by building in support. So perhaps you hire somebody to do childcare. You don’t even have to go spend your entire budget on a day rate for somebody. You can book all of your calls between 2:00 and 4:00 pm because that’s when you have childcare. And everyone else in the family can be out of the house. So this same process can apply to many of the different challenges that you face from outside stressors.
Now, obviously, there’s a whole set of outside stressors here that will still continue to impact your life even despite your best efforts of eliminating any challenges and building and support. If you’re dealing with a health care crisis, for example, you probably have enough on your plate. And you’re already focused on attempting to recover or to minimize your symptoms. So it might not be possible to eliminate some of those issues. But you might be able to build in some levels of support.
Recently, we went through the loss of a family member.
One of the things that I had to do was reduce expectations from everyone. So I informed all of my coaching clients that I would be slower at responding. I informed my current freelance clients that I would be X many days behind on delivery and let them know what was going on. So sometimes you can’t build in enough support or eliminate enough problems to keep operating as you normally would.
Give yourself that grace and that space to be able to scale back your business and say, “You know what, I’m in a season right now where for whatever reason, I am not able to deal with things as I normally would. I’m not going to get upset about that. I’m not going to try to force it. Instead, I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that I have space in my business and in my life to cope with what’s most important right now. Because what’s most important, might not be me hitting my marketing or my income goals at the moment.”
So lots of times people put additional pressure on themselves because they’re feeling like, it’s almost like their fault that they’re dealing with these outside stressors. And that is rarely if ever true. So don’t feel bad that you have to slow down. Don’t feel bad if you have to take steps away from your business. I know that it’s very hard for anyone who’s a high achiever or a perfectionist to hear that advice, and really fit it in.
As you’re listening to this episode, we went two weeks without any new podcast episodes being released.
And that was because we were going through things with the loss of a family member, where I just couldn’t physically fit it into my schedule to be recording episodes. I didn’t have that quiet background space. And then also I just really didn’t feel up to it.
So for me, it was about releasing myself from that expectation that I’m going to continue as I normally would, and instead saying, “Okay, where can I trim things out of my schedule because this is not the top priority right now? And I will catch up later. If that means we missed two weeks of the podcast, then we miss two weeks. I’ve got to practice what I preach here.And my listeners will understand.”
A lot of people listen to these episodes after the fact and they might not even notice that there was a space between the previous episode and this one. So to recap real quickly two of our most common causes of burnout in a freelance business are having the wrong clients or having a client that kind of overwhelms and takes up all of your time and/or outside stressors.
The final major cause of burnout I see in freelance business owners is taking on too many things and not taking enough care of yourself.
Now you could find yourself in an either or situation, but it’s very possible that you experienced both. So as business owners, we’re constantly thinking about ways to take our companies to the next level. That can be both a blessing and a curse because you can find yourself putting way too much on your schedule and ending up very stressed out and overwhelmed.
If you’re doing that while also not taking care of yourself, that is going to take a physical, emotional, and mental toll as well. I’ve definitely been guilty of taking on too many things plenty of times. And it seems like it’s one of those lessons, I’m just going to have to learn over and over again. That lesson is building time to take care of yourself and recognize when you’re hitting your limits and thresholds for what is right for you.
A fully booked business will look different for every single person. So don’t compare yourself to what it’s like for somebody else. Someone else’s ideal business might be running 15 or 20 hours per week. Whereas yours is only 5 or 10 because of your current life circumstances or possibly some of those life stressors. Or maybe that’s just the perfect sweet spot for your business to sit.
So don’t hold yourself up to the standards of anybody else. That can really get you into a difficult situation as well. Remember to keep taking care of yourself and recognize when you have too many things on your plate and how to reduce that. Another podcast episode that might be helpful for you is “Episode 87: Why I’m Not Freelancing Full Time Anymore”. You’ll hear a little bit about my decision to really scale back my freelance business and keep it at the point where it’s still operating and is very profitable, but doesn’t take up a tremendous amount of my time.
There really is a model for everyone when it comes to freelancing.
So recognize when you’re in one of those busy seasons. What more can you do to take care of yourself? How can you really support yourself when you are facing down a really big deadline? How can you give yourself space immediately after you’ve finished a massive project? How do you step back and really give yourself that peace of mind and that chance to recover? And if you’re in a period where you can’t really slow down, how do you support yourself with nutrition, rest, mindset exercises, physical exercise, and even taking vitamins? How do you sort of have that to support yourself?
If you are the type of person who has trouble taking care of yourself or putting too many things on your plate, you will love Episode 84 which is “Creating a Mental Health Plan for Your Freelance Business”. Now, that episode goes into great detail as far as what does it mean to build a mental health plan? How can that really benefit you? What does my mental health plan look like?
So these are just a couple of examples of ways that you can end up feeling really, really burned out in your business.
When you’re feeling burned out. You can push yourself so far as to you need to shut down your business for several months. And we always want to avoid that if possible. I wouldn’t want anybody else to go through that experience. And we see that with business owners often where they end up facing a tremendous amount of stress. And it’s not necessarily that they have a breakdown, but they have to take some space and time away from their business and that can be really overwhelming for them. That personal pressure and stress can really be a lot for them to cope with and to deal with.
So, trying to avoid burnout as much as possible will really help you when you are getting ready to think about up leveling your business. You need to think about if this is now the right time for me to fold in other things into my business or should I kind of rethink that and table that and make that project go a little bit slower because I’m primarily concerned with taking care of myself?
Now if you do believe that you’re suffering from burnout, I strongly recommend reaching out for help for medical professionals, therapists, and other psychological support services. Burnout is a relatively new word in the western medicine dictionary and diagnosis category. So it’s something where you want to have the right help to guide you through that process and to recognize burnout for what it is and create a custom plan for you to recover as much as possible.
Thanks again for tuning in to another episode of the Advanced Freelancing podcast.
In next week’s episode, we’ll be recapping some of the Top 10 Best Podcast Episodes that have come out of this show going all the way back to 2017. Because it will be Episode 100. That’s right, we’ve made it to 100 episodes. So I will be recapping from my perspective, the favorite 10 episodes that I have recorded or put together.
So if you are just starting as a binge listener to this show,or if you’ve only listened to the recent episodes since the reboot, you might catch some gems in there that can help direct you to some awesome episodes in the past. Thanks again for tuning in.
Thanks for tuning in for another episode of the advanced freelancing podcast. For more freelance advice, get a copy of my book Start Your Own Freelance Writing Business—available now! Buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and more.