How to avoid burnout as a freelancer: a guide.
Just kidding. I don’t have the answers.
But I can tell you what I’m doing this year to try as hard as I possibly can to avoid the dreaded burnout phase that seemingly inevitably stops me in my tracks at least once every couple of months.
This year, I’m being proactive. I’m looking burnout straight in the face, and putting systems in place to fend off her wrath for as long as humanly possible.
The day I created separate calendars with beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing colors on Google Cal was the day my productivity was forever changed.
I cannot tell you how immensely this has impacted my time management. Being able to look at my calendar and immediately know going on in my life on any given week, both business and personal, at a quick glance? Amazing. Revolutionary.
Watch this video for an in-depth look inside my Google Cal, or simply take my word for it that by taking a few minutes every Sunday to organize your digital calendar for the week, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
For reference, I separate my calendars like this:
I find that when I take the time to plan out every single thing, I’m significantly more productive (and less overwhelmed).
Here’s an example of a fully-planned-out week in my life:
Mondays are BTL days, and I’m so excited about it.
I started implementing this weekly I-work-on-my-own-shit day in November, and it’s proving to be extremely effective in limiting my distraction during actual work throughout the rest of my week.
Before, I used to blog, write newsletters, post on Instagram, and do all my ~internal~ tasks whenever inspiration struck. And that worked for… a while. Until it didn’t.
I started to feel cloudy. My attention span was decreasing, and so was my motivation. I had too many to-do list items taking up space in my head, and even though I was working full days, I still felt like I was getting nothing done.
Now, I use Mondays for BTL things (and, when necessary, client work—as pictured in the screenshot above, due to my time off between Christmas and New Year’s).
Tuesdays are for calls (and client work in between).
Wednesdays are for whichever calls couldn’t fit into Tuesday (and client work in between).
Thursdays are typically for client work only, save for the occasional radio interview, rescheduled therapy appointment, and meeting with a fellow Chamber member. (This week is weird, I guess.)
Fridays are usually “Woo days” (aka I’m watching Woo—my two-year-old—all day, because he doesn’t go to daycare).
I’ve found that this schedule is what works with my lifestyle right now, however everything is always subject to change.
I will note, though, that I wake up early (around 6am) and work from then until whenever Woo gets up, and I typically work after he goes to bed, too… which is why my ‘client work’ category looks a bit light on my calendar. Mom probz.
I’m a workaholic, I’ll admit it. And I don’t know who I become when I plan out my months, but that queen is dedicated to working every single second of her life, apparently.
…and then crying about how she has so much work to do, and why did she let herself over-book AGAIN?
Yeah, I’m not doing that anymore. After much trial-and-error, I’ve finally figured out my perfect sweet spot number of client projects, and in order to avoid burnout in 2022, I need to stick to that.
(Please, for the love of God, I better stick to that.)
Ya see, my issue is this: I work insanely well under pressure. Give me a tight deadline and you’ll see some of my best work. It’s a disease.
My goal this go-around, though, is to be much more intentional about everything I do—especially my time. Though it may be the most cliche cliche of all time, time is money is my new motto. (More on this a couple scrolls down.)
I plan to decrease the amount of client projects I work on this year, so I can increase the quality of my client relationships, as well as my availability to them (and the next projects they bring).
Let’s be real: no one will care if I don’t post on Instagram for a week or two.
Strategic content planning is something I excel at when it comes to other people’s socials… and completely ditch when it comes to my own. I find this task to be so much fun when I get to help others with it, but when it’s time to sit down and plan out my own, I can’t get past a couple weeks.
When I finally took the time to really sit with myself and do a little introspection about why that is, I realized this: I have too many damn ideas, and I’m in a race with myself to complete them all. But this race has no finish line; it’s just an endless circle, with a minimum speed of 700MPH, for absolutely no reason at all.
I feel such a sense of urgency about all of my ideas, it’s almost like I have a compulsion to create them ASAP—or wait to do anything with them at all until I have an entire free weekend to dedicate to their fruition (which never happens).
I’ve finally realized that it’s not that deep, and that the race should actually be an enjoyable, leisurely walk instead of a breathless, anxious sprint.
If I create everything now, I’ll have nothing to create later, and then what will I have to work towards? Nothing! Once I got this fact through my thick ass skull, I felt much more at peace with my content planning (and with my business goals in general).
Nothing motivates me more than making time for things that spark my creativity.
Whether it’s reading an especially inspirational book, collage journaling (my favorite artistic outlet—because I don’t yet know how to paint although I’m desperate to learn), free writing, or spending hours flipping through dust jackets at my local bookstore (consider this my vow to make more time for that this year)—time spent being creative is never time wasted.
And worrying about “time wasted” was something that I spent way too much of my life doing in 2021. My Capricorn ass hates wasting time. And if there’s one thing I could erase from my life it would be my urge to analyze every second of my day with the “ugh, I suck, I should’ve done X, Y, Z instead of A, B, C” version of negative self-talk.
(P.S. My current creative outlet of choice is posting on TikTok, and I’m obsessed.)
As a Capricorn perfectionist control freak, this is hard for me—but not for the reasons you’d think.
I have no issues trusting other people; I absolutely believe that some tasks are better left to the experts, and I wouldn’t dare try those things myself.
No, the hard part isn’t outsourcing in general: it’s figuring out what to outsource and who the best person for the job is.
I haven’t yet mastered the art of outsourcing without compromising quality or brand voice. Honestly, the only thing I’ve successfully, confidently outsourced so far is my Pinterest management.
I’m not willing to outsource my blogging (because, duh), or my content creation (remember my issue with content planning from above?), or my Instagram engagement, or my emails, or my client work (hell to the naw), or my newsletter writing (writing it is my fave task of the week—click here to subscribe!), or my finances… so, like, what do I even give up?!
Plain and simple: no one else will care about BTL as much as me. I’m aware of this, yet I still am holding out for someone who will.
(Which likely means I’ll be holding out until I can hire an actual full-time employee with no other job than BTL admin.)
This year, I vow to at least dedicate a good amount of time to thinking about it. And that’s all I can promise. But know that I do have every intention of one day (hopefully in 2022?!) figuring it out and getting with the program.
Did typing that sentence just make me cringe at how superficial that sounds? Yes.
Was it worth it to potentially help the freelancers that still struggle with the scarcity mindset of potentially not earning enough and instead burn their sanity to a crisp trying to make as much money as possible every month? YES. Yes, yes, yes.
Figuring out your limits as a freelance business owner is MOTHER-F-ING HARD. People are always in your ear (aka on your Instagram feed) about 10K months, and scaling, and how much money you can earn…
But have you ever stopped to think about why you supposedly need to earn all this money?
Like, for real. Sit with it for a second.
How much money do you need? And how much money is your mental health worth to you? How much money is the health of your relationships worth to you? How much money is your free time worth to you? How much money is potentially sacrificing the quality of your work worth to you?
Now, take all of those answers, and rethink your money goals.
I can promise you with confidence that the second you ditch your scarcity mindset, charge your worth, and stop feeling attached to the amount of money you make each month, you will experience some serious growth. Having faith is hard—but it’s worth it.
So, when I say that in order to avoid burnout in 2022 I’m going to remember that my mental health matters more than the money in my bank account, this is what I mean:
I’m not going to take on any projects that don’t align with my values, goals, or timeline just for the cash. And I’m not going to sacrifice my well-being for a price tag.
This mindset served me well when I finally decided to choose sanity over savings account in 2021, and I’m looking forward to continuing to choose sanity (and self-care, and family, and free time) in 2022. I encourage you to try to do the same!
Now, I’d love to know… how are YOU planning to avoid burnout this year?!
Is there something specific you plan to do? Something you plan not to do? Send me a DM on Instagram to chat with me about it!
And, of course, if you’ve got “finally get that copywriting project handled” on the top of your 2022 to-do list—you know where to find me.
Creative launch copywriter slash sales-focused storyteller, obsessed with writing copy strategically crafted to help business owners connect with their ideal clients. Click here to get to know me!