How Freelance Writers Can Succeed Without Getting Burned Out

Although the autonomy of freelance can be refreshing, most writers quickly realize how difficult it can be to make a living — or even stay motivated. If you’ve taken the initiative to form your own freelance business, the road ahead might be even rougher. Only 44% of all businesses survive their first five years, but being a freelance writer puts all of the responsibilities on your shoulders alone.

Fortunately, there are more helpful resources available to freelance writers now than in the past. The University of Colorado Boulder is even creating a Masters program for journalists geared towards helping students run their own one-person writing business. But whether you decide to start your own business officially or opt to go the independent contractor route, the daily hustle can take its toll. To stay motivated and prevent the dreaded burnout, these tips might come in handy.

Schedule your time off in advance

Across all industries, workplace stress can be a real problem. In fact, two-thirds of men and women say work has had a significant impact on their stress levels, and 25% have called in sick or taken a mental health day due to work stress. Freelancers have the unique issue of feeling like they have to be at their clients’ beck and call; since many work from home, they may feel chained to their computer and unable to even take the weekend for themselves. Setting boundaries for both yourself and your clients will actually be a good thing because you won’t feel taken advantage of and will feel refreshed and ready to work.

Studies have shown that Americans aren’t likely to use all of their allotted vacation days. As a freelancer, you can’t take a paid vacation — but you can (and should) make the time to get away. Whether it’s taking a full-fledged getaway to Europe for the sake of inspiration or a weekend trip to the country to reset your mind and body, taking time for yourself is a must. Even if you can spend just a couple of hours at a day spa as a special treat, you’ll be better equipped to deal with your workload if you create some balance. Be sure to factor this much-needed R and R into your budget and let your clients know ahead of time when you won’t be available.

Learn how to say no

Especially when you’re first starting out as a freelancer, it can be tempting to say “yes” to any client who comes your way. You have to make money, after all, and may not yet be in a position to turn down work. But there will come a time when you’re more established and can be a bit more choosy about what projects you take on. Sometimes, it may not be worth the money and frustration to deal with difficult clients or projects you don’t feel passionate about. If you’re in a position to say no (i.e., if you aren’t on retainer or don’t have a job title with a company), you are well within your rights to make decisions about how you choose to make your income. Learn from your mistakes and come to terms with your personal limitations — clients and projects you just won’t accept as a rule. When and if you decide to turn down a job, do so in a way that is professional, warm, and prompt.

Find your people

Being a sole freelancer can be a bit isolating at times, even for those who enjoy working alone. That’s why a lot of freelancers find solace in other individuals experiencing similar setbacks and achievements. Being able to turn to peers for support can help during times of stress or if work dries up for a spell. Local coffee shops, meet-up groups, and co-working spaces can all be a great place to start. And in the digital age, staying active on social media can help create a sense of community, too. You can promote your clients, your own passion projects, and forge connections with other likeminded freelancers nearby or even halfway across the world. Having a close-knit network of people you trust for advice and camaraderie can often provide you with enough motivation and wisdom to stave off a burnout.

Although many of us wear our stress like a badge of honor, it’s detrimental to our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Freelancers, in particular, need to learn how to be more in-tune with their needs and maintain a healthy work/life balance in order to survive and even thrive.

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