5 Tips on How To Deal With Burnout as a Freelance Writer

A freelance writer dealing with burnout

There are many good reasons why someone might become a freelance writer. One of the most important reasons is freedom. Freelancers have the freedom to choose their clients, freedom to choose their schedules, freedom to choose their places of work, etc. 

But that freedom doesn’t come without its own hangups. 

While you have the freedom to choose your own clients, there might come a day when you find yourself with no clients and have to start over from scratch. Or, you might find yourself working too hard and too much every day because you’re worried you won’t have any work if you say no. 

Enter fatigue, irritability, depression, insomnia, restlessness, and loss of appetite. 

You find yourself dreading your work hours, your creativity is well and truly gone, and your productivity level is zero. 

Listen, it’s not hard to see why freelance writers burn out so often in their careers. You’re your own boss, your own accountant, your own HR manager, and your own marketing team. 

Give yourself some credit for recognizing all the hard work that you do!

My story

Last year, I burned out in the middle of the year. 

Here, I was living my dream as a freelance journalist in India, writing for some top publications and quite frankly, enjoying the whole learning process.

So what happened?

I worked a little too hard. I gave all of myself a little too quickly and too eagerly. And I burned out.

I soon realized that my work wasn’t giving me the same joy that it used to before and was stressing me out every day.

I decided to go on a long break. A month-long break, to be precise. 

Now, I know it is a privilege to go on a month-long break when you’re a new freelance journalist in India, and I’m truly grateful for all the support that my parents gave me during that tough time. I don’t take that lightly.

I stopped pitching ideas to new publications and wrapped up all my remaining work. I reduced my freelance writing work workload, and my clients were all pretty understanding.

Taking a whole month to recharge was refreshing, and I realized how much I needed that break. I let myself truly embrace all my feelings and soaked up as much alone time as possible. All I did in that month was read for pleasure, laze around doing nothing and spend all my time with friends and family. 

And I went back to work later with new energy.

During that month, I learned some ways to prevent burnout from happening next time, and I hope this article helps you in some way.

5 Tips to Deal with Freelance Burnout

While there’s no quick treatment for burnout, there are a few things you can do to make your life and business simpler until you’re back to your old self again.

Find work that fuels your passion.

My passion lies in journalism, and I find interest in writing about development, gender, politics, and the environment.

But here’s the thing about freelance writing. It can be quite demanding, and it’s not a stable career. 

I always had to be ON as a freelance writer, and I constantly had to be on the lookout for interesting stories which I could then pitch to publications. This constant hunt for stories and constant pitching with no hope of being commissioned led to a point where I was actually anxious about my work and future.

The solution: Creating boundaries between my work and my personal hours. No, I didn’t absolutely need to work every hour of the day to be considered a serious journalist. 

I turn off my laptop at a specific hour every day and I move on to doing other things in my life that are equally as important as work, such as reading fiction and spending time with loved ones.

Make a business plan. 

I dropped the ball on making a plan for my freelance writing career at the beginning of the year, and I suffered. I took on assignments when I wanted and also said yes to one-off content writing jobs.

Any seasoned freelance writer will tell you that it’s a bad move.

Taking on any assignment that came my way is a quick way to freelancer burnout and not signing a contract for long-term work meant that I had no way of knowing how long I would have work. 

The solution: Getting good at numbers and budgeting at the start of every month will let you know how much you need to earn to live reasonably well and how much extra money you need to afford a few luxuries. 

I focused on getting retainer content writing clients, which meant that my monthly income was pretty stable, and there was no headache about going broke every month. 

Making time for side projects

2021 was the year when I had no time to myself to truly indulge in my pleasures. I completely gave up reading fiction and had no time to paint or do anything that gave me satisfaction in life. 

As freelance writers, we are naturally creative people, and you may have a side project that you want to accomplish someday, such as writing a book, making music, starting a podcast, etc.

The solution: Make time for your creative projects. This is one of the best ways to prevent writers block.

One of the main reasons why people choose freelancing is to focus on other areas of their life, whether that is spending extra time with family or fulfilling your passion in life. 

I’ve also found myself to be more engaged at work when I’m creatively fulfilled in other ways. Creativity has a compound effect. When you work on a passion project, you feel more fulfilled in life, and you can give your full attention at work.

Plan for your vacations 

The main advantage of being a freelance writer is that you are free to schedule your work hours and work days as and when you see fit.

This should ideally mean more vacation time but chances are, you will probably say no to vacations if it means earning a little more money. Hello, writer burnout!

The solution: Plan for your vacations at the start of the year and write down how long you want your vacations to last. 

To have a stress-free vacation, you need to first have a budget plan in place. You need to plan out your yearly income goals and ensure how much you need to earn every month to support your unpaid vacation time. 

Implement daily good habits

Exercising, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep at night are great ways of giving your body the strength to carry on each day.

A freelancer’s health and well-being depend heavily on maintaining these simple rules in life yet these are often the most overlooked!

A surefire way to prevent burnout is to live a healthy life and while these habits are hard to inculcate, they are also the most beneficial.

The solution: Replace processed foods with whole foods and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night and try to work out for at least 30 minutes during the working day. Your body will be grateful.

Say goodbye to burnout for real

The unstructured freelance life might not be for everyone, but there are some solid advantages to being a freelance writer. When you feel like giving up, and you feel stressed about work, remember why you chose the freelance life in the first place. 

Remember to give your brain some break once in a while and stay true to yourself

Agnee Ghosh is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS, MarTech, and e-commerce companies. Her work has been published in Hotjar, Visme, AdEspresso, Red Points, ConvertCart, Salespanel, and Givz among others.