What No One Tells You About Freelancing


What no one tells you about freelancing is that sooner or later, you will question your decision to become a freelancer, and worse, you may even want to give it up. I know, I know it doesn’t gel with the glorious picture of being on your own you have in your mind. But it is a hard fact of freelancing life.

It is easy to see why this happens. As a freelancer, you will be working on multiple things at the same time. For instance, any given day, I would be working on several things, including:

  1. Pitching
  2. Invoicing
  3. Follow-ups
  4. Documentation
  5. Calls with my clients
  6. Researching for new clients, blogs, writing assignment
  7. [Actual] Writing
  8. Working on my blog
  9. Regular newsletter
  10. Looking for new clients/work/ opportunities

As you can see, there is a lot on my plate. And this doesn’t include tasks like banking, paying freelancers, investments, and so on, that I need to do regularly. In the last month, I can’t recall a single day when I have finished everything I had on my to-do list. It is overwhelming, and throwing in your towel can be very tempting.

While almost anyone can suffer from burnout, freelancers, especially solopreneurs, are more affected by it because most of the time, we are trying to do everything themselves. There is no defined job role for us. More often than not, we are everything from peon to the CEO of the company.

The thing about burnouts is that you don’t realize until it starts impacting your professional and personal life. I never thought a burnout would hit me because I loved what I did. But it did happen. As freelancers, we tend to take up more than what we can do and combine that with the general tendency of not offloading the non-core work, and it is a perfect recipe for deep exhaustion. 

Most freelancers are reluctant to talk about it because it might impact their business, but there is no denying the elephant in the room. There will be days when you feel that you are close to losing your sanity; when there will be so much work to do that you will not know where to start, and you will wonder whether you will ever be able to get up from your workstation.

At one time, I was so stressed and exhausted that I wasn’t able to sleep at all for two nights. Burnout can make you miss deadlines and make you resent the work that you otherwise love doing. Don’t ever reach this stage!!

After five years of freelancing, I can recognize the signs of burnout very early on and try to nip it before it starts impacting my business or, worse, reputation. 

Here are a few ways I have adopted to avoid burnout:

  1. Collaborate with other freelancers: This is my favorite strategy. Take that day off for no reason, but just because you feel like it. I work with a few trusted freelancers and outsource work to them when I feel like taking a break. Of course, it works the other way around also with my friends offloading the job to me when they need downtime. This model is a combination of collaboration and outsourcing and works really well for me. 
  2. Take that vacation: The biggest problem faced by freelancers is how to go for that vacation without impacting your work. Thanks to technology, your clients can get in touch with you any time of the day or night. You need downtime when you don’t need to check your email. Over the last five years, I am aware of the lean periods every year and make use of these to go on a vacation. Besides, I make outsourcing a regular practice, so I am easily able to go without a vacation or sick leave, disrupting my work.
  3. Eat proper food and take regular breaks every day: Think before you go for that 20th cup of coffee to keep awake to finish off the assignment. It doesn’t make sense to sacrifice your health to meet realistic deadlines. Once in a while, it is fine to take up a rush assignment, but be aware that regular practice of this will be at the cost of your wellbeing.
  4. Prioritise: I mentioned that never-ending to-do list earlier. The trick to not being overwhelmed by the long list is to prioritize and decide the tasks which cannot be postponed and absolutely need to be completed on that particular day.
  5. Share your struggle: Be a part of a community and share your struggle. You will realize that you are not alone and there are others who face this regularly. This itself is comforting.

Lastly, stop feeling guilty about taking a downtime. In fact, make it a part of your calendar. Self-care is extremely crucial for your wellbeing and also for the overall growth of your business. You ignore it at your own peril. 

I talk at length about how self-care impacts you and your health in this free e-book, Five Reasons Your Freelancing Growth is Stuck. Hope it helps you address the burnout issue to be your exceptional self.

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