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Avoiding Freelance Burnout – A Guest Article by Kristen King

Freelance writers are more susceptible to burnout than those in a lot of other professions.  We tend to be driven perfectionists, which means that we often push ourselves too hard to make it just right.  But it’s possible to strive for perfection without overdoing it.  Preventing freelance burnout is easy with just a few precautions.

Take Breaks From Writing 

For every 60 to 90 minutes you work at your desk, take a 10-minute break.  Sometimes you may not get to a good stopping point until closer to two hours, and that’s okay.  Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock and try to avoid sitting in one place for more than an hour or two at a time.

Make those short breaks really count with some simple exercises to get your blood flowing and pump up your energy level.  Do a few jumping jacks, and then bend from the waist, curving your back, and try to touch your toes.  Come up with a straight back.  Standing nice and tall, put your arms straight out to the sides and do some shoulder circles, 12 to the front and 12 to the back, while you march in place.  If you’re feeling really ambitious, run up and down the stairs a few times before you sit back down.

Change Your Writing Scenery 

Whether you work outside your home or in a home office, sometimes you just need a little variety.  Work can start to feel like a chore if you’re doing the very same thing in the very same place every day.  Mix it up a little by putting in a few hours with your laptop at your favorite coffee shop or café once or twice a week.  If it’s nice out, try editing your latest draft outside on your deck or at the park.  Even moving from your desk to the kitchen table every now and then or turning your chair to face a window instead of a wall can make a big difference.

Keep it interesting 

Working on the same project for eight hours can be both exhausting and boring.  Change your focus a few times throughout the day to keep your mind engaged in what you’re doing.  Break larger projects up over a few days.  If breaking the project up isn’t an option, schedule your time so you’re writing in the morning and editing in the afternoon—anything to refocus your energies so you stay fresh. 

Take Advantage of the Freelance Writing Lifestyle 

Writing is a solitary business.  Make sure you give yourself opportunities to interact with other people outside of work at least every other day, if not daily.  When you make your own hours, you can block out time in your day to take a class at the gym or attend a reading at your local library.  Meet friends for lunch or dinner once a week, and try to go for a 20-minute walk every day.  Consciously taking yourself out of the must-work mindset gives you the chance to recharge emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.   

Develop a Support Network

Other freelancers can be a source of inspiration and perspective.  Join (or start!) a writer’s group or participate in an online discussion forum with like-minded freelancers.  Sharing your writing triumphs and successes with someone who can both celebrate and sympathize with you can help you stay grounded in a profession that depends heavily on the abstract.  Other writers can also be a great resource, too, making it easy for you to find the information you need to run your business.

Burnout prevention out is all about finding balance in your daily life.  Don’t be afraid to say no or to take a mini-vacay when you feel yourself slowing down.  Trusting your instincts and being aware of your limitations and your needs is key to avoiding freelance burnout. 

Virginia-based freelancer Kristen King has appeared in local, regional, and national publications, both in print and online.  Visit her at www.Inkthinkerblog.com.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • admin

    Devon, well said!
    Jonathan, I always learn so much from my cats if I’m paying attention
    Tess, you’re on the right track.

  • Thanks for these helpful tips, Anne – I was working FT outside the home, then writing in the evenings and weekends for a year before I took “the plunge” to being a FT freelancer this month. Now I am struggling with getting my schedule to work the way I want it, to be the most productive everyday. I find myself struggling with losing some of the old habits of the 9-5 day job then wondering if I’ve done enough each day now that I have more free time.

    I appreciate this article more than you know- it came at a really good time!

    Tess’s last blog post..New Article!

  • Another idea: If you’re the type that takes rejection hard (don’t we all?), be sure to spend lots of time with people or animals that will give you positive strokes.

    I know that sending out queries and either receiving rejection after rejection – or worse, absolute silence – can wear on me after a while. That’s why I hang out with my boyfriend or others who like me unconditionally.

    I miss my cat – Shadow would always look on me adoringly (especially when tuna might be in the offing…).

  • I think one of the biggest traps too many freelancers fall into is setting themselves up for a 9-5 lifestyle when they freelance, instead of pursuing the reasons that made them freelance in the first place. It’s not like you’re getting the benefits — set up your schedule and your life so it benefits YOU.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..January 2, 2009

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