Why is burnout so high in freelance careers?

A skeleton hand holds up a sticky note reading "help". In the background are sticky notes stuck to the wall, crumpled up paper balls, and a few books.There’s one topic I see talked about a lot on different writing blogs and self-employed blogs: burnout. Why is it talked about so often? Because it happens a lot. And that’s an understatement if you ask me. Freelancer burnout is inevitable even if you do everything correctly and take all of the advice that you can. But why? Here’s my take on it.

Burnout was made for freelancer life

Burnout, defined by the WHO, is chronic professionally-related stress that compounds into a formal syndrome because it hasn’t been successfully managed. It’s familiar and chronic, and freelancers are perfect burnout victims. It makes more sense when you look at the biggest reasons for career-related burnout:

  • Work/Life imbalance: I’d feel confident that many freelancers don’t have a good work-life balance for most of their careers. Freelancers work long days and often don’t take weekends or even holidays without being plugged in. I didn’t take my first “totally offline, don’t bother me” vacation until just before my 8th anniversary, so I’m the perfect example of what not to do. Lack of balance in professional and personal boundaries is a huge factor in causing burnout.
  • Unclear work expectations: If you don’t know what to do, when, or how, it’ll cause severe stress and push you toward that cliff of burnout. Freelancers must wear many hats at the beginning of their business. From the receptionist to I.T. support to marketing, many job responsibilities add up to create shaky work expectations.
  • A bad workspace: While some create a professional workspace from the beginning of their freelancer career, most don’t. I didn’t until I was 4 or 5 years in, just because I didn’t think it was a priority. It contributed to burnout because work was there no matter where I was in my space. And the workspace itself was also poorly designed, with no storage space, poor lighting, etc. No wonder I felt stressed whenever I was trying to work!
  • Lack of support: Freelancers live professionally lonely lives. There are no coworkers, supervisors, and often no mentors to talk to. This creates social isolation that can build into this repression and even alienation from the world around you. Eventually, this will negatively impact your mental health, and you’ll feel burnout settling in.

Seeing those burnout causes spelled out like that helps show why so many freelancers deal with burnout so often throughout their careers.

Burnout isn’t the end

Though difficult, the critical thing to remember here is that burnout is not a career-ender. It’s just a road bump and an important reminder to take another look at how you’re doing things so that you can adjust yourself to better patterns and habits.  

I’ve always found burnout to be embarrassing, on top of being debilitating to my freelancing career. I feel burnout shouldn’t happen if you follow the “rules,” but it still does. Does anyone else feel that way? Do you have any tips about how to get over writer burnout or even your own approaches or perceptions on burnout? If so, please share them!

Business content writing

Kelterss View All →

Kelterss is an experienced freelance business writer and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Creating Writing. Having served over 3 ,200 customers while maintaining a 4.9/5 star rating, Kelterss is looking to focus her professional services in writing product descriptions and blog posts.

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