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Avoid Burnout: Self-Care for Freelancers

Burnout sneaks up on you when you least expect it. The biggest downfall of this energy sucker is that it’s too late to do anything about it once you’ve got it. The only remedy once you start feeling the symptoms? A long weekend. If you’re a freelancer, you may not have a ‘week-end’ so you need to avoid burnout altogether. These tips will help you stay healthy and productive.

Avoiding Burnout Tip #1: Separate Your Work and Life

If you only take away one piece of advice from this article, we hope it’s this one: create space between work and life. 

This will mean something different for everyone. For some, it will mean forgoing working in your jammies on your couch and go to a coworking space or coffee shop. For others, it simply means creating a workspace in your home that separates work and home. 

It might mean setting specific work hours, wearing ‘work clothes’ or getting a work-only cellphone plan.

It’s hard to switch into work mode when you’re in bed, wearing your partner’s boxer shorts. Similarly, it’s hard to switch out of work mode if you keep a month’s worth of paperwork on your coffee table.

As humans, we need visual cues to tell us how to feel. 

If you create a routine that signals ‘it’s time for work’ (like wearing actual clothes or entering your office), your mind will be in work mode. If you remove all signs of work from your non-workspaces, you won’t be spending your downtime stressing about the mountain of paperwork waiting for you in the morning.

Avoiding Burnout Tip #2: Schedule Non-Work Times

Instead of scheduling work hours, it’s sometimes easier to schedule downtime. Set an alarm for when you’re ‘off the clock.’ No matter what you’re doing, stop working. 

You can do this to signal the end of the business day or the start of a break. When we force ourselves to stop working at specific times, we’re more likely to be motivated to start work earlier. Our brains know we need to get specific tasks finished by a certain amount of time. Thus, it also knows consequences if we fail to meet our goals. 

Similarly, you could also make a deal with yourself to begin your workday only after you’ve finished your morning meditation, breakfast and playtime with your toddler. When we’re fully rested, we can find the energy we need to be productive throughout the day.

Avoiding Burnout Tip #3: Focus On One Thing

Instead of starting one project, getting interrupted by a phone call and distracted by InstaStories, focus on only one task at a time. Make a deal with yourself that you’re not going to switch tasks mid-task. 

Finishing a task feels so good that the simple act of crossing it off our to-do list gives us the motivation we need to complete other tasks.

How many times have you finished a workday — only to realize you didn’t actually finish one thing on your to-do list?

Avoiding Burnout Tip #4: Schedule Time for Self-Care

Self-care time is different from downtime. Downtime is passive, self-care time is active. Self-care is going to the gym, eating green things, drinking water and meditating. As Oprah says, it’s sitting underneath the trees and filling your tank. 

Avoiding Burnout Tip #5: 14-Hour Workdays Aren’t Normal

No matter where you picked up the idea that successful women work X-number of hours a week, it’s just not true. Even the ‘normalcy’ of the eight-hour workday has been debunked in the past few years. When you’re feeling tired, go to sleep. When you’re hungry, eat. And for the love of Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, whatever you do, don’t forget to take a bathroom break.

Avoiding Burnout Tip #6: Raise Your Rates

Sometimes we (especially women) are so used to saying yes to everything, we don’t stop and ask ourselves if we should be saying yes in the first place. 

We’re talking about saying yes to taking on too many low-paying clients.

When times are tough, we get into a mindset that says we must accept all work that comes our way. But what happens when income flow is prosperous? It’s common to raise your rates after six months — especially as a freelancer.

We recommend raising your rates for your lowest-paying clients (or high-maintenance clients). If they can’t afford the increase, kindly let them know that you need to end your collaboration. You’ll spend more time on the clients who are paying you what you deserve — and treating you well — and have more time for yourself, too. 

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