If I had to pick one reminder that I’m constantly giving my clients, listeners and students, it’s this:
“An empty well serves no one.”
Think about it: this is a fantastic time to be alive. The resources that we have at our fingertips have increased our productivity, our revenue streams and our know-how exponentially.
It’s a freelancer’s dream come true: the ability to do business with clients on the other side of the world, all from the safety of their local coworking space. Depending on their industry and their go-getter attitude, the possibilities are endless.
With all this opportunity comes a great responsibility: you’ve got to take care of your greatest asset. No, it’s not your beloved Macbook pro or your American Marketing Association membership (although perhaps those have been fundamental in building your freelancing business).
You are your greatest asset.
Yet you often lose sight of this fundamental truth. You often put our business before your own well-being — increasing work hours, decreasing the amount of exercise and healthy meals, all so that you can surprise and delight your clients.
I get it.
You’re a hard worker. You love what you do. You want everything you do to matter. To help people. To leave a mark. I think that’s honorable
I want to remind you that an empty well serves no one. If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re headed straight for the b word.
What is exactly is burnout?
According to ada.com, burnout is “a condition experienced by workers and other professionals, in which they develop depression-like symptoms as a result of aspects of their role. Burnout may manifest as showing signs of physical, mental and/or emotional exhaustion as a result of stress related to their job or workplace.”
Here are some physical and psychological signs of burnout, in no particular order:
Anxiety, headaches, lack of sleep, fatigue, detachment, feeling listless, difficulty concentrating, lack of creativity, loss of purpose, cynicism, gastrointestinal disorders, hypertension, muscle tension and more.
Avoiding burnout is particularly important to you as a freelancer because you’re bearing an increased workload and burden: you do more than just your service.
Let’s say you’re a freelance Graphic Designer. You are an expert at designing web sites, logos, advertisements and much more. If you only look at the surface, it appears that’s all you do.
However, I want you to look deeper.
You are also the VP of Sales and Marketing (you position yourself in the market and land new clients). You’re the VP of Finance and Accounting (you send invoices and keep track of the books). You’re a Project Manager (you send frequent updates to your clients and handle any customer service issues). This is all before you’ve even had a chance to open up Adobe Illustrator and do the actual work.
Needless to say, you do a lot so that your freelance business can thrive. You are constantly getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself in new ways. While it can be exhilarating, it can be stressful. Sustained stress can lead to burnout, which can crush your freelancing endeavors.
Here are three tips for taking care of yourself, so that burnout never becomes your reality:
1. Get a hobby.
I know you’re thinking, “Did she just tell me to get a hobby? How does that help?” If you have a hobby that you truly enjoy, you’ll be having fun. As Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Your hobbies take your mind off your challenges and bring you fully into the present moment.
I love watching lettering tutorials because they are incredibly soothing, especially after a stressful day. I decided to learn digital lettering on my iPad using Holly Pixels’ free course. Let me tell you: I am not very good at it. I feel like I’m back in elementary school learning how to write cursive.
However, I’ve found it to be incredibly soothing. When I’m practicing writing my lowercase letters, I only focus on that task. There’s no e-mail to check, no fire to put out, no thinking about my to-do list. It’s just me, my iPad and my Apple pencil.
A funny thing happens, too. I usually get tremendo a-ha moments. “I should beta test my membership program before launching it to the public” and “I should send a survey to my e-mail list to see what they want to learn” popped into my mind as I was lettering. Fantastic ideas that really help me in my business and I wasn’t even intentionally trying to solve anything.
2. Join a coworking space.
I’m all about the power of coworking spaces and what they contribute to the endeavors of the freelancer, entrepreneur and remote worker.
Related Blog Post: Three Ways to Maximize Your Coworking Membership
When you’re a freelancer, you work remotely the majority of the time. You get to set your own schedule and decide where you want to work. While there’s a tremendous amount of freedom, there’s also a huge temptation to always be working (especially if you have a home office). After all, as long as you have your laptop and cell phone, you can set up shop anywhere.
No bueno. Repeat after me,
100% go-go-go is a no-no-no.LaTisha Cotto
Joining a coworking space allows you to set healthy boundaries. Let’s say you decide to work during business hours and then you leave your work at the office. You ramp up during work hours and then you recharge your batteries when you’re not at the office.
Related Blog Post: Yes, You Can: Overcoming 3 Common Obstacles to Working Remotely
3. Check in with yourself every single week.
In his book, High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, Brendon Burchard teaches that constantly checking in with themselves is a mark of high performers. He writes that, high performers “don’t just ‘get clarity’ once and develop a mission statement that lasts the test of time; they consistently seek clarity again and again as times change and as they take on new projects or enter new social situations.”
By checking in with yourself every week, you can evaluate the quality of your life:
- Working too much and not spending enough time with your kids?
- Hitting the objectives you set every week for your business?
- Spending time taking care of yourself through exercise and healthy nourishment?
- Having fun?
Once you’ve reviewed the previous week, you can then start anticipating the week ahead. I encourage my students to pick three goals that would really take their lives and careers to the next level. I ask them to choose only three, so that they don’t get overwhelmed and so that they can be intentional with their time and efforts.
When you first start doing this weekly check-in, it can feel like it takes forever to evaluate every area of your life. Stick with it. In time, you’ll be able to whiz through it because you’ve become so in tune with what’s going on in your life. You’ll be able to catch burnout and address it before it consumes your entire life.
As a freelancer, the most important thing you can do is to set yourself up for success. Get yourself a hobby. Join a coworking space. Check in with yourself every week.
Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment with your experiences with burnout and any tips that have been helpful for you to take care of yourself.
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