Working as a freelance writer might seem like a dream from an outside perspective, but in reality, it’s often much more stressful and challenging than you would think. Sure, there are plenty of perks that go along with having the flexibility to write whenever and wherever you’d like, but the same things that make freelance writing so great are also the things that can cause burnout.
Having a flexible schedule means you aren’t beholden to any strict timeframes. But that also means that it’s quite easy for other life matters to pop up and get in the way. When you’re stuck at the office, other things are forced to wait until you clock out. When you work freelance, it’s all too easy to step away from your work to deal with other things — which means you technically aren’t getting as much work done and may procrastinate.
Freelance writers also often feel like they have to work more than what is considered standard to make enough money. This means they have a hard time turning down projects, taking time off, and creating a predictable schedule that allows for personal time. They also don’t have as much human connection and socialization as someone who works alongside coworkers or colleagues.
Overall, freelance writers can struggle more often with work-life balance which can lead to burnout. That being said, burnout is avoidable and something you can overcome as a writer. It’s all about where you put your focus and how you take care of yourself.
The tips in this article can help you better adjust to life as a freelancer, boost your productivity, improve your mental and physical health, and avoid burnout.
Create a Separate Writing Space
One of the biggest issues as a freelance writer is avoiding distractions. This is why you must have a dedicated writing space that is separate from the rest of your home. Understandably, space is not always available. Your home office might also be your bedroom or your living room. Even if that sort of setup is more convenient for you, it will ultimately do more harm than good.
Having a separate, dedicated space for working allows you to have all your writing essentials in one room. You can more easily keep it free of clutter, personalize it to your writing needs, and most important of all, keep focused on the work at hand. All these things are essential to being more productive as an at-home writer and having a healthy relationship with your work.
Write for Shorter Periods and Take Breaks
Many writers will sit for hours when they are “in the zone,” but this can put a lot of stress on your body and your mind. Understandably, you may want to avoid stopping so you don’t disrupt your flow. That’s okay, so long as you don’t work this way all the time. On average, it’s better to do focused writing for short periods and take regular breaks in between.
When you sit for too long, it can strain your eyes and cause your muscles to become stiff. It can also take a bigger toll on your mental capacity. Writing for a long chunk of time when the words are flowing might feel good at the moment. But when you are done, you are more likely to feel burnt out. When this happens, you may have a harder time jumping back into your writing when needed.
Instead, try making a schedule where you do focused writing with no distractions for 30 minutes to an hour, and then allow yourself little breaks in between to grab a drink of water, refill your coffee, grab a snack, or do some quick stretching. Then, get right back to it for another 30 to 60 minutes.
Writers are notorious for having poor sleep habits, but there can be serious consequences of sleep deprivation that can increase your chances of becoming burnt out. A late night every now and then is okay, but freelance writers should usually be getting a full night’s rest to keep their minds and their bodies healthy.
Sleep deprivation can mess with your eyes, your mental health, and your cognitive function — all things that play a role in working as a writer. Poor sleep habits can also lead to various health problems which can also negatively impact your ability to be a productive writer. More days than not, it’s important to get eight hours of sleep and avoid things before bed that can disrupt your sleep cycles, such as caffeine, screen time, heavy meals, and alcohol.
Focus on the Positives
Another major factor that can impact your mental health when you work from home as a freelance writer is your overall outlook on the day. Waking up and immediately focusing on all the things you have to do can create unnecessary stress that can wear down your mental health and productivity levels over time.
“To-do” lists carry more of a negative connotation because they represent all that you haven’t yet accomplished. This can overwhelm you and make you want to stop before you’ve even begun. Instead, it’s healthier to create a list at the end of the day of what you did accomplish.
This allows you to see what’s been done and what hasn’t. However, it focuses more on the positives than the negatives which can boost your mood and your confidence. It reminds you that you are capable and deserve to feel good about all that you do, which can help you be more productive during your days in the long run.
Eat Healthy Foods
Just as sleep is essential, so is eating a healthy diet. Food is fuel, and you need certain foods to fuel your brain, especially when you use a lot of your mental capacity as a writer. The foods you eat throughout your day can have a significant impact on how you feel and how much work you get done.
Things like leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and berries all have essential nutrients that are linked to brain power. It’s also helpful to eat smaller, frequent meals throughout the day to keep you energized. Rather than eating two or three big meals that are more spread out.
Professional and personal connections are another crucial part of avoiding burnout as a freelancer. When you work from home or any other remote location, it’s easy to get caught up relying solely on yourself to get things done. But developing healthy networking strategies and strong professional connections is beneficial whether you work from home or in an office.
Having people you rely on and connect with professionals can help boost your career as a freelance writer. However, it’s also important to prioritize personal connections. You need people you can spend time with outside of your job to help you decompress and enjoy your life. If you stop socializing and maintaining those personal connections, it can negatively impact your work and lead to burnout.
Continue reading: 11 Tips for Success as a New Freelancer
Burnout is a serious condition that too many freelance writers suffer from. By taking a step back and changing up your habits and your priorities, you can get back on track. When you develop healthier habits, you can significantly improve your mental and physical health and avoid the dreaded writer’s block that affects so many writers that experience burnout. Overall, you can lead a happier, healthier, and more balanced life as a freelancer.