I’ve been doing this freelance gig for going on four years now. It’s no joke. When I say that, I just mean it’s a lot of hard work running a freelance business. You’re in it for yourself. If you don’t make money, you don’t stay in business. Freelancing is not for everyone, that’s for sure.
Your job is to not just do the work clients hire you to do — I’m a freelance writer and marketing consultant — but you are also wearing the business owner hat and tweaking skillsets to manage every aspect of running a solopreneur business like accounting, project management, marketing, human resources, legal and administration. (Which is why you should either find programs to help do this work for you or subcontract it out, but that’s another story for another day.)
And the hustle, oh the hustle. Unless you have a solid list of retainer cash cow clients — the ones who supply the big bucks and are on a continuous loop of contracted work — you are most likely constantly hustling to get the next gig, the next project, the next client. It can be exhausting. It can be discouraging.
This is where the freelance crossroads lie.
You either continue pushing through the challenging seasons or you call it a day and go back to a traditional job. Let me clarify here, too, that there are a lot of really great reasons to skip out on the freelance life. For me, that’s getting a dream job offer like working for the San Francisco Giants or as an editor at a quality magazine. So by no means is making a move to a traditional job a sign of freelance failure.
To dodge calling it quits too soon or too quickly when approaching the freelance crossroads, consider these six tips and avoid burnout:
Do Something New
Whether that’s a new client, a new project or a new service offering, there is something about changing up the same old routine that really helps you get a breath of fresh air. Take a stab at a new service offering you’ve been playing around with in your mind or approach that cool new startup client you’ve seen around town. Change it up a bit, which brings me to …
Clear Out Inventory
I’m mostly referring to your client lineup on this one. We all have that client (or clients) who just suck the life out of you. You know the one. They may pay on time, but they take up every last minute of the workday, on non-billable time. Or they are really great people but they have scope creep like no other. Or maybe they’re just an awful client overall but you’ve kept them around solely for the income. It’s time to cut the cord, freelance friends. Let the not-so-good ones go to make room for clients you actually want to work with.
Take a Class
Sometimes burnout feels like doing something repetitive for far too long. Take a class to up your game or to learn something completely new to help grow yourself and your freelance business. Or even take a class in something completely unrelated to get your mind off the day-to-day grind. Yoga anyone?
Buy Something for Yourself
You work really, really hard. Reward yourself with buying something out of the ordinary or something on your list of “I will one day.” Maybe it’s a trip to Los Angeles for a national conference or a brand new Macbook Pro or an office setup for your at-home digs. You deserve it.
Launch a Hustle Hiatus
Take, what I like to call, a “hustle hiatus.” Don’t run yourself into the ground from over-hustling. Instead, think of it as a sabbatical of sorts, avoiding the ongoing hustle of freelance life for a set amount of time to gain perspective and, really, just take a break.
Reach the Network
Community is one of the biggest challenges of freelancing, mostly because we’re so busy on client projects and everyday business tasks that it’s easy to keep your nose to the ground and forget about connecting to other like-minded freelancers. I promise you it’s worth your time, and sanity, to reach out to your network of freelancers, online or in-person. You might be surprised how many other freelancers are hoping to avoid burnout too.
Freelance burnout hits the best of us; I don’t think I know one freelancer who at some point thought to him or herself, “Well shoot, this just isn’t working anymore,” when they hit those crossroads. Trust your instinct and, at the end of the day, do what’s best for you and your business by adding more flow to the freelance hustle.
What do you do to avoid freelance burnout? Share them by tweeting us at @comstocksmag.
Follow Cherise’s journey every month as she navigates the freelance life.
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