My way of dealing with Burnout as a Creative Freelancer
Take a Break.
Why the hell, suddenly I don’t enjoy illustrating and designing? What is wrong with me? Is burnout happening to me?
And yeah, burnout happens, it is physical or mental exhaustion, that usually occurs due to overwork or stress from working under pressure.
When you are a creative freelancer, burnout hits harder than ever. You need to pay bills and put food to the table, but it is almost impossible when you hate every second of the work you do.
A little bit of backstory, for the last three years, I have been working as a freelance Illustrator. From the very start, I was very passionate and loved what I did. During this time, I had minor burnouts and dealt with it without any problem. I stayed on my course and did what I always loved. But, this all changed when I took in the project that I should never have accepted.
Back in April, I got the client project that was too big for me. Short timeline, an unreasonable amount of deliverable and payment wasn’t great either.
Three red flags, right? But I had no other project to work on, so I decided to take it. As you would expect, it was horrible. I was working overtime, someday from 9 AM to 4 AM the next morning, the quality of my work dramatically dropped.
After the project ended, I lost all the motivation to continue, and it felt like it sucked my soul away. I quit doing Illustrations altogether, then took a long break.
Now that past in the past, let’s talk about the present. Everything is excellent, and life is marvelous. I found passion in doing Brand Identity and Brand Strategy. It created a tremendous amount of new possibilities that I never saw before.
And most importantly, I have started doing Illustrations again. I recently accepted the comfortable client project, the timeline was forgiving, and the pay was great! I loved the interaction with the client, and it restored everything about Illustration for me.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about what do to when burnt out. I have created this list of a few things that I am going to do if burnout ever happens to me again, and I wrote this as a letter to myself, in case I get burnt out.
1. Take a Break.
Client work is client work, and the deadline is a deadline, I understand that. But, after you finish client work, please take a break. At least for a day, I would suggest 4–7 days. But, don’t start playing video games or watch series out of Netflix. Get away from the computer, go hiking, or hang out with your friends.
2. Create a Balance.
Having a perfect balance between working on a client project and building a business is crucial. You got to have clients waiting for you after finishing the project, marketing, social media, and portfolio plays a big part in this.
So, dividing daily work time into 50% of client work and 50% of business building would be good! Even if you have tons of client work, always make room for working on your own business, no matter how little time you got.
3. Try different things.
When you get burnt out, realize that the creative field is large, there are tons of things you can learn and do. Pick something that sounds good for you and start learning it, don’t push yourself to become the best at it. Do it for fun, also learning new skills might going to be useful later on in the future.
4. Look before you leap.
Before you take on any project, ask these questions. Can I help the client solve this problem? Does this project excite me? Is it what I want to do? Is the project timeline comfortable? Does it pay enough to cover my expenses? These will help you filter out the perfect project you will never regret taking on.
If you are having a struggle with your creative work, or your decisions, always remember that you are not in it alone. You can always take a break and spend time with your loved ones, or ask for help from other professionals. You are going to live once, so be happy, and share your happiness with others.