5 Tips to Avoiding Freelance Writing Burn Out

Think Positive

Thinking positive and kicking ass is essential to success. (Image courtesy of Flickr)

Thanks for tuning into another installment of the QualityGal freelance writers blog! Recently, I’ve been asked how to avoid getting too deep into freelance work and becoming ‘burnt out’ and overwhelmed with assignments. It’s the nature of the industry; we have our highs and lows, and the number projects available fluctuates. I find that as a freelance writer myself, I tend to claim more assignments when we’re at a high point; get ‘em while the gettin’s good.

With that, however, comes the stress of getting my work done within the specified time frame, without rushing and/or lessening the quality of the work. Client demands and deadlines ultimately must be met, but not at the expense of your sanity. To help you maintain your productiveness, and sanity, here are a few tidbits that I’ve found very helpful:

Be Selective when Choosing Writing Projects/Clients

I’ve found that each client we work with has different needs and expectations that they ultimately need met; some more involved than others. Before committing to a freelance writing job, ask yourself this core question: can I realistically meet this client’s needs and give them a great content product?

Being selective when choosing writing projects may put you in a better position to make the most in compensation and set you up for success with the chosen work. For example, choosing projects that fall within you area of expertise; be it technical, educational, medical/health, history, etc., will save you time and ultimately increase earning potential, because you’ll have a better handle on the project from the get-go by using your existing knowledge as a jumping off point for any additional research. Case in point, nobody has a degree in freelance writing – each of us has a background or experience in something outside of this industry – make that knowledge work for you.

Take Away: choose wisely and play to your strengths

Don’t Over-Extend Yourself

Once I’ve identified work that falls within my area of expertise, it can be hard to turn down more opportunities for a good thing. Yes, I would love to take all 25 pages of content a client is offering; however, I find myself needing to take a step back before getting buried in work that I might not be able to complete in a timely manner.

When choosing freelancing work for myself, I consider the following:

  1. Are the instructions realistic?
  2. Can I complete a single project within 2 hours? (i.e. is the project pay worth the work/time required? If not, I don’t believe it is, I don’t commit to it.)
  3. Do I have the bandwidth to complete the project before the deadline? This leaves room for troubleshooting.

Take Away: Too much of a ‘good thing’ can ultimately be detrimental to your production schedule.

Don’t Take It Personally – Utilize Editorial Feedback

We’ve all gotten it at one point or another – editorial feedback that is less than perfection. Can it be frustrating to have errors pointed out to you? Absolutely; but being made aware of these issues will save you time and better prepare you for the next writing project.

Don’t take it personally. Emotionally attaching to your work is a double-edged sword. Yes, it’s very important to be pride yourself in the work produced; but, taking constructive criticism to heart may contribute to your burn out.

Taking a step back and viewing the project and feedback more objectively is an acquired skill, but one I feel can be learned. Utilize editorial feedback as the tools they are meant to be.

Building a tough skin and objective eye is an absolutely necessity when freelancing. Rejection is a common and valuable hurdle you can overcome to better your skills and succeed in the future.

Take Away: Approach feedback as a tool, instead of a personal attack.

Know When Enough is Enough

Freelance writing and content marketing are largely self-motivating industries. So, what happens when you’re beginning to burn out and not as motivated as you could be? Your work suffers. Knowing when enough is enough – when you’re simply not motivated – while discouraging, can help avoid overworking yourself to the point of burn out.

Making it a point to break up your day, get out of the house/office, etc. can help you maintain your motivation and help you to address each project with a refreshed outlook. I am a big proponent of the 50/10 Rule (this blog has an academic focus, but really good information that translates into freelance writing.) For every 50 minutes of work, take 10 minutes to rejuvenate and refocus. If this means taking a ten minute walk round the block, doing a chore, or grabbing a snack, do it.

There’s an app for that…and it’s free! (lol, can you tell I’m an iPhone user?)

Take Away: Taking care of yourself is key to working at full capacity.

Try New Techniques and Tools

Try something new, outside of your comfort zone, to see what motivational or self-management techniques might work well for you. I’ve experimented with a couple different techniques and tools to help me manage freelance work and life in general – some of which have been effective, others have been a total time suck. Most recently, I’m using a combination of simple sticky notes and Trello to self-manage my work load and to-dos.

I’ve also found that switching up my workspace is also helpful – working in my home office, dining room, or living room, on my laptop can make all the difference in my productiveness (I just can’t turn the TV on, radio is ok though – but that’s a personal thing, some people might be more productive in a silent environment.)

Take Away: Experiment with new methods of self-management and environment to see what works best for you.

Thanks for tuning in, and I hope this information is helpful when claiming QualityGal writing projects and freelancing in general. If you’d like to contribute your “burn out busters” to the conversation, please feel free to comment, repost, and share – I think everyone has found different ways to avoid freelance burn out that have worked for them; we’d like to know what those ways are!


Heather M.

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