To defeat the distractions of everyday life, I stepped into my content marketing pyjamas to craft the night away.
It made sense: No phone calls – No traffic noise – No footballs pinging on the concrete, even the neighbours shush after midnight (sometimes).
It worked – for a bit.
I ploughed my way through twice the work, and the copy was indestructible … until burnout chased me down.
The graveyard shift is hard graft, but when you do it from home – when you have to create every aspect of your income – the stress of not clocking off can suffocate you.
As freelancers, we have enough burnout catalysts without the moonlight madness – see if you put a big tick next to these:
6 Unavoidable Stress Factors Only Freelancers Understand
- Holidays – No pay – no switch off – no point
- Sickness – No duvet comfort here and no sick pay – so you’re never sick … even when you are
- Workload – Too much and you can’t sleep – too little and you can’t pay
- Deadlines – Great motivation if you can meet them – impending doom if you can’t
- Open All Hours – Unless you leave the house – you’re always at work – so you hardly do – and you always are
- Self Indulgence – No time (or energy) for your own projects
How’d I find time to write this post? – I locked the door on burnout, and took back some control.
1 Cautionary Tale for Freelancers who Haven’t Burned out Yet
You might store stress in your neck, lower back, or eyeballs. I store mine in my teeth. And grind them when it’s ramping up.
Thing is, most people don’t see it coming – it creeps up on you the same way the ceiling loses its white or the cat gets old.
And on top of the workload, life’s call to action gets in your face… “YOU NEED TO DO OTHER STUFF!”
So, you force ‘fun’ things into your day anyway.
If you’ve ever justified a coffee at midnight to unlock extra time to read, or watch Game of Thrones (then felt like crap the next day), you know what I’m on about.
Great – now the things you should enjoy are suffocating you.
They say the best way to stay productive is to switch off, to float your boat in whatever way floats it – but when burnout’s got your scent, you can’t – not totally – and that’s a gap in the door..
Head sleep — the kind that sinks you into another world — becomes a stranger, and the late nights force the door wide open.
You’ve heard the saying “The mind is willing but the body isn’t”? This becomes your family excuse. For your work apologies, just flip it.
My flirtation with burnout lasted months . By the time I’d coffee’d up the urge to pull out my chair and write something – it was too late.
Fingers flopped onto the keyboard, and the message, no matter how persuasive it set out to be, yawned onto the page.
The copy was guessable.
If it wasn’t for my bite agony, I could’ve choked. And not wrote a thing. That’s total burnout. Never seen it happen. Not sure there’s even a cure. Let me know in the comments if you’ve gone that far.
5 Steps to Keeping Burnout at Arm’s Length
Swapping back my pyjamas for scruffs and sociable hours wasn’t enough.
I had to unclutter my head and manipulate more time – for everything.
So I hit the reset button:
- Confidence – You believe in your ability, right? All you have to do is believe you believe it
- Self Belief – This gives you courage to charge the right price for your work – now you are doing less, for more money – and that gives you time to create achievable deadlines
- Deadlines – Add two days to every one you have – now you don’t rush the copy – your client sometimes gets an early bonus – and if life bites, you have time to bite back
- Stress – Choose not to go there – it takes some getting used to this one but it really does work – stressing about stress is the most stressful thing you can do – smile at it – wink at it – shake it by the hand because it means you’re still alive (There’s a post coming soon to dive deeper into this) – and this enables ‘head sleep’
- Head Sleep – The main ingredient – aim for this one above all else – anything that gets you here works – to a point
These five stages aren’t the total solution. And yes, they’re easier said than done.
They keep out about 15% of the burnout smog. But that’s all I’ve needed lately …
I have extra time – to craft my best possible content (not indestructible … but in truth it never was) for more money – at a pace I control.
Now work starts around 9am – stops around 4pm – and it’s flexible, if I need it to be.
Evenings and weekends belong to me and my family again, and the whole of me – is there to enjoy it.
I can’t measure how much time I saved. It changes from job to job – but I do know when I’m not working – I’m NOT working – that ‘s what bolts the door.
WARNING: All of the above can stop you from choking … but smog will always seep through the hinges. No getting away from it.
How do you handle stress? What blows your door wide open? Hit the comments – I’m sure we can push that 15% even further.
And if you’ve got any quiet friends who stare a lot – please share this post with them. They need to know they’re not alone.