How can freelancers avoid burn out?

How to avoid burnout

Let’s start with the basics…

What is burnout?

It’s a state of complete emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged work-related stress. 

Some people often think that burnout is simply feeling tired and stressed. While both of those could be symptoms of burnout, they’re not necessarily burnout itself. Burnout is more severe than this, it affects your mood, productivity and actually affects your brain function. 

Essentially, you’ll feel a reduced sense of accomplishment, sometimes even a loss of personal identity, which can lead to being cynical and detached from work.

Which isn’t great when you’re a freelancer. 

If you feel like you could be experiencing burnout, the first step on the road to recovery is diagnosing the problem i.e. what is causing your burnout.

Below, there are three types of burnout, each with very different characteristics. Have a read through them, and see if you resonate with any in particular.

Overload burnout 

  • You’re incredibly ambitious and willing to work beyond what’s expected to get there.
  • Your schedule seems frantic
  • You don’t have enough time to get everything done that you’ve committed to
  • You wouldn’t ever have a day off, even if you were ill, because you’re so passionate about your job
  • Your peers & senior team don’t work as hard as you do, but get all of the rewards

Lack of development burnout 

  • You get bored easily at work because you’re not challenged
  • Your seniors don’t appreciate the work you’re doing
  • You get everything that needs to be done completed with very little effort required and don’t really care about the work you’re doing
  • Why should you bother taking on more responsibility if it’s going to be more of the same?

Neglect burnout

  • You have nobody to help you complete your work, even when it’s outside of what you’ve done before
  • You often just give up on tasks because they’re too hard, making you feel helpless
  • You feel incompetent like you don’t deserve to be doing this job

Depending on which burnout you have there are ways to help cope with it 

Signs you are experiencing burnout:

Do you feel ill most of the time? 

Do you have headaches or stomach aches on a daily basis? You could have chronic stress. We have all experienced some level of stress or anxiety in the workplace one way or another but having chronic stress can cause burnout.

Do you feel you are in a constant state of panic? 

Having too much pressure on you at work or having an unmanageable workload can lead to a constant state of panic and beating yourself up about what you could have done and saying stuff like “I can’t do this”. If this sounds like you, chances are you could be experiencing burnout.

Are you motivated?  

Being disengaged and having a lack of motivation towards your work is a huge sign that you have job burnout.

If you are detached from your work, just think do you actually like your job? There is a difference between hating your job and experiencing burn out, however, hating your job can be a sign that you are heading in the direction of job burnout. 

When did you last have a break at work?

Having your lunch in front of your desk doesn’t count as having a lunch break, although this is more common than you think among workers, having a break away from your work mentality is a must.

Try doing something that doesn’t involve work; go on a walk, go to your local cafe or simply just shut your eyes – even if it’s in your car for a few minutes.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Now you could just be tired, who has enough shut-eye anymore anyway?

However, there is a difference between being tired and being mentally exhausted, when it starts to affect your mood and health, then it is more serious than you think.

When was your last holiday? 

Being able to hop on a plane and forget about your troubles for a week can be impossible for some people. Especially if you are always working overtime and at the weekends but everyone needs a holiday especially when on the brink of burning out so why not use your holidays and book somewhere? 

Do you rely on caffeine and sugar to get through the day?

Are you on your 5th cup of coffee by 10 am? Never eating a normal meal? If so, this is known as having ‘Numb feelings’ which is associated with having a large dependance and/or intake of caffeine and sugar in order to feel more awake and to have more energy which can lead to feeling ill further down the line.

How to cope and avoid burnout – top tips to help 

Force yourself to have a ‘glass half full’ mindset  

Don’t let a slight downfall knock your confidence but see it as a learning opportunity to do better. The saying goes: ‘glass half full over half-empty’, appreciating and celebrating your achievements over your downfalls is the best way to help you stay positive and optimistic. This can be very hard for some people to do, but by changing your perspective of a situation, you can reset your mind and begin heading in the right direction. 

Find value in your work

Remind yourself why you set out as a freelancer. The passion and belief in what you do drove you to wanting to do it full time – you’re an expert and your clients are lucky to be working with someone that believes in what they do.

Have more social outings 

Those that experience burnout can be utterly consumed with work and not having the time to socialise with their friends and family.

In order to avoid this make sure you socialise when you are off the job, even if you are stressed about needing to finish your work, being stressed out isn’t going to help you when trying to perform your best. Have a break, grab a coffee with a friend and get back to work feeling refreshed.

Make downtime a daily priority

Take time away in the day to do what makes you happy and relaxed, whatever it might be. Being able to refuel your brain will benefit your mental health and wellbeing in the long run. 

Get support 

Don’t be hard on yourself, if you’re struggling and in need of help then reach out to someone, whether it’s your friends, family, a colleague or a therapist, getting support will eventually help you become happier and healthier.

Set boundaries 

Learn to say no from time to time whilst at work, don’t be afraid to establish and clarify your expectations and responsibilities, this way you know what to prioritise and have time to do which will relieve some of the pressure off of you.

Eat healthily and start exercising

It may seem obvious but the best way to help relieve stress and to cope with burnout is to exercise and eat right, fueling your brain and body with the right vitamins and minerals will help boost your mood and feel good, whilst exercising will help relieve some of the stress and pressure that you may be feeling at work. 


Hopefully, these tips will help you to become happier and stop experiencing burnout, for more help on navigating the world of freelance visit

Chris Bardsley

Chris Bardsley

Chris is our Digital Wizard at ipro and supports all of our search and online marketing activity. It’s what he loves doing, and with 10 years’ worth of experience implementing digital strategies that work, we can’t blame him.