Dealing with Burnout as a Creative Entrepreneur & How To Combat It
This week I want to switch gears from design and talk a little bit about something that plagues us all: burnout. If you’re a fellow entrepreneur, I’m sure that you can relate to some of these feelings. Burnout leaves you feeling uninterested in your work, lacking in motivation and creativity, and generally just mentally exhausted. When I was working 9-5, I was constantly plagued with burnout. This had to do with many factors out of my control, such as not having enough work to fill an 8 hour day, leaving me feeling useless at work, and like my time was being wasted.
When I was first able to start freelancing full-time and leave my 9-5 behind, I thought, no more burnout! Now, I’m in control of how I choose to spend my time, energy, and resources. I can take breaks, time off, etc. whenever I want so that I don’t have to feel burnt out.
Fast forward 3 years later, and I’ve learned that it’s not quite that easy. The truth is, as a creative entrepreneur, feelings of burnout are unavoidable. As creatives, we are constantly reliant on our imagination to create new ideas, new logos, new designs, new taglines, new business names (I could go on for a while) for others that bring them joy, and more importantly, bring them success.
While this is extremely rewarding, and for me, very fulfilling, it’s bound to take a toll at some point. On top of the constant creating, as entrepreneurs, we have to focus on all aspects of running a business, like bookkeeping and marketing. Often times, these administrative tasks become more of the focus than the actual creative part of your business that brings you passion. There’s so much that goes into running a business, beyond just the actual product or service you are selling that it’s no surprise that we run into burnout.
For me, I can tell I’m nearing the burnout phase when I start procrastinating. Especially when it’s simple tasks that take hardly any time to complete. It took me a while to realize this, but once I did, it made a lot of sense. I never want to admit to myself that I am “burning out” so I subconsciously start procrastinating, and wasting time doing things that aren’t important. The other telltale sign is that I start lacking creativity completely. I have no ideas for the logo I’m working on and I honestly just feel like it’s not important. When this happens, I know it’s time to take a step back and recharge.
Burnout also affects us physically. I can tell I’m nearing burnout when I become less interested in eating healthy, and I start to skip my yoga class, or I choose watching tv instead of going outside for a walk.
Since burnout can take such a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health, it’s important to recognize these signs early, so that you are aware of them, and can take the necessary steps you need to get yourself back on track.
So how do you combat burnout? Every person is going to be a little different, but I’ll share some of my personal tips and tricks for staying passionate about my work and preventing burnout.
One of the most obvious things to do is to take a step back and take a break from your work. I see one of the biggest benefits of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to control my time, and if this means I need to take an afternoon off to clear my head, then no one is stopping me. Oftentimes, there are feelings of guilt that come with putting down your work when you know you have a big deadline coming up, but let me be the first to encourage you to ditch the guilt. When you prioritize making space for yourself, it can help you to be more productive when you come back to your work. I like to take a break and do something that inspires me, like taking a walk, reading a book outside, or working on a craft or hobby that is unrelated to my business.
My husband and I have a rule that we need an out of town trip at least once every 3 months. This is typically something small, like a weekend drive to the mountains or beach, or maybe somewhere to visit friends, but once we both started realizing that 3 months was roughly our limit and that we start to feel burnt-out if we haven’t done something to break up the routine of our everyday lives in that amount of time, we’ve been able to combat burnout before it hits in full force. Making these fun and relaxing times away from work a priority helps me stay focused when I come back.
Give yourself the permission to take a break and don’t ever feel guilty about it.
Another thing that may contribute to burnout is difficult client dynamics or unnecessary stress in your work. Allow yourself to say no to these types of clients. Is it worth the extra money if you are constantly unhappy while working with them? Take a look at these situations and say no when it’s appropriate. Cutting these stress factors out will benefit your mental health, enabling you to do your best work with clients you enjoy.
Be sure you set boundaries. Even though you may work at home, having a clear, defined workspace and work hours separate of your home life allows you to “turn off” and have the downtime you require to stay creative. Turn off the technology when you aren’t working. I try to not check my email past 6 pm so that I can enjoy my evenings without being interrupted by something that I need to do the next day. This one is hard for me, but it’s important!
Beyond these things, make sure that you actually enjoy your work and your entrepreneurial journey. If it’s not fulfilling you, it’s okay to quit or change gears. If you aren’t having fun and staying healthy and happy, then what’s it all for? Don’t be afraid to admit your feelings to yourself and your loved ones.
If you do find yourself in the midst of a big burnout phase, the first thing to do is to be honest with yourself and admit it. It’s completely normal and completely okay to feel like you’ve lost your creative fire.
Once you admit it to yourself and your colleagues, you can make the necessary adjustments to get your mojo back. Cut out that problem client, tell a friend you’d like to do something out of the ordinary this weekend, attempt to cook that difficult recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Whatever you choose to do, find something that is unrelated to your work and have fun doing it.
Hopefully, each time burnout starts to rear its ugly head, you’ll be more aware of the signs and able to assess more accurately what is causing it, so that you can start to feel inspired again. Take care of yourself, and never be afraid to do what you need to do to practice self-care, because the world is better when we are creating, but we can’t create if we aren’t our best selves.
I hope this helps bring some insight into dealing with burnout. How has burnout affected you? What are your favorite tricks to keep your creative flame burning? Let us know in the comments below!