I have had the pleasure of interviewing many designers and developers and one thing we all seem to have in common is we all love our job. Most of them expressed to me that they feel incredibly lucky to have found a job that they love doing, and how easy it is to do something that you love. However, the majority also seem to be freelancers or own their design or development company, which can present problems when you cannot differentiate between your work and your free time. It is important not to get burnt out when you spend every waking minute in front of the computer, which is a problem I often have. So, I came up with a list of things to consider to keep yourself from getting burnt out if you work as a freelancer!
Take Time to Manage Stress
Stress is in everyone’s lives, but too much of it will burn you out and take away all your energy and motivation you have to do your work. So, take time to manage stress to assure you do not get burnt out. Some recommendations I have from a seminar I attended recently are to meditate, do yoga, rest, watch a funny movie, play a board game, exercise, play a sport, get enough rest, or even get a massage. Another way to manage stress is to write a to-do list each evening before going to bed, so you can manage your time better the next day, and also take some of the stress off your brain. Many of the designers and developers I have interviewed have the recurring theme of too little sleep and too much caffeine, and though that works for some, try to make sure you do not let yourself live on 24/7 adrenaline, because you will be sure to crash! So, take care of yourself, and you will have more energy to do your job better.
Manage Your Time Wisely
Managing your time wisely goes hand and hand with stress management and avoiding getting burnt out. Many hours of time that could be spent working, can easily be wasted when you do not employ good time management skills. For example, a project that should take 1-2 hours, could take you the entire day if you do not manage your time well. Calendars, lists, and other time management devices are very important, and can help you manage your time better. Therefore, be sure to map out your day and not waste too much time tweeting, facebooking, or cruising the web, so that you have time for leisurely activities after work.
Be Realistic, Say No and Ask for Help
When you are a freelancer, you decide what jobs you will take and what work you will do, but you also need to take the anticipative and say no when there is something you cannot do. Taking on too much work and not being realistic with what you can do, will ultimately lead to you being fed up with your work. So try to say no when you have more projects than you are realistically able to do in your time. Another thing to consider is to ask for help or outsource when you have a part of a project that is out of your expertise. Nothing can be more stressful than trying to do something that you are not equipped to do, so know your limitations and concentrate on doing what you do know how to do well.
Network with Other Freelancers
Networking is a great way to connect with other is your niche field, and it is also a great way to avoid burn out. First, networking is a way to connect with others in your area of work, so that you can stay apprised of the newest information and knowledge. Second, you can also learn from others that many are in your same situations, which can help you when you think you are burnt out. So try to socialize on networking sites and get to know others in your field, because these people can help you promote your work, help you with your work when you are in over your head, and make you laugh when you need a good laugh. Just remember to do everything in moderation, because too much time away from work can actually lead to stress as well.
Try to be positive, even when business is weaker than you would like it to be or you are in over your head. Being positive is important because it will ensure that you keep trying and putting forth the effort to improve your business; moreover, when you are positive about your work, potential clients are more likely to come to your business, rather than your competitors. In addition, when you are positive you see ant hills instead of mountains, which can keep you from getting overly stressed with your job. When you start your day positively you will hit the ground running and feel energized rather than drained. Start each day new, without the worries from the day before looming over your head, and you will be able to recharge yourself each day.
Do Your Own Projects Sometimes
Remember that you need to do your own projects every now and then, and not just projects for clients. If all you do day after day is what other people want, you run the risk of getting jaded and to start to resent what you do for a living. So, try to spend time going back to doing what you love, for yourself, for fun, or even for a good cause. Try to work designing or developing on your own blog or portfolio in your free time, try letting your creativity flow and experiment with design or ideas you have, or you can even do some volunteer work designing or developing sites for non-profits. Giving back is a great way to recharge your batteries, and get yourself excited about what you do, because you can see that what you do can help others. So, use your time to help yourself or others, rather than only spending all your time helping clients, and you will never get burnt out or jaded, and you will continue to love what you do.
Remember Your Work Is Work
When you are a freelancer, often times you have chosen your career by what you love doing, and though many people admire and desire that sort of job, sometimes it is hard to separate what is work and what is not. Remember that no matter what you do for a living, work is work, and even if you love it, it should not be the only thing that defines you. It is important to separate work and play and make clear division of what part of your day is work and what part is not. For example, try not to work on weekends, and do not give your clients your cell phone number. These are two great ways to assure that you are separating your work and your personal life. When all you do is work, work, work, it is a sure recipe for a burn out!
Remember Even Your Blog is Work
Many freelancers also have a blog where they write about their work, experiences, or do tutorials where they help others in their field, like I do here at Admix Web. One thing that is important to remember is that even your blog is work, no many how much you love doing it. So, try to organize a schedule where you have a certain amount of time designated to work, a certain time allotted for your blog or side projects, and other time allotted for free time. But, I have heard that many freelancers find blogging a great way to spend time when you are not doing projects, as do I, so do it, but remember not to spend every second writing.
Give yourself Time Off/Take a Vacation
When you are a freelancer, you do not have a boss telling you when you can take time for vacation, sick days, or personal days, which most freelancers see that as a blessing; however, from what I have learned is that the opposite usually occurs with most freelancers. Most do not take a vacation, do not take time off, and work 24/7. It is important to take time off to relax and recharge, or else you risk getting burnt out. And, remember, it is not a vacation when you are sitting in your hotel room on your laptop, what I mean it taking time away from the computer and the phone, and disconnecting yourself from your job and your clients, and relaxing!