How to Avoid Getting Burnt Out as a Freelance Writer

Confession: I don’t love freelance writing. I worked as a freelance writer on and off for about three years, and when I finished my last project just a few months ago, I felt determined never to do it again.

But it is an excellent form of income, especially for stay-at-home moms who need a job without a set schedule. You can do it super part-time or make it your full-time job.

I know that if I had done things differently in my three years as a freelance writer, I wouldn’t have felt so burnt out and determined not to write content for other people anymore.

Here are the things I should have done to avoid getting burnt out:

1. Pick a Niche that Interests You

Choosing a niche that you find appealing is so essential. If I had done this, I would probably still be a freelance writer and would have made good money doing it.

I worked for three different digital marketing companies as a freelance copywriter. While working for all three companies, I wrote content that wasn’t interesting to me. Two of the companies assigned topics, and I wrote about the same thing week after week. Over and over.

I dreaded working. I often put off my projects until the end of my deadline because I couldn’t get through them before that. Writing went quickly because I mostly had to rephrase what I had already written, but it was excruciatingly dull for me. It took all the life out of writing.

Don’t just take what’s available—find a niche you enjoy and learn as much as you can about it. Become knowledgeable enough that you can write quickly without having to write about the same topic every time.

2. Treat Freelance Writing Like Any Other Job

I like the freedom of being a freelancer, but it’s easy to push off your work and let it become a burden. My time to write was during my kids’ naptime, but I often got too tired or distracted because I treated my writing like my dirty dishes: something I could put off until I was desperate.

Set aside time for your freelance writing and treat it like a job where you’d have to punch in a timecard. Figure out what you need to do to write your best and do that as much as you possibly can. What time of day are you most alert? Do you need to be completely free of distractions to write your best content? Where do you prefer to write?

In my experience, it was also hard to get other people to take my freelance writing job very seriously. If I had set a schedule and taken it seriously myself, I imagine I wouldn’t have gotten asked to do other things during my writing time.

3. Try Not to Procrastinate

I say “try” not to procrastinate rather than “don’t” because I know that telling a writer never to procrastinate isn’t realistic. One of my professors said, “I don’t procrastinate, I work well with a deadline.”

With that said, try to space out your writing so that you aren’t staying up until 3:00 a.m. the day before a deadline. Writing 20 pages of copywriting in two days is a lot harder than it is in ten days (unless you’re able to write full-time—I wasn’t).

4. Leave Time for Rewriting

If you wait until the last minute to finish your writing, you won’t have time to polish it the way you may want to.

Even the best writers need to rewrite. Spread your writing out enough that you have the time to take another look before turning it in. Turning in polished work will impress clients and leave them wanting more.

5. Don’t Overdo It

Our culture seems to think there’s something noble about always being busy and doing more than we can handle. Even though this post may make me sound lazy, I fall victim to this mentality too often.

Be realistic about your situation. How much writing can you handle?

Earlier this year, the company I was writing for asked me to double the amount I was writing. I have a baby and a toddler, and I’m usually taking care of them, cooking, cleaning, or napping because I have poor genetics that make me as sleepy as my baby.

Taking on more work wasn’t a good idea for me, but I couldn’t bring myself to say no. I wanted to be reliable and thought that by agreeing to take on more work, that’s how the company I worked for would see me.

Taking on double the work led to my burnout. I was still able to create quality work, but each week, I wondered how much longer I would last.

If you control the amount of freelance work you do, try to be realistic about what you can take on. If you’re working for a company as an independent contractor, don’t be afraid to tell them what is realistic for you.

         

Freelance writing can be an excellent thing for many reasons: you can make great money, have a super flexible schedule, and do work you enjoy. Just make sure you don’t do what I did!

Do you have any other questions about freelance writing? Comment below, and I’ll try to help in any way I can.



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