My Freelance Writing Burnout

My Freelance Writing Burnout

I sat there staring at a new Word document. I had my assignment open in the other monitor. I had already done the research. It’s a formula I’ve followed thousands of times in my two years as a freelance writer.

Yet, I couldn’t put any words on the page. I had burnt out.

It wasn’t the assignment, it was stuff with easy requirements. It wasn’t the workload for that day, it was my first assignment. I had just burnt out.

Two Years Till Burnout

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Don’t get me wrong, I had several instances of not wanting to write and being sick of the “slangin’ articles” for cash. I’ve always been able to power through it though in the interest of paying my bills and leading a generally independent life.

This time, however, I couldn’t get more than a sentence in to the assignment. Even with ample research staring at me from the second monitor, it was like I forgot how to write entirely.

It was a true and thorough burnout.

I had hoped it was just something about that day. Bad coffee, an unpleasant dream. I put off the assignment until the next day (a luxury a freelance writer can rarely afford).

The next day, after ensuring I had amazing coffee, I went back at it. I opened up the Word document and enthusiastically attempted the assignment again.

You guessed it – still burnt out. I couldn’t bring myself to write a second sentence.

I’ve written thousands of articles. I’ve supported myself solely with freelance writing for over two years. I’ve written about everything from vaginal yeast infections to the difference between qualitative and quantitative leadership studies. I’ve prided myself on my ability to write about anything and make it amazing.

Still, there I was, unable to write a second sentence on an easy article.

What do I do?

Back Up Off Freelance Writing and Re-Evaluate Everything

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There had to be a reason why I suddenly burnt out on a trade that had been my bread n’ butter for so long. It was time to re-evaluate everything. I couldn’t even power through that last assignment, I passed it off to a fellow freelancer. Fortunately, I was in a situation where I could take a week or two break from writing and be alright.

It was time for some much needed soul searching and evaluation.

Was this what I really wanted to do full time? In short, no. It’s no secret that I’ve started a few companies to help bring in other sources of income. Most recently, I’ve launched Coinsert.com, which lists companies that accept Bitcoin. However, as with all new websites, it will be slow to build and take some time to enter the profit margin.

Should I pursue another path in life? Freelance writing affords an incredible degree of control over other aspects of your life. However, it also requires, well, constant writing. You’re also hunting for new clients and possibly building a reputation with guest posting (I have not done this). It’s an interesting trade off. What else would I do? Should I head back into corporate America and start climbing some ladders? Should I invest more time into Content Kung Fu or Coinsert and get them earning?

Why did I start freelancing? During my life evaluation, I had to go back to the beginning of freelance writing. I started as a means of escape from a string of office jobs. More than that, I started so I could move to Thailand and explore that beautiful country. Now, I’m back in America and I’m not restricted to working online. How much of that initial motivation remains? After two years, perhaps an office job wouldn’t be so bad. I do plan on returning to Thailand and traveling more in general, but I’d rather do so on the profits from other ventures – not having to write articles every day I’m traveling.

How I Plan to Get Past My Writing Burnout

Here’s my plan for getting back into profitable writing:

Phase 1: Take several weeks off from all writing (at great financial loss).

Phase 2: Return to writing for myself (hence this blog post).

Phase 3: Declare my new goals for paid writing.

My relationship with freelance writing has changed throughout this process. I still want freelance writing to be a part of my life. However, I’m going to tone down the amount of work I do. During this phase of my life, it’s clear I need to focus on other ventures to earn an income.

My new goals for freelance writing: Write a bare minimum of articles while building up my other ventures.

My burnout with freelance writing served as a sign post for self-reflection. I had to go back to the drawing board of life and see what path I wanted to follow.

Have you ever burnt out on your chosen trade? What did you do?

Photo Credit: firefighters, burnout car, burnout car 2

3 Responses to My Freelance Writing Burnout

  1. Barbara says:

    Ugh. Burnout is such a downer and it’s hard to figure out how to get your feet back under you. My dad has a great motto that helps me out in difficult times: One step at a time. I feel like that motto takes the pressure off in some ways.

    I think it’s pretty amazing that you were able to see that you were dealing with burnout. A lot of people are face to face with burnout and would never see it for what it is.

    In burnout situations (that I try to avoid like a long-legged hair spider) or in times of being overwhelmed, I usually self-medicate with my guilty pleasures of novels, preferably historical fiction or some cooking novel.

    Good luck as you build new facets to your occupational life!

    • Thank you for the kind words. I think I knew it was burnout because of how paralyzing it was. I was totally unable to write! Your dad is right on the money – taking it one step and one day at a time is how I’ve been able to start writing again.

      Sounds like you’ve got a great technique for avoiding burnout! Well done!

  2. Chris says:

    The way you wrote this it kinda sounds like the only reason why you’re writing is to make money “bread & butter” as you referred to it. Unless you love what you do why on earth do it? I started out as a computer programmer loved it but after a decade doing that I just had enough. I turned off my computer for 18 months. I didn’t really enjoy it anymore and literally found it boring. Now I run several ecommerce sites as well as a dozen blogs and 1000 odd websites. I wake up every day enjoying what I do. I think the burnout is telling you something, try something different. I also believe you should really think about this whole writing business too, if you can’t stop work for several weeks and still make the same amount of money then you’re doing things wrong. Take some time out, but don’t come back and do the same stuff that the burnout caused. G’Luck Yogi.

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