ne year into my freelancing career, I got the opportunity to manage a team in a telecom company. I applied for the job 7 months prior, so the call was completely left field. But it was in my previous field, and I took the job intending to freelance on my days off and after work.

Things started great, but the demands of my job soon caught up with me. I tried to push through, but I noticed a decline in the quality of my writing. That eventually spilled over to my job, and I crashed.

For my mental health and well-being, I had to make a decision.

I went back to freelancing full-time.

Burning the candle at both ends’ as the saying goes, is the biggest reason for burnout (pun intended).

Burnout usually happens when you’re exhausted, unfocused, and shut down mentally.

Burnout leads to apathy and negativity.

The result is sub-par work and the eventual end of your freelance dreams.

Here are some other things to look out for that could make you crash and burn.

Completing high effort, low pay work.

One of my first freelance clients was a great guy. He paid on time, helped with edits, and guided me when I struggled. However, it was grueling work. I had to write on highly technical medical topics I never heard of in my life. It took high effort with little pay. Even though I completed the work to the client’s satisfaction, the juice just wasn’t worth the squeeze. High effort work with low pay contributes to burning out.

How To Fix It:

We all have to start somewhere, and that ‘somewhere’ is sometimes low paying work.

However, you’re worth so much more, especially if you’re putting in work to improve your skills.

Start looking for high-paying work through your network and higher quality job boards like Linkedin, Indeed, and We Work Remotely. Keep your pipeline filled so you can move on from low-value clients.

A lack of downtime

“Burnout is the result of too much energy output and not enough energy self-invested. In other words, it’s burning too much fuel than you’ve put in your tank.” ― Melissa Steginus

We think downtime is time wasted. Freelancers who rest don’t make money.

But rest is a critical part of the process.

We’re recharging our batteries.

If you’re looking to increase your muscle mass, you can lift as much weight as you like, but real muscle growth happens at rest. You have to replenish the mental and physical energy to go again, especially if you have a full-time job.

You won’t last long if you’re running on fumes.

How to fix it:

I try to take at least 2 days off per week. Those days are non-negotiable, even if I have something I want to get done. The rest is critical, especially for a freelance writer.

Rest helps the words flow!

Carve out a day on your calendar.

At the start of your rest day, make sure to put away your computer or close work apps, so you aren’t tempted. Schedule some outdoor time or social time so you can really disconnect.

You’ll be refreshed and ready to go again.

Your clients are unreasonable.

More than 55% of employees leave their jobs because of their difficult bosses. If your client is demanding and unreasonable, it could remind you of a bad boss.

The advantage of freelance is that we don’t have someone to report to, but a difficult client could be triggering.

If your clients can make or break your income, you will bear with it. But in time, you’ll shut down.

How to fix it:

Unreasonable clients often happen when we don’t set our expectations clearly. Let your clients know upfront your do’s and don’ts. That includes total revisions, availability, and scope of work.

If you need to bring it up with your current client base, let them know in a kind, courteous way the changes to your service delivery.

I had an old client that was especially difficult. I woke up one morning and just couldn’t do it. That was the last day we worked together. If you need to, let go of the clients that you’re dreading to work with.

Your environment is not conducive to work.

Research shows that specific factors like temperature, lighting, air quality, and noise impact your ability to concentrate and be productive. If you’re not in the right headspace, work becomes difficult. If you’re not in the right physical space, the results could be just as dire. A poor working environment creates stress, and that contributes to your burnout.

How to fix it:

There are few inexpensive ways to spruce up your environment. First, carve out your own space to complete your freelance work. Declutter your space. Go for the minimalist approach. Then add some of your favorite scents, indoor plants, and lighting make it a space you’d love to work in. A little investment goes a long way.

The work does not fulfill you.

You might not feel it every day. But most times, you should feel some passion and fulfillment out of your freelance work. If not, then why bother? With any endeavor, the rewards lose their luster. For the days where we don’t feel up for it, the work's joy can help us through. If we’re spending our days doing unfulfilling work, we can shut down.

How To Fix It:

Pay close attention to the clients and work you prefer. These can give you clues into the work that fulfills you. Freelancing is all about helping others. Take note of how you feel when you do the work and how your clients feel when you deliver. It could be a stepping stone for future coaching, consulting, or training.

Freelancers add significant value to their clients but often at the expense of rest and mental well-being. It’s hard to build a thriving business when you’re burnt out all the time. Take note of these and other triggers and start being more intentional. You are the CEO of YOU. Make sure to work on not just growing your bank account but your mental and physical health too.