Creative burnout is common, but there are ways to work around this. Here are some insider tricks, by freelancers, that will help you pick yourself back up.
Sophie Castillo, Fashion Designer and Founder of Canella Clothing:
I usually take a day off to just not think about work. If you’re too tired it can be so hard to be creative. If I’m under a tight schedule I’ll take a short break and make myself a really nice meal so I feel refreshed and happy when I go back to work. Talking to family or friends who support you can really help too, sometimes we need a little pep talk to remind us why we’re doing what we’re doing and to keep going!
Chloé Pierre, Founder of Wellness Company, Thy.Self:
I spend a lot of time by myself, being still and quiet, turning off my phone and getting out of my current space.
“In general reading on a normal basis makes me more creative, especially when I’m reading fiction or essay compilations. Reading just gets me out of my head for awhile and makes me look at the world from different perspectives, which helps my work a lot. Non-fiction books about fostering creativity can be extremely helpful, too. Try Start Where You Are or Steal Like An Artist — both are great for when you’re struggling with creativity and inspiration.”
— Marissa Gannon
Find Freelancer Communities
“I think it’s really easy to feel isolated when you’re a freelancer. You don’t really have coworkers to bounce ideas off of […] I started finding people online in similar situations who felt the same way and sort of created a little community online. It definitely helped when I had creative blocks […] I know there are online communities that already exist and are super inclusive, and I know some bigger cities have places you can go to meet up with other freelancers.”
— Nick Holland
Listen to Professional Podcasts
“I just listen to a lot of podcasts. ‘Freelance Transformation’ is a good one — it talks about more of the technical side of freelancing, like how to get clients and make money. I also really like ‘The Accidental Creative,’ which talks more about originality and inspiration.”
— Conner Gilbert
Get Out into the World
“You have to put yourself out there, in more ways than one. When I first started freelancing, I chose to work from home and didn’t really get out much. It was fine for a while, but eventually it got harder to feel creative when I was almost always in the same environment. It’s important to mix things up a bit, to get out into the world and see what’s going on outside of your work environment. Travel a little if you can, and meet as many people as possible. It definitely helps keep you inspired. Plus you might make some great business connections!”
— Lucy Wu
Curate Your Own Image
“What I didn’t realize about freelancing at first was that you kind of become your own brand. You’re not just selling your work, you’re selling yourself. For me, that meant cleaning up social media and making sure everything attached to my name online was something I’d be proud if my clients saw. Sounds kind of boring, I know, but curating your Instagram or Twitter can be a pretty fun creative project to do on the side. There are so many cool ways to show the world who you are.”
— Liz Wells
Charge What You’re Worth: Not just how much you need
“As a freelance writer, it’s really easy to want to write something and just throw it out there for the world to read, free of charge. Unfortunately, if you want to be able to buy groceries, you’ve really got to focus on the money aspect of creation. The hardest thing for me was charging my clients for what I was actually worth. I was so eager to get my work out there at first that I would have taken anything as long as I could scrape by, but now I have a set rate and I won’t work for anything less.”
— Emily Carter
Don’t Let Rejection Sway You
“Don’t give up just because something you send in gets rejected. Be patient. Consider amending your work if you have to. It’s okay to say, ‘This version isn’t good enough, but I can make it better.’ Use rejection to strengthen your work. And never, ever stop trying.”
— Maria Monrovia
“Start something and keep doing it. If something hasn’t worked out after three months, don’t give up. Keep going. Success doesn’t come overnight. Equally, if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change direction. Whatever you do, never stop putting your work out there and always make an effort to meet new people.”
— Anthony Burrill, graphic artist, print-maker and designer.
Remember to schedule in self-care
Take a step back. You are not a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. You are helping someone sell a can of fizzy water, toilet paper or haemorrhoid cream. It’s only advertising, nobody dies. Take a fucking vacation!”
— Paul Woods, designer, writer, illustration and CCO of Edenspiekermann.
“Burnout is a real problem.
A project I worked on last summer non-stop for a month really took its toll both physically and mentally. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great project, and I was pleased with the work I produced, but it was intense and relentless, and I worried way too much about it. But guess what! It turns out I didn’t need to… so lastly I’d say be kind to yourself.”
— Helen Musselwhite – paper artist.