Mitigating Burnout While Self Employed

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Mitigating Burnout While Self Employed

Dec 15, 2021

NASE Hands Laptop 400Being self-employed is an adventure. Most of the time, that adventure is fun, filled with new experiences, and is deeply rewarding. The best part of all: you’re the one making it happen.

But what happens when you don’t feel the urge to get up in the morning and start working? What if your day-to-day routine becomes stagnated and you feel constantly overwhelmed?

If you’re starting to feel this way, you are probably experiencing burnout.

But what is burnout? And how can self-employed individuals work to mitigate its effects?

Recognize Burnout
If you’re in a funk for no particular reason, you’re probably experiencing burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently defined burnout as a non-medical workplace phenomenon caused by mismanaged chronic workplace. They also state the following symptoms:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy

As a self-employed person, you cannot afford any of these symptoms. You aren’t just another worker stuck behind a computer — you need to be focused on your work and engaged in furthering the progress of your self-employed career.

Here are a few steps you can take to mitigate and overcome burnout.

Focus on Mental Health
Burnout is caused by mismanaged, long-term stress. As a self-employed person, you’ve likely gone through stressful periods, but have come out the other side feeling great. However, if you’re burnt out you will not overcome feelings of exhaustion unless you mindfully target the source of your stress. To overcome stress, you can utilize everyday actions to maintain and improve your mental health.

Start by practicing some self-care — even if it feels awkward. Just take a few minutes out every day to go on walks, go to bed early when you can, buy healthy foods if they’re available, and don’t push yourself too hard. Sometimes self-employed people feel as though they have to prove themselves with every waking hour — you don’t.

You can also connect with a therapist or medical professional who will give you useful advice and treatment. They work with other stressed out, self-employed people all the time, and will be able to give you great tips to help you manage your workload and refocus on your mental health.

Get Organized
Much of the stress caused by being self-employed comes from a lack of organization. When you’re a cog in the wheel, you don’t have to worry about overheads, and you’ll get paid if you work any overtime. As a self-employed person, you have greater freedom, but that freedom can be stressful and requires greater discipline from you.

When burnt out, the first thing you need to do is engage in stress management. It sounds weird, but managing your stress does take real organizational skills — consider deleting social media apps that feed you negative news, and focus on one thing at a time to avoid the stress of multitasking.

Overcoming burnout will also require you to become accountable for yourself and your life outside of work. This requires a major shift in mindset for many chronic over-workers, but accountability will give you a greater appreciation for your life outside of work. You can set yourself time-oriented goals, and should aim to finish work at a reasonable time every — and don’t be tempted to go back!

There’s one final option in your burnout-busting toolkit: change it up. As a self-employed person, you don’t have to report for duty every Monday at 9 am. But perhaps you’re ready for a career transition that includes a steadier schedule and set of tasks and goals. Changing careers takes a lot of soul-searching, as it’s a huge change, especially if you’ve been self-employed for a long time. However, it could be the burnout cure you need.

Many of the time-sucking activities self-employed people do can now be automated. This will potentially free up hours every week and will ensure you aren’t burning through energy on loathsome tasks like invoicing and taxes.

Automation is increasingly vital for any small businesses that are involved in production or manufacturing. Services like order management streamline your service and fluid order processes will save you potentially hundreds of hours every year. They’ll also improve your efficiency, as human errors will be reduced through automation.

Automation services also give you access to analytics that you may not have utilized before. This can give you a shifting overview of your businesses’ success and can help you plan ahead for things like supply bottlenecks and seasonal lulls.

Burnout can be really challenging when you’re self-employed. Oftentimes, the success of the business relies upon your own motivation and actions, so feelings of exhaustion are usually accompanied by feelings of guilt and fear.

However, you won’t overcome burnout by working harder. Instead, take the time to focus on your mental health, and consider automating some of your services to recapture hours that are usually lost to formatting spreadsheets and manually filling out order sheets — this will streamline your business and help you overcome burnout.

Meet The Author:


Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger.


The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Association for the Self-Employed or its members.

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