Writer’s block, exhaustion, anti-productivity, creative clog, fatigue and boredom all of these terms refer to one single mental condition of creative minds, called the ‘burnout’. Creative minds sometimes undergo dry spells, which affects their working ability in general and creativity in particular in a very negative manner. However, the trouble actually begins if they’re not aware of what’s happening to them and let the situation take them over.

A burnout can happen to anyone, whoever is involved in creative thinking process at any platform at any time of age. However, this post specifically addresses to the burnout that hits a freelance graphic designer’s mind. We will discuss this problem in detail in the following.

Viewing inspirational brochures and other graphic designs used in flyers can help provide a new perspective.

What Causes A Burnout

When looking into a certain issue, one should start off with its root cause. Burnout of a freelance graphic designer may have many causes. In many cases, burnout stems from the work itself i.e. being over-worked, work being undervalued or having a responsibility greater than one’s capacity. Other factors contribute to burnout of a graphic designer can range from your lifestyle to certain personality traits, like being unsatisfied from your work and even being socially hostile or not getting enough sleep. Whatever the reason of your burnout may be, it is important to avoid it in the first place in order to have a more fulfilling work life.

Burnout Indicators

Like sneezing is the most obvious symptom of Influenza, in case of creative burnout, stress is considered as the very first indicator. Burnout doesn’t happen without stress. Stress may come from too many meetings, work imbalance, social hostility, projects, responsibilities, unrealistic deadlines, improperly set expectations, distractions etc. In order to analyze if you are going under stressful condition or not note if you have the following feelings:

  • Every project turns out bad
  • Losing interest in your job or the work you’re doing
  • You feel unappreciated or do not feel like you’re making a difference in your job
  • Disconnect between your personal values and what is expected of you
  • Self-defined goals or those imposed on you are unrealistic or unreasonable
  • Significant amount of incomplete projects

Ways to Avoid A Burnout

As a freelance graphic designer, a burnout can strike you anytime. The main reason may be the free-wheeling involved in this kind of work pattern. However, like every other physical and psychological disorder, creative burnout, if left uncured, can lead you to a permanent inability to do creative tasks.

Although I am not a psychologist or something, but being able to successfully take over such kind of burnout once in my life, I am mentioning some tips that can help my freelance designer fellows to avoid the burnout situation in the first place and to maintain an efficient, rewarding and creative work process.

Set up Balanced Work Hours

As I have mentioned earlier, one of the most crucial causes of creative burnout for the freelancers is the imbalance in working schedule. In avoiding burnout, the first thing is to have some sort of a set schedule that involves only working a reasonable number of hours each week. Most freelancers do try to set a solid timetable for work, however, there are few amongst us, especially the newcomers do not care for the time they spend on their work. For such people working longer hours is a symbol of hard-work and dedication. However, this should not be the case. There are times when upcoming deadlines may force you to work longer hours, but that should be your routine. You can work flexible hours that change from one week to another, but the important part is that you set a schedule for yourself that will help you avoid working hectic long hours on a regular basis.

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Say No to Sharp Deadlines

Deadlines are not bad in themselves, infact for freelancers, deadlines provide them a specific time-frame to finish their task and start working on another projects. However, what is bad is an unrealistic deadline and a limited time to finish your task in. While you cannot eliminate deadlines altogether, you should only accept deadlines that are reasonable and realistic. If a client wants to give you a project but with an unrealistic deadline, do not accept the job (even if you don’t have any). Instead, take the time to explain to them why it is not realistic and how it can hurt the quality of your work. Also suggest a reasonable time line that will allow you to get everything done without working around the clock.

Charge Equal to the Time Spent

Evaluate the rates that you are charging, once every 6 months, to make sure that you are not under-charging your services. Many freelancers charge less than they are worth or the time they spend on the project. If you set a value for your services lower than the time and hard work you put in your tasks, you will ultimately fall a prey to creative burnout and at some point in time your ability to think creatively will die off. If you are able to increase your rates and still retain the same interest level from clients, you can reduce the number of work hours and will automatically have enough time for other things too.

Accept Projects that Match Your Interest

This is a universal fact of the world of creativity that one can only give his best to his work if it is done with greater interest. So always try to consider the type of projects that match up with your own interests. Every designer has something that they are passionate about. So try to finding work that interests your passion and keeps you fallen in love with your project. Although it is quite inevitable that you come across different kinds of projects, some of which may not interest you very much, but you can at least try to find the job that you feel comfortable with. Your interest can be related to doing work for a particular type of organization, working within a specific industry, or specializing in a particular type of design or development.

Set Priorities

Setting priorities can be synonymous to getting organized. Prioritizing your daily work is really just as vital as setting working hours. To-do list is the best tool you can make use of to prioritize your daily tasks each day that shows you exactly what you need to be working on and what is most important. If you don’t set priorities to your daily, weekly or monthly tasks, you’ll end up in an emergency situation in order to meet a project deadline and a hurried situation absolutely kills creativity. So, make it a habit to knowing exactly what you should be working on and what you need to get accomplished.

Outsource Services of Other Designers

If you feel like you don’t have enough time for a certain project deadline, consider outsourcing the services of other freelancers. There are plenty of opportunities for designers to outsource. However, it needs to be done carefully since their work puts your reputation is at stakes. Outsourcing can help to speed up your development time and leave you with more time to do other things, or just less time for work.

Give Yourself a Break!

Last, but not the least, free time or vacation is very important to keep a freelance designer’s mind away from burnout situation. Time away from work is necessary in order to re-charge and refresh your capabilities. Freelancers often deprive themselves of adequate free time because they don’t want to miss out on potential work. One thing they should understand is to create a balance in work and taking vacations is important. A proper planning and preparation a vacation does not have to hurt your business.