Burning out is no joke. Running out of juice and feeling worn out is a feeling we are all too familiar with. Whether you’re a freelancer of a traditional employee, this is something that affects everyone and everybody differently. Burnouts can be caused by many factors, but specifically for today, I’m going to focus on common management and commitment mistakes novice freelancers tend to make.

Learn how to say no.

This one seems silly but believe it or not, saying no can be difficult. It can be hard to turn down a well-paid project, and no one could really blame you. Novice freelancers are very guilty of doing this, and I use to be one of them. When you’re starting out, it’s very tempting to take on as much as you can. Your number one fear is always having a consistent flow of work to keep those bill paid, so you take on whatever comes your way.

What you don’t realize though is that you are adding on to the pile of work you already have. It may seem like these projects are far apart and are easy to manage, but it’s quite the opposite. The nature of freelancing itself can be very chaotic. You don’t know when a deadline will stretch out, and you definitely don’t know when a project would finish on time. All of these little factors can creep up on you and cause you to stress in the long run.

That’s why saying no is okay. Take on projects one at a time or at most two at a time. If you are worried about not being able to find another client if you turn one down, don’t be! You’ll learn that some projects are worth picking up while others are worth turning down.

Work on one task at a time.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is worrying about the big picture too much and putting yourself under constant stress. Yes, I’ve said it. Worrying about the bigger picture too much can be a mistake and not worrying about it can be even worse. Sounds a lot like a double-edged sword, doesn’t it?

The point is when you’re always worried about a deadline or the overall goal you’re trying to achieve, you put tremendous stress on yourself mentally. Imagine having to run a marathon knowing you’re out of shape. Doesn’t sound very appealing now does it? Instead, you should break down the bigger tasks into smaller achievable tasks and take them on one at a time.

Remember, these smaller tasks ultimately make up the bigger one.

Reward yourself.

This one is the most often forgotten. Reward yourself! I know it seems almost pointless but rewarding yourself can come a long way. It’s not the act of giving yourself something because you know you can but its the feeling of knowing you deserved it. Giving yourself breaks here, and there is a great way to prevent burnouts and also an excellent way of preventing yourself from not being motivated enough to work.

Sure, we all have that guilty feeling in our gut knowing we could be finishing a project right now instead of playing a game, but that’s not the mindset you want. Why not break down your work time versus your play time? For every three hours you spend working, you reward yourself with an hour of game time. This not only gives you a mental break you need but it also puts you in a better mindset.

I’ve only touched on a teaspoon of this subject, but I’m sure by now you all get the point. Burning out isn’t a fun thing to go through, and it could even make you grow a love/hate relationship with your career. Taking steps to understand why you are burning out and also giving yourself the chance to relax and enjoy life a little bit could help more than you’d like to admit. So the next time you think you’re stressing out and have ultimately had it, go spoil yourself. Get a massage, get some air, or go out drinking with some friends. These small things come a long way.


My name is Tony, and I’m an Experience Designer with 8+ years of experience in design and development. At heart, I am a developer first and a designer second. I enjoy creating interactive experiences, but I also enjoy designing and learning about the user’s experiences.

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