If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve likely experienced burnout at some point.
It can look totally different from person to person. One of my major entrepreneur burnout signs looks like an internal battle of knowing I need to get work done, but having no motivation to do it. For others, it may look like a fifth cup of coffee every morning. And when the stress of being an entrepreneur gets too bad, it can look like full blown depression.
Make no mistake, “burnout” isn’t just a cute phrase we use. It’s a full blown syndrome discussed in the medical community. While I definitely don’t have an MD, I am a small business owner and more than likely, I can relate to how you’re feeling. So, without further ado, let’s talk about how to avoid burnout as a creative entrepreneur.
What is Entrepreneurial Burnout?
If my descriptions of needing extra coffee and lacking motivation isn’t making it clear, let’s get technical. Burnout is essentially complete exhaustion – mentally, physically, and emotionally.
It’s what many refer to as having an empty cup. It’s feeling tired, overwhelmed by everything you need to do, and completely unmotivated to do any of it. Long story short, it’s not a fun place to be. And it’s not an easy state to describe, but if you’ve ever felt anything like what I’m describing, you get it.
What is the Main Cause of Burnout?
In my opinion, a big source of burnout for business owners is our culture. We live in a world where you can get almost anything either instantly (or in two days). While they may be convenient when you’re out of toilet paper, it makes for a really exhausting expectation to keep up with.
The stress of being an entrepreneur is arguably more intense than it every has been due to technology. It used to be that shop owners could close their store, go home, and come back in the morning. Sure, they might get the occasional house call or evening work to get through…
But now, most of our businesses are literally in our pockets. Mixed with the feeling that we have to keep up with the instant gratification culture, we rarely get a chance to fully disconnect from social media or emails… especially when a new platform is debuting every 30 seconds.
And finally, because we can constantly check in on our “competitors” and others in our industry, it’s easy to feel behind. It’s easy to feel like we need to get back to work for the sake of working so we can keep up with the Joneses.
How Can Entrepreneurs Avoid Burnout?
If you’re in this stage of burnout wondering how you’ll be able to press on, I want to help. First, remember WHY you started. Half the battle is mental. The other half is strategic. Let’s dive into some tangible ways you can go from surviving to thriving.
Choose the Right Business
It’s probably a little late for this advice, but you still need to hear it. You can’t run a business you love around a lifestyle you hate.
If you’re considering starting a business, keep this at the forefront of your mind. If you don’t want to work weekends, becoming a wedding planner probably isn’t the gig for you.
Already have an established business? Ask yourself what aspects of it aren’t working with your lifestyle and pivot your offers to adapt. Let’s use that same example of not working weekends – can you tell I like the Monday through Thursday lifestyle?
If you’re a wedding photographer who loves what you do, but you’re getting tired of turning down weekend plans, shift gears. Can you start focusing on elopements? Can you raise your prices so you don’t have to take on as many clients?
There is always an answer if you look closely enough. Continuing down your current path, however, is not one of them.
This can feel scary, but ask yourself… are you going to be able to serve your clients better when you only take calls 9-5? Or when you’re laying on the floor exhausted and unenthused about your business?
Boundaries are HEALTHY and helpful. So, how do you set boundaries with your clients? Here are a few ideas:
- Create specific ways they can reach you. Want them to email? Tell them. This will keep you from feeling like you have to check 15 emails, your phone, your Instagram, etc.
- Set specific hours that you’ll be available and tell your clients. Any messages or calls received outside that timeframe will be addressed the next time you check into work.
- Be clear with all expectations from the get-go. As a coach, I’ve seen my business clients be hounded by their own clients about when work would be done.
- It’s not only a crappy feeling, it makes you feel constantly behind. Give them a super easy deadline you know you can beat from the onset and they’ll be wow-ed when they get their work “early.”
- And if you do run behind because of unforeseen circumstances, you have some buffer room.
Now that you’ve set boundaries with your clients, you have to have the discipline to stick to them. And even better, create some additional boundaries for yourself:
- Set app limits on your phone so you can’t just waste time scrolling. Doing this can make you feel like you’re working without any productivity to show for it.
- Decide which hours and days you’ll work and stick to it.
- If you work from home, choose a specific spot to work. This is psychologically proven to help your productivity and ability to relax when you’re done.
Automate What You Can
If you’re a solo entrepreneur, burnout is even more likely. You’re likely doing enough jobs to keep a team busy. So, to keep your sanity, you need to create systems and automations.
One of my favorite tools for myself and clients is Honeybook. It’s a CRM that allows you to streamline your client inquiry, sales, and booking process. Not only can it take over a dozen micro tasks you’re completing each day, it can also increase your sales.
If you use my link, you can not only get a free trial to see how life-changing it is, but you’ll get 50% off your first year. (In exchange, I’ll receive a small commission, but to be honest… I’ve been telling everyone about them even before this was true.)
It’s so easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing without even questioning if it’s right for your business. SPOILER ALERT: There is more than one way to succeed in entrepreneurship.
The key is finding the route that works for you and helps you avoid entrepreneurial burnout! So, before you take ANY action in your business, ask yourself why you’re doing it.
And the reason has to be better than “I need to create a reel for IG because this other girl I admire is doing it and she’s super successful.” Just stop. Here are some specific questions to ask yourself to see if it makes sense for YOU:
- Are my ideal clients spending time here?
- Is this strategy idea going to serve them?
- Am I making it clear how people can work with me and inviting them to do so?
Yep, it’s that easy. If you can’t answer all three, you’re likely overcomplicating it or hiding behind busy work. Busy work does not grow your business.
Wanna know the quickest way to burnout? Not getting results.
Charge for Profit
There is one phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it… “Charge what you’re worth.” *Shudders*
It’s complete BS. First off, you are inherently priceless. Secondly, it’s based on an arbitrary, emotional standard. Instead, you should charge for profit (and based on the results you provide).
If you’re making pennies and working your butt off, you’ll be bound for Burnout town in no time. If you charge profitably, you can also take on fewer clients, which gives you less to juggle. Ahhhh – what a wonderful place to be.
Perhaps the most obvious way to avoid burnout is to take breaks! We know it’ll help, but yet we have a tendency to just push through (as if that’s somehow more commendable).
Let me tell ya a little something… And remember, I’m not a doctor, so this is going to be put really simply. Studies show that spending 15-20 minutes walking (or even just basking) in nature can lower our stress hormone, cortisol.
Cortisol is what fuels our fight or flight response. (The response that helps us decide whether we’re going to run from the tiger in front of us or punch it in the face.) Notice how both of those responses are physical. That means there are no physiological resources left for you to think clearly.
Chances are, you aren’t running from a tiger. Instead, your problems and business require your brain to be functioning properly. So, how do you increase productivity, creativity, and get more work done in less time?
Take freaking breaks. Get up in the middle of the day and walk your dog. Stretch. Hula hoop. Take a bath. I don’t care. Just get outside!
Entrepreneur Burnout is Common
Lastly, I need you to know you’re not alone. I’m not sitting here on my high horse preaching to you. I’m in the trenches with you. I feel burnout every once in a while – more in the cold seasons, for sure!
If you are feeling run down, please remember that there’s nothing wrong with you. You just need to give yourself some space to fill that cup back up. And if getting more efficient and growing your business isn’t something you feel like you want to do alone anymore, I’d love to help.