6 Ways Freelancers Can Be Happy And Productive Despite Burnout 

2021 has brought on many challenges in the world of work. Burnout and stress are reigning in it, with both salaried employees and independant workers feeling it. A recent global study has shown that the majority of 2,690 freelancers who participated in the research feel like work is taking over their lives.

Stress surprisingly does not affect freelancers’ happiness

What is more, althought the study reports that 65% of them are moderately or extremely stressful, 99% are still happy with freelancing. 45% revealed they would accept to work full-time if they are allowed flexibility and can earn the same amount of money. Perhaps other challenges would make them change their minds about working full-time for the same salary, such as not worrying about attracting and retaining clients.

Overworking affects health, but they manage to stay productive

41% of the surveyed freelancers reported they have at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep, but that they don’t see overworking affecting their physical and/or mental health.

And although staying productive when overworking was recognised as a challenge for many freelancers, only 1 in 10 noticed their productivity slump because of overworking.

New freelancers feel more stressed and less happy

The results also show that individuals who have been working as freelancers for only under a year feel more stressed out, while those who have been freelancing for more than five years have said they feel no stress working independently. They also revealed that they feel extremely happy about their work, almost without exceptions. In short, those who have been freelancing for a shorter amount of time feel more stressed and less happy than those who have been doing it for longer. This leads to the thinking that with time they will learn how to put up to the challenge and enjoy being their own bosses more.

But the key is to feel less stressed, more productive, and happy…

To feel more content with their life and maintain a good life-work balance, there are different things freelancers can do to feel more engaged with their work. Some of them include finding time to engage in physical activities outside of work, not taking up more clients and projects than they can manage, and also not taking clients who will not pay them enough for all their work. Likewise, it is important to take time off, make friends, and plan ahead for new assignments.

1.   Find time for physical activities

For freelancers who do not feel like they are “the sporty type” physical activity could include be 10 thousand steps a day, yoga, biking, jogging, swimming, and such. These activities burn calories, help with blood pressure, improve sleep, and help deal with stress.

2.   Do not take up more than you can do

Freelancers’ success is usually measured in the number of clients and projects that they have. This is similar in any business. However, it is crucial to realise that the only way to be truly successful is not to take up more work than one can manage and truly commit to. Otherwise, too many projects and clients translate to poorer results and reduced credibility.

3.   Take up clients who pay enough

Apart from committing only to the projects they deliver for, freelancers should not always settle for clients who will pay them less. Instead, they should focus on scoring clients over time that will pay more. This way, they won’t have to take up more clients than they can manage without causing stress. In the end, the point is to have fewer clients but earn more money and do quality work.

4.   Take time off work

No worker is a superhuman who can work non-stop without eventually having any consequences on their productivity, health, and life in general. Taking time away from any work activity will help one get the much needed rest and recharge. That way, working will be easier in the future. Otherwise, in the long run, workers will be overworking and will have to deal with burnout symptoms.

5.   Make friends

Besides removing clients who are toxic to freelancers, this is also necessary for other, more private areas in life. Being around negative people will usually make us have a negative outlook on things, as well. Instead, freelancers should build a positive network of friends and freelancers.

6.   Plan ahead

No time should be wasted. This is true for both the personal and professional life of every individual. Planning when to do work will help one make sure that no time is wasted. Instead, every period of the day should be dedicated to achieving something – whether it be starting or finishing a project, communicating with clients, having a nutritious lunch, going for a walk to clear the mind, or getting sleep to rest.


The feeling of happiness connected to freelancing possibly comes from the privilege to be one’s own boss, have work flexibility, and from having enough free time for a good work-life balance. After all, the study found that the large majority (78%) have enough free time, too, to spend with their families, friends, pursuing their hobbies, and more. Despite the challenges, it seems freelancing has more pros than cons, judging by the participants’ happiness.

Author: Mateja Vukomanovic, Senior Writer at OfficeNeedle

Photo credit:  Faizur Rehman on Unsplash

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