A month ago, I did a talk at WDC that I called ‘Professional Progression’. In the 15 minutes I was on stage1, I very openly talked about all the times I’ve screwed up over my career; letting clients down and making bad decisions. One person said to me:
It would be amazing if anyone hires you again.
It’s taken me a few weeks to realize it, but almost all the points I touched on stem from burnout. Without realising it. I’ve suffered from different weights of burnout, several times.
I’ve taken on too much work and had to bail on multiple projects all at once. I’ve suffered real insomnia and lost 7lbs in a week. I’ve finished projects much later than I anticipated. I even handed my notice in on a project (hoping I could manage the 2-week notice period) and had shaking hands opening the laptop to check emails from that client.
I know there’s people who’ve had it much worse than me, but it’s not good for anyone to suffer from.
Since I came to that realization that it was burnout, I’ve made a strong concious effort to make sure it doesn’t happen to me again.
As I write this, I have about 3 months of work booked in , and it’s all spread out quote nicely. There’s a few days between all projects.
In the past, I’d often tell the client I can start right away, but I know now that saying “I can start in 2 weeks” is usually not a deal-breaker. If the client really want me to work on it, they don’t mind waiting a little bit. If anything, it gives them time to tie up a few loose ends and make sure that what they send me is polished.
I’ve also started adding time to quotes for emails, phone calls, and meeting. No matter how awesome the client is, this stuff always happens, and is always required. I’d never account for this before, which led to slipped deadlines and me loosing money.
The notion of a 9-5 day is something I’ve thrown out the window – in-fact I threw it out a long time ago. When I started my company in May, I wanted to set new rates, and par of that was working out what a day is for me. That’s 6 hours.
I do 6 hours a day of actual work, and the rest of the time is taken up by whatever needs to happen. I don’t work those 6 hours in one lump either. I might do a couple hours in the morning, and then spend most of the normal working day messing around on something I want to do, like wash the car or play around in Sketch. I’ll then do a few more hours in the evening when I’m most productive.
I do answer phone calls, and reply emails shortly after I receive them, but I’m not sat at my desk for hours. People say that freelancing means being tied to the desk from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep.
I think everyone would like to work less, so I lowered my hours and upped my rates to compensate. For me, there’s absolutely no point working hard to have nice and see nice things if you can’t spend any time enjoying them? Balance.
That phrase is often thrown around, but I’ve learnt the value of it. It’s hugely beneficial to have something to work on that nobody is paying me for (…yet). It’s something I can sink your teeth into and motivate me to learn new things. I actually have a few passion projects on the go; the new Cross Stroke site which has gone through 4 design variations already, and an app I’d like to use for work, which I hope to turn into a paid-for service anyone like me can use.
The start of Cross Stroke was rough, but we live and learn, don’t we. I’ve learned, and now I’m gonna live.
It was meant to be around 45 minutes long. ↩