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7 min read

How To Avoid Burnout: Business Owners Share Their Tips

I took to Twitter to ask advice from my awesome community of freelancers and small business owners about how to avoid burnout and it went viral (well in my definition of the word viral). 

It turns out that preventing burnout and putting the ‘free’ back in freelancer is kind of a big deal in 2020. A scary amount of respondees were learning from their own mistakes as they had suffered from burnout in the past. Make sure you’re not next by reading all these fantastic tips for self-care and doing your best work without it all getting too much.


Getting the basics in place 

“You must sleep!”

via @hannahlclark

Eat healthily.”

via @SavviLynnWrites


via @VictoriaCrumpet


Nevermind “Sorry”, “No” seems to be the hardest word

“Don’t be afraid to say no!”

via @mrichardswrites

“My biggest tip is to be firm and clear with clients about when *you* can get something done rather than letting them set the deadlines. This helps keep a sense of control over your work. Things are rarely as urgent as clients say they are.”

via @flickwild

“Turn more stuff down. I’m not very good at keeping to that one, but it definitely helps.”

via @websmyth

“There’s a tendency to make hay while the sun shines. Understandably, as we never know when the next job will roll in. But it’s not necessarily a great move long term, it can pile on the pressure and you might end up compromising on the quality of your work.”

via @words_person

“Learn when to say no, and when to sack a client – when the money is too little or stress too high, walk away.”

via @writeything

“Say no. Sometimes we say yes to things that aren’t right for us because it feels like our only chance. Then, later down the line, when the thing we said yes to is eating up our time and energy, stress levels rise and we become overwhelmed. Know your boundaries and stick to them.”

via @KickstartSophie

“If your gut’s telling you that a client or project isn’t a good fit or isn’t setting you up for success, trust it.”

via @NelkenCreative


Talking tactics

“I pop my phone in a drawer after work. Out of sight, out of mind.”

via @Andre_Spiteri

“I spend a lot of time in the wilderness, vacations are usually to spots where I can have an electronic detox (three-day rule). I try to lunch at a park.”

via @AnthonyPNW

“Have strict working times if you’re a freelancer. Use a desktop rather than a laptop to prevent working whilst chilling.”

via @FAC3UK

“Get showered and dressed. No work in bed or on the sofa. It makes a big difference to ergonomics and mental health: it’s very important to have a distinction between ‘this is where I work’ and ‘this is where I rest’. Take a lunch break (ideally outside). Set a time to stop working and stick to it when possible. Socialise with colleagues: celebrate wins and commiserate lows. Make your own content a priority too.”

via @EdCallowWrites

“Plan, structure, organise and know what works for you to avoid stress. Build in time to do those things that help you avoid stress and burnout such as time out, exercise and networking.”

via @nicolahconsult

“Setting up my own office was the number one turnaround point for my business. A decent office chair, desk, monitor and computer setup means I feel professional every day. Plus, my back couldn’t take any more sofa/laptop days!”

via @Annie_Writes_

“A little bit of yoga every day – even if it’s only a 10-minute sequence. It stops me hunching over my laptop, helps with creativity and makes me feel more calm and like “I’ve got this”.”

via @_juliagraham_

“Take email off your phone so that you are able to fully switch off when you’re not working. If you have time to plan ahead monthly this also helps reduce overwhelm for me.”

via @Kandu_Marketing

“Figure out what your burnout threshold is and arrange work to suit. Mine is about 6-8 weeks of working solid, so 27 years after school I still need half term 🙂 I aim to take at least a couple of days off at around that time, otherwise, it will take longer to bounce back.”

via @straygoat

“Learn to turn your wifi off. Don’t answer emails out of hours and don’t feel you have to answer everyone immediately.”

via @charli_says

“The best thing I ever did for myself was to maintain office hours. They’re on my email signature and in every client contract I give out, and I make clients aware that I won’t respond to messages outside of these hours, so I get proper rest time away from work.”

via @DragonAyres

“Take a lunch break and have a cut off time. It’s easy to keep going and going on work stuff, which wouldn’t happen in an office. Give yourself a “home time” and then do non-related work stuff once you’re done for the day.”

via @RoseC_Leic

“A little bit of yoga every day – even if it’s only a 10-minute sequence. It stops me hunching over my laptop, helps with creativity and makes me feel more calm and like “I’ve got this”.”


Putting the ‘free’ back into freelance

“Once a week, make time to enjoy being freelance. Take a lunchtime yoga class, run errands or finish early to meet a friend.”

via @sallymfoxwrites

“If your brain says no and deadlines allow, listen to your brain. Take a break (or the rest of the day off), do something fun or playful, and let your brain recharge. You’ll get the work done quicker and better if you don’t force it, and your brain will thank you for it.”

via @MegRFreelance

“I don’t feel pressured to start my working day at 9am. I’ll start closer to 11am and work later when everyone else has logged off! It gives me the morning to focus on ‘me things’ and chores, so that I can relax into work later in the day.

“I’d rather ‘work’ a longer day with more breaks in-between tasks to get things done at my own pace, than try to fit it all into an expected ‘workday’. If I need that afternoon snooze, I’ll take it and catch up on a task later in the evening!”

via @Annie_Writes_

“Stop trying to do everything yourself. There is this common belief that we have to wear many hats as a freelancer/small business owner. Why? Play to your strengths and outsource the rest! People are usually surprised at the affordability.”

via @matt_essam

“I like to take my mind off work or meeting deadlines. I take a shower or maybe take a walk. Music helps too. Or sometimes I just go out to a bar or an eatery and people watch.”

via @meetoluwafemi


For more advice and support…

@actionhappiness and @CharityComms have lots of mental health and wellbeing tips.”

From @flickwild

“There is a lot to be said for having a damn good support network of other freelancers/business owners. Get out there (on the internet or in a meetspace) and make friends.”

via @mattsibleycopy

“Make sure you build in some time to chat with supportive colleagues. You don’t have to leave the house to do it! I like to Skype with fellow translators. You could also participate in online communities like @LeapersCo.”

via @XBowXl8

How to stop freelance from killing you.

via @m1ke_ellis



So there you have it, there were lots of votes for exercising, taking time out and of course, learning to say “no”. Surround yourself with positive influences and role models and focus on prevention not cure. If it’s not making you happy then what is the point?

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Sophie Cross

Sophie Cross is a freelance writer and marketer specialising in business and travel. She is the editor for London Revealed magazine and her clients include Group and Merlin Entertainments.

Comments (1)

  1. commented on

    Hi Sophie & Informi the small business support specialists..

    Just to add to the great views. I enjoy doing the following when I am really busy and need to unwind.
    As the owner of a local tax accountant in Cardiff I can get very busy.

    Spending quality time with my kids and playing toys and games with them helps me to unwind
    Exercise, a walk at lunchtime and enjoying my surroundings all help.
    Sleeping early and trying to keep calm.
    If I ever do get angry walking away from situations and sitting down with a glass of water helps.
    Block time out in your week to do the things you enjoy.
    I work flexibly being the owner of an accountancy practice Yet I also work long hours, late and on Sats. So I always take time out to be with my family on a Sunday. I love Sundays.

    Above all pace the work delegate it to an assistant and take breaks in between lots of stress.
    And have a friend to talk to when you are worried as a shared worry relieves the stress.
    Don’t forget prayers & mindfulness & eating chocolate and meditating as well as reading a good book.
    Helping others, feeding the poor, feeding your friends and teaching others are also ways to unwind.

    Thanks for the lovely article

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