Recognize and beat burnout in your side-hustle

We often see burnout as a symptom reserved for those who are working full-time. What if it can actually impact all of us in different ways as we pursue freelance work?
Recognize and beat burnout in your side-hustle

Hero image by Neosha Gardner

When we hear the word “burnout” we tend to associate it with working a full-time, insanely demanding job. Full-time freelance requires a level of dedication and hustle that can easily bring on feelings of exhaustion; so, it’s easy to believe that burnout is reserved for those who are grinding daily for 40+ hours a week. Have you ever wondered if you can experience burnout when you’re working part-time hours, or even less if your freelance work is just your side hustle? We believe you can. And that’s okay.

In my personal experience of working a full-time gig and doing portrait photography on the side I have been burnt-out. It’s hard to admit because of the expectation that you can only burnout if you’re grinding yourself into the ground, but it’s the reality. In this article I’d love to share what I’ve experienced as burnout when working part-time in freelance so that you can identify it in your own work before it swallows your love of freelance.


Dedicating time to finish a project became increasingly difficult for me as I moved closer and closer to being burnt out. The moment I was off the clock for my full-time job, my gut reaction was not to come home and spend a few hours editing photos or sending proposals to clients. Many times, I tended to put off projects for as long as possible so that I could use my free time to recover from other demands in my life. Did I still care about my photography? Absolutely! But I was exhausted from working a full day which means I didn’t have energy to pour into freelancing. 

Maybe you truly care about your freelance work, but the demands of life are draining your ability to be disciplined about completing projects on time or in a sustainable way. <tweet-link>When you lose passion for the work you do, choosing to not carve out time to complete said work can be a subconscious decision that is fueled by burn-out.<tweet-link> 

If you’re struggling with procrastination in this season of freelancing, we highly recommend digging deeper into the psychology of procrastination so you can better understand what you’re up against. 

Feeling directionless

It’s probably safe to assume that you got into freelance because you discovered that you have skills that can help you grow professionally, make more money, or make your work-life more fulfilling. You saw a path for yourself and decided to start spending a few hours turning your skills into a side-hustle or form of part-time work. That’s amazing! You deserve a congratulations for even starting down that path.

What many of us forget to think about is the fact that after we’ve started working on our freelance side-hustle, we can often feel lost or directionless, especially when burnout is lurking just around the corner. When burnout came for me, I started to question why I was even doing freelance photography. I wasn’t freelancing full-time so was it even worth it? Would I even make any meaningful progress doing it part-time? The more burnt-out I felt, the harder it became to see what direction I was going in my freelance work. This led to a lack of motivation and less desire to improve my skills and expand my client-base. 

If you’re feeling directionless in your work, know that you are not alone and remember that it could be a symptom of burnout. Instead of letting this feeling of lack of direction make you think you’re unsuccessful or truly lost, you can choose to let it be a reminder that you need to rediscover your creativity or even just remember your why

Struggling to remember your “why”

Speaking of remembering your why, when was the last time you thought about why you chose to freelance? When I was working in social work, one of the main practices that kept me going was intentionally refocusing on why I was working so hard for my clients. Sadly, this type of practice can become obscured by the cloud of burnout. Burnout can act as a fog that covers up why we do the work we do. If you have been having thoughts about giving up on freelance because you’re burnt out, it’s possible that you’ve forgotten or are struggling to remember why you chose to freelance in the first place. 

Maybe you freelance part-time because you need a creative outlet that also acts as a source of financial support. Maybe it’s because you care about making a positive impact for your clients.

<tweet-link>Each person reading this article chose to freelance for their own personal and unique reasons. Those reasons can help you refocus and combat burnout as you freelance part-time.<tweet-link> 

Lack of joy and increased irritation

The reality of any field of work is that burnout can reduce our levels of joy and increase our tendencies to feel irritated while working. What once was an exciting, new challenge, can become a frustrating burden that nags at us throughout the day. Connecting with my clients and learning their stories became less exciting to me and felt more draining than anything when I was burnt out. Maybe you’ve been feeling something similar.

Burnout weighs us down and has a negative impact on our ability to find joy in the work we do. It can even lead to feeling irritated about client requests or needs. If we can take the time to recognize when these feelings come up, we can actively work to identify that burnout is either in full swing, or just on the horizon. 

You’re feeling burnt out, so now what? 

If you’ve resonated with any of the above qualities of burnout, you might be feeling a bit intimidated or overwhelmed. That’s why I’m more than happy to share some tips that recently helped me beat burnout and could help you feel rejuvenated and renew your excitement about freelance work: 

  • Connect with your freelance community for resources and advice.
  • Celebrate ALL of your wins.
  • Start with some self-compassion.
  • Establish and protect your self-care routine.
  • Give yourself a break—It’s okay to take some time away from freelancing and come back when you’re ready.
Burnout does not discriminate.

Someone who spends 20 hours/week freelancing can experience burnout just as much as someone who freelances for 60 hours/week. When we accept the fact that burnout is a shared experience that is not dependent on the number of hours you work, we can actively nurture ourselves and engage in practices to avoid it. Looking for more strategies? Try these 7 insanely actionable self-care strategies.

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Marissa Morrow
Marissa Morrow
Marissa Morrow is a Colorado native who loves all things poetry, photography and music. Currently a full time staff member with Lighthouse Writers Workshop, Marissa spends her off time doing photoshoots with her husband for their photography business, Morrow Manor Photography, and hanging out with their two cats. Marissa has been writing ever since she was young and finds storytelling in the form of poetry and photography to be one of the best forms of therapy. As a former advocate for victims of domestic violence she is passionate about social justice issues, self-care, and inspiring others with her art.
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