Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
YouTuber Elle Mills was one of those people who did what she loved for a living. She fulfilled her dream of becoming a content creator, winning the Breakout Youtuber category at The Shorty Awards. But right after hitting 1M YouTube subscribers, she broke down. In her video ‘Burn Out At 19’ she said;
“I’ve started getting panic attacks, and it’s scaring me. I’m literally just waiting for me to hit my breaking point.”
Pause. If Elle was pursuing her passion how on earth did she end up here?
Many creators begin their entrepreneurial careers doing what they love. But the constant pressure to create, edit, and post for an audience — paired with the solitary nature of a creator’s work — can lead to creator burnout.
Creator burnout is painful, and looks different for everyone. Like a broken bone or a broken heart, it takes a while to heal. The goal is to take preventative measures to halt its onset before it happens.
Why creators burn out and break down
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not successfully been managed.”
In plain English, it’s exhaustion due to repeated stress from the workplace. But most creators don’t have an office (or a boss, for that matter). And if becoming a creator is the golden ticket to creativity and freedom, then why do 90% of content creators experience burnout?
There are a few very common reasons:
1. Creators juggle many roles. Content creation, project management, editing, marketing, self-promotion – most creators do it all on their own.
2. Producing content is a treadmill. Stepping off has consequences. Because platforms reward creators who post consistently, they’re often forced to pump out new content daily in order to compete.
3. Decision fatigue. There are currently over 160+ tools in the creator economy tech stack. It feels like every year there’s a new channel. Not to mention the constant emergency of new trends. Having a buffet of options for new income streams, apps, tasks, and content can be completely overwhelming.
5 ways full-time creators can avoid burnout
As author Jenny Moke said, “Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, which means you can’t cure it overnight.” One spa day or a mass-deleting email spree can’t unwind months (or even years!) of chronic stress.
Instead, it’s about employing the right processes and habits to protect yourself before it happens. Consider these strategies like daily vitamins or a helmet – they’re the preventative measures you take to avoid injury.
1. Set boundaries
Good boundaries protect your time, energy, and profit margins. What those boundaries are is totally up to you. Do you want no-call Fridays? Refuse to take on unpaid work in exchange for “exposure?” Find what’s important to you, and then stick to it.
For YouTuber Akta Vibes, it’s critical that the lines between ‘real life’ and ‘content life’ don’t blend. “I set clear boundaries for what’s content versus my life,” she says. “I never film my husband or the time spent with my family, and if I film when I’m out, it’s only for five minutes.”
2. Vacations are your best friend
Yes, plural. According to the American Psychological Association, out of those who take vacations…
- 68% see mood improvement
- 66% have increased energy
- 57% are less stressed
- 46% deliver higher quality work
All good stuff, but if it’s impossible to take a vacation right now, don’t sweat it. Start small with breaks throughout your workday. Entrepreneur Aurelius Tjin leaves his work desk – frequently. “I take breaks and don’t feel guilty about it. To perform at your best you need to make sure you’re in good shape mentally, physically, and emotionally. Find your thing and make it non-negotiable, because it can’t be all about work.”
3. Set up workflow automations. Boring but (very) rewarding.
Workflow automation sounds tedious but in the long run, it’ll prevent you from burning out by saving you heaps of time (and in turn, your sanity). Here are a few ideas for creators:
- Client onboarding processes. Are you a creator who works with clients? Have templates ready for project inquiries, proposals, and contracts.
- Media kits. If you’re up for speaking engagements and press releases, media kits are your BFF. Include your biography, headshot, and other promotional material so everything is ready to go.
- Text shortcuts. You know it’s important to interact with commenters to boost your content. But replying “Thank you so much!” a dozen times can be mind-numbing. Set up text shortcuts on your keyboard to be more efficient.
- Batch content. Create all your posts, stories, emails, and captions for the week in one chunk. Because let’s be honest – creating content every day is unsustainable.
4. Deep work
Burnout and hustle culture complement each other like candy and cavities. Hustle culture encourages work for the sake of, well, work. But padding long workdays with menial tasks like meetings or emails leaves you exhausted, distracted, and inefficient.
But if you prioritize deep work instead – two hours a day of uninterrupted focus time – you increase your chances of completing your most meaningful work. Time constraints not only make you more effective, but they help keep burnout at bay.
Freelance copywriter Cole Schafer sums up his deep work philosophy in one pithy sentence: “When I’m working well without burning out, I tend to have just one tab open on my computer at a time.”
5. Keep things realistic
People online share a lot of advice on how to become a successful creator. We’re told to publish every day if we want to develop a writing habit or to tweet 5-20 times per day to grow a Twitter account. Yeesh.
Blindly taking advice without considering one’s own needs can lead to stress, guilt, and of course, burnout.
Akta, for instance, takes advice with a grain of salt. “I keep things realistic and listen to my own needs and wants rather than listening to advice and thinking I have to do the same,” she mentions. “For example, I’ve heard that writing daily is how it becomes a habit, but for me I know mixing it up with editing, writing, and shooting works better.”
You know yourself best. If tweeting 20 times a day sounds like it would drive you up the wall, don’t go there. There are plenty of ways you can become a successful creator (that don’t include pumping out content like a machine).
Beating burnout for good
“The dream job.” “Hitting the lottery.” “It’s all I ever wanted.” These are some of the phrases used to describe becoming a successful creator. But many underestimate the challenges that come along with it.
If you’re feeling chronically tired, resentful, or incapable of creation, burnout might be catching up to you. It’s never too late to start implementing the right strategies to halt its onset.