To Earn More, Writers Need to Recharge — Fast

Avoid Freelance Writing Burnout I do a monthly “weigh-in” with my mentees, where we all talk about our goals and accomplishments for the month. One of my mentees noted this week that April was a slow month because “I spent the first two weeks of April recovering from being busy in March.”

Wait just a cotton-pickin’  minute there. Two weeks recovering? It is impossible to earn well if you need two weeks to get over it after you have a rush period.

As it happens, I had an insane rush the last two weeks of April. Two small-business clients needed four blogs apiece, another Web site needed a blog entry plus social-media links, I was blogging once or twice a day for BNET, plus three weekly blogs for a national magazine, and four fully reported articles were also due for various other clients. It was high-intensity, round-the-clock crazy. And if I let any deadlines slip, I might lose a client, or at the very least see thousands of income push into the next month. That latter is an insidious development I try to avoid as it always leads inevitably to lower annual earnings. Losing clients obviously I try to avoid as well!

I recovered from this deadline onslaught by taking all of Saturday off, as I always do. If I really want to recharge, I also don’t turn on the computer at all on Sunday…I think this time I might have just checked in for an hour or two. I garden, read to my kids, go for walks, cook, stretch, see friends. Then on Monday, I’m back at it.

I think a lot of new writers are coming into this field without ever having had to file on a regular basis. I filed four stories a week for more than six years at one point in my career, for instance. What that experience gave me is strong writing muscles. The more you research, write, and meet deadlines, the more you learn how to do it time-efficiently and without wiping yourself out. That ability to keep yourself healthy — and to bounce back, recover quickly, and be ready for more work — is key to upping your earnings.

No matter where you’ve started in writing and where you’re at now, you can think about how to make your writing work more sustainable. As you move up, you’ll get more difficult assignments, tougher editors, tighter deadlines. And you’ll need to be able to handle it all in stride and be ready for more next week.

What do you do to recharge after a big pile of writing assignments get filed? Leave a comment and share your tips.

Photo via Flickr user steve.ie

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7 comments on “To Earn More, Writers Need to Recharge — Fast
  1. Carol Tice says:

    Hi Katherine –

    I will definitely add that to my blog idea list! My premise when I started freelancing was that I wanted four weeks a year AT LEAST off, ideally six. Hasn’t happened the past couple years — working harder in the downturn to keep earning, definitely! — but my goal is to take my kids’ spring break, winter break and at least a week of summer as well, and in our district President’s weekend is 5 days, so try to be off there too. I find trying to work those school breaks is a nightmare, so I try to work ahead and take them as family time. I haven’t tried taking more than one week at a time though, as my husband’s schedule until recently wouldn’t accomodate it anyway. But definitely an interesting topic for the summer!

  2. Kudos for your observations on what REALLY generates a need for long recovery times, Brian. In my experience, the most exhausting (and dreaded) work days are those where my brain is always half on the next ten things to do–or where I’ve left on my automatic e-mail check and non-essential messages keep interrupting.

    Carol: This may be a subject for another post entirely, but how do you schedule longer vacations? Most experts I’ve read recommend at least two “completely off” weeks a year; some advocate as many as eight weeks.

  3. Carol, I love the photo you used for this post.

    Dave: Californication–best show ever.

    It could be that your mentee, Carol, is not recovering so much from the rush but from a rush done in a disorderly way. After nearly fifteen years of plenty of end-of-product-cycle crushes at Microsoft, I could always tell when the project had not been managed as efficiently as I would have liked—I was exhausted.

    Other projects that were just as crushing but better organized, I often felt tired but exhilerated at the end. A long weekend off would do the trick for restoration.

    That said, with my own biz, it never enters my mind to think about recovery. I try to manage my physical, mental, and emotional resources as I go along. Just as importantly, I REALLY pay attention to what I enjoy about freelancing and try to structure my work to do more of that. Then I carefully organize the things I don’t really like so I do them in a disciplined and efficient way.

  4. Dave Foxall says:

    In “Californication”, Hank Moody celebrates the end of a book with “whiskey, weed and Warren Zevon”. Now whiskey may not be your thing and far be it from me to promote the weed, but there’s something about putting on your favourite music and letting your ears provide the input after your fingers and eyes have been doing the work all week.

  5. Stacey Abler says:

    Two weeks to recover? Wow! When I’ve had a tough week, I do as you mentioned and turn off the computer. Actually, I make my husband hide my laptop from me so I can’t work during what should be my off hours.

  6. I recharge with some snuggle time with the hubby while we watch DVDs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer-my favorite TV show and unabashed addiction.

  7. Jenn Mattern says:

    “What do you do to recharge after a big pile of writing assignments get filed?”

    Have a stiff drink, watch a sappy movie or a good horror flick, sleep it off, and then get back to the grind.

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