How to Cope With Burnout as a Freelance Digital Business Manager + Tips to Prevent Burnout

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Brunout as a digital business manager

Are you working as a full-time Virtual Assistant, Digital Business Manager, or Freelancer for way too many clients, without taking any proper time off, having very few boundaries, often working on weekends, evenings, checking your phone, and slack all the time – feeling completely exhausted?

You’re left Unmotivated. Exhausted. Frustrated.

Do you lie in bed for a really long time in the mornings just trying to avoid your laptop?

Are you someone who takes a lot of pride in productivity and work ethic – and suddenly, that’s gone? 

Coping with burnout is an important topic to talk about because we don’t want to just help you become a successful freelancer or digital business manager – we want to help you create a SUSTAINABLE long-term career.

And working so hard you burn yourself out is not… a healthy approach in any way to you, to your business, to the people around you. 

There is a RIGHT way to freelance where it’s sustainable and the most magical life decision you ever make for your freedom – but burning yourself out is NOT part of that agenda.

*Disclaimer – We are not medical professionals. If you are experiencing burnout or are currently burnt out, speak to a trained, medical health professional that can help you long-term with recovery. 

This is based on our own personal experience with burnout as freelance digital business managers.  

What Is Burnout?

“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.”

Quote from: HelpGuide.org

👉 You are exhausted. 

👉 You feel isolated and overwhelmed. 

👉 You are easily irritable. 

👉 You have these fantasies of escaping.

“I’m just going to close my laptop, never open it again, quit everything, and move to the middle of nowhere where there’s no internet.”

Burnout can feel like… 

No matter how much you want to do work because it is your routine, there’s a blockage – like a wall. 

You can try to force yourself to sit down and do some work but after a short time, you struggle to continue or focus.

Every task feels like the biggest mountain and your inner voice is not talking kindly to you.

And it feeds into this weird cycle of not being able to do as much as you want, then feeling demotivated because nothing would get done, then not doing any work, then being demotivated at lack of progress, and so on.

cycle of burnout at work

9 Pre Burnout Symptoms as a Digital Business Manager

Alright – so here are some pre-burnout symptoms and stages according to the interwebs once again.

 1. Excessive ambition/drive

Ambition and drive are good in healthy doses but if you’re over-exerting for EVERY single project or task, putting tons of pressure on yourself to constantly do more and work harder than everyone else – it does lead to being excessive.

2. Ignoring your mental or physical needs

This means skipping meals, not taking breaks, not going outside, not hydrating properly, not seeing friends or family, not taking time for hobbies – when you stop doing things outside of work that you enjoy, you start to ignore your mental and physical needs.

3. Not making time for non-work related things

Do you have hobbies? 

Hobby? What’s that? I don’t know her.

Hobbies are a healthy way to find balance and decompress, and to find worth in things outside of work.

4. Denial

Do you feel like, this is fine? This is fine. Everything was on fire but… this is fine.

burnout gif

5. Withdrawal

6. Behavioral changes 

Irritable much?

Do the smallest things feel like the biggest things?

7. Detachment, anxiety, and emptiness

8. Depression

9. Mental or physical collapse

Is Burnout The Same as Stressed Out?

There is a line between “I’m just stressed” vs “I might be burnt out.”  

So thank you, again, to the internet for this based on Dr. Craig D.’s research.

Stress is you are working too hard – burnout is, it’s hard to work hard for whatever reason.

Stress is you are riding that emotional wave but burnout is where your emotions feel less sharp.

It feels really dull and almost like you’re numbed to it.

When you’re stressed you’re anxious and moving fast.

When you’re burnt out you feel perpetually depleted and a little helpless.

When you’re stressed you may have less energy but when you’re burnt out you have less motivation.

Why Is It Important to Avoid Burnout

Burnout is detrimental to your physical or mental health, it interferes with everything – your professional and personal relationships drain your energy, and harm your ability to cope and work.

That’s not what we’re about – we don’t want to work ourselves into burnout just for the sake of making an extra dollar or pleasing other people.

We want to create happy, sustainable, joy-filled careers where we feel on average satisfied and excited about our work.

We may not always love our work, but we like it most of the time.

6 Tips for When You Feel You May Be Close to Burnout as a Freelancer

When you feel you may be close to burnout it’s time to put some systems in place, aka, checks, and balances to ensure you’re taking care of yourself so you can try to put a little halt to it.

This is obviously aside from seeking out a medical professionals help – that is what you should do if you’re noticing your symptoms are getting serious, or dire.

🚫 Tip #1: Set clear and defined boundaries immediately.

Boundaries are essentially rules you give yourself to protect yourself from your work bleeding into every aspect of your life and existence and taking it over. – (our short and sweet definition of boundaries)

So grab a pen and paper – and very importantly – WRITE DOWN YOUR BOUNDARIES and declare them to yourself.

→ When do you stop working?

→ When and how fast do you respond to messages?

→ What are acceptable and non-acceptable ways for clients to treat you?

Some examples you can implement include – don’t check emails on weekends. 

“Switch off” entirely & don’t even open your laptop on the weekends. 

Remove access to work emails from your phone.

Set reminders on Fridays in your calendar to “turn off” Tell your clients and take it seriously.

✌️Tip #2: Drop the toxic clients.

This one is hard. 

Scarcity mindset will tell you, ”yeah but what if you don’t find another client”.

In our experience after working with dozens of clients… a toxic client is NEVER worth ANY amount of money. 

They will destroy you and drain you to a point where it actually COSTS you money to work with them because they take up so much energy and space and then you have nothing left for other clients, or time and energy to find new clients.

If a client makes you feel awful, makes you anxious, makes you uncomfortable, is disrespectful, LET THEM GO.

📈 Tip #3: Consider your rates.

Do you maybe need to raise your rates so you can decrease your workload? 

What could that look like? 

Could you move from hourly to package or retainers based on deliverables, so that it’s less about the amount of time you’re working and more about the results?

Watch this video that breakdowns the different options you have for charging your freelance clients:

YouTube video

🏖Tip #4: Take serious time off.

This is a hard tip for some people, especially if you haven’t taken time off in a while – it’s hard to check out when your work is so close to you. 

Take PROPER time off.

By proper, we mean time off where you can be fully checked out.

Not the kind of ‘vacation’ where you bring your laptop and end up working every day from that beautiful tropical location.

It may seem fun and #digitalnomad but it’s not the same thing as REAL feet-up, mind-free, relaxing time off. 

Check out this video on how to get better at taking time off.

🧠 Tip #5 (Is probably the most important) – Check on your mindset and be aware of what’s going on.

Be kind to yourself.

You’re going through something hard – try your best not to shame or guilt-trip yourself.

Give yourself grace. 

Don’t go down the cycle of stress.

Society tells us if we’re not productive and don’t work ‘x hours a week’ or if we don’t climb that ‘ladder’ and make more money this year than last…we are failures. 

It’s not true. Those are not true whatsoever – we need to rework some of those preconceived notions.

Try reading books that support a healthy mindset and outlook on work.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving’ by Celeste Headlee – really breaks down where this all comes from – this need to do things all the time.

💰Tip #6: Build in safety nets.

Build-in safety nets mean – putting money into savings so if you actually do need to check out, you can.

Or, create passive income methods, if possible.

For example, Digital Business Manager Bootcamp, now a multiple 6-figure course, was partly born out of the idea of burnout.

The course creator was a full-time freelancer and thought to herself, “What if I can’t freelance one day? What if I’m incapable of working one day? What will I do.”

And now it has evolved into being her full-time work.

Think through what you can do to protect yourself – create a 3-month savings account, then a 6 month, then a 12-month account. 

And, explore passive income options – check out what services you could offer that would be your unique competitive advantage – ones where you can charge more, where the value is not tied to your time.

How to Do Your Best to Prevent Burnout as a Freelance Digital Business Manager

Most importantly in order to prevent burnout is to figure out what is actually sustainable for you long-term.

Here’s a quick exercise for you:

Take a moment, close your eyes and imagine you are a business owner with a TOP tier, INCREDIBLE, dream, unicorn star employee.

Someone amazing – they do everything in your business and your whole business depends on them to survive. 

Would you make this person work 40+ hours a week nonstop with no paid time off, knowing that that wasn’t sustainable for them and that at some point they would probably burn out? 

Or, would you sit down with them, ask them what they need, what’s important to them to recharge, and work in a way where they would feel good about it for the next 10, 20, 30 years? 

Society has drilled into us we need to work a minimum of 40 hours a week to be productive, cogs to the machine but… do we? Do we really need to be so productive we burn ourselves out?

There are more and more alternative ways to make a living nowadays.

As a freelance digital business manager for example, we have so much control over our schedule and pricing – we can make adjustments to make freelance life work for us long-term, for forever, really.

So map out what your ideal day looks like – what is a day you’ve had where you felt amazing at the end of it.

You felt like you really got a good amount of work done BUT you didn’t overwork yourself, you were still treating yourself well – you took care of yourself physically, mentally.

You felt socially recharged, personally recharged, you felt creative, at peace, joyful. 

Map out what that day looks like hour by hour and what the key ingredients to that day were. 

Then how can you work those ingredients into your daily life?

And I know money is important and we all need money to live – but burning yourself out and working in a way that’s not sustainable long-term is not only horrible mentally for the biggest asset in your business – you.

It’s also bad business and financial decision making.

How much money do you realistically need to make? 

We’re taught from a young age that our purpose in life is to work and consume, right? 

We work, then we take that money and we spend, spend, spend, and then we do the cycle again. 

One thing to think about is, can you spend less money so you work less? Can you consume less? 

What are you currently spending money on that you could cut from your life that really doesn’t fulfill you? 

Would cutting that expense be worth working a few hours less a week?

I know for some, it might mean keeping personal expenses super low so that you don’t ever have to depend on having to work 40 hours a week to survive.

And a lot of this is mindset work. , and it takes time.

Knowing that there is more to life than just your work is one thing but fully accepting it is another.

For many, who we are is our work – but that’s not healthy, and not sustainable.

burnout gif

You shouldn’t be entirely work. You shouldn’t be entirely anything, really.

You should have balance – so every part of you gets recharged.

It should be more – family, friends, work, hobbies, animals, food, etc.

Burnout gif
This takes time to accept and internalize because we often depend on our work to make us feel worthwhile – and coming to the point where we believe our self-worth is inherent, nobody can take it from us requires a process of unlearning.

It’s so important to work on that understanding and acceptance for yourself.

You are a unique person made up of many different wonderful parts – there is so much to who you are to explore.

We hope this was useful, if it was, let us know here👈.

Remember, you aren’t alone if you’re feeling symptoms of burnout. Ask for help ❤️.

If you are wondering what options are out there for a freelancer or virtual assistant that wants to work fewer hours in higher-paying roles then check out this free class on becoming a Digital Business Manager.

Want ALL the details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a DBM does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!

Want ALL the juicy details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a digital business manager does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!

What's in this post?

Want ALL the juicy details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a digital business manager does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!