Burnout Is A B*tch

I was a machine when I first started freelancing. Fresh out of design school and living in my childhood bedroom, I worked 12 hour days, everyday, in order to make ends meet and prove that I could successfully run a business. But those days weren’t filled with a plethora of clients or money. It was more of a boots on the ground situation, where I spent the majority of my time marketing, networking, and doing everything I could to put myself out there. And it worked.

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Please note: This post was originally published in the Rowan Made newsletter on November 30th, 2016. If you like what you see, you can join us every week right here. There are no opt-in promises or fancy worksheets on the other side. Just me, being honest with you.

But would I do it again? Yes and no. The working environment I established for myself from the get go was absolutely unhealthy. I charged far too little (ie: $150 for my first logo, and slowly up from there), worked too much, and was taken advantage of more times than I can even remember.

The harsh reality, however, is that I also believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of those hard lessons. At the time, I didn’t have any past experiences that I could tap into and was forced to do a lot of discovery on my own. Trial and error were my friends and “fake it ‘til you make it” was my approach. Because of this, I have a much better handle on my worth as a creative and know how to set firm boundaries with each and every client I work with.

But where I’m at now is not what this letter is about. It’s called “burnout is a b*tch” for a reason, so let’s go there.

As I mentioned above, my early days as a freelancer were excruciatingly long. But I made it through and was starting to reap the benefits of all that hard work. My process was refined, clients were rolling in, and I was finally making enough money to continue on.

I lived in this dreamy state for about 6 months before I was blindsided by burnout. I still remember the day everything changed. I was sitting at my desk, when a sharp pain creeped up from the top of my back to the base of my neck. I thought it would simply go away, so I continued to work normally. But months later, I couldn’t even make it 5 minutes into my work day before laying flat on the floor, crying in pain. I honestly thought that my job was killing me and didn’t understand why.

Looking back, I had allowed burnout to manifest itself into my life through old habits. Sure, I was working less. But it wasn’t enough. I got sucked into success and took on far too much work for one person to handle, squeezing it all into an 8 hour day. This kind of environment isn’t sustainable by any means, but I didn’t realize it until my body was literally screaming at me to stop.

That was two years ago. And as I write this letter to you, I’m still recovering. Everything is manageable and I’m no longer burnt out, but it’s taken a lot of purposeful change to get here. I’ll be talking more about that next week, but for now, I want you to know this:

Wellness is infinitely more important than success.

Because if you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you expect to take care of others? This, my friends, is the single biggest lesson I’ve learned not only in my business, but in my personal life as well. So remember ... be kind to yourself. ♡

Please note: This post was originally published in the Rowan Made newsletter on November 30th, 2016. If you like what you see, you can join us every week right here. There are no opt-in promises or fancy worksheets on the other side. Just me, being honest with you.