You start off full of excitement and energy. All you want to do is proofread, get more clients, and make more money. Every time your inbox pings with an email from a new client or a repeat job from an existing client, your heart sings. ?
But after a few years, you start to lose steam. You still love proofreading, but the shine has gone off it a bit. Sometimes you struggle to keep up with your workload. Maybe you find it difficult to balance your work and home life now that you work from home.
This is called burnout, my friend. #thestruggleisreal
Don’t worry! It happens to most of us at one point or another — whether it’s in the training stage or after years of working as a freelance proofreader.
Below I share some tips that’ll help you overcome burnout and bring the joy back into proofreading again.
Change the scenery
One of the main reasons most of us get into proofreading professionally is so we can work from home. So why am I about to tell you to work from outside your home?!
Working from home is awesome, but sometimes it’s also distracting. You sit down to work, and out of the corner of your eye, you spot a pile of laundry…
Or you’re trying to work, but your cat insists on sitting on your laptop. (It’s almost essential for proofreaders to have some kind of fluffy friend by their side as they work!)
Source: Cat Planet
Working from home doesn’t literally have to mean working inside your home. You can still be your own boss even if you’re working from a coffee shop, the library, or a coworking space. Find a space that’s free from distractions and allows you to concentrate on your work.
Expand your horizons
Do you feel bored? That’s okay! It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out to be a proofreader. Some people do find it repetitive to proofread the same kind of content over and over again. To inject some excitement into your work, try branching out into other types of content.
If you’re a transcript proofreader, why not add general proofreading to your service offering or vice versa?
If you usually proofread nonfiction books, why not proofread fiction books as well?
Proofreading a wide variety of content will help keep things fresh and interesting.
You could mix it up even more and add another service to your freelance business. Mo’ skills = mo’ money, people!
Y’all know I love proofreading. But I don’t think anyone should feel limited to just one skill. I used to feel like I was “just” a proofreader. But my love of proofreading led me to things I never thought possible. It’s a transferable skill that can open up so many doors and increase your earning potential.
Transcription is a fabulous and useful add-on to proofreading as excellent grammar and punctuation skills are necessary if you want to be a successful transcriptionist. And if you can both proofread and transcribe, you become a double-edged sword in the work-at-home world! My friend Janet is the queen of all things transcription. Here’s her advice on how to get started as a transcriptionist.
Writing is another service that proofreaders are often well suited to offer. Some of you may start a blog to help market your proofreading business (or just because you love to write). I started this blog to help grow my freelance business, but just a few years later, I’ve written more words than I can count — books, blog posts, online course content, social media posts… millions of words.
Starting your own blog isn’t the only way to break into writing. Companies hire freelance writers to keep their blogs loaded with fresh content. They don’t always have the time or writing skills to do it themselves. Other ways writers earn money are through ghostwriting, grant-writing, and self-publishing their own books.
The amount you can earn as a writer is limitless! Check out these interviews with women who are kicking some major butt with their writing businesses:
- Gina Horkey explains how she started her freelance writing business completely from scratch — and was able to quit her job in less than six months.
- Holly Johnson shares how she makes $200,000 a year as a freelance writer. (That’s not a typo, folks — she really earns that much from writing!)
- Yuwanda Black gives us the lowdown on how you can make serious cash by writing SEO articles.
Another way to use your word-nerd skills is to become a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant is someone that contracts with businesses or individuals to do work virtually that these businesses don’t have the desire or capacity to do themselves.
The types of tasks can vary greatly, from email or social media management to editing and formatting blog posts to customer service — the sky’s really the limit. Check out my interview with Gina Horkey to find out more about how you can become a virtual assistant.
Find balance in your work and family life
Many people want to work from home as a proofreader so they can spend more time with their families. This is especially true of people who have young kids. But kids need constant attention, which often leads to difficulty balancing work and family life.
Time and time again, students take to our student Facebook groups to ask for advice on how to deal with burnout from trying to balance working from home with their personal life or looking after their kids.
Here’s some of the awesome advice other students had to offer:
Learn your limits
After some time working as a freelance proofreader, you may want to reassess your work hours. What worked at the beginning may not be working for you anymore.
It’s important to learn when to say no! New graduates of my courses and inexperienced proofreaders worry about not having enough work, so they overextend themselves. But when you’ve been at it for a year or two, working nonstop can start to take its toll.
Once you’re established and have some regular clients or some stellar testimonials, it’s okay to turn some work down.
Graduate Ashlie agrees:
We all need a break sometimes. Ideally, you should take at least one full day off a week to recharge. When you take time off is completely up to you… you’re an independent freelancer after all! You can choose to stop working on weekends so you can spend more time with your family. Or you can choose to take a random day off during the week and run your errands when everyone else is at work.
One way you can get a break but still retain clients is to build up a list of reliable backups that you can recommend to your clients when you’re busy or you need a break. This is a win-win situation for everyone as Maria explains:
Don’t forget to charge an appropriate rate for your work! If your clients need you to work on the weekend, you can make it worth your while by charging a weekend rate or a rush rate. You’re worth it!
Automate some tasks
When your business starts to take off, you might experience some growing pains. It’s AWESOME when you have a steady stream of work coming in, but it often means that you have less time to look after the admin side of your business. And you might start getting stressed out about falling behind on this.
Take some of these tasks off your plate by automating them as much as possible.
- Set up an automated email response system so you don’t feel like you have to respond personally immediately. Your clients will receive an automated email so they’ll know you’ve received their email and will respond soon.
- Batch process admin work to save time. If you bundle similar tasks and take care of them all at the same time, you’ll save time because you’re not jumping from one task to another. For example, you could create and send all your invoices at the same time.
- Use scheduling tools like Tailwind, Buffer, and Hootsuite to automate your social media posts. If you regularly advertise your business on social media, you can automate your posts by using scheduling tools. Then you only need to spend a few hours a month setting up your social media schedule rather than spending time every day.
- Order your groceries online and get them delivered. Grocery shopping can be a huge time suck. If you add up the time it takes you to drive to the store, park, navigate through the store, stand in line at the checkout, and pack your groceries, you could be looking at one to two hours of lost time! Ordering online will reduce the amount of time you lose and will help you stick to your list. No more extra packets of cookies that weren’t on your list! You could also subscribe to Amazon Subscribe and Save to get products you use every day sent to you at regular intervals. This can work great for products like shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent, etc.
- If business is really booming, you could consider outsourcing to a virtual assistant. I’m all about this option! I currently have eight VAs helping me out with my business. Hiring a VA will allow you to free up your time to do what you love doing best — proofreading — instead of spending time on tasks you don’t like such as social media or invoicing. And you get to help out another freelancer by giving them business. Win-win!
Take care of yourself
It could be that all you need is a little break and some self-care.
We can’t always be “on” 24/7. Our bodies and minds need a break sometimes. Make sure you carve out some time each day to rest.
There are lots of things you can do to relax and unwind:
- Have a coffee
- Read a book
- Go for a walk
- Watch a TV show or film
- Have a bath
- Call a friend for a chat
- Play with your pets (my personal favorite!)
These are all super simple but highly effective ways to give yourself a break.
Prioritizing self-care is hugely important as it will help stop our bodies from rebelling and getting sick.
One of our graduates Crista advises: “You have to balance the parts of your life or your body will rebel and balance them for you somehow.”
Wise words, Crista!
Remember why you proofread
When burnout starts to take hold, try to remember why you proofread in the first place. Do you do it because you love grammar and finding typos? Because you love reading? Because you want to work from home?
We all have different reasons why we do it, but remembering your why will help you stay focused on your goal and overcome burnout.
We often feel guilty for complaining about our work-at-home jobs because this is what we wanted. It’s what we busted our butts to create, so we have no right to complain now, right? Wrong! Burnout is real and it hits most people at some stage. But if you implement some of the tips above, you’ll be able to bounce back in no time!
If you’ve struggled with burnout in the past, let us know in the comments how you got through it. If you want to be a part of our amazing PA student and graduate support groups, check out our free intro to proofreading workshop to learn how you can join the club!