The Art of Working Freelance Without Burning Out

There is this podcast thing available "The Art Of Freelancing" from Noah Bradley, which I found interesting
when it came out and recently I finally decided to get a copy, and took a listen - and here´s my conclusion:

For anyone starting out cluelessly into the business, this is a definite recommendation - as it really is covering all the topics that are genuinely skipped in art school.

However, I also wish I had found out about that 10 years ago because now, working successful as a freelancer myself, there´s nothing really new to me and nothing I would not have found on the net by doing my own research.

So my only advice is that this seminar is really only for someone who just graduated from college, starts out doing the freelance thing and want all the information in a nutshell. For those, the price is justified and you have tons of information=worth it!

Then there is a huge topic he only does address in 5 minutes, which is; how to avoid burnout doing all this? Vacation and putting the fun back into work is really all you get as an advice, a pity.

This is where I found something to address my blog and eventually a similar podcast-seminar towards, in the future.

Why I´m in a position to talk about how to prevent burnout through freelancing

When I was 25, I was diagnosed with  hypertension and got ridiculous amounts of Betablockers plus some other medication - at a resting heart rate of 100+ this was necessary - no question. However at that time, I had a contracting temporary work and was doing the art stuff and study besides. Diagnosing "negative stress" as a reason for this doesn´t satisfy any doctor, but in reality it was just that. When I took the plunge into freelance some 5 years ago (at the age of 30), I was in the midst of abandoning the meds because I don´t wanted to suffer from diabetes which is the straightforward sideffect of taking lifelong hypertension drugs.
with 31 I finally abandoned the medication while knee-deep in freelance work (positive stress) and till the date my blood pressure is perfect, my resting heart rates are at 65-70 and I firmly believe that being chronically unemployed accompanied by positive stress has helped me to overcome this disease and to get rid of the poor medication.

Today I´m more calm than ever, even when I have no commissioned project on my plate, I use the time to work on my own projects. No I don´t try to get buddy-buddy with art directors to get jobs, they get to me when the time is right.

Also until today I never ever had a client not pay my bill, never. Noah also states the same, but the obvious difference is that I know the reason and I can explain it - it´s not just luck, it takes a bit more than that - a good marketing approach using authentic marketing is just one of the key factors of getting the right clients.

Another point he misses in the "Art of Freelancing" seminar is the power of licensing images, contracting and working on commissions is perfectly covered, but what about the work you do for yourself? Licensing is a viable option and I´m stunned it is not covered.

It doesn´t take a special person, but a special environment

At first I thought it takes a special person to be able to deal with all that freelancing stuff, that I´m possibly one of the few that have these abilities built-in, but that´s not true. What is true is, that some of us are simply in the wrong working positions at a specific time of their life, which is what makes us ill, working in a factory and doing temporary work on a regular income was specifically what made me ill.

But exactly like a Penguin, which might look pity for other birds with its poor wings and no feathers at all, seing a penguin swim makes you aware that it IS the environment that has to be right in order for us to succeed and appreciate what we are and what we can do!

If you live your life long against your inner desire, you´ll for sure burn out regardless of what you do, I know of some people diagnosed with burnout from a 9-to-5 job, and I see this more and more. If you are able to point out, what you want and what not, you are one step closer.

It is true that it takes a toll, you´ll need to be able to work all day alone in solitude, find ways to stay selfmotivated and inspired 24/7. But it is manageable and I´m proof that it is possible to have a lot of fun doing that.

Get your question answered
I thank about doing a course on that specific topics that starts exactly where "The Art of Freelancing" stops. The course would be aimed towards those in the business who are established but want to stay in it and sane by doing so. You could benefit from my own distilled experience of dealing with this. It´d be interesting to see some comments about it from you.

Please, let me know your questions about that topic, questions that would you want to have covered in such a course. This is your chance to get a mandatory instruction and your question answered as well.
(I´ll answer here in the comments too)
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Hey, thanks for your angle on this! I'm not an established illustrator of course (not yet, hopefully), but I would be very interested in such a course. Especially concerning the questions you already stated - how do you not burn out? How to keep motivated and inspired? (I'm working 9-to-5, school on the side, some personal projects going on, personal live etc. etc. So the question comes up quite often).
    On the side, another topic you mentioned that sounds interesting is licensing images. How is it done? What makes sense and what doesn't?

    So if you ever make such a course, let me know. :)

    1. Hi Britta ;), thanks for the comment! I´m n the process of jotting down the outlines of this coaching session and will keep you updated.

      Just some quick answers for now: The first single advice to "not burn out" is to feel comfortable. Anxiety of a new job or exhibition or anything aside -the base feeling should be comfortable. If there is anything that doesn´t feel quite right or according to your definition of comfortable; kick it. It seems easy, but there are a lot dependencies in our everyday lives that make it difficult to distinguish necessary from overload. Kill the overload. Time-management is another big factor, Randy Pausch has an extraordinary lecture on Youtube about it, just google "Randy Pausch - time management". Staying motivated is another major point I will address in that course - if it happens to see the light of the day. For now I can say it helps to see your art career not just like a straight-forward laid out path that you have to follow, creating branches and subbranches of just like a tree is the only way to breathe while maintaining to support the whole stem. Seing the branches as goals and sub-goals can help too. Licensing is a huge topic and I think it could be a course on it´s own, however it is a viable option to generate a sidestream of income and thus lessen the stress which means more time to focus on the important stuff. I just give some hints for now: I don´t trust stock sites, and the rights managed by you are rights managed by yourself. Hope this makes sense somehow, cheers

    2. Hey,
      thanks for your reply! I think I can add a thing to the "if it's not comfortable, kick it"-approach: If you can't kick it, learn to accept it (sounds totally zen-like, but anyway).
      Part of my story of "burning out" was a demanding and draining full time job with no option of kicking it (I needed the money and it's kinda hard to get another job in my field these days - I'm working in PR). Plus an urgent need to be creative. What to do? I couldn't kick any of those two. Last year, that resulted in 24/7 being on the edge and something like heart arrhythmia. So I had to arrange or suffer a nervous breakdown. And accepting it all worked out for me - yes, my job is stressful, yes, I am not making progress with illustration as fast as I want, but so be it. :) I guess that's something like the "not straightforward approach" you're talking about...

      Long story short, thanks for your advice, I'm looking forward to your course and I will look into Randy Pausch's time management. And please let's talk eventually some more about the licensing issue. :)

    3. Anytime! I understand, so there are only these two options: accepting, like you mentioned but this has to be accompanied by a daily agreement or autosuggestion. If you truly ask yourself if you want to do what you do, you´ll come up with the answer yes sooner or later because there is no one else to blame. To deal better with this, I highly recommend Jens Corssens book "Der Selbst-entwickler". The other option (the kicking approach) comes from a chinese proverb: If you can´t solve a problem, turn away from the problem. I think both approaches have their rights to exist.

      I think I will get to write a post about the licensing options anytime soon. The course may take a while, gathering information, distilling, there´s a lot to do ;)




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