Behind The Scenes

How To Survive Business Burnout: A Personal Tale

Come autumn 2016 I finally realised I was experiencing business burnout.

I was strung out emotionally and every day felt like walking on a tight rope. One gust of wind and I’d surely lose balance and fall to my impending doom. If it sounds melodramatic, I assure you that’s how it felt.

Because I’d been burning the candle at both ends in my business.

I hadn’t taken a proper holiday where I didn’t have to think about work for over 18 months. I’d travelled plenty, but mainly for business and never with the intention of just switching off. My mind was constantly on my business.

Conventional wisdom will tell you to take a break at the point of figuring out you’re experiencing burnout.

The problem was… I realised I was experiencing burnout during one of my busiest periods. I was already running my new 6 week online course Facebook Mastery; working on some really interesting projects with clients and had two exciting yet imminent business trips to New York and Rome.

I had a holiday in sight, but it couldn’t come soon enough.

I didn’t have any other choice but to motor on. I couldn’t and wouldn’t let my clients down and I couldn’t just opt out of life until my holiday.

So, I kept going because sometimes that’s all you can do.

I did finally stop in November, and took my long awaited holiday to Thailand. It was everything I needed – a complete change of scenery, true time out from business and lots of opportunity to sleep, rest and recoup.

And over Christmas, I continued to let myself unwind and relax and spend time with friends and family, not letting work dominate my thoughts.

Too Much Information?

I’ve questioned whether this is TMI and should be shared on my blog but my clients know I am in the arena with them when it comes to business. I’m not interested in pretending my life and biz are rosier or better than yours just to make you feel bad and sell you stuff.

I’d much rather be honest and tell you that:

  • Sometimes this self-employed stuff is HARD.
  • Sometimes you want to throw in the towel.
  • Sometimes you get mad at yourself for not being able to stop thinking about business.
  • Sometimes you wonder if getting a job would actually be easier.
  • Sometimes you forget to give yourself a proper break.
  • Sometimes you just want someone to call up and tell you you’ve won the lottery and can go live on an island and paint every day.

You’re not alone in feeling like this sometimes.

I also wanted to share my business burnout experience with you because if you care about your business and are actively growing it and pouring all your energy into it, you’re at risk of burning out like I did. Maybe you’re already there.

And if you are at risk, or you’re already there, then maybe some of the lessons I’ve learnt below personally will help.

How to Avoid Business Burnout

How To Survive Business Burnout

1. Accept where you are, even if you can’t change it immediately

I was in denial for quite a while, even though the signs of burnout were there. I eventually figured it out and whilst I couldn’t change anything immediately I could accept that this was were I was. Giving the feeling of being rung out and on edge a label was helpful.

2. Make a plan for true time off

Even if you can’t take time off from your business right away, schedule it in for as soon as possible

I luckily had a 3 week holiday coming up, so could keep focusing on that. Knowing it’s coming helps you get through.

And make sure it’s true time off. Turn off the phone, the email, the social media apps and notifications. Allow yourself time to sleep, rest and be with yourself or loved ones completely. Tell yourself it’s actually good business practice (it is!) and you’ll be more productive and focused when you return (you will be).

3. Reduce your commitments

Cut out anything that isn’t essential when it comes to your personal and business commitments. Give the energy you do have left to your clients and the most important activities. Everything else can be put aside for now.

4. Try to forgive yourself, you’re only human

If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel crappy about the fact that you’ve got yourself to this point. But beating yourself up for being burnt out isn’t going to change much. Try and forgive yourself, look for the lesson and acknowledge that you’re human. You can do anything, but not everything.

5. Plan time out in the future

This was the biggest lesson for me. The main reason I got to the point of burn out was because I hadn’t taken proper time off for over a year. So, over the Christmas break Tim and I got out our diaries and scheduled time out for 2017. Long weekends, holidays and breaks. I also threw in a weekday “day off” every month to do whatever I please away from business. (This month, I’m going to go and help look after little hoglets at a local animal shelter!)

If you’re experiencing burn out, or feeling like you’re edging closer to it, I want to finally say this:

It’ll be ok and it doesn’t mean you’re a crap business person. And, there’s light on the other side, just give yourself the break you really need as soon as you possible can.

Experienced Business Burnout? Join The Conversation:

  • If you’re struggling with burnout, when exactly can you give yourself time out?
  • If you’ve experienced business burnout, what helped you most?
  • Know someone who’s struggling right now? How can you help them?

Leave a comment below with your answers.

Award Winning Social Media Trainer, No Less!

Today is a very good day in my world because I can proudly say I am an award winning social media trainer! AI Influential Businesswoman Awards have awarded me ‘Best Female Social Media Trainer’ for the West Sussex area!

award winning social media trainer

I am delighted and want to say a huge thank you to whoever nominated me (it’s against their terms to release nominator’s details, unfortunately). I also want to take this moment to say a huge thank you to all my clients. I really do feel incredibly lucky to work with such a breadth of inspiring business people across a whole range of industries.

I love my job!

It wasn’t that long ago that I could say that.

Some of you will know that I used to work in London, and that my last job really took it out of me. I was working for a social enterprise / startup company in Silicon Roundabout, trying to help the older generations integrate with the younger generations by passing on skills through workshops.

I was their social media / marketing manager and pretty much got stuck in doing everything – from events planning, marketing, sales, customer service, graphic design, UX planning, admin, team management etc. We were a small team, with a high turnover of staff, and it was all hands to the deck, every day.

It was tough.

I was commuting 2 hours each way every day from my home in Midhurst, West Sussex to North London. I was trying so hard to enjoy and thrive in a job and environment that just wasn’t a good fit for me. It was very different to my previous job as a social media account manager at a digital agency.

I was tired all of the time. Sleeping on the train journey each way, napping in the evenings and at the weekends too, just to have enough energy to work. The hours were long, and the stress of working for a startup (where the money was always running out) was taking its toll.

Initially, I looked for another job.

I desperately wanted out of London and to ditch the commute, so I started job hunting locally. A few good opportunities came up and I had some success at interviews – reaching 2nd and 3rd stages. Each time though, someone seemed to pip me to the post who had just a little bit more experience in that industry or field.

It knocked my confidence to be honest. That, and the pressure at work, my anxiety began to get a lot worse. I wasn’t looking after myself in body or mind and quite frankly, I was not the nicest person to be around.

The Idea To Go Freelance…

One benefit of working where I did was that I was surrounded by lots of freelancers who were all running their own businesses and being contracted in for projects. I would pick their brains about how they set themselves up and found work, and was probably that annoying nosey person at lunch asking all the questions!

I am so thankful for their patience and generosity. 2 people in particular made a big impression on me and were incredibly supportive. Gary and Katie, thank you.

My curiosity was piqued, and the seed was planted in my mind. Maybe I could do this for myself? Maybe I could freelance as a social media consultant and trainer?

“Rock Bottom Is The Foundation On Which I Built My Life” – JK Rowling

It took a few more months of job searching and dragging myself to work until I finally snapped. I was out to dinner with a friend (incidentally, the girl who had hired me for my job but since left the company) and she asked me (after quite a lot of moaning) “why are you still there Jen?”

I couldn’t answer her. I didn’t have a valid argument anymore.

It was at that point I made the decision to hand in my notice and take the leap.

It was terrifying, but I felt like such a weight had lifted from me. I remember going home to Tim and telling him I was going to quit my job tomorrow. I feared he’d try and talk me out of it, but he just said “finally!”

And so, Jen Smith Social Media began.

A month later and I found myself sat in my spare room at home, self-employed. I was fortunate that my employer paid me to do some work for them to help the transition of me leaving. And, I had emailed everyone I knew asking if they knew anyone I could help and began to pick up my first few clients.

From there, things took off!

But it hasn’t always been easy.

Sometimes being self-employed is really hard. Harder than being employed. Especially those quiet months where no matter what you do, how much marketing and networking you do, the work just doesn’t come in. Those months are hard. You have to persist. You have to keep praying and working and hoping that it’s just a short spell and it’ll pick up soon. You have to hold on because the fear of going back to being employed is far greater than the fear of paying for your food shop on your credit card that month.

Persistence pays off…

But then you get months, like the one I’ve just had, where every client is an absolute dream to work with, enquiries are flowing, word of mouth is bringing people to me consistently and the results my clients are getting are phenomenal.

And, I’ve earned the most I’ve earned in one month so far, without it feeling like ‘work’. I guess that’s what my Dad meant when he told me the hard work would pay off.

Thank You.

To my clients, readers, friends and family… thank you for sticking by me. Thank you for cheering me on, especially in those moments where I doubted myself.

I count myself incredibly lucky and long may doing work I love, with people I love, continue…



6 iPhone Apps I Cannot Live Without

6 iPhone Apps I cannot live without

I love my iPhone. It’s always by my side, connects me to the world and fits in my pocket and handbag. It allows me to seek inspiration, create and be creative and take photos of the little moments of joy in my life – something I’ve been focusing on more recently.

It also helps me grow my business – as I’m able to connect with my ideal customers and share my content on the fly.

But, before I get into a rambling love letter about my iPhone (“oh iPhone, oh iPhone, where for art thou iPhone…?”) I want to share with you the 6 iPhone apps I cannot live without for my life and business. (more…)