Over the past few months, I decided to take a break. I disconnected – stopped taking on clients, logged off my business instagram, and basically went MIA from the rest of the world. It helped that as a global society we had been quite used to our own version of being hermits for months now. I had been saying it for months before that (just ask everyone around me). I had finally reached by “breaking point” where I was left dry — creatively and motivationally. In the year that was already doing the most, 2020, I found myself busier than ever. Granted, 2019 wasn’t much to compare to — I had just started my business and had quit my day job with zero clients – so 2019 wasn’t exactly poppin‘ in terms of work. But after working with a particular client with a sizable following, the pace of projects quickly picked up and I found myself feeling in over my head…
Somewhere midway to the later months of 2020, I could feel myself slipping creatively and productivity-wise. In the first few months after I had quit and was a fresh business owner, I was filled with boundless motivation and energy to work on my biz. It kept me up at night and woke me up in the morning, with ideas spilling out and the endless knowledge out there waiting to be learned. I signed up for all the webinars, put my name on all the course waitlists, and downloaded all the free resources (and some paid ones). I have Pinterest boards and bookmark folders and saved Facebook posts of all the things I needed to go back and learn or buy to learn. Of course, this is not a bad thing to be passionate and excited about your business and growing it – not at all. But it can easily and subtly turn into an unproductive habit.
It quickly started to feel like no matter how much I consumed, I never knew enough, was never going to learn it all and be good enough.
I wanted to master every possible area — my client process, my presentation templates, my social media, my design skills, skills I didn’t even need to know as a web designer (I still have hundreds of Skillshare videos saved on everything from surface pattern design to hand lettering to After Effects animation). I got lost in what I needed to know. Breaks are important to recharge, reevaluate, and see if the values or goals you had at the beginning are even the same ones you want now. If you never take a minute to stop, you can easily find yourself going down a road you don’t even want, need, or care about.
When you’re in the first few years of your business (heck, even if you’re several years in) it’s a scary thing to actively stop taking on work. Your business survival instincts tell you to take anything you can get it and be grateful. If someone is willing to work with you and pay, you better shut up, pocket that money, and be thankful. No matter how much you know in your gut that you’re tired and burnt out and losing steam, it feels counter intuitive to take a break from work to help your business. But taking that hiatus (from social media and from work) was one of the best things I ever did for my business and its long term sustainability. Here’s why:
From client work:
- It sounds simple, and it is: Your creative brain needs time to recharge. Breaks help to get re-inspired and keep the inspiration going (you can’t do your best work if you’re tired). When I was constantly seeing design inspiration everywhere, I started to become sick of it. It didn’t excite me anymore. In fact, it annoyed me. I had lost the joy of what I liked to do in the first place. This is when I knew it probably wasn’t doing me any favors to continue the same way.
- I gave myself time to work on a passion project which reignited feelings of excitement over using my brain in a creative way. It was a breathe of fresh air and a release of pressure to not necessarily have it tied to an external result or expectation. I told myself that it was a fun project/experiment. If it didn’t turn out “well”, or didn’t sell – if I ended up selling it, that was okay too. I would have still learned and gotten better at my craft. No harm done. (I had already accepted that I might be burning $ if that was the case, but I was willing to try because pushing through the burnout just didn’t feel productive for the business anyways.)
- I felt refreshed to show up for my clients and do the work again.
From social media:
- Comparison will only drain you 99% of the time. For how most of us consciously and subconsciously compare ourselves to others, it’s just unproductive – even if it somehow feels like constantly comparing yourself will make you better. I realized I was creating things for the sake of what I thought would do well on social media. If you can use social media in a healthy way and solely see it as a place to share your work or share value, that’s great. For me, it was a pit of unhealthy comparison and stress from the never-ending feed of content.
- Slowly, as my break from social media continued on, I stopped comparing myself and my own worth less.
- When I came back, I came back with a newfound sense of confidence in my own worth separate from my work and from me, the business owner.
- It became easier to separate creative work with selling. I had started to see everything I did through the lenses of: how can I be better at using this to promote myself or monetize? This is surefire way to fast-track your way to creative burnout – when the work you previously loved is no longer at all for you and only for others.
- Instead of feeling bad or bitter for the likes I didn’t get, I was grateful for people who found some value in my work. And that value wasn’t even from being the very best designer in the world that anyone has ever seen. It was just knowing more than my clients did on websites and web design. I could do that.
- It was freeing to LOSE eyes on you. If you fail spectacularly, oh well, you were doing it safely from your own little bubble.
If you’re in a situation where you can afford to, I highly recommend…even if for a few days. You don’t have to take a weeks or months-long break.