Burnout is hardly a brand new phenomenon, but it is an issue that has been exacerbated by the self-led opportunities of the online economy. Because we’re practically all connected to the Internet at any given time and the startup costs for an online business are practically nil, anyone can do it. Or at least anyone can try to do it.
It can cost almost nothing to start a blog, get into affiliate marketing for the first time, or launch a YouTube channel. And the potential upside is theoretically limitless. With one viral pot, you could hit the proverbial jackpot and be showered with fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams. Except when you’re working for yourself like this, rather than clocking in the hours at a traditional job at a traditional company, you’re never really off the clock.
There’s always something you could do to grow your business. You could be spending time on keyword research. You could be writing another blog post. And in the case of something like the YouTube algorithm, you feel like you must be creating brand new content constantly and consistently if you want to stay in their good graces. This has led to a growing problem among burgeoning YouTube superstars.
They’re burning out. YouTuber Matt Lees said that the “the most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak.” The Telegraph’s Mark Molloy points out that “creators are feeling burnt out from the pressures of chasing hits and entertaining an endlessly demanding audience.” Elle Mills exploded onto the scene and proclaimed that “this is all [she] ever wanted” and yet her “anxiety and depression keeps getting worse and worse.”
She’s 19. Or at least she was at the time she posted the video about her experience with burnout.
As a result, people have said that YouTube is failing its creators when it comes to combating this so-called “burnout crisis.”
This problem is certainly not restricted only to YouTubers either. If you want to have a successful blog, one of the major tenets to success is that you need to be publishing regularly and consistently. It doesn’t do you any favors if you write a flurry of content that floods your blog for a few days, only to leave it with tumbleweeds for weeks to follow. You need fresh content. All the time. It never ends.
And you need to engage with your audience on your blog and on social media too. There is this constant pressure and sense of obligation, because you feel like if you ever slow down, this house of cards will come crumbling down and you won’t be able to do anything with the broken pieces. The gravy train will have departed the station. At least, that’s the fear. And it is a legitimate one.
See that guy there? He looks like a guy with drive and ambition and motivation. He’s a hustler, an archetype that we’ve come to worship among modern professionals. He’s the guy who is willing to put in the extra hours and run that extra mile to get the job done.
And if he’s happy doing all that work, if he’s happy putting in all that extra work, then he’s certainly a very busy guy. But he’s not burnt out. Just because you are very busy, doing whatever it is that you do, doesn’t mean that you are burning out. If you get up each morning and you’re still highly motivated to do the thing, if you’re still highly engaged with the task at hand, you’re not burnt out.
Contrast that experience with someone like this.
Maybe you once enjoyed posting daily videos to YouTube. Maybe that deluge of views and likes and comments sent a rush of endorphins through your brain, welling you up with happy thoughts and feelings that would push you through to do it all over again, day after day, every day.
But at some point, that thing that was fun and rewarding just becomes another frustrating obligation. You don’t want to get up in the morning to do the thing. You feel like you have to do it, rather than you want to do it. And even though you feel like you have to do it, it’s hard to muster up the energy and focus to do it, whether it’s a new video, a new blog post, a new affiliate marketing campaign creative, or whatever else.
I get it. Everyone has their days and we are extremely fortunate to make a living on the Internet doing the thing that we love. But if those hard days really start to outnumber the good, if you’re beyond busy and you just feel like curling up in a ball in the corner and giving up, that’s burnout.
Is the answer to take a break? Maybe. Perhaps a better answer is figuring out you can remove yourself from the equation altogether, scaling your online business so it can run with or without you. Maybe the answer is finding a way to achieve the dot com lifestyle. Maybe.