For many creators, the job comes with a lot of perks. There’s the ability to monetize your passion, the freedom to create your own schedule, and the reward of having your work acknowledged and appreciated by fans. However, for many those perks come with a price: the enormous pressure to create compelling, original content on a schedule that can be so demanding it feels impossible to maintain.
Unfortunately, that need to stay ahead means that more and more creators are overworking and finding themselves completely burnt out as a result. Top YouTubers feel compelled to constantly make videos lest they are penalized by the algorithm. Reviewers of everything from cars to cosmetics feel the burden of having to be one of the first to post so they remain relevant. Even people who should have the flexibility to create on their own schedules (such as musicians, podcasters, and artists) feel the strain of needing to produce new material as often as possible in order to keep their audiences engaged.
All of this pressure is leading to stress and exhaustion, side effects most people didn’t anticipate when they decided to monetize their passion. And, as a result, more and more creators are starting to speak out about it.
Elle Mills, a YouTube star with nearly 1.6 million subscribers, posted a video entitled “Burnt Out at 19” in the spring of last year where she acknowledged that although her channel was more successful than ever, her anxiety and depression were getting worse.
That same month, Rubén “El Rubius” Gundersen, one of the most popular YouTubers in the world, said he’d “hit a wall” and needed to take a break from creating content. It wasn’t just that he was tired, he said he was sleeping worse and at times felt like he couldn’t even breathe.
We understand the pressures you experience as a content creator; that drive to create frequently, keep your audiences engaged on social media, and take care of all of the behind the scenes necessities, like editing, marketing, and business development. We also know it can lead to a perfect storm that’s intense, stressful, and ultimately lead to burnout.
Giving yourself permission to put yourself first and prioritize your mental health can be a challenge. Recently, we spoke to creators who generously shared their own experiences, and came up with a few things we hope you can do to try to make it a little easier.
Allow yourself to prize quality over quantity
Chelsea Schwartz, the founder of High Voltage, the ultimate fan destination for any fandom, admits she deals with burn out often. “I probably experience it on a weekly basis,” she says, but adds that she manages that by being a proponent of quality over quantity and not forcing herself to create just to put new content out there.
“You won’t see 17 articles a day going up on High Voltage and our podcast might not make it out weekly because I want to know that what we are doing is worthwhile and will be of value to people when they hear it or see it or read it.”
Ultimately, producing great content instead of content for content’s sake shows your audience that you respect them and their **time. Because of that, they’ll trust you as a creator. Nothing breeds loyalty like trust, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Accept that you won’t always be first
A lot of creators feel the need to be the first ones to post about something because of SEO, algorithms, and relevancy, and Chelsea admits she can be consumed with this. “I get caught up in algorithms and making sure we’re the first to post things as news hits, and if I’m not able to get something up quickly, I beat myself up a little too much.”
It is impossible to always be first. Even Usain Bolt didn’t cross the finish line before everyone else in every race he ever ran and he’s widely considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. Remind yourself that if you aren’t able to post about something before everyone else, that’s okay. You’ll get ‘em next time. Or the time after that. And remember, your fans love you, not necessarily your posting schedule. They will still love what you put out, when it happens.
If you’re not feeling it, don’t force yourself to create
Anyone who creates for a living has experienced a time when it’s obvious they’re not doing their best work. When that happens, Stuart Schuffman, “editor-in-cheap” of Broke-Ass Stuart, a website for “everyone out there who wants to enjoy life not as a rich person, but as a real person,” says it’s important to give yourself permission to walk away from the project and come back to it later. “I know that if I’m not going to be writing good stuff, I have to put it away and do it tomorrow,” he says. “I honor that because I know I will come back to it and I know I will do it.”
If you aren’t loving what you’re producing, remind yourself that it’s better to allow a little more time to craft something you really love than to rush and end up with a final product of which you’re not proud. It’s okay not to push. You know that saying, about waiting for inspiration to strike? Sometimes it’s best to wait for that to happen, rather than try to force it. Take a break, breathe and reboot, as they say. The work will be there for you when your mind is ready.
Give yourself permission to take a break
Speaking of taking breaks, we want to emphasize that they are allowed, important, and good for you. So many creators, and especially YouTubers, feel like they have to produce content constantly and rarely give themselves a day off, much less time to take a vacation. “Even when we’re taking a break, we’re not,” Chelsea says.
Her hope is that there’s a new shift coming where content creators will carve out time to focus on the other parts of their life and look at their content as an actual job. “I want people to say, “I’m working from 10 am to 4 pm and after that I’m going to go play board games or watch a movie and shut off, and I’m not worried about what comments come in or how many likes something got until tomorrow when I start working again.’” She thinks that if people can learn to disconnect, it will greatly improve their mental health.
YouTube agrees with this concept, in theory, and address issues like this, and others, in the YouTube Creator Academy where creators are encouraged to take vacations and enjoy nights and weekends, just as they would with a more “traditional” job.
They key, of course, is getting people to start actually doing it, which can be difficult since a lot of platforms, especially YouTube, have rankings that reward creators who post regularly and punishes those that do not. If you’re concerned about this, start small, with one day a week being less about your business than the rest. Work towards instating reasonable “business hours” where you are focused and committed to your craft, and then try to turn it off for a bit every day.
Remember that you’re nothing without your sanity
Despite all of the pressure to constantly create, Chelsea says she hopes people will listen to what they need and put their mental health first. “If you can be on five days a week, be on five days a week, but if you need to take two weeks off, but you’re worried that your audience isn’t going to be there when you get back, don’t be,” she says.
“They’ll come back, and if they don’t, other people will come. There isn’t one industry I can think of where 100 percent of customers are loyal to a brand or product 100 percent of the time. As long as you’re happy with what you created and you didn’t kill yourself trying to do it, that’s what should matter. At the end of the day, you’re nothing without your own sanity. And when I say “sanity,” I mean your personal health and your physical health, so take care of you and everything else will fall into place.”
It can be hard to prioritize your self over your business or brand, but your business or brand wouldn’t exist without you. What are some ways you can set yourself up for mental health success? Carving out business hours? Making one a day a week your “shut off” day? Having weekly meetups with other like-minded creators who get your stresses, or walks with your most supportive friends and family? It’s okay to prioritize your needs, so make a list of people, events, and changes to your schedule or business that would better support you — and make 2019 your year of creating awesomeness, not creator burnout.