Battling creator burnout

October 13, 2021


The rewards of being a successful video content creator are well-known. If you’re able to create a YouTube channel that commands a loyal following, you can build a personal brand that gives you, at least according to one back-of-the-envelope set of calculations from Influencer Marketing Hub, somewhere in the neighborhood of $3-5 paid for every 1,000 views of your video. When you reach hundreds of thousands of subscribers who closely follow your daily videos, that adds up to a major sum of money.

But there’s a downside to user-generated fame and fortune, one that usually gets way less airtime: the phenomenon known as “creator burnout”. At one point or another, most dedicated video content creators have experienced symptoms that include depression, irritability, a lost sense of purpose, and disconnection from loved ones. Some even report experiencing physical symptoms like insomnia, heartburn, pounding headaches, and... er... gastrointestinal issues.

At Curastory, we’re all for the massive success of your content. But we’re also here to make sure creators like you stay healthy. As with so many things, you need to strike a balance between online success and offline, “real-life” happiness. It can be hard to not feel like you need to be on 24/7 call for your fanbase, but it’s the right thing to do for your personal health. So without further ado, let’s get into what causes creator burnout, how to spot its  symptoms, and how to fight back against it – all to ensure that you create with balance.

The trends and pressures behind content creation

We live in a world that demands more and more digital content. A 2020 study from DoubleVerify found that YouTube witnessed a 43% surge in people watching videos on its platform. Sure, you might be able to attribute a lot of that rise to people feeling bored at home in the middle of a pandemic. But that doesn’t explain why those numbers continue to rise, especially for mobile.

Rising levels of content consumption are leaving traditional, large-scale brands and agencies scrambling. One study finds that 72.2% of marketers say they have “more responsibilities now than ever before” when it comes to creating content that will engage consumers. The stress takes an undeniable toll. To quote an anonymous social media strategist interviewed at a large advertising holding company: “Everyone wants to think their jobs are important, but we need to realize it can wait until Monday. We're not firefighters or doctors."

But what if you’re just a lone creator or influencer who doesn’t work at a giant agency? What if you literally can’t wait until Monday?

Unlike advertisers and marketers, creators like you aren’t beholden to normal workhours. While that can feel liberating for sure, you’ve also got to consider that you never really get an honest day off from work – particularly when you’re successful. Some of the best vloggers in the world have a talent for making their audiences follow their every move while they’re travelling to exotic destinations… but let’s be honest for a moment: Creating content while you’re on vacation… doesn’t really count as vacationing. (Does it?)

Furthermore, unlike advertisers, creators and influencers don’t have a dependable, dedicated budget set aside for producing content (and if you do, count yourself incredibly lucky!) Nope!  You’re depending on an algorithm to pay you. When your income stream depends on getting thousands or millions of clicks, views, impressions, and “smashes of that Like button”, you can’t always focus on producing the level of quality you know you’re capable of producing. Instead, you’re forever chasing after quantity and engagement metrics, rather than pursuing your actual vision and inspiration.

Finally, as a creator, you share an authentic connection with your audience that most marketers couldn’t hope to match in their #wildest #hashtag #dreams. But staying “true” to your subscribers means constantly reaching out to them, listening to their comments round-the-clock, and trying to bush off the inevitable insults from hate-followers – all in the hopes of creating video after video after video to keep them focused on your channel. All you can rely on consistently is your own brainpower, charisma, personal work ethic, and dedicated responsiveness to your fanbase. And if those suddenly fail on you, you’re suddenly left without a steady stream of income.

Creator burnout: the struggle is very real.

Understanding the symptoms of burnout

Numerous online sources cite different symptoms of burnout, but they all report one thing in common: Burnout almost never occurs overnight. Like calluses or sores, burnout is the result of cumulative weeks and months of stress, so it’s harder to spot than many other symptoms. You might think you’re doing fine, when it suddenly dawns on you that you’re barely able to get out of bed to meet the demands of your audience and your online day.

That’s why it’s so important to list the various, common symptoms.

Minor symptoms include a forgetfulness that one didn’t have previously, as well as a sense of lost purpose. According to Psychology Today, other symptoms can also include a constant state of low-grade irritability, as well as unnecessary irritation and feuding with your friends, family members, and significant others over trivial things. Another common feeling is an overwhelming sense of dread and depression at having to do what you’ve signed up to do: create for an audience. As one 22-year old TikTok creator admitted to the New York Times, “I get to the point where I’m like, ‘I have to make a video today,’ and I spend the entire day dreading the process.”

The constant highs and lows that come with pursuing algorithmic engagement can take their toll if you’re not careful – and not just psychologically. Creator burnout can manifest physically, too. According to the Mayo Clinic, the physical symptoms of “job burnout” can be summarized as follows: fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and greater chances of succumbing to a variety of common illnesses that a normal, healthy immune system could push back against.

If you’re a video content creator and you’re experiencing symptoms like these (or similar to them), you don’t have to stop doing what you love doing. But you may want to press pause for a moment on filming yet another video for your adoring fans – and listen to yourself.

How to push back against creator burnout?

Now that you understand the symptoms, you can begin treating their likely cause. Luckily, there are ways of fighting back against creator fatigue. And while there’s a lot of advice and wisdom circulating out there, it’s helpful to boil it down them into a few actionable tips. So here are three pieces of advice distilled for your easy (content) consumption.

Take a content siesta

This shouldn’t be controversial advice. But unfortunately, it is. With creators oftentimes averaging 100 hours of content production per week, there’s a real need to simply back away from the screen at times – and live to livestream another day.

But how? One way is through “content batching”. Content batching means holding yourself to a set timetable, where you can produce all your videos in a certain period of weeks and months – and then release them steadily to your fans. One tried-and-true strategy is for every three months you spend creating, spend one month recharging and relaxing. That way, you can still rake in revenue, drive engagement, and command your audience's love and loyalty – all while doing what you desperately need to do, which is relax.

Organize your workflow

But sometimes business realities are what they are. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury to take things down a notch or have a getaway from the hustle. Even so, you can plan your day in ways that make it less stressful, and more likely for you to retain your creative inspiration without disrupting your output. Organizational strategies like the Pomodoro Method, where you work in deliberate “activity spurts” throughout the day, and then take a breather, have been shown to improve focus, concentration, and overall productivity. If you can’t get away from the screen for weeks at a time, you can at least savor the minutes each day where you’re free from producing.

Don’t create content you don’t need to be creating

This may be the hardest advice to swallow. But the fact is that you don’t have to create videos simply because a major event has just occurred, or an issue is suddenly trending across social media. In other words, you don’t have to create content just because everyone else is creating similar content.

Ask yourself: Does this event or trend really mean anything to me personally? If you find yourself realizing it doesn’t, why not stay put and spend your time making content that actually matters to you? By staying true to what motivates you to create, you’ll come across as more authentic to your audience members. You’ll also be able to distinguish yourself from the legions of people who are producing content about the same trending hashtag.

To sum it all up

New research from Cisco shows how video content accounts for fully 82% of all new content being created this year – and that’s great news for you. But don’t let content creation become a double-edged sword. Don’t let each day begin in a cocoon under the sheets – or end in a near-coma.

In your standard 9 – 5 job, you can shut down your computer, turn off your camera, and get on with your personal life. Or you could simply quit your job for another line of work less ulcer-inducing. Many creators, in fact, end up doing just that – and that’s not always a bad thing if it’s negatively impacting the quality of their lives.

The trick is making sure it never reaches a boiling point. Taking breaks from producing, practicing batch production, using organizational methods like Pomodoro that maximize your focus and minimize your stress, and creating content that’s personally meaningful to you are all ways of battling against burnout. By putting these together, you can stop it from happening.


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