And How To Avoid It

by: Pratik Naik

If you’re reading this, you might already know a little about me. Some people joke and ask me if I ever sleep. I love what I do and I think it’s very apparent. If not, I’ll let you know right now, I love retouching and photography! It’s not just something I do, it’s something that is a part of who I am now. The fact that I am saying this out loud sets up for what I am about to write.

If this sounds similar to you and you love this industry just as much, you’re prone to burning out and it might have already happened to you. You see, I’m very fortunate to do what I love. How many of your friends can say the same that aren’t in our specific industry? Yeah, it sounds awesome, but we’re definitely more prone to burn out. This article also doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. If you still somehow have a lot of free time and are still in the upward growth phase, consider this an article of things to potentially come. If you are staying busy and seem to never get much time, this might ring truer for you.

From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed, I continually am doing something related to work. Whether it’s writing e-­mails, checking out facebook messages (which are all work related now), retouching, sending paypal requests, invoicing, reflecting on my to-­do list 100 times a day (literally), schedules, calls, texts, revisions, quoting, and so on. I am the equivalent of entire working office. In between there, somewhere, there’s the time I use to do life things like showering, eating, sleeping, chores. And if I am lucky, I get a couple of minutes to breathe. Let’s repeat this each and every day. Weekends also count because we work on weekends. Don’t be silly, there’s no off days!

dreaded-creative-burn-out a retoucher's life withing today's creative industry

Photo by: Scott Hugh Mitchell

In our industry, we’re night owls so people are up at 2 a.m. and they’re writing e-­mails and looking for a response. When we wake up in the morning, there’s a fresh batch of messages and e-­mails waiting to go too, followed by the “Did you get my message”? messages too. Life breathes down your neck even when you’re sleeping. This doesn’t even mention what it’s like while I’m traveling to another country and the additional complexities that it brings. There’s tons of amazing parts about the industry but this article isn’t about that.

This all sounds crazy when I write it all out and relfect on it, but for many years it didn’t feel like a big deal because I was in love with what I did. I kept reminding myself I’m lucky and I should shut up and deal with it. That mentality eventually broke me. I got burned out.

But what was happening was that I eventually maxed out on my efficiency and I had more to do than even I could handle. In a way, I am very fortunate for this and I make this well known. What I wasn’t expecting was how much it was hurting me. It was taking a toll on my mental strength and my emotions. I was feeling depressed and I started to not like waking up each day because I couldn’t keep up. I was burning out and I saw it coming from a mile away.

Right around this time, I looked to my other creative friends, wondering how they dealt with it. I won’t name names, but being close to a lot of creatives who have gained a lot of online attention for their work with over 100 thousand fans, I wondered how they managed. It turned out that online they put forward a really positive and happy face. Behind the scenes they would crash often. Their emotions were very volatile. They showcased a very bright aura and with such an intense energy, they would burn out and fall into dark times behind the scenes. They confided in me and shared what was happening when we met at industry events

It seems not to be a rare phenomenon. So how could I learn from seeing what they went through in order to prevent ourselves from a creative burn out?

I started making changes by being self critical. Here are the things that I did that slowly brought things into balance for me.

dreaded-creative-burn-out a retoucher's life withing today's creative industry

Photo by: Bill Jones


Everything starts with you and goes outward from there. If you are not in the best condition, your clients will suffer too. You owe it to yourself to be selfish about tending to your own needs first. The best business people in this industry are selfish about themselves.

What I had to do was analyze why I was feeling off. What I found out was I wasn’t giving myself enough breaks and time away from the desk. I would skip meals and sometimes forget drinking water for a long period of time. Coffee would take its place and dehydration set in. When’s the last time you’ve had a glass of water? How much have you drank today? It’s amazing how much of a negative impact dehydration played on me. The first principle became making sure I was hydrated with at least 8 glasses a day, with a limit to my coffee intake! Setting timers helped for food. I used to prolong eating with excuses like, “Right after this e-­mail” or “I’ll finish this image first” or something similar.

The same thing went for going to sleep. I pushed it as far as I could go. Setting a time to go to bed each night became a deadline that I had to adhere to. I also began taking vitamins that eased tension and helped well-­being, such as Vitamin D (as we’re indoors a lot), Magnesium Citrate, B-­Complex, and Omega 3’s. It helped boost mood thoroughly.

Lastly, taking breaks to just laze around and look away from the screen helped a lot. Further compliment that by taking our 20 minutes for yourself each day for some form of exercise. The investment will pay off for itself. Make it a point to go outside each day!


I used to be a “yes” man for everything. Need it tomorrow? Sure. How about by yesterday? You got it. That doesn’t even make any sense! It’s okay, I’ll figure it out.

That was me, I bent over backwards to accommodate my clients, even if it broke my back. I’d do it with a figuratively broken back.
This was the biggest reason why I had to be honest with myself in what was possible. Sometimes there were jobs I couldn’t take on but as long as I explained how I was not available for the turnaround, I was able to save my sanity trying to complete an impossible task. Working with people that understood and valued your time and budget were people I wanted to keep in my life. The people that don’t understand your rates would usually never be able to budget for you anyway.

Also, I was under a lot of pressure to take on budgets that were less than favorable. If I wasn’t even breaking even, I wouldn’t take it. I also only took on jobs that fit exactly what I wanted to do. I stopped taking on jobs that were nothing related to what I usually do as well. I used to feel a lot of pressure getting back jobs as quickly as possible. This time, I was honest with my turnaround and focused on making sure it was done in a realistic time frame.

Photo by: Mathew Guido


I found that a lot of the stress that was happening also came because I was trying to do too many tasks at once. If it was on the top of my head I thought I would forget it. So I started making to-­do lists that fit my needs to prevent me from creative burn out in the future. I had a “daily to-­do list” which itemized which jobs I was going to do that day followed by the jobs coming up in the next few days. I hand wrote it as I found that I used it more as opposed to a digital one. We’re all different and I would recommend trying a few things before sticking to a set of processes.

Next, on my desktop, I had a blank notepad document where I would quickly type out anything that popped into my head. These would be tasks I needed to do that I know I would probably forget if I tried to remember. Like, going to the bank, or calling back so and so, or the meeting I was going to have a little later today, or the message I have to send later. Basically, this came to help whenever I was working on something and didn’t want to multi-­task right then and there. It allowed me to focus and get the stress of my head.

I also have documents set for invoices, in regards to people I have yet to invoice and people I am waiting on payments from. I began using DropBox for sending files because no matter where I was in the world I could access those files on my phone or any computer.

Basically, anything I felt was causing me stress, I’d try to think of a solution that would make that life easier. Another example was invoicing people. I would always forget how much I quoted them and during the time of the invoice, I would search through e-­mails. It was annoying! So I’d just write the quote into the client’s folder where I stored their files.

Same thing with taxes. Each time I got a receipt, I would itemize it in the ongoing spreadsheet and file the receipt away. That way at the end of the year, it’s all done to file! Structure your life, start with small steps. It took a year for these changes to finally sink in for me.


I wouldn’t have been able to find out what was wrong if I hadn’t talked with other creatives. Getting ideas and staying open minded helped me get over it, manage it better and finally prevent a creative burn out. If you’re struggling, know you’re not alone! Being a traveling retoucher, I energize by meeting other creatives and it makes a world of difference. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling and share stories. You’ll be surprised what you learn. Use social media to network instead of sharing Kim Kardashian stories. We suddenly have the power to reach out to thousands of creatives at once, make use of that miraculous opportunity.


There’s plenty of things that can be done and this is what helped me. I hope you got something out of this learning from my issues. Just remember, you’re not perfect and not everything is going to get done today. You’ll never catch up to your to-­do list and that is okay! It doesn’t rule your life. Do what you want with life first. You need to be a little selfish and realize you are imperfect, and that is perfect! People are generally impatient and do your best, but there’s a limit! This has turned into the “everything right now” generation, and that doesn’t bode well with how our bodies work. For the sake of all things holy, our bodies were built to rest one third of the day. That should illustrate how contrasting these two mentalities are. So take it easy and don’t feel guilty about it. Do your best but don’t kill yourself.

Lastly, I leave you with this amazing article I found today not only about cretives’ burn out but about burn out in general:

A big thank for the inspiration on the idea to write about to:




Photographer and Retoucher


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