Confessions from a Burnt-Out Email Marketer


Feeling burnt out? You’re not alone.

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: email marketing burnout is a real thing. I’ve personally experienced it, without actively recognizing it, and learned the hard way how to keep myself physically and mentally healthy in order to maintain my drive for success throughout my own career. And I will admit, it has not been an easy road.

I want to have a genuine heart-to-heart with my fellow email marketers about what can cause burnout, how you can recognize it, and options for what we can do to tackle it head-on.

Let’s jump into the email marketing trenches and open up the conversation about what causes burnout, how to spot it, and how to defeat it. But before we do, be aware: there is no simple fix; this is an ongoing journey that requires personal awareness and willingness to make lifestyle changes in order to fight it.

Note: Jennifer will be leading a discussion on this blog post during the OI-members-only Live Zoom on Thursday, October 12, 2023. OI members -- see you there!

Not a member? Join today -- or reach out to Jeanne, our general manager, to learn more. 

The Pressure (Cooker) of Perfection

One of the primary causes of burnout in email marketing is the relentless pursuit of perfection. Do you feel the pressure to craft flawless, eye-catching emails that generate high open and click-through rates? Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, it is…until the quest for perfection turns into a pressure cooker.

Have you ever felt like you are being by your sales team to “get more emails out?” This kind of nonstop pressure leads to long hours, anxiety, self-doubt and imposter syndrome (the latter being my “speciality”).

Signs that Something's Off

Recognizing and acknowledging the signs of burnout is essential to address the issue effectively, but it can be like spotting a chameleon in a disco. It’s tricky, but not impossible. Here are some telltale signs of burnout email marketers should look out for:

Constant Pressure: Email marketers often work in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines, leaving little time for recovery. Moving from one task to another without taking a moment to breathe sent my own stress levels through the roof, which ultimately resulted in a serious lack of productivity.

Eternal Exhaustion: Burnout feels like a perpetual energy leak. You're constantly tired, your focus is playing hide and seek, and motivation? It took a vacation to Antigua — but you weren’t invited.

Use your paid time off when you feel like you need to; you are, in fact, entitled to use that time, and there is nothing wrong with taking time to yourself! Ignore those coworkers who say negative things like “must be nice to have time for a vacation” when they hear that you’re taking time off. They’re jealous — and they likely need a break themselves.

Expectation, expectations: The never-ending quest for sky-high open and click-through rates (which most of us realize are simply vanity metrics) led me to experience stress levels that rivaled my toddler’s incessant energy rush...and crash.

Working from home makes it seemingly impossible to “leave work at the office” — how can you when your office is in your hand on your mobile device while your CEO is sending you Slack messages until 9:00 PM, expecting you to respond when you’re trying to spend time with your friends, family or simply unwinding from the day.

Health Hiccups: Burnout isn't just a mental game; it plays tricks on your body too. Insomnia, headaches, and catching every germ in a five-mile radius become your new hobbies. Racing thoughts, hearing “ghost noises” (or auditory hallucinations) like Slack notifications while trying to fall asleep are pretty serious indicators that you need a break.

Irritability: Small bumps in your workday road suddenly feel like you're navigating a minefield. Patience becomes a rare virtue.

Unfortunately, many of us tend to bring that irritability and lack of patience home with us, resulting in negative impacts on our personal relationships.

Job Jitters: Because the marketing landscape is ever-changing, it can trigger job insecurity, piling on more burnout fuel. Many of you may be familiar with the “Sunday Scaries” — that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach thanks to anxiety about thinking of returning to work after a (hopefully) enjoyable weekend. But are you finding yourself commuting to work or logging in with a feeling of dread on a daily basis? Email anxiety is a real thing, and it’s important to take care of ourselves — mentally and physically — in order to maintain our success.

Groundhog Day Syndrome: Crafting the same emails day in and day out? It's like Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day" — but without the laughs. Routine breeds burnout.

Shake things up in your daily routines. Even something as simple as taking a 20-minute walk outside has been shown to improve your mental health, increase happiness, decrease depression and help you stay motivated during the workday.

Resources? What Resources?: You're expected to pull off marketing miracles with a shoestring budget and a Swiss Army knife (which I personally feel is the worst title to hear a manager call me). Not enough time, manpower, or tools? Hello, elevated stress levels!

Insufficient resources - including time, people-power and technology — lead us to spend extra time trying to find free resources, learning new tools results in ultimately wasting time during the day.

Fighting Burnout Together

Alright, that’s enough looking on the negatives for now. Let’s look at how addressing burnout in email marketing requires a multi-faceted approach to get yourself and your team out of a rut. 

Encourage Creativity: Allow yourself and your fellow email marketers the freedom to experiment with new ideas and designs. Encourage brainstorming sessions and collaboration to foster creativity.

Set Realistic Goals: Establish achievable performance metrics and prioritize quality over quantity. Recognize that not every email will have a record-breaking open rate.

Support and Communication: Create a supportive work environment where team members can openly communicate their challenges and concerns. Provide access to mental health resources and counseling if needed. Don’t worry about the stigma of mental health — we all need to work on ourselves. And anyone who says they don’t is only lying to themselves.

As OI contributor Kisha Anderson (Email Artisan) recently wrote, having clearly defined roles and responsibilities within your team and knowing your own strengths can also help reduce stress. We don’t need to be Swiss Army knives (unless we’re a one-person-team) and leveraging your email marketing colleagues’ strengths could help reduce overall burnout across the team, helping everyone be more successful.

Time Management: Encourage yourself and your fellow email marketers to manage their time effectively and avoid overworking. Implement reasonable schedules that prioritize work-life balance. Creating healthy boundaries, such as not replying to those late-night Slack messages, will help. Sign. Off.

Never. Stop. Learning: Continuous learning and professional development can help email marketers stay motivated and adapt to industry changes. Online courses, master classes, or attending webinars will give you new ideas, inspiration, and help foster a healthier environment for your mental health.

Kick Burnout to the Curb

Email marketer burnout is real, but it's not the end of the world. And, sorry to remind you, but with holidays (somehow) quickly approaching, you and your team will likely be going into overdrive, if you aren’t already,

By recognizing the signs, understanding the causes, and taking proactive steps, we can foster healthier and happier work environments. A motivated and inspired email marketing team is a powerhouse, capable of crafting engaging and successful email campaigns that'll knock everyone's socks off. So, let's kick burnout to the curb and keep the email marketing fire burning bright!

PS: If you’re ever feeling burnt out and want to discuss or vent your frustrations in a judgement-free zone, please, don’t hesitate to reach out!

lucas santos w5zW1PMPQ A unsplash 600Photo by Lucas Santos on Unsplash