Community builder burnout is real; here’s how to find calm.

It wasn’t until I failed my launch three years ago that I realized I was over my head with this idea of launching an online community. Not only that — but I’d been stressed out all year with learning new technology, trying to clarify my offer and find my ideal members.

By December 2020, after a year of applying to jobs (and getting rejected) constantly and learning how to build a consulting business (also really draining), and launching an online community (time-consuming and energy-draining), I became burned out. A few symptoms of burnout include feeling exhausted, empty, and unable to cope with daily life.

When I finally realized I’d really dug myself into an early grave, I realized it was time for a change. That was the next phase of my life where I decided that I was no longer going to put work before myself. I realized that I wasn’t happy, and after leading a community for six months, I felt miserable. Recognizing burnout is the first step.

Here are a few symptoms:

  • Sleep issues
  • Poor immune functions
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Concentration issues
  • Feeling worthless
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Suicidal ideation

These are serious symptoms, and you should consult your doctor, counselors, or medical professionals if you are experiencing any of these symptoms and feel that it is not normal for you or if you are struggling to cope with your daily life. I believed that “that’s just how life is” for a long time. I started working with a counselor through Better Help in 2020 and still meet with her every two weeks.

The truth is that you are in control of your own life. These past five months, I’ve spent time connecting to myself, reading books, and working on setting up a business that will support me for a better future. While I love community building, I learned that small cohorts are my “jam” and that I don’t want to lead a community of “thousands” or “hundreds” of people.

In this episode of Community Manager Live, we will discuss the challenges of being part of a community and how it can lead to burnout for moderators, managers, and creators. We will explore the signs and symptoms of burnout, including its impact on work and personal life.

Burnout and the community industry

If you haven’t noticed, most people in the community industry are women. We naturally tend to be empathic, caring, and nurturing. In addition, women are more likely to suffer from burnout than men, at a rate of 32% to 28%. In addition, burnout is on the rise worldwide, and Gen Z and Millennials are the most stressed. Nearly half (48%) of 18-to-29-year-olds said they feel drained compared with 40% of their peers aged 30 and up, while women (46%) reported higher levels of burnout than men (37%).

Apparently, there is not just one reason this is hitting women and younger working adults particularly hard. Still, experts agree that intersecting stressors of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic uncertainties have exacerbated stress and disengagement within these groups.

Recently CMX released their annual industry report with a few interesting stats, including 59 percent of community professionals worried about losing their job. And trying to find a job in this economy is also stressful. But while community jobs are being eliminated, the interest in the community is increasing by 79 percent, according to this report.

The main reason I’ve experienced burnout as a community professional and how I’ve seen it manifest in my peers is when the workload is out of balance, the person feels undervalued, and the community concept is unclear to the founders, leadership or investors. That means that most companies and business owners know that a community is an investment they want to make, but they don’t know how that will equal sales for their business.

This means that community teams or directors, or hosts, will need to clearly state what the communities revenue streams are and how this effort will be supported financially from the very beginning because if this isn’t clear, that’s where the out-of-control workload comes into play. One event leads to another, and after a few months, the community manager, host, or leader is doing a lot of work. If there is no plan for revenue, there is no community.

A community is created by someone who knows how to create content, and content isn’t free. Many people have come to think that content is free, and that is just how society has shifted over the past few years, but in reality, there is someone who has created content, and it took time, effort, and someone’s energy. I’ve worked as a content creator for many years, first as a photographer, then as a writer, and now as a community builder. All of that content (some of which I was compensated for and some I was not) came at the expense of my time, effort, and money. If I wasn’t creating content, I would be doing another job or something else that I enjoy or to make money instead of this — but the truth is I love creating content. I need to also be able to pay my rent, just like everyone else.

I closed my community after two years because no matter how much I tried, the world just wasn’t ready for my community. I also didn’t have the bandwidth or financial resources to run a community alone, which became clear when my physical and mental issues arose. What I learned was that if you are a community team of one, membership is very, very challenging. This is why I recommend my clients who don’t have a team to start a community with a program, group, or course.

The CALM Method™ for Community Design

The structured approach helps to keep you focused on a specific outcome or transformation that you will promote to your members. I call it The CALM Method™, and any community builder can benefit from moving through it thoughtfully.

  • Clarity of your unique concept.
  • Awareness of your validation sources.
  • Learning what structure will work best for you.
  • Motion through taking action.


Not only do you need to gain clarity of the community concept for yourself, but you will need to make sure that it is easy for your members to understand. The first step is focused on a clear community concept and that you have a unique offer, meaning you’ve looked at the marketplace and have something different to offer based on your life’s work, experiences, or challenges you’ve overcome and lessons you’ve learned.


You need to be aware that not only must you confirm your potential members understand your message and community concept, but that they actually can validate your idea and express interest in wanting to participate. When you speak with your potential members to learn more about their needs, challenges, and problems, you’ll begin to build a relationship with them. But you need to ask them what they want to do and how they’ve solved this problem in the past. If they only want to watch videos and do work on their own, then a community isn’t a good solution. Alternatively, if you become aware that your ideal member needs a supportive community to help them transition during a challenging life phase like parenthood, owning a business, or retirement, this would be an ideal problem that could be solved in a community.


Finding out what members want to do, and how they want to participate is a big part of the community-building process. You will learn from your members what kind of structure works best for them. Members of your 4-week course want to continue meeting over the course of 6 months. Another kind of learning could emerge when you review data from your community and realize that most members aren’t watching your videos but show up on your live office hour calls. That means that members are more interested in active communication with you and each other over a recorded piece of content that may or may not solve their problem. You will learn how your members want to learn, connect, and participate within your community.


After all of this work, it’s time to take action! Putting together the data from your awareness, learnings, and clarity, you can assemble your community strategy. Depending on how complex your structure will be, these may include designing the architecture, implementing a content calendar, managing daily operations, and facilitating virtual sessions.

Even if you don’t have a team now, make it your goal to get support as soon as you can. Despite promises from platforms that building your community will be easy, sustaining a community requires commitment. Additionally, launching a community requires focus and consistency, especially if you are a new business owner and don’t have an established audience. Now may not be the best time to launch a community if you’re still working on establishing your first clients, figuring out how to charge, or building initial offers.

Send an email to for questions or comments.



Deb Schell, Author and Community Strategist

Community Strategist, Author, Podcaster, Designer. Find Calm Here, where community strategy meets intentionality.