No matter what you do for work, you need to have some level of motivation to get you through the day, meet your goals, and progress in your career. For freelancers – especially those of us working from home – it’s crucial to develop an ability to self-motivate.
Without teammates to hold you accountable, or promotions to work towards, it’s up to you to push through when you hit a slump. Thankfully, there are some strategies you can put in place to help you stay motivated.
Get a freelancing buddy
Although it sometimes feels like a perk, not having colleagues to interact with can be a downside to freelancing. Even the most difficult colleagues can be a source of inspiration and motivation, and not having people around you can feel isolating, leaving you to muddle through on your own. So it’s important to build a community of people around you that you can turn to.
Build mutually supportive relationships where you check in with each other, vent about difficult projects, hold each other accountable, and even organize coworking days together. Having this regular interaction and sense of camaraderie will help when your focus starts to slip.
You don’t have to be in the same industry or have the same skill set to be able to act as a sounding board for a fellow freelancer. You may even find that you end up collaborating or referring clients to one other.
Tip: If you have trouble finding someone, there are countless Facebook community groups for freelancers all over the world. Join one in your area and you’re bound to find someone you click with.
Make time for your distractions
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s good to make time for your distractions! You have the advantage of flexibility, so why not make the most of it? If there’s another task or activity that you can’t stop thinking about, instead of procrastinating, sometimes it’s best to just do it. Cut yourself a break, but be smart about it – set a time limit for how long you’ll spend on it and make sure you actually come back to your work afterwards. If a deadline is looming and you really don’t have time right now, then schedule some time to do it later. Then get stuck into your work, knowing that you’ll get to have fun later.
The more in tune you are with your needs, the better you can manage your time. One of the greatest joys of freelancing is that you do have the ability to organize your time however you want to. You can do a workout at 3pm. You can read a book for an hour after breakfast. You can spend your lunchtime playing games. If you know that you’ve made time for the things you love, that keep you sane and happy, you’re going to be better and more productive when it’s time to work.
Invest in your workspace
Having an inadequate workspace is a guaranteed path to distraction; you’ll be getting up every 5 minutes just to give your back a break. At a minimum, you need a decent desk, a comfortable chair, adequate lighting and, if you’re working from a laptop, a monitor and mouse to minimize strain on your neck and wrist. Check your setup to make sure it’s a good ergonomic fit.
Once you have all the equipment you need, add some extras to make it a comfortable, enjoyable space to be in. That could be a houseplant, some artwork, or another personal touch. If you can, set up your workspace near a window, away from the kitchen and away from your bed. The temptation to work from the comfort of your bed is all too real, as is the distraction of that pile of dirty dishes staring you in the face. Ensuring your workspace is the best it can be will help to reduce distractions and keep you focused.
Make your to-do lists realistic and specific
Give yourself bite-sized, achievable tasks that you’ll actually be able to complete in a day. By all means, keep an overview of the larger projects and tick those off when they’re done, but if you’re making a plan for the day, make it realistic and make it specific. Break your tasks down. Instead of “Create a podcast”, try “Write a list of podcast topics” or “Spend 30 minutes researching podcast equipment”.
If you’re prone to procrastination, distraction, or avoidance (all close relatives of a lack of motivation), you can trick yourself into feeling productive by giving yourself something really quick and easy to tick off. Instead of eating the frog in the morning, just eat the frog’s leg. You’ll soon realise that the frog is not so bad after all and you’re ready for another bite.
This is a sneaky one. If you’re charging less than what your work is worth, or working at a rate that doesn’t cover your basic costs, it will chip away at your motivation. Do the research to find out what a reasonable rate is for your industry, location and level of experience and calculate your rates accordingly, remembering to factor in tax and expenses.
Perhaps you’re just starting out and you want to accept a lower rate to reflect your experience. That’s ok, but don’t go too low (and don’t work for free). Or perhaps you have trouble backing yourself and the value of your work and expertise. Fronting up and asking for what you need can be challenging, but trying to enjoy your work and stay passionate and focused when you aren’t earning enough is much, much harder.
If potential clients won’t pay a fair rate, try to move on and let it go. A good client will understand that your work has value and both parties will benefit from the effect that can have on your motivation.
It’s normal to lose steam every so often when you are your own boss. Don’t beat yourself up over it, just do what you can to push through, and pay attention to what motivates you and what slows you down.
You’ll have an easier time refocusing and getting back on track if you put these tips and strategies in place early, and set yourself up for a successful freelancing career.