11 ways to stay motivated: How successful freelancers avoid losing their mojo
Freelancing careers offer an unparalleled type of freedom, and with that freedom can sometimes come a lack of motivation. With no one telling you what to do, things can quickly become overwhelming. So what do you do when you lose perspective and begin to wonder: is this worth it? We reached out to some well-seasoned freelance experts for advice!
11 Tips for Staying Motivated When The Going Gets Tough:
TIP #1: SCRIPT YOUR DAY
“To keep me focused, my day is largely scripted. Moving from task to task is a lot easier – and you're less likely to get distracted – when you don't have to think about what to do next.”
“If I find my motivation lagging, I devise a strict regime for myself that is realistic but that will nonetheless ensure I get the work done. This will only be a short-term strategy, e.g. a daily schedule for the next five working days, but it usually gets me back on track."
TIP #2: CHECK YOUR STATS
“I check my stats; I'm really goal driven. So I check my website traffic, my sales numbers and my to-do lists. Whether it is a deadline, a priority list, or my financials - seeing numbers "lacking" will push me to find motivation.”
TIP #3: SPICE UP YOUR WORKSPACE
“I'm a big believer in making your workspace organized and inspiring. I just treated myself to a beautiful new corner desk, and when I wrap up for for the day (or night!), I take a few minutes to straighten up. The mental image of a clean work space is a much more energizing way to start the day.”
TIP #4: TAKE A STEP BACK
“When I lose direction, I unplug and take a step back. Like pulling the car over on the side of the road when it's steaming, I need a minute. After a few hours or days to walk, swim, nap, read and/or lollygag, I can usually see what I'm doing a bit more clearly. Once I've got the next step – not the next 12 or 17 or 84 steps, just one – I pick up where I left off and get to work. Action creates clarity where questioning and lollygagging leave off.”
"Action creates clarity where questioning and lollygagging leave off." Tweet this!
TIP #5: REFLECT ON PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS
“I keep the stubs from the first paychecks (I'm old school that way) I receive from outlets on my bucket list, that I've managed to break into. Sometimes when I'm having a tough day, just seeing a logo from a place like New York Magazine or the Washington Post on a pay stub is a reminder of how hard work pays off.”
"[I keep] a business journal. At the end of each week, I write down:
- What I got done
- What I struggled with, and how I overcame any obstacles I faced
- How I'm now closer to whatever goal I'm actively working toward
- How much money I made that week
And when I'm going through a rough patch, I look back. I look at all the milestones I've hit and the achievements I've made. This helps me stay focused, and realize that — overall — my business is growing. But without that data, it'd be way too easy to lose track of where my business is going and how what I'm doing fits in with the greater goal."
TIP #6: GET OUT OF TOWN
“Traveling is the best way to get refreshed, whether it's just a weekend away or week exploring a new country. It clears your mind and when you get back, you have more drive and motivation. Just book and stop making excuses."
TIP #7: LEARN HOW TO LET IT GO
“Over the years, I developed this mantra to get me through the short term frustrations. It goes like this, Vent -> Let Go -> Create. (I even made a GIF for it) I let myself vent a little - to anyone that's around, or to myself, but never never never vent on social media.
"Letting go" sounds easy, but I actually put in a lot of work to get myself to this state where I can really let things go. When we vent, it's easy to get heated and build on that frustration, so I take a post-it note and obsessively write "Thank You" on it. (Like this) No matter how frustrated I am, I can keep saying/writing "thank you" until I truly feel an appreciation for my situation. Only then am I ready to "let go." From there, I’m able to create whatever needs to be done - artwork, an email, a project proposal, business plan, etc.”
TIP #8: HANG WITH FELLOW FREELANCERS
“I love getting together and talking with my colleagues and fellow freelancers in my field – I seek the ones that are staying busy. Picking their brains always leads to great new ideas for me to experiment with, whether it be ways to bring in more work, or methods to get better at my craft. Often times, they'll have been in my position before and have great advice to offer to help me take the next step. Even if they don't have a lot of advice to offer, just venting out your frustrations to somebody who gets it can really clear your head. Just remember to return the favor and offer the same grace in return when the perspectives have shifted!”
TIP #9: ACCEPT UNMOTIVATED DAYS
“Even the most self-motivated personality type has unmotivated days. I do for sure. Some mornings I just know, today I will not be able to accomplish anything for no reason at all. The nice thing is, I can just go with that feeling and tell myself, ok, then don't... But, and a very important but, I use that unmotivated day to bring my energy to a place where I can work two full workdays in one. For me, it’s much easier to stay up and work all night on an inspired day than to chain myself to the chair during normal work hours on an uninspired day. During those days where motivation is scarce, I do things I really like – I sleep late, go out in nature, search through bookstores for inspiration, and then pretty quickly the motivation comes back.”
“Even the most self-motivated personality type has unmotivated days." Tweet this!
TIP #10: DON’T OVERTHINK IT
“I think about how I’m going to overcome my procrastination and get my work mojo back, but I don’t overthink it. Throughout both my freelance career and my life, I’ve learned that overthinking ‘problems’ can often prove less productive than not thinking about them at all.”
TIP #11: PERFECT YOUR PERSONAL WORKSTYLE
“As a freelancer, the stakes are high, as my success and bankroll are riding on one person: me. My key was this: I had to figure out what MY personal work style was. I'm just not the guy that sits down every day and works for 8 hours straight. And that's ok. But I am the guy, that when he gets on a roll, might work for 12 hours straight till 5am, and then sleep all the next day. And that's ok too.
For me, staying grounded, motivated, and passionate about my work means listening to what my mind needs, my body needs and my soul. We each have our own ways of working that don't always fit the confines of what society has deemed normal. I had to learn to be comfortable and forgiving of myself when I only had a 20 hour work week, just the same way I had to learn to take breaks after back-to-back 60 hour work weeks. Often we are our own best cheerleaders and worst enemies. Learning to listen to and use the best parts of each helped me find my style and grow.”