Motivation is vital to building a successful career as a freelancer. You need it to work independently, find new clients, keep your finances organized, and stay on top of your workload. But staying motivated doesn’t always come naturally: it’s a skill that must be practiced and honed. By following these 5 steps, you can improve your self-discipline and learn how to stay motivated as a freelancer.
1. Make a daily schedule
One of the first steps for how to stay motivated as a freelancer is to make yourself a schedule. Creating a detailed to-do list at the end of the day will help you to wake up the following day and know exactly what’s on the agenda. When we say detailed, we’re not just talking about writing up a list of upcoming deadlines: include specific tasks and objectives, as well as a schedule for tackling them. For example, set aside an hour or two per day to check and respond to your emails, and allot chunks of time to specific projects. This will help you to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand. Having a daily plan will also help you to optimize your free time: if you make time for things like exercise, breaks, chores, and socializing in your schedule, you are more likely to do them.
2. Integrate exercise into your routine
You might be wondering how exercise will help you to improve your work practices. The answer comes down to neuroscience. Exercise does more than improve your cardiovascular health, it can also help your brain to release higher levels of dopamine more regularly. Dopamine, for its part, is a type of molecule in the brain that plays a role in modulating our capacity for pleasure, learning, and even motivation. With exercise you can increase your dopamine levels, which can boost motivation and alleviate stress. From another perspective, integrating regular exercise into your schedule also requires motivation. The motivation you need for exercise will inevitably begin to shape other aspects of your life, like work.
3. Create a good work environment
We can’t stress enough how important your work setting is when learning how to stay motivated as a freelancer. If you work from home and don’t have a dedicated workspace, it can be all too easy to get distracted by household tasks. Prioritize setting up a space—if not an office then even a small desk—where you can get in the zone without too many distractions. If you’re finding it difficult to stay focused while working from home, get out of the house and find a cafe, library, or co-working space. Some people find motivation when they are around other people, especially if those people are hard at work themselves.
4. Find ways to combat procrastination
Procrastination is truly one of the biggest hurdles to remaining motivated. Fortunately, there are tried and tested ways to overcome procrastination. The trick is to start small. If you have a mountain of work to do, it can quickly become overwhelming. By picking out one manageable task from the stack—or breaking down a big task into bite-sized pieces—and focusing on it, you will beat procrastination. If you’re suffering from frequent bouts of procrastination, it’s also important to be kind to yourself. If you forgive yourself for procrastinating, you can brush off negative feelings towards yourself that can hinder productivity and motivation.
5. Set professional goals
Vital to staying motivated is feeling like you’re working towards something. That’s where goal setting comes in when identifying how to stay motivated as a freelancer. Having goals—both short-term and long-term—will give you direction and make your work feel more rewarding. Setting goals can also lead you to pursue projects and clients that align with your objectives and interests, which can in itself be motivating. One of the keys to effective goal setting is choosing goals that are clearly defined and measurable over time. For example, if your goal is to increase your income by 15% within a year, you can set objectives that will get you there, such as increasing your rate, finding X number of new projects per month, or upskilling to be eligible for higher value projects. Check out our guide to goal setting for freelancers here.
In the end, freelancers will benefit from learning to keep themselves motivated. Self-motivation is an essential element in growing and establishing a reliable client base, as well as producing high-quality work in an efficient way. If you are struggling to find motivation in your day-to-day life, making small changes to your routine and integrating these 5 tips can help.