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Going it alone as a freelancer is a brilliant feeling… until the work seems to dry up or get repetitive. Staying motivated as a freelancer is essential for your business success – but it can take a bit of tough love and discipline to keep going!
Use these strategies to stay motivated and keep pushing your business forward, even when you’re in a bit of a slump. You’ll feel productive even on days without client work AND you’ll get out of the doldrums, too!
Join a Virtual Networking Group
One of the most effective ways to find work is through your network. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been freelancing for years or you’re just starting out! Finding an industry group to join will make a difference to your work.
Not only will you earn referrals and hear of job opportunities through your group, but you’ll benefit from ‘shop talk’ with a wide range of people. Freelancers aren’t as competitive with each other as you may initially believe. In fact, they’re a supportive group of people who champion others who’ve taken the freelance leap!
Look for Slack communities, Facebook groups, or LinkedIn groups to start with. Look at your local Chamber of Commerce to find out what they’re doing in terms of virtual meetings. They’re a great way to meet other local business people AND promote your work without being too salesy.
Some groups run webinars, others like a Zoom meeting. Some are continuous chat channels like Slack, that you can dip in and out of depending on how much time you’ve got. Keep regular contact and answer questions as well as asking them. Giving back to the community makes others more receptive to helping you out, too.
Diarise Your Day
Even if your books are bare and there’s no work coming in, spend time planning your day or week in a diary. Stick to your appointments!
Block out times for research, cold pitching, or training webinars. Use the time you’ve got spare to learn more about your industry or how to run your business. These skills come in handy later on, so it all counts as business-related activity even if you feel it’s not earning you money right this moment.
When you’ve got a lot of clients on your plate and you’re juggling tasks, a diary plan helps to break your workload into manageable chunks. Set out blocks of time – say every 60 minutes – and write a schedule for your work. Include time for social media and emails, too! Often, block-checking emails then ignoring them for an hour or two is a great way to improve focus and productivity.
As part of your diary planning, or a larger project, make a list of goals. These could be short-term business goals for the week or month, or longer goals such as what you want to achieve by the end of your first year freelancing.
Having something to focus on and work towards keeps you focused on work and reminds you why you went freelance in the first place. When work is slow, these goals help you decide what you need to do next to get where you want to be – such as taking extra training courses or increasing the number of cold pitches you do each week.
Change Your Workspace
The world is now working from home, it feels – but many have the luxury of returning to an office if they wish. Working as a freelancer at home means you can go a little la-la from staring at the same four walls.
If you’re stuck in a rut, change your workspace. This could mean any number of things: rearrange the furniture in your home office, or move from the sofa to the kitchen table. Perhaps you can take your laptop to the local park for an afternoon of work in the sunshine, or maybe you can visit a friend to work together at their place.
Regular freelancers who don’t have a home office, or like the differentiation of work/home space, find co-working spaces revive their motivation. You get the benefits of going to an office, but for your own business. Look for local workspaces in your area – you can often rent a hotdesk space by the day or week, and some offer free trials to get you started.
There’ll be days when you feel like you’re too busy to get some exercise, and other days when your motivation for doing anything except watch Netflix is nil. Don’t let it get to you!
Take time for at least 15 minutes of exercise – even on the days you don’t feel like it. Not only does it get you away from your desk/bed/sofa, but exercise also stimulates mental ability and can help you find inspiration. It also staves off depression – and is something you can do with a friend, to boost your social interactions, too.
Try the NHS quick workouts, pop to the gym to lift some weights, or get out for a brisk walk around the block. Alternatively, start your day with a yoga routine to feel invigorated, or arrange to meet a friend for some tennis or a kickabout in the evening after work.
Exercise doesn’t have to cost you a penny, but it’s essential for keeping you motivated as a freelancer. It helps you find mental clarity, boosts your health so you’re not at risk of taking (unpaid) sick days, and helps relieve strains from poor posture sat at a desk all day.
Your pyjamas might be the comfiest clothes you own – but it’s not going to put you in a work state of mind!
Every day, get up and get dressed. Even if you’re changing from ‘sleeping PJs’ into what’s officially known as ‘lounge wear’, that act of getting changed into something different helps change your mindset into work mode.
Some people find the simple act of putting shoes on is all it takes to give them confidence for that all-important client call! It can help you feel like you’re a professional at the office (which you are, just at home), and resets your thinking into a business-like attitude.
At the end of the working day, change back into your PJs! This helps signify the end of your work time and start of your wind down evening time.
Make an Appointment Every Day
Treat your working week as if you’re going to the office. Even if you’re a part-time freelancer, use your working days as efficiently as possible.
Avoid losing focus by making sure each work day has at least one appointment in it. This might be calling a potential new client, catching up with an existing one, or attending a training webinar. Just pick something that forces you to get your business head on!
It’s also a good way of making sure you’re moving towards the goals you set. An appointment doesn’t have to be with a client or potential customer. It can be an appointment with yourself! Promise yourself you’ll spend one hour reading about a topic, or that you’ll spend two hours developing your business plan. It puts your business at the forefront of your daily routine – and helps you stay motivated as a freelancer.
Take Regular Breaks
On the flip side, don’t stuff your day with back-to-back calls if you can avoid it! The likelihood is, you chose freelancing to get away from the 9-5 grind and find a flexible way of working that suits you.
The trouble with that – plus the knowledge that you’re responsible for every penny that goes into (or out of) your pocket – it it’s easy to get carried away. You’ll realise you’ve been sat in the same position for hours on end, trying to finish your latest project or sending off ‘just one more pitch’.
Set a timer on your phone to go off every hour. Get up, stretch, make a cup of tea. Spend at least five minutes away from screens in each hour and revive yourself! Take a lunch break, too. Going full force all day long is the guaranteed route to burnout – and no freelancer stayed motivated when that happens!
Use Apps to Improve Your Focus
Sometimes, you can do everything right and yet still find it hard to stay motivated as a freelancer. The world in 2020 is a particularly big challenge: there are many, MANY distractions going on around us and it’s easy to get sucked into a mental wormhole about it all.
If you struggle to stay focused on your work during the day, consider using apps to help. For example, if you know that social media drains your time AND energy, use a blocking app on your computer. Apps like AppBlock let you set the times you are – and aren’t – allowed to access other apps on your phone or desktop.
It means that, even if you’re tempted to check Facebook instead of write that proposal, you physically can’t! You can go one step further with similar apps for things like writing, too: Cold Turkey Writer blocks EVERYTHING until you reach a set goal!
Many freelancers struggle with their focus overall. Staying motivated as a freelancer involves an ability to cut out the distractions – which are often caused by a busy mind and that leads to a lack of sleep! Try apps like Flipd or Calm to help you learn techniques for coping with a busy head. Meditation strategies and even the sound of a crackling fire to lull you to sleep at night can all help you manage your mental focus.
Arrange Social Engagements
Don’t forget to have a life, too! Staying motivated as a freelancer is nigh on impossible if you’re all work and no play. It’s so easy to keep cancelling plans because you want to work on your next pitch, or you’ve got client work you really want to get finished (even if the deadline isn’t until later in the week).
Taking time for yourself to have social interaction is vital to maintaining your motivation during your working day. Set time aside to spend time with your family, and make sure you have at least one full day off every week to do things with your friends, family, or even just some ‘me-time’ that’s away from your desk.
Social interaction is important for your mental health and maintaining your relationships. However, it can also boost your enthusiasm for your freelance work. Taking time away from your computer to do something entirely different gives your brain time to percolate ideas in the background. You’ll return to work revived! Going out to do things, like taking a walk with your family or watching a film with friends, also brings inspiration from other places that you can introduce to your work.
More Freelance Tips
With so many redundancies, reduced hours, and people realising there’s never a ‘perfect’ time to launch their freelance dream, more people than ever are turning to freelance work. That’s why we’ve put together a whole bunch of useful articles about freelancing to help you get started!