How to stay motivated as a freelancer
Most freelancers who have left the traditional world of work behind will tell you how much they love the freedom and flexibility of being their own boss. Being self-employed is often so rewarding but can also present challenges, and it’s not uncommon to find yourself feeling stuck in a rut or even questioning your choice at times. So what can you do when everything is feeling a bit less rosy for whatever reason?
Identify the problem
Sometimes you can feel less in love with freelancing without really knowing why. If that’s the case, it can help to spend a bit of time trying to work out what’s behind the lack of motivation.
For example, if you’re taking on clients that aren’t a good fit then this can have a big impact on how you feel about your day to day work. Saying no to paid work is super scary but in the long run, you’ll create a more sustainable business model and enjoy what you’re doing more.
Remember why you got started
Think back to the reasons for doing what you do. Did you go freelance to spend more time with your children or to have more flexible working hours? Was it to help a specific group of people or solve a problem? Was it to follow a passion that you would happily do for free, but now you're getting paid for it?
Whatever your reason, if you're feeling stuck or a bit disillusioned, it can be very helpful to revisit your motivations for doing what you do. For example, if you need to make a scary phone call (such as asking for money or tackling an issue with a client) think back to your "why". If someone said you could spend an extra four hours a week with your family by making this call, would it make it easier?
Look after yourself
As a freelancer you don’t have a line manager to check that you’re not getting too overwhelmed (admittedly it’s only good managers who do this in the world of employment) and it’s easy to burn out, especially when you’re first starting out.
It’s therefore really important to make sure you’re taking care of your own health and wellbeing. This doesn’t have to be a spa day or cost loads of money; it can be as simple as taking 15 minutes to go for a walk and clear your head, or just giving yourself a bit of a break. This applies mentally too – give yourself a break by not beating yourself up or comparing yourself with others.
Find the right community
If you’re used to working in a team or having people around you then it can be challenging to go solo and find yourself working from home all alone. Depending on your personality, you might find that you struggle with the lack of interaction with people. There are plenty of communities out there that will allow you to find the right group of people who energise you and help you to feel motivated again.
Use platforms like Meetup to find events near you, or consider joining a coworking space. Many now offer flexible packages of a day or two per week that will hopefully be enough to give you a boost and give you a chance to speak to other grown ups! Not all guarantee that sense of community though so do ask how they facilitate engagement amongst members.
If you don’t want to commit to a coworking membership then come and try out one of our Freelance Folk popup coworking sessions. At our weekly get togethers, conversation is guaranteed and you can meet lots of other friendly and helpful freelancers.
If you don’t like attending formal networking events, you’re not alone. Many people at our coworking sessions don’t like them either! Don’t worry, there are ways of meeting people and growing your network without throwing your business cards at people and being sold to.
One way to do this is to attend events where you’re learning something new (like a social media workshop for example). Because there’s a structure it can be a much easier and less pressurised way to meet people who share your interests and could become customers, advocates for your business, or even friends.
Change your physical environment
Another simple trick to get unstuck is to try changing your physical space to change your mood. This could be as simple as moving to a different space in your home, or working from a café, library or museum. It doesn’t have to cost loads! Experiment with where you find you’re most productive or energised.
It might even be different places depending on the type of work, so you could find that you get inspired to create content in a coffee shop but prefer to be at home when doing your admin, for example.
Focus on one thing at a time
Sometimes a lack of motivation comes from a lack of clarity or not really knowing where to start. This is where getting focused can really help. There’s a great productivity approach called the Pomodoro Technique in which you work for 25 minutes on one project – and this is the key part – ignoring all distractions, and then take a five minute break. Repeat this three or four times, and then take a half hour break, during which you can distract yourself to your heart’s content!
Splitting larger jobs into 25 minute intervals also helps to break down projects that seem a bit overwhelming. Asking yourself “What’s the next action I can take to move this forward?” can help if you’re struggling to know where to start.
Tackle imposter syndrome
Sometimes a lack of motivation can be down to how you are feeling about yourself or your business, and a really common problem in the world of freelancing is imposter syndrome: the idea that someone is going to find out you’re a ‘fraud’ or that you don’t really know what you’re doing.
One of our regulars Michelle Pratt has the great idea of keeping a list of any nice things that people have said about you to refer back to if you’re feeling a bit down. Get more tips like this on how to overcome imposter syndrome in the first episode from a new podcast for freelancers, 99 Problems (but a boss ain’t one).
Come and say hello
Find out more about our merry gang of freelancers and how our Manchester coworking sessions help entrepreneurs to get back their motivational mojo. We’re on Stand 14 at the Mums Enterprise Roadshow in Manchester on 20th June 2018.
Katy Carlisle, Freelance Folk
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