Working as a freelancer gives you a huge amount of independence and flexibility in your professional life. You can choose your own hours, jettison difficult clients at will, and fit your projects around your family commitments with unparalleled freedom. There is, however, a relatively significant problem that nearly all freelancers will run up against sooner rather than later: staying motivated.
Without a boss looking over your shoulder, and without regular working hours and regular days, it’s easy to be distracted from getting real productive work completed. And if as a freelancer you don’t get things done, the money simply doesn’t land in your bank account.
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When it feels as though the well has run dry, if projects seem to be stalled, and if there’s a nagging awareness at the back of your mind that deadlines are fast approaching, then you need to get back into the groove and start getting more results from your working day. Here are seven proven ways to do just that.
1. Remove Online Distractions
The web is both a blessing and a curse for the freelancer. On the positive side, the entirety of the world’s knowledge is at your fingertips, and research on any topic is the work of minutes or hours rather than days. The negative side is that a large part of that online knowledge is focused on cute cats and other distractions, and it can seem like there’s always something more urgent or interesting to do than getting down to productive work.
Ease your temptations toward procrastination by removing non-work software from your laptop, or, at least, setting up separate email addresses and social media accounts for professional and personal purposes, so that you can limit the amount of distraction available to you during working hours.
2. Vary Your Projects
If you’re up against a deadline but just can’t seem to get started, make use of the flexibility that freelancing offers by working for a while on something less urgent and more enjoyable. Always try to have a pressure-free project in reserve that you can dip into when you feel you’re banging your head against a brick wall. This won’t extend the looming deadline, but it’s amazing how just getting started on work — any work — will get your professional juices flowing and make it much less daunting to face the work you’ve been putting off.
3. Set Yourself Small Goals
One of the biggest demotivators for a freelancer is the intimidating task of getting started on a huge project. A blank screen and the knowledge of the amount of work ahead can make those cute cats on Facebook seem immensely appealing. Combat this inertia by splitting up a difficult project into small, manageable tasks, each of which can be easily accomplished, and reward yourself when each snippet of work has been completed. Delaying your next coffee, for example, until you’ve achieved something tangible can be a powerful spur to action.
4. Dream Big, Work Small
This might be a phrase straight out of the pages of the motivational cliche manual, but it holds a strong element of truth. While you should never limit your dreams of ultimate success and achievement, neither should you let these dreams get in the way of accomplishing the seemingly insignificant but necessary tasks along the way. To use another well-worn phrase: from little acorns, mighty oaks grow.
5. Focus on Your Work Boundaries
If you don’t put strong boundaries in place between your working and private lives, both will suffer. Try to set up a place in your home which you can dedicate to your work, so that when you’re there your mindset will be professional, productive, and not as prone to procrastination. Similarly, many people find that even though working from home in a jogging suit might be comfortable, it’s easier to put yourself into a productive frame of mind by dressing more formally for work.
6. Recognize the Danger of Isolation
Working for yourself often leads to a loss of human contact, and for most people this can result in inertia and a lack of motivation. When you have no co-workers to provide informal support throughout the day, perspective can become a casualty, quickly followed by energy and productivity. Try to make a point of getting out from your home work environment when you can, even if only for a few minutes a day, and cultivate human interaction no matter how casual and fleeting.
7. Remember Why You’re a Freelancer
Finally, when your motivation is at its absolute nadir, remember exactly why you’re a freelancer in the first place. The benefits of freelancing are many and powerful, from the freedom of choosing your own path to the satisfaction of succeeding under your own steam. If you’re finding it hard to get going, imagine having to give all that up and return to a regular day job. That should provide a powerful incentive to knuckle down to work!
How many of this techniques you use on a daily basis? Tell us in the comment section below.