7 Motivation Hacks for Freelancers

Having trouble getting motivated to do your work? Here are seven ways to boost your motivation and finally finish those queries and assignments.

1. Motivation doesn’t make you act…action makes you motivated. If you’re lolling around on the couch waiting for motivation to hit before you write a query or research an article, you’ll be on that couch so long that it will have a permanent writer-shaped imprint on it. Taking action — whether you feel inspired to or not — will generate the motivation to keep going. For example, I have a hard time getting started on articles, but once I get myself to sit down and write the title and my byline, I have the momentum to continue writing.

2. Box it. Time boxing is an IT term that means to divide up a project into smaller chunks, each with its own timeline and budget. Diana and I often write about how to apply this concept to your freelance life: Commit to working on any given task for a small amount of time; 15 to 30 minutes is good. Set a timer, and work on that tough project until the timer goes off. This boosts motivation because you know when you sit down that there is an end in sight. Another benefit is that once you’ve gotten started, you’re likely to get on a roll and not want to stop.

3. Buddy up. A goal buddy can help motivate you by holding you accountable for getting your work done. Choose a freelancer you admire or someone who is at your level in their career, and commit to talking in person or by phone at regular intervals, such as once a week or twice per month. Each of you should go over what your goals were during the last session, whether you met those goals and how (or why not), what your new goals are for the upcoming session, and what you plan to do to meet those goals. Your goal buddy can help you brainstorm your way past blocks, crises of confidence, and other barriers.

4. Take a break. Sometimes you just need to give up. Not permanently, mind you, but just for a while as you relax and renew. If you’re feeling a real lack of motivation to get anything done, give yourself permission to lounge on the couch with a good book for a few hours, take a day off to go to the park, or spend a couple of days at a B&B for some R&R.

5. Reward yourself. Assign yourself a reward for every step of a project you’re working on. For example, if you’re writing a book proposal, you can treat yourself to a fancy coffee drink after you write the table of contents, a new book once the first draft is done, and a massage when the project is complete. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be pricey; you can also give yourself an hour off to take a nice bath, or ask your partner to give you that massage when you finish the project.

6. Scare yourself motivated. A friend of mine made a deal with another writer: She would complete her book proposal by X date or she would have to do a certain thing that really frightened her. You can be sure she was motivated to crank out that book proposal!

7. Write for people. When I’m feeling less than motivated about writing an article, I think about all the people the article will help. Even the most boring-to-write article will be interesting and helpful to someone else — otherwise the editor wouldn’t have asked for it. I write a lot about health, wellness, and nutrition, and these articles help other people live healthy, happy, long lives. I also write marketing articles for custom and trade publications, and these articles help readers — especially small business owners — make a living. What can be better motivation than that?

How do you motivate yourself to do difficult tasks? Please post your ideas in the Comments! [lf]

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10 comments… add one
  • I like the time boxing idea. I’m especially keen to try it out because the more I write, the more I feel that my vision is getting progressively worse. No breaks from the computer screen is a bad way to go!

    The method I like to use? Making plans to meet someone for a tasty meal — if I don’t get my work done, I don’t get to go. In the interest of keeping my friends (and keeping my belly full), I usually get motivated pretty quickly.

  • I start thinking about my husband. He has been supportive of my idea to stay home and freelance. When I feel like slacking off, I think about what he would do if he had this opportunity. He’d work his butt off to keep supporting us and be really happy he could do it from home.

    After thinking about that I realize how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. I usually feel pretty motivated to sit down and get some things done after that.

    Think about who you’re working for. Not in a negative way like if I don’t get to work we can’t pay the rent. That can be paralyzing. But more like, I can open up so many options and worlds for my kids if they see how successful I can be working at home, doing something I love. Or, for me, I can really show my husband how much I appreciate his support by going out there and kicking butt!

  • Hello there!

    Those are some really good tips! I especially like the time boxing technique also. I do this technique by working in chunks of one hour, that way I seem to have much more productivity.

    For me the big problem comes with supposed “multitasking”. Many people say that they can multitask, but at the end they just end up doing different tasks in a much less productive way than they would if they did one thing at a time.

    For me one thing that gets me motivated is a good breakfast. When I get up in the morning and eat a really high calorie breakfast, I can concentrate for a longer time and get much more work done. I think the secret is a breakfast with a lot of carbohydrates. A nice slice of bread with a lot of peanut butter, two bananas and a few other pieces of fruit really help.

    Great article, thanks for the great tips!

  • These are some really great tips. I’m a fan of downsize the job to insanity. Instead of a 5km jog, it becomes a turtle walk to the letterbox, as once you begin a task, its very hard to end after such a tiny effort.

    Also, motivation comes easier when you get more compelling goals, or at minimum, more compelling reasons for doing the goals.

  • I like your no. 2 point. Never thought about “Box It”. I should divive my online works because I’m getting boring with a lots of works.

  • Peter

    I like the seven steps, i like the advice number 1, i also have a problem getting started, but all in all i know i have to start. As you said when i start i do not stop…i move on non stop especially when i have all the materials with me.

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