5 Tips on Getting Motivated and Productive When You Work for Yourself

Over the past few years, you’ve probably heard that we’re living in a “gig economy.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over a third of the American workforce is comprised of freelancers. That’s over 50 million Americans, and the number is increasing each year.

Self-employment is certainly nothing new. Home run and self-start businesses have been around for as long as industry has. But with new technology has come the rise of the gig economy, and, despite common misconceptions, it’s tough.

If you’re a freelancer, whether you design, write, do virtual assistant work or data entry, you know that the career doesn’t consist of working in your pajamas while you sip whiskey. Not every day, anyway. There’s a lot of competition, you are your own marketing team, and sometimes it’s just hard to get started in the morning.

Having trouble getting motivated to start your workday? Here are five tips to get you motivated and productive as a freelancer.

1. Treat your job like a job

When you first begin freelancing, whatever your industry, you probably spent most of your day looking for new clients. There’s a lot of marketing in freelancing. If clients don’t know you exist, they can’t hire you. The scope of freelancing is huge.

Artists can be freelance workers, as can an IT security advisor. No matter what you do, you’re going to start off very small, and very disorganized.

But as time goes on, you start to see some semblance of a work day. That is, if you’re doing it right. If you roll out of bed at noon and expect to be a productive freelancer, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Instead, you’ll need to treat your job like a job.

One of the best ways to get motivated is to establish a routine for yourself. Get up in the morning – aim for the same time each morning – and start your day.

Shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and plan to sit at your work station at the same time each day. Establishing routine in your daily life will help give you the motivation you need to begin working.

2. Keep your focus 

Most freelancers work from home, and with a home office comes about a thousand distractions. You just remembered that you forgot to run the dishwasher last night. You just remembered that you have a leaky faucet in the bathroom. Or you just remembered that you bought some ridiculously good cookies at the grocery yesterday.

Don’t do it. Sit your bottom down in your seat and continue the task you’re working on. When you’re done, you can reward yourself with a cookie. And one of the benefits of working from home is that you can fix leaky faucets – on your lunch break. Rewards are a great way to stay motivated throughout the day.

Focus can be especially hard when you’re working on a difficult subject. You’ve got a design project for an absurdly picky author, a legal project covering complex wealth management or you’re working on a difficult writing assignment, something like rocket science or human genetic engineering. You’re going to want to take a break.

3. Just do it

Everyone has them. We all have days when we’re tempted to take the day off, and when that happens, you’re going to have to work especially hard. Turn off your phone, and turn off the television. If there are people around, hide yourself away somewhere.

Get rid of all your distractions, then just do it. If you’re a writer or graphic designer, this is actually pretty easy. You can always complete your project first then edit later. For those of you who are data entry specialists or have job descriptions which require accuracy, you’re going to have to buckle down.

It may be that all you need is a change of scenery. Try to bring your workstation outside, or work at the kitchen table today. The change in scenery can sometimes be the catalyst for a change in motivation level; try it out and see if it works for you!

You should also try and get some exercise or at least avoid sitting down all day, because spending all day sitting can be very detrimental to your health.

4. Phone a friend 

Let’s face it. Aside from park ranger, freelancing is probably the loneliest job on the planet. And even park rangers get to talk with the occasional coyote. There will be times when you feel unmotivated because you miss your work crew.

When you were working your “normal” job, having coworkers was perhaps the only thing that kept you sane. There was something therapeutic about water cooler conversations, or the ability to commiserate with others about how much you hated your job.

You’ll find a few clients who become friends, but you can’t talk to them about themselves, right? Instead, call a friend. Your friend may not completely understand the scope of your project, or even your career. But she can lend an ear while you complain about it anyway.

5. Remember why you freelance

In other words, make it fun again. First of all, you probably had your reasons for quitting your 9-5 to enter the world of freelancing. Maybe you wanted more time with the family.

Maybe the commute was too much for you. Or maybe you needed flexible hours for medical or other reasons. Sit down and make a list of the reasons you’re a freelancer.

Now, think about your job. Is this lack of motivation just normal wear and tear, or is there something in your daily workload that’s bringing you down? Do you have an abusive client, or do you legitimately find that you now hate academic writing? If there’s something bothering you, cut it out.

The beauty of freelance is that you get to manage your time. You choose who you work for, and if there’s a client who’s making your life miserable, you can quit him. If there’s a particular task you don’t want to do, you can eliminate it from your day.


Remember why you started freelancing in the first place, and focus on bringing that workload back. Rebuilding a fun atmosphere is the best way to stay motivated in your freelance career.

Written By
PJ Aitken is a leading freelance writer, author and entrepreneur. He owns a string of websites and works in the field of digital marketing, as well as writing. He is the owner and president of SEO firm Compulsion Media.

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