Self-Motivation for Freelancers and Homeworkers
Working for yourself and from home offer the freedom to work when you like, and on the projects that you want. However, it can also mean that you are surrounded by distractions, with no manager looking over your shoulder, and therefore it can be tempting not to work.
Being able to motivate yourself is a vital skill for freelancers and homeworkers alike.
This page explores some ideas for improving and retaining your self-motivation as a freelancer or homeworker. It is designed both for those new to freelancing or homeworking and also more experienced freelancers who are finding it hard to motivate themselves, for whatever reason.
Daniel Goleman, author of several books on emotional intelligence, identified four key aspects of self-motivation. These are:
A personal drive to achieve or improve;
A commitment to personal or organisational goals;
Initiative, which in this case means ability to take advantage of opportunities; and
Optimism or resilience, the ability to keep going in the face of setbacks.
There is more about this in our page on Self-Motivation.
Looking at this list, it is clear why self-motivation is an essential skill for freelancers. You must be able to keep yourself going, and be committed to your goals, bouncing back even when you do not win work, because nobody else will do this for you. It is, however, easier to say this than it is to remain motivated at all times.
You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don’t turn up for work, or to tick you off if you start slacking.
Roald Dahl on the qualities necessary for a writer.
It is also helpful to understand that there are two main types of motivator: intrinsic and extrinsic.
- Extrinsic motivators are those factors outside us, such as financial reward, or recognition.
- Intrinsic motivators are factors inside us: our interests, and what we enjoy.
Most of us are motivated by a combination of the two: we work because we have to, because we need the money, but for freelancers, in particular, we are also likely to be working that way because we want to do so.
Identifying Your Motivation, and Putting it to Work
This desire to work freelance or from home, for whatever reason, is likely to be the strongest motivator for any freelancer.
Combine that with extrinsic motivators and you reach:
“I wanted to work like this, and I need the money. If I don’t work, I won’t earn any money, and I won’t be able to carry on.”
This is a very good starting point for any freelancer or homeworker, particularly on a day when motivation seems hard to summon. Reminding yourself of this point may even be enough to get you to your desk and working.
If it is not, however, and especially if your lack of motivation lasts for more than a day or so, you may need to try something else. Good habits to develop to help you stay motivated include:
1. Have a dedicated office space – and ‘go to the office’ each day
It is helpful to have some kind of formal separation between ‘home’ and ‘work’, even if that is only a separate room, or a workstation. Some people prefer to go out of the house, either to a co-working space, or simply to a local café.
This separation means that you can go ‘to’ work each day, and also leave it at the end of the day, which avoids you feeling like you are working all the time. This is also why it is a bad idea to work in bed: your work day will never officially end.
2. Dress appropriately – or at least, dress
Nobody expects you to wear a business suit when you are working from home, although you might want to do so if you are going to video-call your customers. It is, however, sensible to get dressed at least. Like having a separate work space, getting dressed for work helps you to separate ‘home’ from ‘work’, and means that you will improve, rather than lose, your work–life balance.
3. Organise your time
Working freelance and from home means that there is nobody to see when you work, or when you don’t. Paradoxically, however, this makes it more important to organise your own time. There are a number of elements to this:
Know what you need to achieve each week, and each day, and make sure that you do so;
Have reasonably regular working hours, so that your clients or co-workers know when you are likely to be returning emails and calls (and also—again—so that you can separate home and work);
Make sure that you build in time to do things for you, such as socialise with friends, take exercise or spend time with your family. The joy of working for yourself or from home is that you can do this during the day if you want to, and then work into the evening; and
Give yourself some dedicated distraction time, for example to check your social media. The rest of the time, turn off your phone, and leave Snapchat and Facebook alone.
Our guest post on Keeping Yourself Motivated when Working from Home contains more ideas about this.
Look After Yourself
Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to improve your ability to motivate yourself is to look after yourself.
You may have nobody else to point out when you are tired and run down if you are self-employed and work from home, so you need to do it yourself.
Take time to cook and eat good food, and make sure that you build in time to exercise. Both your body and your brain will thank you for it, and it will make you much more productive and effective. Working from home saves you commuting time each day, and you do not simply have to use that time to do more work. Instead, try going for a run or a swim, or to the gym, one morning before work, and see how much better you feel.
Our sections on Looking After Your Body and Looking After Your Mind contain lots more ideas about how to look after yourself effectively.
There will be days when it is hard to get out of bed and work.
Sometimes you need to give yourself a break, and go and do something else. But most of the time, you need to give yourself a swift reminder of why you do this, and then just get on with it. Self-discipline is often only a matter of habit and you too can build it.