Whether you’re starting your own business or working on a passion project, it can be difficult to stay motivated, especially when there’s no external pressure pushing you to complete tasks, it’s all on your own to get sh** done.
Take it from a full-time freelancer. Some days it can feel like I’ve gotten nothing accomplished, and sometimes that’s because I don’t. It’s hard! Unless I have a deadline, assignments, or a direct editor I’m working with, no one is making me go out and do the work. It’s up to me and me alone to find work and prove myself worthy of the work, day after day.
So to help understand how to light a fire under this freelancer’s butt, I spoke with entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other self-starters on how they motivate themselves through big and small tasks that, in the end, make them successful.
Think About Each Client as Your Employer to “Keep Happy”
Just as you would for bosses at a full-time job, when you think about keeping each client happy, it’s like keeping your bosses happy. When your bosses are happy, they keep you employed.
“You have to do great work to keep your clients happy,” says Zlata Faerman, owner of ZlataPR. “When you have your own business, not only are your paychecks not guaranteed, but it’s also up to you to make sure they keep coming in.” She also points out that it’s important to understand that your employer might leave for their own reasons that have nothing to do with you. That’s when you can go out and get new business, pushing yourself to grow as an employee and a company. “I really enjoy owning my own business. I don’t really call it ‘working for myself’ because I’m pretty sure that I ‘work for my clients’, but there’s a sense of independence and accomplishment that is inspiring.”
When it comes to the PR industry, Zlata says that it isn’t about efforts that are being made, it’s about getting results. “That said, managing expectations and also providing feedback and constant updates to your client so that they understand the actual effort is key.”
Know How and When to Pivot
If you’re starting your own business in a rocky and forever-changing field such as media, it’s important to understand how and when to adjust to the new business landscape. “The industry has changed so much since I’ve had my own company and I’m constantly reevaluating what I’m doing, if it’s working, if I’m spending my time wisely and if I’m still passionate about it,” says CEO of Jeannine Morris Media, LLC, Jeannine Morris. “I’m also constantly keeping up with the trends to find out what’s next in the world of social and learn how to use it to build upon my content.” So while it’s important to know your brand, it also bodes well to know when that brand needs a bit of rebranding. That’s not called failing, it’s called rolling with the punches, which many successful business people do.
Maintain a Strict Schedule
Just because you don’t have someone telling you what time to come to the office or to take a break doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still hold yourself accountable for those sort of things. “Working for yourself does not mean not working,” says freelancer, Aly Walansky. “I maintain a strict schedule each day – waking up at the same time, taking a ‘lunch hour’ at the same time (except I usually work thru lunch). I don’t know how people galavant around all day and still get work done!”
Even when you have a hard time focusing, Walansky recommends powering through and maintaining the schedule. “The worst thing for you is distraction,” she says. “Don’t ‘take a quick break’ to buy a bagel, get a coffee, go to the post office or do a quick yoga class.” She says that when you break up your day like this it prevents you from being your most productive self.
Treat Yourself Like a Boss You Respect
Walansky isn’t the only one who sets a strict schedule for herself. Storyteller-In-Chief of The Not So It Girl, Lauren West-Rosenthal also recommends blocking off time to work and then following through. This goes with her recommendation to treat yourself like a boss that you respect. “If you worked at a traditional job at a traditional office, you would never think of missing a deadline or disappointing your boss. So, treat yourself like the boss – never miss the appointments and deadlines you set!”
Keep Your Head Up and Stay Focused On Your Goals
Success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and patience to achieve any sort of goals you’ve set for yourself. When those goals aren’t happening, it’s so important to stay focused on what you want and keep your head up. “Staying focused on your goals and remembering and holding onto the passion that brought you to the project, to begin with, is key,” says West-Rosenthal. “But [be] tough when you’re still finding your footing and following.”
That’s where a strong sense of self-esteem comes in. “I’ve been doing this [for] 10 years, and sometimes I have five assignments pending at once but sometimes I also have none,” says Walansky. She believes it’s important to know and understand that through the lean times, you have to just understand and accept that they happen and keep your head up as you work through them to get to your goals. “You need to have some strong self-esteem because it’ll get kicked pretty often!”
Maintain a Network Even When You Aren’t Surrounded by People
When you’re creating your own company, you might be starting it all on your own. This means days home alone, with your head buried in books or a laptop. As much as you should stay focused on your goals, this sort of daily routine can get lonely. But you don’t have to be alone through it all. Get in touch with old colleagues or create a new network of people that can support you through these tough times, maybe even one that can help give you advice. “Persevere to make your business goals happen,” says the owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition, Amy Gorin. “Meet other people in your line of work and find one or two really great mentors. Then pay it forward later!”
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