I wrote last night about my experience of having a settled day in a fairly unsettled period, and a few of the things that helped me do that. This was a good plan for a day, but it raises the bigger question that every freelancer faces – how to keep going day after day, with only you to be the motivator.
Motivation is the killer skill for any freelancer. I know that I’d prefer to be hanging out with my daughter, being with friends, reading, weaving, or playing in the garden. Heck, sometimes I’d even prefer to be doing hard exercise instead of working. But I don’t. I knuckle down and work, often to the point where I don’t do any of the things that I’d prefer to be doing.
How do I stay motivated? I’ve spent a bit of time self-analysing, and here is some of what I’ve learned about myself:
- I love what I do: With occasional exceptions, I choose jobs I like. That in itself is the biggest motivator.
- I love being good at what I do: I’m good at what I do, and love being good. Part of my motivation is to do everything better than last time and improve on every project. That keeps me going even on things I don’t learn a lot from.
- I teach what I do: I take every opportunity to teach other people. That does two things for motivation – makes me think about how I work and how to teach it; and rewards me when someone else does a great job.
- I like people: I’m in a service job. If I don’t enjoy working for and with people, I won’t do good work. But I do like people, so I’m motivated to do good work for them.
- I know what I need: I keep my own books, including a spreadsheet that shows my yearly outlays and exactly how much I need to work every week to meet the minimum costs (including my salary). That helps me to remember how much I *do* have to work.
- I keep track of financial health: Every month I analyse what I’ve done and how financially healthy the business is. I always know where I’m up to.
- I expect crap to happen: I know how healthy my business is, but always have a buffer for a child with tonisillitis, a client who doesn’t respond on time, an illness. When I’m feeling comfortable, I don’t slow down, because it could happen at any time.
- I take time out: I don’t panic about working all the time. During the last fortnight I went to a conference overseas (I taught and presented, so it was work) then got home and did some fun stuff. It wasn’t really a holiday, but a mini freelance break. It recharged me for a full week this week.
- I love what I do: Yes, I already said that. But it is so important it is worth repeating.
How do you keep motivated to work when life is so fun?