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Resolve to stay motivated in the new year


AP Photo/Gero Breloer

With the beginning of a new year comes a time-honored tradition: the new year's resolution.  Most people start off the year with a new list of goals--go to the gym every day, stop smoking, lose ten pounds, do some volunteer work.  They dive in with full gusto, ready to take the world.  And then, at some point, their gung ho turns to gung no.

Freelancers often grapple with a similar challenge to stay motivated.  We make a pledge to ourselves to work a set number of hours a day only to find ourselves slipping after a week, a day, an hour.  How many writers have you heard say, "I'm going to write an hour a day"?  You may even be the one who said it!

There are many benefits to being a freelancer: you set your own hours, there's no boss watching over your shoulder, and you have the freedom to choose your projects.  However, there can also be many challenges, and for many, motivation is a biggie.  It's very easy to get distracted, especially if you work from home.  Your mom calls to tell you about the new lattice she bought for her bougainvillea, the Chargers game is on (can L.A. please get a football team? But I digress.  See...distractions), or the closet desperately needs reorganizing.  The truth of the matter is, there will always be something.  So, here are some tips to stay motivated and keep yourself on track when it comes to your freelance work.

  • Don't bite off more than you can chew.  If you haven't worked out in a year, and you suddenly decide to hit the gym two hours a day every day, you will most likely burn out and lose interest.  The same can happen with your work.  Make sure you have the time to take on a project.  If not you will deplete yourself and not only will you lose out, but also your client will lose out.  In the end, it's all about happy clients.
  • Be accountable.  One of the benefits of freelance work is not having to deal with a boss.  That being said, it can sometimes help to set your own deadlines, or find an accountability partner, someone you check in with on a daily or weekly basis to set goals and make sure they are reached.  You are still the boss, but you are accountable to someone other than yourself.
  • Set hours.  Put together a weekly schedule for yourself and mark out the time you will work on your various projects.  If you are a night owl, then work at night.  If you are a morning person, well, you get the idea.  Whenever you decide is the best time for you to be productive, commit to working those hours.  Be sure to schedule your breaks so you don't find yourself meandering off.  It's also a good idea to set aside time during standard working hours to make phone calls.  Most importantly, let people know  your "hours of operation."  If your friends and family know you work every morning from 9 am to noon, then they will respect that time as if you were working at an office job.
  • Find the fun in it.  Most of us do what we do because we like the variety of projects, or we can't stand monotony.  All this talk of schedules and deadlines is starting to sound like a J-O-B.  Well, guess what?  It is.  A gig, a project, call it what you will, but in the end you are completing a job for your client.  You may not have a conventional job, but it is in fact a job that needs to get done.  Remember, you chose this path, and you picked this "job," so have fun with it.  There was something that initially appealed to you about it; focus on that instead of letting the details get you down.  The second that a negative thought or complaint comes to mind think of cubicle living and you will most likely find a change in your attitude.
  • Remember your bigger picture.  Why did you become a freelancer to begin with?  Time freedom?  The money?  Your vision is the biggest motivator of all.  It is said that a child who cannot envision a future has no future.  The same can be said of a freelance business.  If you do not set big picture goals for your business, then you have nothing for which to strive.  It may be a financial goal, or being able to work from home to be more involved with childrearing.  Whatever the case may be, it is personal and it must be burning inside of you.  What is your "why"?
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