10 Marks of a Self-Disciplined Freelancer

You’re a freelancer. You’re creative. You’re innovative. You’re flexible. You’re tech savvy. But are you disciplined?

If you think that you can succeed as a freelancer without self-discipline, think again.

Self-discipline is one the most important traits a freelancer can have. It can mean the difference between completing a job and blowing a deadline. It can carry you through those tough freelancing experiences like rejection, stress, or the feast or famine cycle.

In this post, I share ten marks of a self-disciplined freelancer. You can use this list as a checklist to determine what your level of self-discipline is and what areas you need to work on.

Are You Self-Disciplined Enough?

Do you have the self-discipline you need to see you through the difficult times of freelancing? The truth is that many people do not.

Check the list below to find out where you stand in terms of self-discipline:

  1. You work nearly every day, whether you feel like it or not. Unfortunately, there’s a popular myth out there that freelancers need only work when they feel like it. It’s true that freelancing does offer some flexibility of work hours. However, if you’re really going to make a living as a freelancer you need to be willing to work whether you feel like it that day, or not.
  2. You don’t spend every penny you make when you make it. Most seasoned freelancers understand that freelancing income can be irregular. There are some months when you’ll earn more money than others. The disciplined freelancer knows to put money aside during the prosperous months so that he or she will have enough for the slow months.
  3. You market your freelancing business even when you’re busy. Marketing is what keeps the clients coming to your freelance business. If you’re really busy with project work, it can be very tempting to stop marketing your freelance services. However, experienced freelancers know that the best time to get a new freelancing project is before you complete your current project.
  4. You take the time to learn new freelancing skills. As an employee, you may have had access to regular staff training and other professional resources. As a freelancer, it’s up to you to make sure that you stay current in your field. A freelancer with self-discipline will carve out time in his or her busy schedule to make sure that their skills are up to date.
  5. You’re willing to accept work you don’t like, if needed. While no one can force you to take a particular freelancing project, there are many times when it is benefits you to accept a project you don’t really like. It can help you make inroads with a desirable client or just help you to make ends meet during a particularly slow period.
  6. You refrain from ranting about your clients and colleagues in public forums. It can be tempting (and cathartic) to use social media, your blog, online forums, and other public sites to rant about your latest frustrations about your client or your project. Unfortunately, public rants can irreparably harm your reputation as a freelancer.
  7. You don’t quit. Sticking with it, even when times are rough is a sign of a self-disciplined freelancer. Most freelancers who quit, quit too soon–just before they were about to experience real success. If you want to succeed as a freelancer, don’t be a quitter.
  8. You take care of your health. Freelancers, in particular, face a lot of temptations to neglect their health. You may be tempted to skimp on health insurance or skip a doctor visit to save money. You may sit long hours in front of the computer without moving. And the refrigerator (for snacking) is right around the corner. Remember, health is one of your most important assets.
  9. You can admit you’re wrong and you fix your mistakes. It takes a big person to admit that they are wrong. If you are able to do this, you will win the respect of your colleagues and clients. Remember, everybody makes a mistake now and then. When it happens to you, the right thing to do is to fix it quickly and without fuss.
  10. You don’t take criticism personally. As a freelancer, you’re bound to face some criticism and rejection. Not everyone is going to love your freelancing business or your work. While you can’t always please everyone, handling criticism in a professional and positive way is a mark of a truly self-disciplined freelancer.

Your Turn

There you have it. A list of traits that point to a self-disciplined freelancing life. How did you stack up?

Don’t worry if you didn’t have all ten marks. You can work on improving the areas where you are weak.

Are you a self-disciplined freelancer?

Share your tips and thoughts about freelancing self-discipline in the comments.

Image by lululemon athletica


  1. says


    This is a great post! Well done! I have been thinking of No6. I am currently having payment issues with a client and I am very tempted to inform all freelance translators about this client. I know it is not professional enough from my behalf, but is it professionalism from theirs? Questions, questions, questions!

    Again, a great post!

  2. says

    Konstantina Drakou,

    I can relate. In ten years of freelancing, I’ve only had payment issues twice–so I’ve been lucky. However, when you do have them, they are no fun.

    This is my opinion, but…

    A public rant should be a last resort. That’s because once done, you can’t take it back. Even if you delete the rant, chances are someone has it cached somewhere.

    In general, I would try to exhaust all other options (such as reminders, and even more drastic measures like getting legal advice or even contacting something like the Better Business Bureau or other agency).

    If actual fraud is involved, of course, that is a different matter. In that case, people need to be warned–but you need to be sure.

    Of course, I don’t know how long it’s been or how much money is involved.

  3. says

    Personally I have problem with motivation. It’s more related to internet business, then freelancing but it’s similar area.I get an idea, start it, run it for couple of weeks and before I get to monetize it, I quit due to lack of motivation. Hopefully I can fix it sooner or later so I can get more successful. Nice points though.

  4. says

    Once again great post Laura..Point 7 and 8 i have mastered it seems its the point 3 and 4 which I need to look upon…really not able to find a single minute plus i have a 2 years old son I need to give time to him too….Overall very impressive and motivating indeed

  5. says

    Very helpful post. It really takes a great amount of self-discipline to be able to become a successful freelancer. The most important here is to take care of our self especially our health to be able to do our job well.

  6. says

    Great post, Laura.

    Re #7. Persistence is a key trait for a freelancer. You need to persist even when you have doubts, and aren’t making as much money as you want to make.

    Persist with your decisions, too.

    If you decide you want to work with a company, don’t quit if they ignore your first dozen pitches. Keep pitching. Decide that you won’t stop pitching that company until one of three things happens: they go out of business, you die, or they offer you a contract.

    It took me nine months to woo a computer magazine into giving me a commission. Once I’d completed that commission successfully, I became a regular contributor. They recommended me to other magazines, and to tech companies.

    That nine months was well worth it; it gave me credibility with big companies. An editor recommended me to hp to write an infomercial. Another editor recommended me to an acquisitions editor at a publishing house.

    Most freelancers quit way too soon — never, ever quit. Fight for what you want. Stubborn freelancers win.:-)

  7. says

    Angela – Thank you. I needed to hear, at this very moment: “If you decide you want to work with a company, don’t quit if they ignore your first dozen pitches. Keep pitching.”

    Laura, as usual, great article.

  8. says

    My problem is definitely discipline, but not a lack of discipline. Most people don’t have the discipline to work at home and stick with it. My problem is knowing when to STOP working.

    I had a boss once once who made me stop working at home. He said, “You’re a workaholic! I check the website at 2 a.m. and see changes. You never stop.”

    Thankfully, I no longer have to listen to a boss, but my husband thinks I spend too much time working.

    So there’s my challenge — to stop working at a set hour. I’m getting better about it, but sometimes a solution will come to me at the weirdest times and being a former writer, I have to get it down when it’s fresh in my mind.

    Good article!

  9. says

    Sissi Fletcher–Thanks for sharing your experience. You describe the other side of the coin. For some people it can be just as hard to stop working.

    DesignFacet, Thanks for your kind words.

    femi–Thanks for sharing. :)

  10. says

    As usual, you’ve come up with a great list, Laura. I really can’t decide how I’d rank order them. Never really had a problem with #6, because I’m quick to pull the trigger on bad eggs. And I’ll give a plug for #2, because I plan on retiring…in style!

  11. says

    I’ve really learned from it and somehow realized that I’m not that disciplined enough for a freelancer. I will do my best to take care of my self as a start and to responsibility as being a freelancer needs personal touch and doing your own thing.

  12. says

    The point on not being a quitter is the truest of them all! Once you go down that negative self-talk road and you don’t have support or colleagues to pull you out of your funk, quitting is the obvious option.

    You have to have some serious belief in your strength of mind. Call it stubbornness or call it perseverance. There is no substitute for self-discipline when it comes to a determined mindset. If you suss that one, the other types of self-discipline mentioned just seem to follow naturally.

  13. says

    This is a great reminder that freelance work is still work! At a “regular” job, bosses are there to make sure you keep working. As a freelancer, you have to be the boss. That doesn’t just mean you get to call the shots. It also means you have to be in charge of your workforce.

  14. Tiffany says

    You should call this “The Ten Commandments of Freelance Discipline!” Great post…I should start reading it every morning!


  1. […] Self-discipline – veterans in freelancing develop self-discipline. No boss. No time card. The greatest enemy is “Thy self.” They have all the time they need to finish the project before the deadline. One thing is for sure, whether they like it or not: they need to work. As time goes by, self-discipline is not imposed anymore. The skills will come out naturally. They type with speed and finish the project before the time. Laura Spencer of Freelance Folder wrote: […]

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