Freelancing Accountability Tips to Help You Stay on Target

Many complain about the inconvenience of working corporate hours, but freelancers understand best how having a rigid schedule can help with focus and productivity. The advantages of working your own hours and sitting wherever you call your “office” also bring many detractors and a constant need for self-imposed focus. Here we offer tips for moving forward–rather than sideways –with your projects.

Change Projects

If you’re sitting at your home office desk spinning your wheels, staring at a blank piece of paper, and your mind is going in a thousand different directions, give yourself permission to stop and work on another project. If you don’t, you could still be staring at a blank piece of paper when your spouse and kids get home at 5 p.m.

As a freelancer, you may be balancing three to five projects with three to five different clients. This is an advantage because you can switch off to project #2 when your tires are (temporarily) done spinning on project #3.

Give Yourself Rewards

Both new and seasoned freelancers need motivational tools ranging from stickers marking off the completion of project segments to buying a new laptop (if you’re a rich freelancer!). Don’t wait until you can buy a laptop, however, to reward yourself. Buying a laptop is a long-term motivator. To be a successful freelancer, you need daily, sometimes hourly, motivators to keep your engine roaring on the highway of production.

Maybe you have a weekend fishing trip planned with the family. This is a great motivator because you can relax more completely if that project is in the can when you pull away from the house Saturday morning with all the fishing gear in tow. Maybe the house mortgage is due…that’s a really good motivator.

Get a Buddy

Get a buddy who also works at home and use him or her as your accountability partner. Call each other in the morning and evening for regular motivation. That phone call will help remind you of why you need to keep going when you just want to lay your pen down and go play.

Break it Down in Palatable Bites

Don’t let yourself sink by thinking of all the things that are on your desk to do. Break every job into bites that you can easily swallow so you can sustain productivity throughout the day rather than short periods in the morning or afternoon. If you want to write seven pages one day, stack seven blocks on your desk. After you write one page, throw the block in a bag. If money motivates you, break your work into bits based on pay:

  • How much do you make per page?
  • How much do you make per article?
  • How much do you make per client?

If you make $10 per page and you want to write 10 pages that day, place 10 $10-bills in a clip on your desk. For every page that goes by, put one $10 bill in your billfold.

“Cowork” Without Official Coworkers

If you’re freelancing and working from home, chances are you feel uninspired for part of the day and yearn for human contact. Since you’re lacking others in your home office, it’s natural to feel as if you’re hitting a creative block and not working to the best of your abilities.

There’s a way to get the benefits of coworkers without actually moving someone into your home office and having them invade your territory. There are plenty of buildings across the US that act like one big unorganized office. There’s two ways these can work.

  • You pay a monthly fee to rent out an office space within the building, so you’re working among others, but not “working” with them.
  • Some are open to freelancers without needing to pay a hefty fee. You’re free to go in and work side by side with other freelancers.

What are the benefits to this? For one, you get out of the rut you’re in just by sitting in your home office or Starbucks. You also get the benefit of bouncing ideas off another person. It doesn’t matter if they’re in your industry or not. Having fresh perspective can help you get past a block you might have.

Another benefit? If you’re working among others who are grinding down on their work, chances are you will too. This is great for motivation and to stop yourself from slacking in your pajamas on the daily.

You may not need all of these in conjunction, but keep them in a bag of tricks for days when you need extra pushes. Working these into your daily routine will help you get your work done AND benefit from crafting your own schedule–a nice reminder of why freelancing can be one of the luckiest positions to be in as a professional.

Your Turn

How do you stay on track? What accountability tips do you have?

Share your answers in the comments.

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  1. says

    Great article! One of the hard things as a freelancer, as you pointed out, is accountability. When you are working for yourself, you don’t really have anyone to answer to. Besides your clients, you should be answering to yourself. Create rules and schedules so you stay on track. I’m a big fan of to-do lists. There are some great apps that you can get, but nothing is more rewarding than making your today’s to-do list on a scrap sheet of paper and crossing them off throughout the day. At the end of the day you can look back and see how many things you crossed off. You should also be doing a lot of goal setting. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals are very important to keep you on track and for you to reward yourself when you reach them.


  2. says

    Great article. Like the poster above says having a list of tasks keeps me on track because I may have a million ideas that can have me spinning and get off track. I may be thinking of design, work on marketing or going out to a job. A list keeps me focused. Also as far as design contact I chat with other designers in gtalk to help critique my work, just to chat, or if I need any help etc.

  3. says

    Thanks for the sharing. I just started my freelance career and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with motivation throughout the day. Breaking projects down into small tasks like you mentioned helps a lot.

  4. says

    Hey, I love the idea you have on coworking and I think I’m going to find a place where I can do that, for a change. Now, to answer your question – I simply take a time off and get me a nice hour or two in this favorite park. I bring with me my personal journal where I just write anything that comes to mind – and I do this while I’m having a cup of my favorite tea blend.

  5. says

    Co-working was something I’ve planned to do for a while now. This is definitely a good source of motivation. I’ve already used the other points with more or less success but as someone said above motivation is always something you struggle with as a freelancer. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  6. says

    Excellent article! I use rewards to keep myself on track and productive. If I find myself spinning my tires I usually switch to a different task to give myself a break or step away from things for a moment to clear my head.


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