Staying Motivated Through the Years

A reader once asked me a very interesting question–how do I stay motivated ¬†long-term when I don’t receive any raises or benefits as a freelancer? This got me thinking hard–just how do I keep myself motivated?

I was never really lucky enough to have a job with good benefits, bonuses or raises, so maybe the lack of these things doesn’t bother me as much as someone who did have them at a full-time job. Or, perhaps it’s because I feel like I do receive all of these benefits–and more.

There are tons of things that keep me motivated as a freelancer, so much so that I don’t think I would ever go back to any kind of regular job.

The trick is to reward yourself regularly for the hard work you do, much like a boss would. Here are some ways I’ve kept myself motivated through years of freelancing.

Love What You Do

No matter how much money you make, you’ll never be satisfied if you’re not doing something you truly love to do. While you could probably get away with working on stuff you hate for a while, eventually it’s going to become harder and harder to get out of bed–until the day you finally get fed up and quit.

This is one reason why I advocate specializing your services so much. I know that if I was still doing stuff like Flash and web design, I would’ve quit long ago.

Doing something you love to do every day doesn’t mean what you’re doing is going to be easy, but it keeps you coming back for more every morning.

Give Yourself Raises

Unlike a full-time job, freelancing means you don’t get a yearly raise. But, who needs a yearly raise when you can have two raises a year? Or, three?

The cool thing about freelancing is that you can basically set your prices any way you want. Of course, you have to take the market and your skill level into account, but I’ve seen freelancers charge anywhere from $10 an hour to $300 an hour for similar services.

Freelancing means you have almost unlimited potential to make as much money as you want. Unlike a job, you don’t have to wait around and hope some boss notices your good work and gives you a raise. As a freelancer you can, and should, give yourself a raise a couple of times a year to keep yourself motivated and working hard.

Have Goals in Mind

I’ve always had several goals in mind that could never be realized while working for someone else. Having goals is a great way to keep yourself motivated, because you can remind yourself of the things you want to accomplish to get moving.

In the area I live in, the most any employer would pay for what I do is only $35,000-$40,000 a year. Being stuck at that income level was definitely not one of my goals. I felt like I should be paid much more, which is one of the reasons I struck out on my own. One of my goals was to be financially independent–and freelancing has allowed me to accomplish that. There mere thought of how much money you could make can potentially be a huge motivator.

Better Benefits

People who work in full-time jobs think that they’ll have to give up benefits if they want to freelance. But, what they don’t realize is that not only are there more benefits to freelancing, they’re also better benefits.

For example, the typical benefits of a full-time job are:

  • Subsidized health, dental, vision, life insurance
  • Retirement benefits
  • Possible bonuses
  • Paid vacation and sick time

What full-timers don’t realize is that you can get all of these same benefits for the same price, or for an even lower price, that you were paying with your regular job. (For example, my health insurance went from $80 a month at my job, to $50 a month with only a slightly higher¬†deductible). Plus, since you’ll most likely make more money as a freelancer, you can often afford better versions of the above benefits.

In addition to the monetary benefits of freelancing, you also get:

  • No traffic jams or commuting
  • No office politics or useless meetings
  • Can work where and when you want
  • Take time off when you want
  • Choose the types of clients and projects you want
  • Use the kind of equipment you want

Listening to the tales of my friends’ crappy jobs are more than enough to keep me happy about where I’m going in my business.

Always Moving Forward

No matter how much you love the work you do, doing the same thing over and over will quickly become boring and demotivating. You should always aim to improve what you do and learn new things.

This past spring, I hit a slump. I was scheduled up constantly and making plenty of money, but I was bored with what I was doing. Then I got a cool idea for a web app to work on with my fiancee, who’s a programmer. It gave us something to do together and a reason to look forward to coming to work.

Now, I’m learning iPhone development. While it’s something I’ll probably never offer to my clients as a service, it’s fun to learn, increases my skills and gives me yet another reason to look forward to working.

Working Some Place You Love

When I first started freelancing, my office was in the basement. There was one half-window and the room was always dark, no matter how many lights I’d turn on. The paint was also dark and dreary. The room was cold, messy and there was no real decor to it. I hated going down in the “cave” as I called it, which mean it was no longer motivating for work.

So, I made the decision to switch my office with my guest bedroom, which was the brightest room in the house. I painted the room a cheery green, bought new desks and matching furniture (that’s my office in the picture above) and decorated it nicely. Not only is it now a fun place to work in, I can’t wait to get into the office every morning. It’s now the best place to be in the whole house.

Your Thoughts

What are some of the things that keep you motivated while freelancing?