Ten Tips To Stay Motivated — Even When You Really Don’t Feel Like Working

It’s a beautiful sunny day. The temperature is just right, and there’s a slight breeze blowing. You’d love to go outside and enjoy the sunshine, but you can’t. Once again, you’re stuck at your computer because you have to meet a deadline.

(Of course, you could take your laptop outside, but you’d still be chained to work and not really free to enjoy the outdoors.)

As a freelancer, you’ve probably experienced those times when you just don’t feel much like working. Personally, I know that there are times when staring at a computer monitor is absolutely the last thing that I really want to do.

It’s normal to lose your motivation for work from time to time, even if you totally love your job. Giving in to a lack of motivation, however, can lead to missed deadlines and lost clients. To run a successful freelance business, you have to stay motivated.

What’s a freelancer to do when there’s work to be done, but work is the last thing that he or she feels like doing?

Ten Handy Tips To Stay Motivated

Here are ten handy tips for staying motivated even if working is just about the last thing that you want to do.

  1. Remind yourself of the reason that you freelance. Perhaps you’re freelancing because you really need the money — a quick look at your checkbook may be all that it takes to bring yourself back to the reality of needing to finish your project. Or, maybe you freelance because you really disliked the corporate cubicle environment. If so, taking a moment to picture yourself back in a cubicle may jumpstart your productivity.
  2. Make sure that your work environment is comfortable. It’s easy to forget about comfort when setting up a home office, but an uncomfortable workspace can definitely deflate your motivation. If you’re going to spend long periods of time on the computer, then you should make sure that you have a comfortable environment. Make sure that your chair is adjusted properly and that your monitor and keyboard are at the proper height for your body.
  3. Change your work environment. As a freelancer you can work pretty much anywhere — the kitchen table, the couch, the car, the backyard, you name it and you can probably work there. Also, remember that many public areas such as libraries and coffee shops offer WiFi access. There’s no rule that says you have to work inside your home, so you may find that a change of scenery helps bolster your desire to work.
  4. Schedule breaks. If you find your motivation is waning, make sure to schedule regular breaks for yourself. Tell yourself that you’re going to take fifteen minutes off after you complete x amount of work. When you do take a break, don’t just continue to sit at your computer. Get up and take a walk, run a short errand, or do some exercises. You’ll find that not only do you look forward to each break, but that each break renews and refreshes your energy and creativity.
  5. Plan a reward for yourself. Bribery can and does work when it comes to staying motivated. If you’re working on a particularly long or difficult project, tell yourself that when you complete this project you’ll be able to do x (with x being something that you’ll look forward to). Your reward could be as simple as watching a movie that you’ve been wanting to see, or as large as buying something for yourself that you’ve wanted for a long time.
  6. Alternate projects. In general, it’s best to avoid interruptions. However, if you find yourself getting bogged down in a particular project (and your schedule allows for it), then you may went to switch to a different project for a while. Be careful to choose something that uses a different part of your skillset. Often working on something different for a while lets you return to the project that you were “stuck” on with fresh energy and fresh ideas.
  7. Picture the work already completed. When you are working alone on a large project it can seem like the work is going on forever without any end in sight. In such instances, it can be helpful to look ahead and envision what it will be like when the project is completed. Imagine the relief that you will feel knowing that the project is finally done and done well. Try to picture yourself getting payment and perhaps compliments for the final work.
  8. Have regular routine. Habits can be powerful things. It’s a proven fact that a habit can be very difficult to break. Some people have made a small fortune with books and courses to help people break their bad habits. In the case of freelancing, habits can be a good thing. If you develop the habit of working during a certain part of the day, every day, then you you’ll find it much easier to schedule your time and ensure that all projects are completed on time.
  9. Take care of your health. It’s no fun working when you are sick, and that’s a fact. Fortunately, a lot of health problems can be prevented. Take measures to make sure that you stay as healthy as you possibly can. Eat right. Get enough rest and exercise. See your doctor on a regular basis and follow his or her recommendations. The better you feel, the more work that you will be able to get done.
  10. Develop a support group. It’s important to have friends and interests outside of your work as well as colleagues who can understand and support what you’re going through. We’ve already discussed the importance of overcoming loneliness and building a flesh-and-blood support group. If you haven’t already taken these steps, you should. I can’t emphasize enough the value of having friends and confidantes for a freelancer.

How Do You Stay Motivated?

What do you do when you just don’t feel like working?

Share your best tips and ideas here.

Top photo by limaoscarjuliet


  1. says

    Once thing that helps me is to set reasonable goals… write down the things i need to accomplish, and then set reasonable time frames for them. Once they are set I schedule my breaks around the completion of these goals. Sometimes it changes depending on the size of the goal.

    Great read!

    ~ Aaron I

  2. says

    Nice points Laura!

    The thing inspires me most is my blog.

    I regularly track the response to blog and the great response inspires me to write great post or tutorials & the cycle continues.

  3. says

    One thing I found very helpful to stay motivated is my notebook background wallpaper!. It is just a plain white text “Are you doing what you should do right now?” on a black background.

    When I am bored or I just don’t know what to do, I simply look to my desktop! Now this become like habit for me. It help me to rethink, choose right move and back to track.

    It also remind me and give me feel good about the money I got by doing last projects. Same time I found this background very useful for my eyes. It have less light as I like to work at late night.

    You may download the JPG and PSD file from http://hecode.com/are-you-doing-what-you-should-do-right-now

  4. says

    Hi and thank you Laura!
    I completly hold with you!
    If there is no motivation you are in problem. But like you said with these tips you can increase your energy level and keep runing with your goals! I always listen some music, and for this reason I suggest listening favorite music!

  5. says

    Lately have been suffering from a lack of motivation even when am steering at piling bills in the letter tray. I feel the va-va-voom I had just died. However, I do believe incorporating #10 would help greatly as I have done most of the other points. Thanks for reminding me that I aint alone in this predicament.

  6. Lexi Rodrigo says

    All good tips, laura!

    For me, working in short, intense time chunks really works to keep my energy & motivation up. I also plan my days so I have no more than 3 “most important tasks” each day.

    Sometimes this means not accepting certain projects, but hey I’m a wife & mother first of all.

    Self-awareness is essential for each of us to find ways to harness our most productive moments and not get burned out.

  7. says

    Staying motivated to work freelance is difficult sometimes – especially when there’s a lull in business. I agree with #1 you have to remember why it is that you do the things you do. Work with the end in mind. However, never just write because of the money – it will soon become drudgery. I remind myself of how good it feels to be doing what I love for a living.

    Another tip I have is, if there are no immediate deadlines, to give into the lack of motivation and do something different. Watch a movie, take a walk, go for a hike. If you do this (at least when I do this) the guilt that you aren’t working on your writing will take over and when the activity is done, you’ll be rearing to go on your projects again. Sometimes we just need a little mini-break from our work.

  8. says

    The change of scenery tactic really works for me…getting out of the house and into a coffee shop for a few hours can really make the difference. I think getting some exercise along the way is also a good thing :-) Also, a nice caffeinated burst of motivation is my other way to battle the freelance blahs–but sometimes going the opposite direction is just as good. I’m a big believer in the power of the midday nap.

  9. BebopDesigner says

    Brilliant post! I can´t really think of anything else we could do to replenish our strength… you’ve done such a magnificent job summarising every possible trick.

    Except there is this thing I do with time and breaks: using timers and setting alarms. For instance, you set a chunk of time to be your “working session”, when that period of time is over, alarm bells let you know it’s time for a break, set a time and a ring for that as well.

    Silly I know, but it turns out to be a great deal of help not only to stay motivated but also to stay focused. I highly recommend a small app that does this for you: it’s called Focus Booster.

    What do you reckon? Cheers!

  10. BookAddict says

    Find a new, really big and tasty carrot.
    Since I find myself highly motivated by money, I try my darndest to secure a really juicy high-paying gig. The thought of all that green out there just a few days away provides instant energy. The other thing that can get me rolling is the opportunity to explore a new subject area that has interested me for a while but I’ve never written about. Sometimes new forms will do it: shorter or longer pieces. Also, when the writing just won’t come, I push myself to seek out more editing work. I never have trouble editing, it’s like working an absorbing, totally engaging puzzle, relaxing and fun.

  11. says

    LOL, BookAddict – I love your honesty. It’s certainly easier to get excited about finishing a high-paying gig that a low-paying one.

    Bebop designer – I’ve also used timers. (Especially when I was trying to increase my writing speed.)

  12. says

    Wonderful tips Laura. This will surely keep me motivated. One thing that I’m grateful for working at home is that I can exercise daily. I haven’t been sick for a almost a year now because of consistent exercise (I only jump rope).

  13. says

    hi, I lose motivation alot recently… its harder being a freelancer, when i ran a design studio and had 5 people doing the work… I could finish that wee bit early on the friday and go for a beer with non work mates. It helped alot.

    Now being a freelance i’ve found it hard to get into it. I am actually trying a new system. I work 3/4 days solid, 12 to 16hrs each day. Then the other days i am doing no work at all!! maybe the odd hour here or there…. The break to allow myself to do nothing is good for me… i’ll let you know if it works long term.


  14. Cesare says

    Thanks for sharing these tips. In my experience I try to work actively on more than one project at a time, e.g. One in the morning and one in the afternoon, to prevent some boredom. Todo lists are my savers. I feel really satisfied when each item has has a check sign on it’s right.
    Finally, it is fundamental to have a look back at what you did, to avoid loosing motivation.

  15. says

    I have never been a freelance anything much less a writer, but I can definitely understand writers block. I just recently started blogging and some days it just seems like I can’t come up with content. But then I usually just think about what is motivating me that day and then I write about it. Good luck in all you writing journeys and yes…stay motivated!

  16. says

    I have never been a freelance anything much less a writer, but I can definitely understand writers block. I just recently started blogging and some days it just seems like I can’t come up with content. But then I usually just think about what is motivating me that day and then I write about it. Good luck in all you writing journeys and yes…stay motivated!

    My last link was wrong…sorry

  17. says

    Great tips Laura, thank you!

    I’ve found that my work motivation is really low when I’m working on freelance projects which are continuous with no end in sight. My solution is to look for additional projects to work on, which have a measurable outcome and a deadline. I’ve found that reaching the finish line, and being proud of the finished product is my motivation to keep working.

  18. says

    I love this cappuccino at the beginning of the post :-)

    Anyways, you brought some good points about how to be more motivated.

    I personally like the “changing the work environment.” It works wonders! Working on the Internet gives us so much flexibility. You can work on the beach, being in an island, in a big city or whatever, as long as there is an Internet connection.

    It’s crazy, but when you work on different places, you get different ideas and insights. Especially if you are in another country or non-familiar environment.

    It’s inspiring.

    I also wrote an article about boosting one’s motivation, a feedback would be appreciated: http://doubletimetoday.com/motivation/24-ways-to-stay-motivated/


  1. […] Mi último consejo para ti es para medir el tiempo de sus actividades, mientras que la construcción de la gestión del tiempo de diseño web. Por actividades, me refiero a profesional, así como las actividades como el tiempo dedicado a la verificación de correo electrónico, sitios de redes sociales, etc Cuando el seguimiento de sus actividades profesionales, se llega a saber de su debilidad y las áreas de mejora, porque usted sabe la cantidad de tiempo que usted gasta en hacer esas actividades. Tiempo de seguimiento también le ayudará a mantener un registro de sus conocimientos freelance como desee conocer las áreas que consume una cantidad considerable de tiempo de su apretada. Aquí están rastreando algunos herramientas de seguimiento de tiempo […]

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