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3 Ways to Stay Motivated While Building Your Freelance Writing Business

Image by Arya Ziai  under CC Atribution 2.0 Generic
Image by Arya Ziai under CC Attribution 2.0 Generic License

Want to know a secret?

Sometimes I don’t want to write.”

I feel guilty admitting this because I recently left work behind to do this writing thing full-time. Since I’ve been successful in establishing my passion as my business, I feel like I should want to write all of the time.

But it’s just not the case.

Now writing is my work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and enjoyable (most of the time), but it’s still work!

Staying motivated as an entrepreneur is challenging at times. It’s easy when you get started — things are shiny and new — much like a honeymoon period.

But eventually, the newness wears off. What do you do then? Here are three ways to stay motivated (over the long haul) as you continue to build your freelance writing business.

1. Remember Your Why

You have to have a why. This is actually the very first lesson in my freelance writing course. If you don’t have a strong why (or motivation in the first place), it’s easy to give up when things get tough and move on to the next shiny new object.

My why is providing for my family.

When I set out to start my freelance writing business, it wasn’t as a part-time hobby (although it totally could be for you). I wanted a new career – something that would allow me to have a flexible schedule and unlimited income potential. And I liked to write, so I decided to give it a try.

When I don’t feel like writing, I take a minute to reflect on those two small and one big mouth I’ve volunteered to feed. They are my why — my priority, so even when I don’t feel like writing, I do.

2. Commit to Just a Few Minutes

I’ve found that with anything that’s important to you (writing, exercising, etc), if you set a low bar, but commit to a minimum effort, you’ll often do far more than the minimum.

For example, let’s say you don’t feel like writing today. But each day you make yourself sit down to write for 10 minutes, 100 words or another minimum metric is.

Often, getting started is the hardest part. You might look up and see that an hour has passed or all of sudden you’ve written 500 or a thousand words. Usually, it’s just a mental block, and once you get started it goes away. You’re able to end the day far more productive than you imagined.

Other times, you aren’t in the mood or mindset to write that day. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be super productive (or creative) It’s impossible – some days you will just need to take a writing break.

You won’t know if you’re just procrastinating or if you legitimately need a day off from writing though until you try. My advice is to figure out what your minimum bar or expectations are and commit to doing that every single workday. If you get to the end and still feel the same way, then quit writing for that day and work on something else instead.

Just because you’re not having a great writing day, doesn’t mean you should take the whole day off from work though (although every once in awhile a “mental health day” may be needed). Instead shift your focus from creative activities (writing) to something less brain intensive. Administrative tasks are great for these type of days.

3. Set Goals

By now, you should have a why and some minimum expectation benchmarks. These are both great, but going a step further and having bigger picture goals are helpful as well.

You should have goals for the year, month, week and day. Start with your bigger goals (making $X/year, being published in a certain place, etc.) and then break them down into smaller goals.

For me, I’d like to end the year making $10k/mo in gross revenue from my online business (this includes more than writing). I further break this down into smaller goals. It’s my goal this month to reach $6k in revenue, for example.

From there, I need to figure out what activities (things in my control) I can focus on to get me there. So I break it down even further. On a weekly basis, I need to write at least 10 pieces (this includes articles for clients, my own blog posts, newsletters, etc.), pitch at least five new writing gigs and connect with 10 other entrepreneurs (like bloggers, other writers, etc.).

If I do all of these things (and more) on a weekly basis and I’m not hitting my goal metrics, I have to take a step back and figure out why. What am I doing that’s not effective? How can I change it to be more effective or get the results I’m looking for? It’s a constant evolution.

In Conclusion

Even though I’m living the dream, when it comes to work, writing is still work. And I don’t always feel like doing it. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Maintaining your motivation in any business can be difficult – it doesn’t matter if it’s your dream job or not. There are a few things that you can do to help though.

Start by defining your why (if you don’t know it already). Make sure you revisit it from time to time (especially when your spirits are low) and determine if it’s still valid. If it’s not, find a new why.

Then figure out some minimum expectations you can hold yourself to. If you’re a fellow writer, this could be writing for a certain amount of time or to a certain word count on a daily basis. Many times, all it takes is getting started to break through your mental roadblock.

Lastly, set some specific goals. Start with a bigger picture goal and then break it down into smaller and shorter-term chunks. Once you figure out what these are, make sure to track your progress. If you’re not getting the results you intended, figure out what’s not working and make the necessary changes. You won’t know if something’s not working if you don’t have any goals to measure them against.

What helps you to stay motivated when you just don’t want to work?

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey is a writer for hire, with a background in personal finance. She also offers coaching services and really enjoys helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and download your free copy of 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career off on the Right Foot!

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  1. Another great, useful post Gina. I stay with number 2. It’s very helpful to write at least 10 minutes a day. Yes, most of times it’s just a mental block and nothing more.
    Now I understand the strategy behind writing 10 posts a week… and I like it. I am going to “steal” your idea and apply it for myself. Thank you!

  2. As usual, you hit the nail on the head. For me though, on my no writing days. I do something else creative, for example, today I worked on graphics. That usually gears me up for the next day.

  3. And when you are motivated, cancel everything else and crank it out! 🙂 The other day I wrote 3 blog posts in about an hour. Think that’s a record but it was just flowing…love days like that!

  4. Tip number two is excellent! Another thing that can help you stay motivated is taking short breaks every now and then. Having a routine is great but you have to set your mind off of work sometimes to stay productive and in focus.

    1. Agreed! I’ve used the Pomodoro technique off and on for that. Sometimes it “feels” easier to just power through, but it’s actually less effective:-)

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