You’re officially your own boss — free to find your own clients, free to work unusual hours and free to set up shop in any location. What if you find a project uninspiring, though? What if business is slow? What happens if you get burned out? 

We’ll explore how to stay motivated as a freelancer in this handy guide — and we’ll teach you how to bounce back after a business downturn.

  • How to stay motivated as a freelancer
  • How to bounce back after a dry spell

How to stay motivated as a freelancer

Reasons to freelance abound, but it can be tough to stay on task — and on target. Here are nine stellar ways to boost your motivation and stay productive.

1) Create an office space

Give your freelance career the respect it deserves with a designated office space. This doesn’t have to be a separate room — it could be a desk in the corner of your living room or in a section of your bedroom. Try to put your workspace near a window for maximum airflow, and keep your area clean and free of clutter.

2) Set goals

Begin each week with a realistic to-do list. Divide your list into daily objectives and try to complete tasks, rather than pushing them into the following day. Tick completed tasks off as you go along to give yourself a pat on the back. 

3) Stick to a routine

Almost everyone benefits from a routine. Many freelancers are more productive if they get up at the same time every day and keep the same hours all week long. If you’re a morning person, start work early; if you’re a night owl, create a night-centric schedule instead.

4) Don’t procrastinate

Procrastination can sabotage creativity and harm mental health. According to a peer-reviewed study, habitual procrastinators feel more stressed and have less self-compassion — so don’t leave things until the last minute.

5) Use a productivity tool

Productivity tools can help you stay on track. The Pomodoro Technique, for instance, can help you maintain focus without feeling overwhelmed. In a nutshell, you work for 25 minute increments — called pomodoros — and then take five-minute breaks. After four pomodoros, you take a longer break.

6) Focus, focus, focus

Minimising distractions can help you meet deadlines. You might decide to put your phone on silent for a couple of hours, for example, or limit bathroom or tea breaks to 10 minutes. Noise-cancelling headphones, white noise and productivity-boosting music can make it easier to focus, too.

7) Stay social

If you’re feeling trapped or isolated, take your freelancing career out to play. Work from a different location for the day — a coffee shop or a museum, maybe — and make time for coffee with friends. 

8) Get active

If your freelancing career mostly involves sitting at a desk, carve out some time to exercise. Perhaps surprisingly, sedentary people feel up to 20 percent more energetic if they stay active. A regular low-intensity activity, like a walk, can improve motivation.

9) Keep perks in mind

Freelancing can feel overwhelming at times, but there are lots of good things about self-employment. If you’re feeling flat, remember why you decided to go freelance in the first place: freedom, flexibility and opportunities to shine.

How to bounce back after a dry spell

Economic downturns like the one caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can make a dent in your freelance income. When work dries up, anxiety follows — and it can be really hard to swing into action when things get back to normal. If you’re in the ‘famine’ part of the feast-or-famine freelancing cycle, there are things you can do to stay positive:

  • Make time for self-care: Self-care can be as ordinary as a bath or shower, or as involved as a weekend break. Step out into nature, listen to some of your favourite music, meet friends for a chat or get an early night.
  • Work on your branding: Your personal brand is the key to freelancing success. Use your dry spell as a time to rebrand yourself, enhance your online presence or develop a unique ‘voice’ for your venture.
  • Stay active: If you stay physically active during a downturn, you’re likely to feel better. According to healthcare professionals, exercise makes a positive impact on mental health — so go for a walk or a run, or hit the gym regularly.
  • Stay visible: Don’t be tempted to go underground if you lose a contract. Instead, stay visible on all of your marketing channels, make fresh connections and target new clients.
  • Pivot: Successful companies develop as the marketplaces they serve change — and you can do the same thing. Expand your range of services, acquire new skills or enroll in training to gain new qualifications.
  • Reconnect: Use quiet periods to reconnect with yourself, with industry peers and with former clients.

Track your success with Countingup

Freelancing is a mixed bag. On the one hand, you get to be your own boss and work whenever you like; on the other, you have to stay motivated without a supportive team at your side. You also have to keep tabs on tax, incoming payments and outgoing expenses — and if you make more than £85,000 a year, you’ll need to charge VAT on services, too.

Countingup can make bookkeeping much easier. When you sign up, you’ll get a small business current account, a contactless Mastercard and a full range of intuitive accounting tools. Invoice your clients, track profit and loss and record expenses via the app, and gain a deeper insight into your freelancing business. Find out more about Countingup here.