I get this question a lot, and most of the reason why is because for most of our lives growing up, we always have someone else to tell us what to do, when to do it, how to do it and when to do it by. Well, when you become a freelancer suddenly it's all up to you to figure out how you're gonna get more work, make more money, produce good work and spend your work days.
Although I think there's an extended adjustment period to being a freelancer and I am by all means no expert (yet), I wanted to share with you some tips on how I stay motivated to keep working even if client work is slow or I'm lacking direction.
1. A Healthy Lifestyle
This is by far the most important step to staying motivated. You cannot expect your brain to function if you're not eating well, sleeping properly and getting enough exercise. The body has its needs and you need to meet those needs in order to be productive in other areas of your life. Personally, I follow a (mostly) clean vegan diet, I get lots of exercise varying between weight training, running, yoga and walking, and spend a lot of time reflecting, meditating and relaxing. I do these things because they give me peace of mind and allow me to then stay focused on creating for the rest of the day.
2. Nourish Your Brain
One of the best things I found that put me in a motivated mood to work and get ahead is to listen to entrepreneurial/self-improvement podcasts while I work or while I make breakfast in the morning. I love listening to other people's stories on how they achieved success and it really does give you so much insight on things you can be doing as well. Learning from other people is such a great tool and this is definitely what podcasts offer. I prefer to listen to podcasts and audiobooks over reading books during the day because I can listen to it in the background while I draw, it's very relaxing and helps me stay focused. I do enjoy reading books in the evening to wind down.
3. Clean Your Space
A cluttered space never helps for productivity, so make sure you have lots of room to spread out your work and keep decorations at a minimum so you don't have too many distractions around you during the day. I like to keep a little buddha on my desk as a reminder to breathe and live presently on the task I am working on. I also love to have an oil diffuser nearby with some lavender oil as it keeps me calm and mellow, the perfect state for drawing. Plants are great decor in replacement for little trinkets because they clean and purify the air and if you love nature like I do you'll feel much more at ease with some botanicals around you. I spent a lot of time organizing my things and I often declutter once a month to make sure I'm not holding on to things I don't need. There's a great book on the magic of tidying up, click here to see it (not sponsored). Cleaning up your space will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on more important tasks at hand.
4. Know Your Vision
I couldn't count on my fingers how many times I've made roadmaps, vision boards, goals lists and affirmations. The most successful way to get to where you want to be is to actually work in reverse. Write down your goal and then break it down into steps that you can do every day until you get there. For example, if I need $2000 for a dream vacation, I will clearly envision what I want on that vacation so my desire to have it is very strong. Then, I will break down my manageable steps every day to do in order to get that money. It could be things like contacting local publications for work or checking in with previous clients about your new products or what you've been up to or updating your website with your best work and promoting it like crazy on social media. These are great little steps you can take every day to get you that extra $2000 for your trip.
If you think in the long term, imagine what your dream life looks like... where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? Focus on the feeling of what it's like to live in your dream life with the people you love most with you, focus on how good it feels to have achieved your dream life. It's a great exercise to get you in that "go-getter" mindset because once you decide you're going to do something, ain't nobody stopping you! Once you've scribbled your dream life and all it's glory on a sheet of paper, break it down into what you need to get there and what you're going to do over the next 10, 20 years in order to get it.
I personally LOVE to do this because it's a simple reminder that there are NO limits to what we as humans can achieve. So often we doubt ourselves and think there's only so much we can have in our lifetime. But once you put your mind to something, you can do anything!
As humans, we grow and we change. It's natural. If you're constantly doing the exact same work throughout your lifetime, you will get bored, unmotivated and uninspired. I recently decided to start exploring different types of illustration other than fashion illustration, which I had focused on since University. Doing this opened up so many doors for me and even landed me an agent! It also brought back my spark, because I didn't feel limited to fashion illustration anymore. Now I feel like I can draw anything and everything which makes me feel so inspired and motivated!
If you start to feel like you're floating by or getting too comfortable and maybe a bit bored, see how you can evolve your work, maybe there's a new industry you can explore, a new service you can offer or a personal project you can work on in your own time that is something you're very passionate about. I am currently working on an Ocean Illustration collection, in which I'll be selling products and donating part of the proceeds to organizations who are trying to help save our oceans. Since this is something I am so passionate about, I get excited to finish my prioritized client work and create my personal drawings. Keep evolving and looking for new things to do that will keep you creating and improving your skills.
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The best thing to remember if you're feeling unmotivated is that sometimes it's okay to take a day off and start up again tomorrow twice as strong. Humans are not perfect by any means, and it's important to take some time away from work to refresh and relax the mind. If you force yourself to work when you don't want to, you risk being less productive for the remainder of the week and your attitude toward your work can start becoming very negative overtime.
Being a freelancer is not easy and it's something to be so proud of because you're essentially running your own business. Give yourself some credit and reward yourself when you achieve your goals. :)