How do you stay motivated when you work for yourself?
Welcome to episode 10 of my 31 day challenge where I'm answering your questions about creating a career or business that you love and in today's episode, I'm tackling a question that I feel like I'm constantly in the throes in myself, so it'd be quite therapeutic to ramble it out. But the question is, how do you stay motivated when you work for yourself? Whether you be a freelancer or business, how do you stay motivated?
This is a full transcription of the podcast episode. Instead, listen to it here:
The friends that we all want in our lives, but they're pretty unreliable and very rarely show up when you want them.That's how I feel about motivation. I have had a really interesting year so far with grappling the idea of motivation Aad I'm going to steal one of the best pieces of advice that I have ever read and I have been working myself on internalising this year, which is from a fitness coach that I follow, called Jordan Cyatt. For any Gary Vee listeners who are listening to this, anyone who follows Gary Vee, you'll know Jordan as Gary Vee personal trainer, and he posted this infographic on Instagram and I don't think it's a new graphic, but I'd only seen it for the first time. And it said this is what people think motivation is. So they think that it goes you know, motivation leads to action leads to results. But that's just not true. For 99.9% of people, for 99.9% of things in life, it's actually the opposite way around. It's action that leads to results, which leads to motivation. And one of the biggest misconceptions about motivation is that you should always feel in the mood to do something, that you should always feel like, you know, you want to make progress or you want to be productive, or you want to send out 20 emails, or you want to write you know, 50 Instagram posts, like there's this idea that you kind of have to be in that state of mind to get anything done, when actually 85% of the time, It's actually just about showing up. And that in itself is motivation. And, you know, I've been working for myself since I was 21. Like since I graduated University, I've been freelance and then obviously started the business in in 2017. So I've worked for myself for a long time and I've had periods where I've done longer contracts so I felt like a little bit more like I had a boss so I was held accountable that way, but generally speaking, I've always had to kind of motivate myself and to be honest with you, for the longest time I don't really think I thought about staying motivated because I think my goals were constantly changing, and that would be a piece of advice, if I was going to give you any which I will get to some actual practical advice, but the the number one thing I would say is forget about being motivated. Being motivated is the result of doing things, It's the result of showing up every single day and I'm not gonna lie part of the reason I'm doing this podcast challenge is in itself because I have not been motivated since lockdown to be anywhere near social media. I'm sure anyone that you know follows me, a bit more regularly or has followed me in the past and hasn't just found me through these podcasts will know that I kind of have spurts with social media. And generally speaking that's because I do tend to wait until I'm in the mood or I'm motivated to post some stuff, and then I'll disappear because that motivation will very quickly vanish and what I've realised in every other aspects of my life, including my business, including things like fitness and health and relationships, friendship, whatever it is, certain building kind of new habits or hobbies, like so much of it is actually doing it when you don't want to do it and just showing up and being consistent. So I would say that's the number one thing that you have to, you have to almost self discipline yourself when you work for yourself.
Now, here's a few kind of practical things that I think really helped because ultimately, it's really hard to be consistent or even know why you should bother kind of showing up sometimes when you don't know what you're aiming for and this kind of goes back to what I talked about in episode one, which is, you really need to define your goals. And that will change throughout your career, especially if you're just starting out as a freelancer, that will change. But having goals that you're working towards, will really help you stay motivated and consistent and I think those two interchangeably, are like the power combo, because if you're consistent, you will be motivated. Some days you'll show up, and you really won't be bothered and you'll start doing it and then you'll get that buzz, and then you'll get excited and some days you'll show up and you won't want to do it at all, and you'll do it anyway and you'll be proud of yourself for doing it. Whatever that task may be and other days you will be motivated or you'll be excited, you'll be buzzing because you know, so many different factors that play into that. But having goals is so crucial. So know what you're building towards is my first goal. Most people's first goal is just to make money and that amount of money can be, it could start as like - I just want to make enough money so that I can quit my full time job to do this full time. So that might be your first goal. Your first goal is to get enough clients or enough work to be able to sustain yourself without having to work elsewhere. That's a really good goal and that's really tangible because you can then say - okay, well, how much money does that does that look like? Okay, if I'm charging this much money, how many clients does that mean? Okay, so if I need 10 clients a month to make this sustainable, which would be a lot of clients, to be fair, if you're charging a decent day rate, you probably won't need that many but, you know, I need 10 clients a month. Okay, so I need to email or connect with at least 30 to give me a chance of converting that into 10 clients.
So you've got these real tangible things like - okay, I want to post, I want to go and do, you know, two pieces of work. So for example, once your goal becomes something other than money, maybe it becomes about…okay, well, I really want to make this original VR documentary and I want it to premiere a festival next summer, so I in order to do that I need to get it ready for next summer. And realistically, I need it finished by kind of…I don't know, let's say, January. So, working backwards, I’ve got six months. So plan out what I need to do in that month. That's what I need to do and that means give yourself deadlines. I think the hardest part for me, and I'm absolutely awful at this. So I'm likely not claiming to be the world's expert in staying motivated 100% of the time and I find it really difficult to hold myself accountable to deadlines because if I put a deadline in my calendar for something that…you know, that I want to do, I know that I can change it, because I'm the one who put it there. Whereas actually client accountability is the thing that really lights a fire under my ass and I'm sure, you know, I don't really need to go into explaining why that is but of course, when you're being held accountable by someone else, it's a lot easier to stay consistent. So maybe either connect with other people in like Facebook groups or online or, you know, local kind people that are in a similar position to you and hold each other accountable. That's a really good way of doing things, or put it out like this podcast challenge. I feel like I'm held accountable to that, to you guys. Like I'm held accountable to you because I've said I'm going to post every single day for 31 days and, you know, I don't want to be someone that breaks my word. I want to show up every single day now because I'm accountable, because I've set that challenge. I've set that goal, and now I'm going to be accountable to it. So whether it be client deadlines or external accountability, just give yourself those kind of those deadlines, where you can kind of work towards them and I think the other big one I would say in terms of staying motivated is work out, what kind of trial and error, work out what works for you. I've done so much soul searching like that, that's the kind of silver lining of this lockdown, I've had so much more time to just really evaluate how I work, who I work with, what kind of stuff I work on. One of the biggest things for me, one of the biggest revelations has been about what kind of routine I like, that gets me in the best possible head mind frame of mind to set up the day. So for me that has been the game changing thing for me, has been going on a walk first thing in the morning, putting on a business podcast or putting on like, you know, some kind of…I don't tend to listen to entertainment stuff in the morning, I only listen to either an informative or an educational or a fun podcast but it's offering some kind of value. It's usually either filmmaking or business or marketing related or sometimes just self development stuff but getting in that headspace, going for a walk getting out in the fresh air, even when it's raining, you know grab a coffee to go, just like…just get moving. That for me has been massive, like just the first half an hour of my day, before I do anything. I'm getting in that frame of mind. I'm usually super inspired by the time I get home because I've listened to these people that inspire me. I’ll just generally feel pumped and excited because there's these people out there doing all this amazing stuff, and I want to do that, I want to better my life and so that for me has been an absolute game changer. It completely has transformed my days. I used to kind of get up, check my emails first thing or I would like, you know, I would just slob around a little bit. I'd like wake up a little bit, I would try various morning routines but this one for me has been an absolute game changer. So work out what's best for you. I know, it's not always possible, especially for the parents listening. I appreciate that. It's a totally different kind of ballgame when you've got other people kind of accountable to you but find what works for you, find how you like working as well. I find another big thing that I've realised is I really like when I'm doing work, I don't actually like sitting at a desk. I don't know why. I mean, I don't think it's surprising for many creative people that sitting at a desk is not the most stimulating, but I love pacing around. I’ve got these static white papers, because my landlord is a no and won't let me put anything on the wall and so I've got static white board paper that sticks to the wall and I'll like write down ideas and I'll use that to write down tasks, or I'll use it to kind of write down ideas and inspirations and goals and things like that. Even recording these podcasts, I like to just pace around the house. So find what works for you. But generally speaking, shake it up a little bit, don't just kind of maybe think - oh, well, I should do XYZ. So that's another big thing, build a routine and find, what works for you because the hardest thing when you do work for yourself or you run a business is you're not necessarily always surrounded by other people to bounce off of.
I would say that that is one of the biggest things that I found, especially in the last kind of couple of years is that I love working with other people and I love being held accountable to other people but I also love bouncing ideas off other people and for a while I tried kind of having employees but then quickly realised I wasn't in a place in my life where I wanted to have that much of a commitment because there are a lot of laws in the UK around having an employee and everything that comes along with that but I did realise that was quite important for me to be connected to the people around me in the creative community, to have conversations, to be able to kind of like…you know, make sure that I was kind of checking in with people. Even, just taking that half an hour to jump on the Facebook groups to have a little chat, reply to some of the threads or like, you know, listen to a podcast that is kind of all about staying sane or getting your business to the next level. That's going to be the thing that energises you and pushes you forward. So don't be scared to kind of lean into those things.
I feel like the the overriding answer to how do you stay motivated is the truth is, you won't always be motivated and that's okay and to some extent, like I said, at the beginning, a lot of it is just about building the consistency anyway and building of routine, building the habit of you showing up even if you don't want to, but then also just really pay attention. And if you're really, really not happy with how you have your setup, maybe it's because you need to change your goal. Maybe you're just not energised by the thing that you're kind of doing anymore? Maybe it's the way that you're working, maybe you want to work with more people, or less people or different kind of clients or that kind of thing. So don't be scared to change things up as well.
I think so many people, and I've had this conversation with several of my friends, like, because a lot of friends around me are in the creative industries, and they usually are all freelance and they're always scared to kind of change something, but they're not happy. You know, whether it's like - oh, I can't increase my day rate, or I'm not happy with the kind of packages I'm offering, or I'm not happy with the kind of work that I'm doing. They become stuck in a rut, become scared to change direction, thinking they’ll lose everything that they've built up. But, that's just not true. That's not true, you're not going to have to restart, just because you're not motivated to do that thing anymore, you’re just kind of pivoting a slightly different direction. You know, pivoting is one of the big things in Silicon Valley, right? You got to pivot and you got to pivot fast, as soon as you kind of realise what you do and don't want. So anyway, those are my thoughts on staying motivated. But the truth of the matter is also, sometimes you're just burned out, and you need a break. And that's okay, too and so just really check in with yourself and and kind of really question, what it is that is causing the lack of motivation? Is it because you're not showing up and just being consistent? Are you being a bit of a lazy asshole? Is it that you need to change your goal, change your focus? Are you going after something bigger, more challenging? Or is it that you're just burned out, and you need a bit of a break to kind of reassess?
I'm excited to hear your thoughts on this one because this one's a bit more holistic than some of the practical tangible business advice that I've been giving. So I’ll be curious to hear your thoughts and if you've got a question for a future episode, you can ask me that @alexmakesvr everywhere, or you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up the newsletter below too, so you can be reminded when these episodes go out. Speak to you tomorrow!
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