Freelance Writing Advice on How to Stay Motivated: First-hand Insight from a Freelancer with 20 Years of Experience

I’ve been freelancing since 1993 – a full two decades. Some days it seems twice as long as this, but for the most part, time has flown pretty quickly. Back in February, I received the following email from a reader of this blog who holds down a full-time job and freelances on the side. She wrote, in part:

I’m happily employed and plan to stay in my job while freelancing on the side. I already earn a salary above the average SEO writer that you show on your website. At any rate . . . I’m curious about how entrepreneurs remain passionate about their work for decades. I have a friend who is just like you and I often wonder how/why she keeps going. Yuwanda, what keeps you motivated year after year?

I’ve been wanting to answer this and as I prepare for my latest trip to Jamaica (for the SEO copywriting seminar), it seemed like the perfect time to post a response.

6 Things that Keep Me Motivated as a Freelance Writer

As you go through the list, start your own list. What keeps you motivated?

I. Freedom: Jetting off to Jamaica for a few months at a time — no problem. Talk about freedom – it’s the thing that that keeps me motivated above all else. As I wrote in the post, I remember what I felt on Sundays when I worked a full-time job I was less than thrilled with..:

What I’ve hated about most of my jobs is that they ran my life. Let me explain.

Smart, Efficient Workers Suffer the Most on FT Jobs

I tend to be a pretty quick learner and a hard worker. I excelled on almost every job I had. So when I’d finish a project before deadline, for example, I’d wonder, why do I have to come to the office?

I finished the project, the other one is not going to hit my desk for another two weeks, so why can’t I just take that time off and do what I want?

Face Time: The Bane of My Existence as a FT Employee

But no, you gotta show “face time” at the office. Many times when I worked for the legal publishing firm in New York for example, I’d be sitting at my desk with literally NOTHING to do for a week or two at a time.

But, BECAUSE I was a full-time employee, if I didn’t show up, I didn’t get paid. And this is why I knew that working for someone else was never going to work for me.

I can’t even begin to imagine having to ask someone for vacation. Nowadays, when I go away – especially out of the country, it’s for AT LEAST a month. A short vacation for me is 7 days – and that’s when I’m usually going to visit friends in New York.

This is what makes me get up every morning. I know that if I don’t do what I’m supposed to do day in and day out, I’d have to find a job. And although I never say never – cuz you just never know – I do everything in my power to never, ever have to work for someone else again.

Powerful, powerful motivator.

Freelance Business Insight - 6 Factors That Motivate Me

II. Bills: As in, I have them. Although I’m debt free except for my mortgage, monthly expenses must be paid. My business is “my job,” so if I don’t work, I don’t earn money – and bills don’t get paid.

And I’m kind of addicted to comforts like food, heat, hot water and cable. 🙂

III. Financial Freedom: One day, I want to be able to wake up and not have to do anything but what I darned well please! And you know what, it’s in sight. Now, it’s not close – as in 5 years down the road. But in 15 years or 20 years, yeah, I see it.

I would never bank on a job to give me financial freedom because what if I got laid off or fired? If all of your financial dreams are tied to a job, then it halts them until you can land another position, right?

Working for myself, I feel more secure; like my dreams are always fully within my power.

One thing I think a lot of entrepreneurs will tell you is that we tend to be more conservative in our financial dreams too. I know for me it’s not because I don’t believe I’ll make a pile of money one day (I already do quite well). It’s that I scale down and spend less than what I could probably afford (and definitely less than when I had jobs) so that I don’t have to work for anyone else. There’s an old idiomatic expression that goes:

Entrepreneurs will work 16 hours for themselves in order to avoid working 8 for someone else.”

This is what I mean.

If a company offered to double or triple what I earn now – under my own steam – it wouldn’t be enough. To be honest, I can’t think of any figure that would make me do that. That’s how happy and content I am being on my own. And, I design my life to live within my means so I can continue on this path.

IV. My Work Style Suits My Personality: I’ve said this on this blog before, but I tend to be very outgoing – socially. But I’m practically a hermit when it comes to work. I prefer to work alone. And that’s basically what I do day in and day out. Clients give me a project and a deadline, and I don’t hear from them from the most part until it’s done and/or I need their input.

I don’t have to get dressed, put on makeup, comb my hair, bathe or even brush my teeth (and there are days when I don’t do any of these things). Oh stop scrunching up your nose; if you freelance, you’ve been there too!

I’ve lived in three of the most traffic-laden cities in the country (New York, LA and Atlanta), and I wouldn’t go back to having to fight rush hour on a train or in a car to save my life!

V. I Like My Job: For the most part, I truly enjoy the work I do. I get to help others (via my ebooks and seminars) and interact with other entrepreneurs (providing services – ie, SEO writing) that helps them with their businesses.

I also get to pick and choose my clients. I feel very fortunate to have some amazing clients, but on a couple of occasions, I’ve had to “fire a client.” And I didn’t hesitate to do it. Life is simply too short to work with people who cause you grief.

Piggybacking on this . . .

VI. When You Freelance, People Depend on You

Probably about 7 or 8 years into my freelance career, I realized that I was a part of some people’s organizational structure. They rely on me as if they would an in-house employee. One client summed this up in a testimonial recently, writing:

REFERRAL from an existing client to one of her colleagues: Here is Yuwanda’s info. She is awesome and write’s [sic] all content that is new. Have referred her to a couple people now and everyone is more than happy! She is part of my team. She also has her prices upfront on her website, so you know what you are getting. We just completed one of my ebooks and she is my go to for my article writing. Owner, Success Coaching Firm.

So the part of me that doesn’t like to disappoint people kicks in. That’s a powerful motivator.

That about sums it up. It’s not fancy or full of big secrets. And, I’d venture to say most entrepreneur’s lists contain a lot of these same sentiments.

What about you . . . if you freelance, what keeps you motivated? Please share in the comments section below.

P.S.: Ready to start a career as a freelance social media consultant / SEO writer and start landing jobs almost immediately?

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    1. You ѕhould take part in a contest foг one of thе greateѕt blogs
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    2. Melva Henry says:

      Keep up the excellent work! I will follow you on Twitter.

    3. @Paul:

      Good reasons. I hadn’t thought about the advantages of working for myself in an ONLINE business; you’re so right when you say, “there are a lot of things we can do with an onlne freelance business that you really couldn’t get awawy wih even having your business in the offline world.”

      For example, right now, I’m sitting on a balcony at a hotel in Jamaica in my jammies as I write this.

      I don’t think my attire would be appropriate in an office. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing my friend — and I’m so glad to hear that you enjoy your work as much as I do mine. Some days — even 20 yrs into this “freelance thing” — I still pinch myself that this is MY life.

    4. Great read! Makes me continue doing what I’m doing. Here’s a tweep/quote I ‘stole’ from one of my ‘follows’ on twitter; “I work for myself because I NEVER wanted to be a company placeholder”.

    5. I agree with all of this Yuwanda — especially the part about loving my work. To pick up on what Kinya said, I also like the freedom to charge what I want and offer the services I want. I mentioned this to a friend a while back that the Internet is a lot like the Wild West in that they haven’t over-regulated it (yet). For example, I don’t need a license or certification to do what I do. I don’t have to have set pricing for every client. I can even choose to turn down work if I’m overbooked, don’t want to work with a pain in the a** client, or it doesn’t suit my values. There are just a lot of things we can do with an online freelance business that you really couldn’t get away with even having your own business in the offline world. This really is one of the best kept secrets of all — the Internet truly levels the playing field. It doesn’t discriminate based on anything other than quality, which is the way it should be.

    6. @Kinya:

      Thanks for adding to the list; you’re so right. In essence, you get to determine how much you earn because you can expand or contract your biz the way you want by deciding which services to offer, how much you charge, etc.

      I do just this — design my biz to suit my life, not the other way around.

      Thanks again Kinya. Have a good one!

    7. I agree with everything you just said Yuwanda. But I have to add this: You can “promote” yourself whenever you feel like it.

      For example, you can raise your prices without having to ask anyone if it’s OK. You can also branch out into other things and add new services to your business so that you can gain more clients. Again, you don’t have to ask anyone for permission. It’s your career. You direct it. No one else.