I caught up with a past client who had moved from a senior position into a consulting role. Usually when I speak to people who have made the jump from the comfortable world of a wage into a consulting or freelance position the biggest challenge they speak of is keeping their cash flow healthy.  But instead what she described was the difficulty in staying motivated to deliver the work.

Sounds like a no brainer hey? But motivation to work affects everyone regardless of whether they are in full time work or consulting. But when you work for yourself you more often than not work in a solitary situation.  It can happen from a rented office or from home.  And that very fact can be at the heart of the lack of motivation. There is literally no one driving or managing you.  That is now your responsibility.

Over my 22 year freelance career, I have bobbed in and out of other people’s offices, working for a period of time on-site as part of a larger team.  I have always found it easier to be motivated when you are entrenched in a working office, particularly when you have a list of specific things you need to do when you’re in with the group.  It’s because an office is primarily focused on supporting work.

When you look at a home office situation yes, you may have an office or a desk set up for the purpose of work, but you are surrounded by the entirety of your life; there are distractions, jobs you could get done to make your life easier, opportunities to stray onto social media, friends dropping in.  Actually the possibilities to wander off from your work are endless.

But you can put some things into place which will support your motivation while capitalising on the huge benefits of working from home.

Design your working life

One of the best things about working freelance and from home is that you can be uninterrupted and complete your work much quicker if you sit and diligently work it through.  This then gives you more time to do things you want to enjoy. But this ‘crack on and get it done approach’ takes discipline. The best way to create this discipline is to design a working rhythm or routine which suits how you are as a person and best supports your approach to work.

So, get yourself a piece of paper and divide it into two columns and title one column ‘What I Like’ and the other ‘What I Don’t Like’. Then start writing, truthfully.

For example, my table could look like this;

What I Like

  • A free flowing day which has a combination of work and leisure scattered throughout
  • Listening to the news in the background as I do short tasks
  • Listening to music in the background when I an doing longer writing pieces
  • Putting projects down until the answers ‘come to me’
  • Working in different places – at the desk, at the dining table, in a cafe, in someone else’s office
  • Doing some of my household chores in the day so I can clear the decks at night

What I Don’t Like

  • Constant emails of bits from clients
  • Early mornings
  • Being called by clients on the weekend
  • Routine
  • Meetings
  • Sitting in traffic driving to see clients

I could go on, but from these simple things about how I am as a person I can determine the following.

I’m happy to plan out my working day on the day and not necessarily before.  It can start at any time in the morning and can be broken up, with a return to work at nightime when I often feel the most productive.  I only check my email fully in the morning and intermittently throughout the day so I don’t interrupt the flow of my work.  I adjust my aural stimulation to the type of work that I’m doing and I find this supports my thinking.

I break my day up with a coffee with friends, a trip out to do my bits and pieces, or even a proper lunch break. Sometimes for inspiration I will take myself out for lunch with my computer and work somewhere where there is a different vibe.

I try to catch up with clients on Skype chat to keep my workflow moving and minimise the need for spending hours in traffic or meetings. I also try to brief them on big segments of the work so they know what to expect and I can self manage the delivery of the work and keep it going without interruption.

Most importantly, I am motivated by working with, and for, like minded people and companies whose values are aligned to my own.  My work needs to make a difference for me to feel good about what I am doing for a huge amount of hours each week.  I never take work with people whom make my life difficult, don’t show respect for the work or create drama about stuff just for the sake of it.

You get the drift. You don’t need to hear more about how I want to work instead you need to start designing how you want to work.

The thing about choosing to work for yourself is that you are making a personal commitment to a better way of working, in a way that responds to your needs. Basically, the best way to stay motivated with your work, when all you have is your own energy, is to know thyself.