A Freelancer’s Guide to Re-awakening Your Motivation

Do you ever find that, on some days, you possess zero to no motivation? You wish you had that energetic, exciting pull to hop up and efficiently get everything done, yet you feel. . . nothing?

If so, fret not—  you’re not alone.

In fact, I lose my motivation from time to time, as well. My lack of motivation arises from either difficulty in work, my diabetes going out of control, or even from living in the super relaxed atmosphere of Cyprus (which has definitely been an obstacle for me since moving here; this sometimes makes me miss the hectic life that is a smoggy megapolis).

Well, last week I was suddenly hit by a ruthless combination of all three motivation-sucking scenarios. Fortunately, over 9 years of working as a freelancer have well-tempered me to easily regain my work motivation, and has trained my productivity to never depend on my mood.

Since most of us experience these phases of low motivation, I thought I would share with you some of the best tricks I have used over the years to quickly snap back into my fully-motivated self.

1. Review your to-do list and routine.

This is my number 1 tip for a reason.

We tend to lose our motivation when we have too many things on our plate and/or our lives are not well organized. Unfortunately, in either case, these issues can easily go unseen without a proper analysis of your day-to-day life.

For that, the first thing I do when I feel my motivation shrinking is sit down and either make a to-do list, or review a pre-existing one. Once everything is down on paper, it usually becomes clear that it´s not all that bad. The simple act of writing your tasks down in order to visibly see them, instead of having them frantically floating around in your mind, eases so much stress.

After looking at the list and clearing my mind, I tend to realize that I actually have been rather good at balancing a proper amount of time between my freelance projects and my personal life. From there, I allow myself a day off— a day to spend away from the computer and the tasks I have to do. After giving myself that freedom and space, I can easily snap right back into work mode the next day.

However, I do understand that some situations can be a bit more complicated, such as having to stay up late night after night, having to continuously replace good meals with snacks, or having to work somewhere uncomfortable. My advice in these circumstances is to pay attention to everything you have been doing the past several days, or even weeks. What habits have you formed? What might work differently? Then, experiment with introducing some changes to your routine. Eventually, you will be able to pinpoint and correct what was slowing you down and causing you distress.

2. Add deadlines to your to-do list.

I am fairly sure that every freelancer already has his or her own way of keeping track of deadlines. However, for those who use old-fashioned diaries or long list reminders, I may recommend something different: to use an app that allows you to create a list of tasks and set deadlines for each of them.

This way, you can see all the pressing tasks on one screen! Plus, our inherent desire to check the tasks as ‘finished’ is a huge motivator!

3. Switch to another project.

There are two types of freelancers:

  1. Those who work on every project from A to Z
  2. Those who prefer switching between the projects as they feel.

Well, I am definitely the second type of freelancer—  I would much rather translate ten 1,000-word documents than one 10,000-word document (it’s much like the feeling of getting to check tasks off a to-do list). For me, translating a long document generally means that my motivation will start dropping somewhere in the middle of the work. In this case, the best solution I have come up with is to switch to another project and, better yet, change the field/language of the text.

It’s worth giving it a try— maybe this will work for you as well!

4. Re-build your client portfolio.

In the world of freelancing, it is quite common to work with some customers for too long.

For instance, you may have 10 customers you work with: 8 are high-profile and well-paying, and the other 2 are customers that you have been working with for several years, but do not pay you as much as you’d like (or as much as you are currently worth). However, you stay with these lower-paying customers because you have built a relationship with them and perhaps they send you one relatively small project every other week. . . All in all, you are just used to working with them.

However, did you know that this one ‘relatively small project’ can be a frequent loss of motivation?

While it took me awhile to realize this, I eventually did. I soon stopped collaborating with one of these customers I had, and unexpectedly found several new, high-profile clients to fill the position.

To paraphrase my husband, I got “más dinero, menos trabajo,” or, more money, less work. This ‘more money, less work’ mentality led me to have a much higher level of motivation. For this, I strongly recommend every freelancer to review their portfolio of clients every other year; take a look at your current hourly rate, make notes, and start making some changes.

5. Ask for help.

No, I’m not talking about a shrink.

In some of my lowest motivational moments, I ask my husband for help— whether it is with translating a difficult sentence or even just with cooking a decent lunch, it always takes a huge load off my shoulders.

Not being afraid to ask for help is key; we all need a little bit of help sometimes. You can even try delegating some routine tasks to other people, or asking fellow translators for help in order to avoid spending unnecessary hours Googling unfamiliar terms.

Remember, your time is money. Don’t spend your precious time on tasks that take up far too much time— this process of exerting a lot of energy and seeing few results will eventually lead to a loss of motivation. Afterall, no one has ever gained motivation from being stuck too long translating one sentence when they have 100 more sentences ahead of them.

6. Fill in your schedule.

Routine can get exhausting and mind-numbing.

Being a hard working freelancer generally means spending long days circling between four places in your home:

  1. Bed
  2. Kitchen
  3. Workplace
  4. Bathroom

At some point, this type of ‘routine’ will begin to affect your motivation and productivity. . . pretty badly.

So, whenever you can, spice it up! Add to your to-do list some good real life activities, like going to a concert, meeting with friends, or spending several hours in a cafeteria. This filled-in schedule works quite well with the (sometimes) monotonous routine of a freelancer— it’s good for both socializing and keeping yourself motivated, which frees up more time for the fun stuff!

7. Write down your (real-life) goals.

Another downside you may experience as a hard working freelancer is plunging so hard into your work that you eventually maintain little to no non-career related goals.

Why is this bad?

A lack of real-life goals can, in the long run, deeply affect your attitude towards your freelance work, because motivation that is only driven by a desire to build a portfolio of clients or earn 10,000 EUR a month eventually dies.

For that, I strongly believe that having real-life related goals is a must. I write my goals in a diary. Reviewing them from time to time really helps to keep me concentrated on what’s really important in my life; this maintains my motivation as I clearly understand why I am doing what I’m doing, and how my life as a whole (not just my work-related life) may change in the future.

8. Wake up early and start your morning very slowly.

Do you ever go to bed feeling anxious because you have to wake up at 6 a.m. to finish a project due the next morning— that you wish to finish that night but you can’t because you are just too exhausted?

I sure do.

The price of falling asleep with this feeling is too high. At some point, you will get worn out from having to wake up early because of work, not because of your desire to wake up early to live life fully.

To keep your spirit alive amongst the heavy loads of work, it is important to, whenever you can, wake up early for you, not for work. Instead of immediately starting work while eating breakfast, devote to yourself some ‘you time;’ allow yourself to catch the right mood for your work day before jumping right in.

An hour of ‘you time’ every morning will boost both productivity and motivation. Work is cool, but you are number one!

9. Spend a day away from your home.

If rebooting your life with a slow morning routine doesn’t seem to help, try spending a day working outside your home, or just taking a day off. Luckily, freelancers can do that!

From time to time, I will work at the beach or in a mall. Of course, my translation speed is not as fast as it is when I work from home (perhaps there are more distractions), but the realization of being able to work from anywhere in the world and taking advantage of that beautiful opportunity is worth a ton— it’s a great reminder of my freedom and how lovely it is to be a freelancer!

10. Go for a weekend getaway— or a full vacation.

Of course, you do not need to be lacking the motivation to go on a vacation. However, traveling once every 3-4 months sure does help to recharge your batteries and fill up your mind with new experiences; this helps you to maintain motivation because you are adding excitement, not monotony, to your life.

If none of the above tips have kicked your lack of motivation in the butt, pack your bags and spend a weekend, or even a week, far away from home. Even if you decide to work while traveling, the change in the environment still really helps to regain motivation— it works great for me!


  1. This is great advice. It seems a lot more genuine (and well-tested by you) than a lot of the typical “how to stay motivated” articles I read. I especially like #8 and your focus on taking time for ourselves.

    1. Thanks!
      I like #8 as well, although realized the benefit of slow mornings only after over 8 years of working on freelance. Waking up to start your work right from the bed it’s a straight way to being a burnt-out freelancer. Been there, done that.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: