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How to Keep Yourself Motivated When You’re Self-Employed (10 Actionable Steps)

keep motivated self employed

Do you struggle with motivation or have goals you want to be sure you’re prepared to achieve? From setting and planning for goals and managing your time to celebrating wins and joining a community, there are many ways to stay motivated when you’re self-employed. 

I’ve been self-employed for over five years and have found many effective strategies for staying motivated. In this article, I’ll share my go-to, science-backed tips for motivation to help you overcome challenges and stay on track and excited about your business – whether you’re a freelancer or business owner.

How do you stay motivated as a business owner?

Most business owners experience a lack of inspiration from time to time, but these practices can help you stay motivated:

  • Set goals
  • Reflect often
  • Manage your time
  • Take breaks
  • Celebrate wins
  • Overcome disappointment
  • Prioritize daily self-care
  • Treat burnout
  • Join a community
  • Keep learning

1) Set Goals

When you have clear goals you’re working towards and a plan to achieve them, motivation comes easier.

What goals do you have for your life and business? What can you do in your business to help you achieve those goals? These questions can help you set and plan for your goals.

Over one thousand studies have consistently shown that setting high and specific goals results in better task performance, persistence, and motivation. High goals aren’t easy, so you might feel they’re unattainable. The key is setting smaller goals to work towards high goals. Get specific about what you must do to achieve your goals.

A few examples of specific goals and action steps for business owners include:

  • Obtain X clients or customers per month through SEO marketing and networking
  • Increase revenue to X amount by cutting costs, using more marketing/client acquisition strategies, and creating a new offer
  • Take two weeks off per year by budgeting, outsourcing, and increasing income and productivity

2) Reflect Often

Once you set your goals, reflect often to stay on track and ensure your goals still make sense. Motivation comes easier when your goals and plans align with what you want. Reflecting on what your day-to-day looks like also helps you stay productive. 

For example, does your schedule make sense for your life? Do you need to plan for more family time or work a few more hours per week? Are you using tools that make sense for your business? 

You might schedule a time every week or month to check in and reflect on your progress and if your goals still align with what you want from your business. Many business owners have a regularly scheduled administrative day or afternoon. This is an excellent time to set aside 30 minutes to an hour to reflect. 

Read more: 17 Best SEO Tools for Small Businesses

3) Manage Your Time

If you experience a lack of time management, you’re not alone. The average person spends 51% of the workday on low to no-value tasks, and 82% of people don’t have a time management system. 

A lack of time management often leads to burnout and procrastination, which reduces motivation. The good news is that spending just ten minutes planning your day is said to save you two hours of time otherwise wasted.

To manage your time and stay motivated:

  • Create and follow a schedule: Be reasonable when creating your schedule. Plan for breaks to recharge your brain and creativity.
  • Prioritize your tasks: Don’t overschedule yourself. Focus on high-priority tasks first.
  • Give yourself extra time: Most tasks take longer than expected, so give yourself some flexibility.
  • Eat a nutritious breakfast and/or lunch: Food is fuel and will keep you energized and motivated throughout the day.
  • Minimize distractions and avoid multitasking: Create an organized and quiet workspace. Leave your phone in another room while working and do one task at a time. Even briefly switching up tasks can reduce your productivity time by up to 40%.

4) Take Breaks

When you’re self-employed, and your income and business outcomes rely solely or primarily on you, it’s easy to move breaks and time off to the bottom of your to-do list. 

Not only are short breaks and extended vacations necessary for rest, but research shows they also improve your mood, performance, and creativity.

While an equal work-life balance isn’t always possible, depending on where your priorities lie, it’s important to have some balance and plan for time to decompress. Schedule time for breaks to rest, exercise, do hobbies, and socialize.

5) Celebrate Wins

Many self-employed people, including myself, fall into a day-to-day routine of simply checking off our to-do list. But don’t forget to stop and celebrate your wins.

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Recognizing accomplishments, no matter how small they are, can help you stay excited, focused, and motivated to meet your goals. You may have to make a conscious effort to do this, especially if you often downplay your accomplishments.

Track your progress and celebrate wins by:

  • Checking in on your goals and progress often (e.g., once per month or quarter)
  • Treating yourself to something special when you hit a milestone
  • Sharing your accomplishments with loved ones

6) Overcome Disappointments

It’s common to get disappointed when you don’t meet a goal or run into a roadblock in your business. 

While it’s okay to feel disappointed, don’t let it take your motivation away. Instead, shift the disappointment into an opportunity to reflect and analyze what went wrong and how you can move forward productively. 

Whether it’s negative feedback, not accomplishing a goal you’ve set for yourself, or an unproductive week, adjust your plan going forward. 

And remember that most of the most successful people have faced countless disappointments. Even Steve Jobs was fired from Apple before he rejoined as CEO and helped the company become one of the most successful in the world.

7) Practice Daily Self-Care

While breaks are important for taking care of yourself, daily self-care can help you show up as your best self in your business. 

Self-care is anything you do that feels nourishing, according to Marni Amsellem, PhD. Ways you can practice self-care, even if you’re a busy business owner, include:

  • Getting a good night’s rest, ideally 7+ hours
  • Eating nutritious food and staying hydrated
  • Getting fresh air daily
  • Creating an enjoyable morning routine (e.g., reading, journaling, taking a walk, meditating)

8) Treat Burnout

Whether you’ve tried to manage your time, take breaks, and practice self-care or not, burnout is sometimes inevitable, especially if you have too much on your plate.

Burnout is the emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that stress causes and has been proven to negatively affect motivation. If you’re experiencing burnout, you might feel more tired, defeated, and overwhelmed than usual. You may also feel depressed and have trouble sleeping and focusing.

If you don’t treat burnout, your long-term health can be affected, and it can become impossible to find motivation in life or business. Fortunately, burnout is treatable.

To treat burnout, use the 3 R approach:

  • Recognize: Acknowledge the warning signs
  • Reverse: Manage stress and get support from a mental health professional
  • Resilience: Take care of your physical and emotional health

9) Join a Community

Many business owners work from home and lack community, which can lead to isolation. Finding a community to join is an excellent way to surround yourself with other business owners so you can bounce ideas around, get advice, and coordinate work sessions for accountability. 

There are many communities for self-employed people, including:

  • Online memberships: Membership groups, like The Freelance Friday Club, let you come together with like-minded people. Many offer resources, online chat forums, and coworking sessions.
  • Facebook groups: There are many groups on Facebook for business owners, freelancers, and remote workers (e.g., Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners)
  • In-person or virtual coworking spaces: Join a local coworking space where you can work close to others. Virtual coworking spaces like Groove are ideal if you don’t have any in your community or prefer staying home.
  • Local meetups: Platforms like Meetup and Eventbrite share organized events where you can meet other business owners in person. 

Read more: The Best Freelance Communities for Support and Making Connections

10) Keep Learning

When I’ve become stagnant in my business, I often find that professional and personal development is the key to motivation. There’s endless to learn about being self-employed and successfully running a business. And with technology, like AI, and markets constantly changing, there’s always something new to learn.

Courses are an excellent way to keep learning. HubSpot Academy offers free business-related online courses and other educational resources.

You can also incorporate learning into your day-to-day life with educational books and podcasts. Here are some of our favorites:

We hope enjoyed reading this article and learned useful strategies to stay motivated when you’re self-employed. If you know another business owner or freelancer who might find this article helpful, please consider sharing.

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