Last week was a bit of a pickle for me. Christmas is hurtling towards us, yet I couldn’t drum up my usual enthusiasm for seizing every project available. It also didn’t help that I attended the funeral of a lifelong friend. A combination of grief, emotional exhaustion, and short winter days left me feeling a little deflated.
As the new week sprung in my direction, my motivation began to trickle back into my consciousness. We may all laugh and joke about the whole starting a new diet on a Monday thing. But, there is something inviting and refreshing about carving plans into a new week.
Now that we’re onto Friday it feels as though last week never happened. I have been thinking a lot about lagging motivation as a freelance copywriter since Monday. It isn’t a challenge that’s unique to those of us who love words. In fact, it seems like a plague that affects freelancers of all varieties.
I can’t speak for all types of freelancers, though. What I can do is speak for myself (and maybe the other languishing copywriters out there!) If you’ve found yourself coming unstuck a lot lately (as in more than once in a while) here are some reasons for your poor motivation as a copywriter and how you can tackle them:
You have become your own boss
The excitement of becoming your own boss will only last for a few months. Although I have no burning desire to rush back to the physical world of work, I do have to admit that a lack of a higher (workforce) presence does make staying motivated challenging.
When you become your own boss you are the one-trick pony who must conduct the show and orchestrate it. If you have nobody to answer to and nobody to hold you accountable, your work may suffer.
My least rational approach to this challenge involved pretending that one of my mewling cats was in charge. Essentially he is, but he doesn’t leave me feeling as though I want to make my way through the working day sensibly. Instead, I choose to do the following:
- Create a Pinterest board of what motivates you; It could be a dream holiday, the way you’re going to refurbish your home, or a new garden. Whatever it is, make it, add to it each day, and take a look at it before you start work.
- Write a daily list; There’s no mystery behind this one. Don’t move through your day in an ad-hoc manner. If you don’t know what your duties are, the hours you spend working won’t feel successful.
- Create a serene working environment; Try to avoid working from de-motivating places. For example, your couch. If you have a small living space ask yourself if there’s a flat surface anywhere that you can turn into a temporary office? Plants, a noticeboard, and the right chair can make all the difference, even if it’s your kitchen table.
You’re not starting your day in the right way
If you want to know whether you’re starting your day in the right way, analyse what you’re doing and the effect it has. Before I dive into how I made my adjustments, I feel it’s probably worth highlighting the following:
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting your day.
You’ll read plenty of blogs claiming that lemon water, a run, green tea, meditation, or all of the above are necessary. They really aren’t. Starting your day in the right way is a case of you doing you. Here’s a case in point: my partner will start his day with swimming and green tea. Both of those things will likely make me vomit. I start my day with killer volumes of coffee and meditation. He prefers to meditate at night.
While there isn’t one right way to start your day, there are habits you can ditch
Look at the things you do within the first hour of waking. Do you check your email immediately? If so, those revision requests and client queries may make you feel negative about the day ahead.
Are you peeking at Facebook or Instagram before eventually grumbling about the state of your life? Now’s the time to banish said habit.
Take a look at the bad first thing in the morning habits you’re executing and switch them for something else. The time you dedicate towards social media browsing and email checking could be used to make an amazing breakfast. Or, you could meditate, do yoga, write a gratitude list…whatever floats your boat!
When you start your day in the right way, easing into a state of motivation is possible. By engaging in the habits that give you a negative mindset, motivation becomes challenging.
You’re dreading writing for a particular client/about a particular topic
Recently I received the vaguest of vague revision requests. When I asked the client to elaborate, he was even vaguer still. This was for a 6800-word project, which meant I needed detail to avoid writing the whole thing.
My motivation immediately plummeted. Not just for that project, but for all the other ones I had to finish. Each word I wrote didn’t feel intriguing or fun. Instead, I was overwhelmed with a sense of dread at the thought of tackling a large revision request with zero instructions.
After working through it, submitting some minor changes, and being told it was great, my motivation rocketed again. What this taught me was that working with certain people or focusing on particular topics can sap the joy out of other projects.
If there’s someone you dread writing for, find another client to replace them. You deserve better and so do they. They need someone who is an excellent match, a person who can deliver the enthusiasm they’re seeking.
And, if you’re like me and you just can’t take another Bitcoin article, consider what your target niche is and make more money there. No, you won’t be accepted to every agency, magazine, or blog you want to write for. But you won’t get any closer by settling for the niches you dislike.
You don’t have a routine
A fear of the R-word is usually why us freelance copywriters are freelancing in the first place. We like to set our own schedules, maintain our freedom, and work as early or as late as we like. It’s like flexi-working, on crack.
Completely abandoning any semblance of a routine isn’t healthy, though. When you head into your day with a rough routine, you have a sense of direction. With your sense of direction comes a sense of motivation.
I’ve found that it’s easier to work in blocks. After starting my day in the best way I can think of I will get to work until I hit a certain number of words or reach an earning target. Then I’ll break away to do something I love, or I’ll focus on non-copywriting tasks.
After returning from the land of freedom I’ll hit my next target. Then it’s time to do what I love again, followed by my final target of the day. Essentially, I’m working in blocks of three. If I feel like doing more work to make extra money later on, I can do. Or, if I want to slob out on the sofa and watch a classic Disney movie, I can do that as well.
You’re not getting out of the house
All new freelance copywriters start out with good intentions. They tell themselves that their time is their own. They schedule time for exercise, socialising, and personal pursuits.
Before long, the draw of work and taking on more (and more) clients traps you. If this results in you rarely leaving the house from day to day, it will start to feel like your prison. When you’re staring at the same four walls day in day out, your motivation will practically haemmhorage.
Make a pact with yourself to leave the house each day. Ways to achieve this include:
- Visiting friends and family
- Taking a walk somewhere peaceful
- Leaving the house in the morning to get a coffee, before returning home to work
- Working somewhere with a WiFi connection
- Heading to the gym
You’re not exercising
That last suggestion brings me onto my next point: are you exercising? In a society where we’re largely sedentary, we’re all heading towards a diabetic and obese future. Okay, so not all of us. But if you allow life as a freelance copywriter to take over too much, you’ll be on the wrong track health wise.
Future health complaints to one side, if you don’t exercise you are denying yourself a key source of motivation. Exercise causes happy hormones such as serotonin to surge. Don’t you feel more motivated when you’re happier? And, it’ll boost your dopamine production. As a neurotransmitter that’s the cornerstone of focus, more dopamine is always a good thing.
Try not to kid yourself into thinking that you don’t have enough time to exercise. If you have time to watch TV, you have 20 minutes to donate to fitness. Nobody’s suggesting that you morph into the next Usain Bolt; just lose your breath for a bit and make your heart pound.
If you’re really struggling, get out of bed earlier. You don’t need to exercise immediately, but you can shift other tasks into that time frame and make room for fitness later.
You don’t make enough time for yourself
Always remember, you were a person before you started freelancing. Your laptop (or whatever implement you use) isn’t an extension of your existence. If you let this life take over too much, you’ll lose touch with the things that make you, you.
I discovered this the hard way when I was finishing my postgraduate degree. My hobbies, social life, and mental wellbeing went out of the window. I kidded myself into thinking that making more room for studying and working was more important.
In reality, when you care for yourself and make time for yourself, you’re never wasting an opportunity. Sleeping better, exercising, meditating, socialising, and doing the quirky things that make you the person you result in better work.
If your motivation has taken a nose dive, use any and all of the tips above. It won’t rush back towards you immediately. But with consistent efforts, you’ll rediscover it.