After the initial adrenaline and rush of endorphins, you might be surprised to experience moments where building your business feels like a chore. Sometimes it feels like you’re trying to build a skyscraper with your bare hands. Sure, you can see some progress, but it doesn’t even come close to where you need to be. We’re all friends here so let’s be honest: staying motivated while self-employed is just hard.

Starting a business generally comes with a huge endorphin-fueled rush. Do you remember those days? You would wake up, excited and grateful to start working. Every little success becomes proof that what you’re doing is working and you feel abundance is just around the corner.

Although the transition into freelance work sounds liberating, the feeling is generally short-lived. Only about 50% describe starting their own business as such. In fact, many solopreneurs report feelings of loneliness and isolation. Besides feeling lonely, many solopreneurs feel like they are facing their daily hustle without people that *get it.* For many would-be budding entrepreneurs, the result is a huge drop in motivation.

While we’re talking about finding people who get it… Whether you’re a digital nomad, freelancer, self-employed individual, husband-and-wife business team, consultant, CEO of a remote startup, or wear another hat that I’ve missed, you’re included. Writing From Nowhere serves anyone who works online, no matter what your situation is. 

While every situation is different, they all require fuel to keep them moving. In this blog post, let’s talk about five easy steps that will give your motivation that much-needed boost and get you back to enjoying the journey

1. Work Out your Intrinsic Motivation (Can’t Be Money!)

Some lucky people are able to turn their greatest passions into successful businesses. If that’s you, then you’re in luck my friend, and you might as well skip this point and move straight to the next one! 

Are you still here? Sorry to say this, but it’s time to take a good hard look at why you decided to start this journey in the first place. 

Think back to the reason you started your online business. What was it that excited you the most? Was it the idea of freedom? Being able to do things your way? No longer having to attend all those tedious and pointless meetings? 

Don’t confuse a goal with motivation. Although keeping your eye on the prize can help with staying motivated in business, it is still an extrinsic motivator. All that a goal does is justify your decisions. 

Goal setting alone is not enough. In order to stay motivated, you need an intrinsic motivator; something that you find enjoyable in your daily life as a business owner.

Something that makes the pursuit of your goal worthwhile, even when it’s still miles down the road. 

Try to come up with three things as a budding entrepreneur that bring you joy. I know this sounds cheesy but I’m not messing around here. Research has shown that writing these things down can help you find that internal motivator. 

Writing down something you enjoy about building your business helps you experience the things you wrote down every time they happen. 

Your action item: write down three things that you enjoy about your business and make them visible while you’re working. 

2.  Find Inspiration In People Who Are Succeeding

Sometimes running your business can feel like that no matter what you do, you never seem to come any closer to realizing your dreams. This is where finding inspiration can help.

I have to admit, this one is a bit of a personal favorite. When I started Writing From Nowhere, I had been consuming as much information as I could about running an online business. I wanted to know what it was like, and I wanted to learn as much as I could from the people who were already succeeding. 

Even though there are countless books, my preferred way of learning was listening to podcasts. Through podcasts like Location Indie and Extra Pack Of Peanuts, I learned so much about both the reality of running an online business and the opportunities that were out there. This brings me to an important point.

Inspiration matters and this is not just my opinion (I love the feeling of being backed up by science!). In their research on the value and benefits of being and feeling inspired, psychologists Todd M. Thrash and Andrew J. Elliot found that inspired people:

  • have a strong internal motivator. Inspired people want to master their work without being overly competitive. 
  • are more open to experiencing their successes. Inspired people are more aware of the good things that are happening in their daily life. 
  • tend to be more creative. People that are further down the road make you think about what is possible for you. As a result, inspired people feel more comfortable with trying something new.  

In addition, you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to buy all kinds of expensive books. In fact, you will see that many online entrepreneurs are more than willing to share their stories for free. 

That’s it. Science says that finding people that are ahead of you on their journey can help you stay motivated. Therefore, go out and find a podcast or book and be inspired!

Your action item: find 3 business role models and implement something from their story or routine into your day so you can feel consciously connected to other successful business owners. 

3. Find A Routine (And Stick To It)

You wake up, make coffee and turn on your laptop to start working. Your day starts at a different time every day and you don’t stop until you feel like you have done enough. The next morning you wake up, feeling already behind. Rinse and repeat. This state of perpetual stress and never-ending anxiety is a hellscape, and it alone can be enough to throw in the towel. 

Steve Jobs famously dressed in the same clothes every day, Benjamin Franklin woke up at 4 a.m. Many famous people have routines to save themselves from spending time and energy on things that don’t matter to them. In fact, the benefits of having some kind of routine are well documented.

Whenever we’re stressed, we look for ways to stay in control. Nothing to be embarrassed about, we all do it. Having a routine has many benefits, from helping you sleep to reducing anxiety. Most importantly, sticking to a daily routine can help with that “when will I get it all done?!?” feeling that knocks you over from time to time. 

A routine can have many forms and you should pick something that works for you. Other people can show you what is helpful to them but you can’t just copy what they do. Whatever you do, please don’t start wearing jeans and a black turtleneck!

Instead, think about a more personal routine that is aimed at preventing work from taking over your day. Think about things like picking one moment per day where you check your messages or setting actual working hours.

Something that is helpful when I have a lot of work to do, is setting aside some time to just think things through. During this time, I think about all the things that need to be done. I try to imagine the amount of time each task will take and I try to prioritize them. For me, this prevents me from feeling overwhelmed by the endless list of things we have to do as business owners.

Your action item: write down your goal routine step by step and try to follow it tomorrow. 

4. Make Sure You Set Clear Boundaries

One of the initial perks of being self-employed is that you can set your own work hours. All of a sudden you get to decide when you want to start, what you want to wear, and what exactly it is you do. It takes a while to realize that you are also the one who is responsible for maintaining any kind of work-life balance.

For many of us, the temptation to do more for clients than initially agreed on is a hard one to withstand. We want to send that one last email, promise deadlines we know are hard to keep etc. As a result, the line between workday and evening is the first one to blur. 

After that it is all downhill, you start working on weekends and ultimately become incapable of truly taking time off. Every wedding or birthday becomes a moment in which you may technically not be working but your mind is still occupied by work. 

There is a direct correlation between taking time off and your intrinsic motivation. This is especially true when it comes to working when you know other people are normally off.

Apart from the obvious, important and healthy decision to take time off, setting boundaries also involves having a very clear job description. Don’t send that one email after dinner or respond to messages when you’re out doing something else. You are the one who has to draw the line. 

Your action item: decide when your “working hours” will be this week and set a reminder in your phone so that you’re pushed to power down and log off on time. 

Woman sitting on the floor on her laptop working

5. Find Community

Let’s face it, being self-employed is awesome. The freedom to start work anytime, from anywhere and on anything is amazing. All of a sudden you find yourself without that horrible boss… and without your colleagues. 

Feeling part of a group, online or otherwise, has a huge effect on your motivation as a small business owner. A recent study found that a sense of belonging to a group directly makes you feel more secure and confident in your purpose. The good news is that there are multiple ways in which you can find the community you need to keep going. 

Coworking spaces are becoming more and more common. Although they usually require some form of payment, you do get community, networking opportunities and ‘watercooler moments’ in return. 

Furthermore, there are many groups of like-minded budding entrepreneurs to be found online. Finding one that you like should not be difficult. 

Finding community is one of the most important things to keep up your motivation. So,  surround yourself with people that you can bounce ideas off, you can chat with or even just understand what you’re doing.

Your action item: find a Facebook group for remote workers or your industry and make a post introducing yourself. 

Final Thoughts On How To Stay Motivated While Self-Employed

Are you having trouble with staying motivated while self-employed? Well, you’re not alone as many small business owners struggle with the same thing. Running a non-traditional business is a herculean task, and doing it all by yourself is often a lonely process. 

Remind yourself that what you’re doing is still totally worth doing. Give your motivation that boost it needs by following these tips. 

If you need any help (or if you just want to chat), just send me a message!

You’ve got this,