How to stay motivated when self-employed

While it is easy to be motivated when you are feeling passionate about your job and everything is going well there will also be times when things go wrong.

Sometimes you will

  • find it difficult to sum up the energy to do anything
  • doubt your own abilities
  • question the sense and success of your business
  • question the value of your work
  • can’t motivate yourself to carry on
  • can’t focus on what seems to be important for your business

The way you handle these phases will in the end determine whether you will ‘make’ it as an artist or not.

Although there are many obvious advantages of being self-employed, two things are usually provided by a regular job:

Structure and Feedback


 You are less likely to question the value of your work when you have to be at your work place a certain hour of the day and get home a few hours later. Even if you haven’t really produced anything extraordinary, the fact that you managed to turn up and to stay until the end of your working day already gives a sense of achievement. You will feel you have deserved some free time – some kind of reward – whether you have been productive at your workplace or not. This is definitely different if you are self-employed, when your space for working is usually the same or close to your space for relaxation. As for time – well – there is just not such a thing as knocking off time. You usually relax with a bad consciousness or at least with plans in your head for Future projects.

And a few unproductive days in a row and the creative self-employed person can get really depressed when he is not careful.


In most environments you hopefully get some kind of feedback from bosses or colleagues.

If you don’t get any feedback at all you will probably loose the motivation to work. Feedback does not mean only praise – feedback means recognition of what you have been doing. Constructive criticism will help your motivation actually more than praise.

An encouraging glance from one of your colleagues can make all the difference between a good and a bad day.

When you are self-employed you can feel really lonely from time to time and the recognition of your work just doesn’t happen yet.

It is very difficult to continue working as an artist when there is no feedback for a long time.

How to implement structure and feedback in your work as a self-employee

Be your own Boss by giving yourself the things that are usually provided by him:

1. Spend regular structured time with your work

 Try to find your very own daily schedule and stick to it religiously – at least for a while.

It doesn’t matter if it is two or three or more hours you are committing yourself to work (paint, practise, write etc.) as long as you can keep up with your task.

Also, structure your ‘free’ time wisely. Make sure there is some kind of exercise and some kind of reading in between (maybe not only the newspaper…). And allow yourself to relax fully after your scheduled hours.

To use your working space just for working will help you to feel the difference between work and relaxation.

2. Reward yourself for the time you spend with your work and not only for the end product

 There will be times when you are just not as creative or productive as you like to be. But being frustrated about that will simply strengthen the creative block on the next level.

Stick to your daily rhythm – even if it means sitting in front of an empty piece of paper for an hour or two. That’s also fine and not a problem to worry about right now.

 3. Give yourself feedback by using a diary or scrapbook

When you are feeling down a lot of very unproductive questions might arise.

  • Am I good enough?
  • Why am I doing what I am doing?
  • Will someone ever fully appreciate what I’m doing?
  • Will I ever be successful?

These questions you should put aside while you are in this mood! You are allowed to answer them only when you are feeling much better.

Instead of worrying use a diary or scrapbook in the evenings with the following things in mind:

  • What did I do right today?
  • What did I do wrong today?
  • How can I improve my work?
  • How can I improve my life?
  • What do I want to do differently tomorrow?

These questions go much further that a simple To-Do-List or Done-List. They will help you to get into a creative mindset.

 4. Find other people in your business that you trust and give one another regular feedback

Life and work is much more fun when you are not alone. We are all struggling with the same issues and can easily support one another. Don’t forget to get out of your workspace and communicate with like-minded people. Choose your own colleagues you want to ‘work’ with on a regular basis by giving one another honest feedback.

Thanks for reading.

Do you have any other method to get you motivated?

Please let me know about your experiences in the comments.

Photo: Throes of Creation, Leonid Pasternak photo credits


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