If you’re hoping to make a career out of being a freelancer, then success, and how to find it, is probably something you’ve considered.
Even those who “dabble” in freelance writing would probably like to be successful.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one way to be successful as a freelance writer, which can also cause frustration and confusion for how to be “good” at it.
There are certainly some skills that make it more likely for you to be hired for work:
- Being a skilled writer
- Proficiency at self-editing
- Having the ability to pitch well
- Understanding how to search for freelance writing jobs (Contena has helped me so much with this!)
- Being organized
- Knowing how to be a professional in a non-traditional setting
I’m also a big believer that your frame of mind will have a big impact on your ability to be successful.
I have a Master’s Degree in Sport Psychology and a decade of professional experience helping athletes and other performers with the mental aspects of performance. I’d also argue that our profession is a performance domain, and we can learn a lot from Sport Psychology principles and ideas.
Staying Motivated as a Freelance Writer
Motivation is the direction and intensity of your effort.
If you spend time looking for work online, we’d probably think you’re motivated (The direction of your effort tells us this), but if you also end up on social media, or you don’t apply for the positions you find, then perhaps you’re not motivated (because your intensity is lacking).
Motivation is complex in all areas of life.
You’ve likely experienced times of high and low motivation; you’ve probably had experiences where your direction and intensity of effort were high, and that both were sustained over time (this is another important aspect of motivation).
If you can only give effort in small bursts, then perhaps you don’t have enough motivation for the given task.
When we’re “firing on all cylinders” with motivation, we’re more likely to be productive and we may not be as deterred by rejection.
The opposite is also likely true: If your motivation is low, you may not be as compelled to put in the effort toward a freelance job search, or even the assignments you’ve already secured.
If you’re new to freelancing, you may think “If I was being paid to write, I’d definitely be motivated to complete those assignments!”
That’s not always the case!
Thankfully I’ve had a lot of assignments I enjoy, but there have been times where I’m hired to write about a topic I’m not very interested in.
That lack of interest can turn to lack of motivation, despite the impending paycheck.
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation for Freelancers
With the understanding that motivation can be complex, we also need to understand more about what drives us- what actually fuels that motivation?
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation relates to being involved in an activity or task for internal, or personal reasons, for example, because you enjoy it, the task allows you to learn, or you get a positive feeling from involvement.
Extrinsic motivation is when your motivation comes from outside sources, such as a paycheck, praise, or even a byline that people will see.
It’s easy to think that intrinsic motivation is good and extrinsic motivation is bad, but it’s not that simple.
We need to understand the role that each can play in helping create our own motivation. Perhaps most important, extrinsic motivation is not within our control, and it can be perceived as controlling our behaviors and actions.
For example: If I am a writer because I love the freedom and flexibility that it gives me, I am more inclined to be motivated to search for and complete assignments than if I’m motivated by a paycheck alone.
To go further with this, if I am intrinsically motivated, when I land a job, I’m likely to see the paycheck as something that I am earning, and it supports my internal drive; this refuels my intrinsic motivation.
If I am extrinsically motivated, I may not see this paycheck as something that is being “held over me” until I complete this assignment, or that I have to write this particular topic in order to be paid.
I want to be clear- it’s not bad to be motivated by money or extrinsic factors, but we need to be careful that we’re not only motivated by extrinsic factors.
How to Improve Your Intrinsic Motivation as a Freelance Writer
One way to positively impact your motivation is to create a mission statement.
You might be familiar with brands and companies having mission statements, but individuals can have mission statements too.
A mission statement is ultimately something that captures what you do, what drives you, and is your statement of purpose- it can help guide and motivate you through the ups and downs as a freelance writer.
My mission statement, or statement of purpose, is that “I am a writer to bring flexibility and freedom to my life and family.”
When I am lacking motivation, I return to this to help me refocus, reenergize, and to keep going.
If you had clarity on your mission as a freelance writer, how might that affect you?
Might you be more focused?
Have more intention in how you spend your time?
Allow you to be clearer and stronger with your priorities?
Maybe all of this, and more!
If you’d like to create your own mission statement, follow these steps:
- Write down answers to the following questions:
- Why do you want to be a freelance writer?
- What do you enjoy (or think you’ll enjoy if you haven’t started yet)?
- What makes you good for this role?
- What about being a freelance writer excites you?
- What do you gain by having this job (both intrinsically and extrinsically)?
- Anything else that captures your motivation and drive to be a freelance writer that you haven’t already written down.
- Look at all of your answers; you may want to group similar ideas together as themes.
- From your brainstorm and organizing, decide on 3-4 of the most important ideas or concepts: the ones that truly capture your drive, desire, and passion to be a successful freelance writer.
- Start writing possible mission statements, combining your core ideas in different ways. You may end up with several possibilities for your mission statement; take the time you need to create your statement. It doesn’t have to happen immediately- you might be the type of person who needs to sit with it for a while.
- Once you have your mission statement, try using it for a week or two to make sure it captures what drives you. When you use your mission statement, you want to feel excitement, passion, and drive. In other words, you want to be motivated by your mission statement. If you’re not, rework it until it feels right.
Here are some ways you can use your mission statement to tap into your passion and motivation:
- Repeat it at the start of each day, or as you sit down to begin your work
- Make it into a nice-looking quote using a design tool like Canva, and make it the wallpaper on your phone or computer
- Repeat it to yourself if you hit a low point in motivation
- Include it at the bottom of all your emails
Though the process of creating a mission statement will take time, it’s worth it to become clearer on why you’re putting the effort into freelance writing.
With a focus on intrinsic motivators, including your mission statement, hopefully, you’ll find that your motivation increases as well as your productivity, and possibly, your checking account!