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Staying Motivated or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Work


Like all good ventures, I started this freelance writing business with a bang. Lorna and I were filled with ideas and plans; it was all we could do to get through our daily routines, we were so excited about what we were going to do. We had meetings, we took notes, and we typed up these notes. We wrote a business plan, made investments, and created a twenty-year strategy. Most importantly, we made bids and queries for work like marathon-training hamsters. 

I’m happy to report that this momentum continued for a good two months before my poor little rodent feet wore out and my wheel slowed to a barely perceptible rotation. In the first few weeks, I was easily logging forty hours per week; this has recently diminished to about fifteen. 

So what happened? Where did my drive and fervor go? And what can I do to retrieve it? 

  • Some of my excitement went away in the natural course of things. Like a new job, a new diet, or a new husband, things simply got mundane after awhile.

  • I was meeting goals, not exceeding them. I have always been a ridiculous overachiever. Although Lorna celebrated each time we reached one of our initial goals (monetary or otherwise), I was actually a little disappointed that we weren’t tearing our way straight up the ladder of success.

  • Working at home is actually work! Working from home is like a fantasy about running into the person who made fun of you all through high school; in reality, it’s not as easy and effortless as you dreamt it would be. I had visions of my daughter playing quietly with her educational toys while I sat at the computer having a cup of tea. In three months, that has yet to happen.

  • Clients let me down. Whether it was nonpayment or making me cry, not everyone has been a joy to work with. Although most of our clients downright rock, it has been difficult navigating relationships with a few.

  • The money isn’t always pouring in. Running your own business is scary stuff. I have had to stop relying on a regular paycheck from my side of things, leaving my husband and my not so good belt-tightening skills to make up the rest of the burden.

  • Finding clients isn’t fun. Once we have clients, I love working for them (even when the work itself isn’t all that thrilling). But getting those clients—marketing, placing bids, selling myself—is not something I thought about having to spend so much time doing.


If that list isn’t a downer, I don’t know what is. Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Although I am not yet up to the joy and elation I felt each day in the beginning, I am starting to settle into a more stable, healthier pattern. Here’s how: 

  • Adopting a more realistic view. Okay ladies and gentlemen, the rose-colored glasses are off. This is a business, and it is work. I have to commit myself and my time to my freelance company as if it were a “real job.” In fact, I have to remove those quotation marks altogether; this is as real of a job as it gets.

  • Celebrating the small stuff. Get a new client? So what if it’s only one article per month—it’s more money and potential for future growth. All the small steps added together will get you over the hump.

  • Setting up a business routine. Lorna and I have officially implemented bi-weekly business meetings (kid-free). We had one last Friday, and it was a wonderful experience. We talked about our current list of clients, we revisited our three-month goals, and we revised our future plans. It was a great way to celebrate our successes and to regain some momentum for the weeks to come (holiday weeks—we need all the momentum we can get).

  • Making new marketing plans. We really are getting burnt out from making bids and finding clients through online freelance sites like elance and guru. We have totally rededicated ourselves to finding clients through other avenues, even though this means we have to put in quite a bit more work (including work that is out of our comfort zones).

  • Taking small steps. I focus way too much on the unforeseeable future. Instead of worrying about the money we will have six months from now, I am trying to focus on treating each day as its own separate opportunity for success.

  • Enjoying myself. I am running a business. I am a freelance writer. I am living my dream. For once, I am just going to relax and let myself bask in those thoughts.



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    On November 6th, 2007 at 5:20 pm, Melissa Garrett said:

    What a timely article. This past week and a half has found me low on motivation. It doesn’t help that my major source of income is winding down for the year and won’t resume full throttle until January. I am one of those types of people that just languishes when there’s not much to do. I need to find more (paying) work!

    On November 6th, 2007 at 5:43 pm, Laura said:

    What a great post! I think that too many of us are caught up in the worry cycle.

    On November 6th, 2007 at 7:02 pm, holli jo said:

    Tamara - Great post, and good timing! I had a really low motivation day yesterday, so it’s refreshing to hear that not only am I not alone, but there are ways to get through it and renew my motivation.

    Thanks again.

    On November 6th, 2007 at 8:53 pm, Allena Tapia said:

    are you reading my mind??? I go through cycles where I get BURNED OUT and I think thats a big part of some of the troubles we face.

    On November 6th, 2007 at 8:54 pm, Allena Tapia said:

    who are you on elance? we’re probably competitors! ;-}

    On November 6th, 2007 at 9:20 pm, Tamara Berry said:

    I’m so glad that others sometimes feel the burn as well (not glad that you feel frustrated or worried, but glad that we all go through the same thing).

    Writing this blog and getting the great feedback has done wonders to spike my motivation. So has getting nominated for the Top 10 Blogs For Writers 2007/2008. Thanks Allena!

    On November 7th, 2007 at 9:58 pm, Lorna Doone Brewer said:


    At this point, we don’t actually use Elance; although we have considered it. We’re hoping to be able to move away from bidding sites altogether as we continue, but we still submit bids through Guru. Unsurprisingly, our proposals get accepted a lot less often now that we are asking for a more reasonable (still low) rate of pay!

    On November 8th, 2007 at 12:12 am, Mommy Cracked said:

    What an awesome post! I find myself feeling like this right now. Thanks for sharing this.

    On November 10th, 2007 at 2:52 pm, Allena Tapia said:

    oh you’re on guru. Yeah i’m on elance. I like it but you have to be very very selective. I don’t bid for much there anymore, because I’m being super careful…

    Mentions on other sites...

    1. A Little Self-Promotion | Freelance Parent on November 8th, 2007 at 4:06 pm

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