In any job you have days where you really don’t feel like doing the work. In any job this is at best annoying and at worst self-sabotaging but in freelance it can be particularly hindering. Mainly because your next pay check usually comes when you’ve finished a task. Also because when you’re freelance there’s an onus on impress, impress, impress. You’re allowed to have an “off” day when you work in an office, but when you’re employed temporarily everyone’s aware that you’re being paid by the hour/day/project and as such, every hour counts.
So to combat this, I’ve come up a few strategies to help you to do the work when you really don’t want to do the work. These are the things I turn to when I’m struggling to concentrate and they usually help to pull me out of my funk. Whether it’s a second day hangover, writer’s block or feeling out of your depth on a project, here are a few tactics that will hopefully help!
1. Go back to basics
Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed with a project or have that “I don’t know where to start” feeling, I go right back to basics. In an office, you would turn to a colleague and they’d outline the really basic thing you’ve forgotten: how to start. When you’re freelance you have to work this out for yourself. For example, say I’m about to write a new social media strategy for a client and I’ve got total block on where to start. I look up “social media strategy” and read a few of the top articles which will tell me how other agencies/freelancers approach writing it. This always triggers some ideas and reminds me how to get started. Another tactic is to get out a pad and some pens and begin brainstorming or mind mapping. This always gets the ideas flowing!
2. Start a draft
Particularly when I’m content writing I can get bogged down in what the finished piece is going to look like. Sometimes this can hold you back from starting at all. When that happens, I try to forget the finished piece and instead start a draft. This is an old Uni tactic where I’d start an essay by researching, planning out the post and dropping random bits of information into a Google Doc before organising them into a structure. Once the structure is there, I find it becomes much easier to just get going.
3. Get a change of scenery
Sometimes when I’m stuck on a task or feeling unmotivated a change of scenery can do wonders. This could be as simple as moving from my office to the kitchen table, or popping out to Costa. If you live in London or somewhere glamorous there are lots of cost-effective co-working lounges you can use. TOG is one of my favourites, where for £50 per month you get 8 hours per week in one of multiple locations around the city, all of which are very Instagram-worthy and full of great creatives to chat to.
4. Play focus music
I’m sure I’m in a tiny minority when I say that I prefer to work in silence. Even while in an office I always struggled to focus if things were noisy or there was loud music playing. I know this makes me seem incredibly boring and/or unsociable but I think it comes down to how much of my work relies on writing and how difficult this can be when there’s too much background. With one exception: focus music. If I’m struggling to concentrate (or am wildly procrastinating) I put on Spotify’s Focus > Music for Concentration playlist. Within seconds I find myself able to concentrate properly. Placebo effect? Who knows, but it certainly works for me.
5. Stop working
This is probably something I’ve only done once or twice since being freelance but occasionally you have to call a day a day and give yourself a break. If all of your best go-to tips for doing the work have failed, trying to sit there and force yourself into it only makes you feel crap. In this situation I’ll swap things up, so I might go into town to do the errands I’d usually do at the weekend so I can spend Saturday morning catching up or I’ll cook, watch YouTube videos or listen to Podcasts to take my mind completely away from work. Afterwards, I’ll always feel inspired and ready to get back to my desk again. Sometimes a short break can also do the trick. I’m lucky to have a dog who ALWAYS wants to go for a walk so I can head out to clear my head. Other times, reading a book for half an hour or even sitting in the garden with a magazine can help. Find what works for you – as long as it’s not happening every day you’re doing okay.
What tactics do you use to do the work when you don’t really feel like doing the work? Let me know on Twitter – I’d love to hear them.