Challenge number one when you are self-employed is motivating yourself daily to get out of bed and actually get work done. This is made even more difficult by the fact that your home office is visible from said bed. Why get out of it when you can comfortably work while propped up on pillows? Well, if you try doing that for a week you’ll soon learn a hard lesson in ergonomics. For vanity and health's sake alone, please do not sit in bed working all day. Your body will thank you. Invest in a good computer chair, even if it costs $500, like this Herman Miller Aeron model. It may not be pretty but it adapts to your body. Get a nice desk and decorate your walls for visual inspiration.
If you are not disciplined enough to force yourself to be productive, pretend you are going to a real office where you have to clock in by a certain time, preferably before noon. Take a shower, get dressed and do everything you would normally do if you were to leave the house for a job. This will switch your mind into work mode.
Challenge number two is that you must spend the entire day denying yourself the pleasures of distraction and reminding yourself that you do not have a case of funemployment. You are in fact employed and you will not be receiving a bi-weekly check in the mail while looking for your next gig. As a freelancer, everything you output is an opportunity to generate cash flow, but it is your responsibility to use time effectively.
Being your own boss means that you make the rules. I highly suggest creating guidelines and enforcing them. This means no television, surfing the web, or margarita breaks at the pool until you’ve put in a solid amount of work. There are tools and apps you can implement to help banish time sucking vampires like Twitter and Facebook. Try Anti-Social or Self-Control. No one will be watching over you and judging your work ethic but there will be someone expecting a rent or mortgage payment at the beginning of next month.
Make sure to set realistic goals. Allow yourself that hike or that happy-hour meeting with friends only after you’ve completed something substantial. After all, isn’t the beauty of working from home the freedom to live life the way you want to?
If you’re a writer, an obvious goal to set is to write and finish one piece of prose every day. Be it a short story, an article, a chapter, poem, or at the very least, a blog about how to get motivated.
Educate yourself on your industry. Knowledge is power is money. If you’re a writer, read books, articles, or screenplays in your genre. Since I am writing a half memoir, I have been reading a ton of them in order to understand why certain personal stories performed well. Today I am reading, “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion and studying the way she wrote about grief.
Study markets and look at trends in publishing. Which publishers print books like yours? What magazines publish articles about your area of expertise? What novels have been optioned? What studios are putting that literature on screen? This can be applied to any industry. Learning opportunities are everywhere.
Network with people who are doing what you are doing. I cannot stress this enough. You cannot find enough opportunities to generate cash flow on your own. Meet people, go to events, and connect. Or disconnect. Do this in real life rather than online if you have the chance. Follow up with people and keep in touch, but do this tactfully. There is nothing worse than an overly pushy and annoying person who does not understand social cues. Be appropriate in your approach. Be thoughtful and create a dialogue where all people involved will be benefitting from the relationship. Lastly, always help other people in need. If you know of opportunities, share the wealth. This can only help you.
Inspire and be inspired. If you have a creative block, go out into the world and experience life. Go look at art exhibits, watch films and people watch. Be creepy. Get uncomfortably close and listen to people’s conversations. Don’t be afraid to raise your creep barometer a notch or two. Write down what they say, what they’re wearing, how they look. Take it and create something from it. You might find the characters you were looking for that will turn your work into the next big thing, or you might get told off by someone who notices you’ve invaded their privacy. It doesn’t matter. Whatever you do, make it count.