As the owner of an independent creative business, you are responsible for absolutely everything creatively and managerially. The whole thing’s sitting on your shoulders, and sometimes the weight is huge. Even when things are tough you’re responsible for getting your promotional email sent out, paying your bills, managing clients and their projects, and maybe even for paying subs and employees.
The road of success is paved with the things that make you successful, and they don’t include being lazy or apathetic.
Laziness comes in a variety of forms, include lack of attention to detail, failure to follow through, postponing key tasks, being unwilling to make an effort.
Apathy is lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. I find the etymology of this word interesting. It started with the Greeks, routed through the Romans, took a turn through French before it landed in English. We break down the word into two parts: a (without) and pathos (feeling). So apathy is the lack of feeling.
Laziness is more about effort and action, while apathy is all about your attitude. When you’re apathetic, you’ll also be lazy. How we’re feeling directly impacts how we work. Lack of enthusiasm leads to lack of effort.
When you are apathetic about your business, you’ll also be apathetic about your creative work. While staying 100% enthusiastic all the time is unrealistic, you should be motivated enough every day to get your work done.
When you’re employed, there’s someone supervising you and holding you accountable for doing your job. When you’re self-employed — a business owner — no one’s standing over you. You’re accountable to no one but yourself.
As an owner, you need to stay focused and motivated even when you don’t freaking feel like it.
Well, how do you do that?
Let’s first look at a couple principles we need to consider.
First, you need to rest. You need to rest intentionally. Take breaks, days off, and vacations. However, rest is not laziness.
Rest is not what I’m addressing here. I’m talking about the every day doldrums we find ourselves in when we’re not excited about our work, one or more clients are being persnickety, and your latest Instagram post isn’t getting the traction you think it deserves (those darned algorithm changes!!!)… again!
Rest is necessary to replenish your energy and clear your mind. Laziness is not necessary, and it’s the enemy of your success. It can be subtle, like simply putting off something you need to do.
As an owner, you have a lot to handle — most of your time’s spent doing business instead of creating — and it’s easy to lose your drive. Rest will help keep you from being lazy.
Second, as an independent creative business owner your success is entirely up to you. You know that the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to create your own income. That means that you’re in control of where your income comes from, where and when you work, and how you integrate your work and personal pursuits.
You create success or failure with every decision you make and action you take. Nothing you do or don’t do is insignificant. Your decisions and actions pile up, compounding over time. Your future circumstances are affected by what you do right now, at this very moment, today!
The very act of reading this article may influence you to take action.
Staying motivated to do the work you need to do when no one’s standing over you is your responsibility. It also impacts your character.
Motivation is the reason or reasons you act in a particular way. You were motivated to start freelancing. You need to stay motivated now that you’re on the road.
You might be thinking, “I’m so tired of dealing with all this business stuff! I just want to create stuff!”
Staying motivated is a daily, and sometimes hourly, concern. You have to be motivated to get out of bed in the morning and get to work instead of hitting the snooze button. You have to be motivated to ignore your favorite distractions. You have to be motivated to press through projects.
7 actions to stay motivated
Motivation is your responsibility. How do you motivate and encourage yourself when your in the messy middle of things and your strength is gone?
How do you stay motivated if you’ve experienced a series of failures? Failure happens to everyone. You can make use of it to propel yourself forward, rethinking your approach to what you’re pursing. Or you can beat yourself up with it. But that’s another discussion.
If you’re suffering from lack of creative energy because of failure, tedium, or boredom, here are 7 things you can do about it:
1] Revisit your WHY.
Define your horizon — that WHY for which you shifted into freelancing in the first place. What’s the big reason you’re doing this? Freedom? Being master of your destiny? Leaving a legacy for your family? Generating income during your “retirement” years?
Keep your eyes on your horizon as you go through your daily routines. When you keep you eyes fixed on your ideal outcome, you’re less likely to focus on the small problems and irritations at your feet. You’ll maintain your passion to create and serve people with your work.
2] Remind yourself what’s at stake if you don’t succeed. Who’s going to feel it if your business fails? Not only that, how will you feel?
Understand that success is what you decide it to be. You have to own both what success looks like and the plan to get there. Stay focused on the long game.
3] Recommit to your goals. An easy way to become apathetic is to continue pursuing goals that are no longer appropriate.
Take time to revisit your goals. What goals are still relevant? Which ones should you delete? What should you revise based on your current situation? Create a new list and action plan, and get them on your calendar. Commit to taking steps every week toward your goals.
4] Refresh. Get away for a few hours. Take a break to separate yourself from your work. Whatever you do to recharge, go do it. Some people work out. Some people meditate. Some people pray. Household chores, a round of Red Dead Redemption, audiobooks, podcasts, cooking, are all ways freelancers have used to get the necessary distance from their work to go back and see it with new eyes. Be sure you get back to work, though.
5] Redefine your problems. Instead of ignoring them, face them. Look at them from a different point of view. Chunk them up. Break them into tiny pieces and deal with them one bit at a time.
6] Reflect. Look at where you are and how you got here. Was there an event or turning point where you started to lose sight of things? When did you stop feeling inspired? Did someone say something? Did you ignore good advice and make a bad choice? Dig deep to find it and learn from it. Be honest with yourself.
Often talking things through with a trusted colleague or friend is enough encouragement. In sharing your challenges, you gain another point of view and new insight.
7] Respond. The answer to any problem you face starts with you. Take the first step to solve the problem. Do the obvious next thing and then take the next step after that. Keep going.
Success comes by doing the work that’s necessary today to create the opportunities of tomorrow.
In short, successful people do the necessary little things day in and day out, despite how they feel. They keep themselves motivated, and understand it’s their responsibility to do so. They keep their eyes on the prize. They do what’s necessary to keep their businesses going and their creative drive tuned up.
Where are you lagging or lacking energy in your business or creatively?