How To Keep Your Entrepreneurial Fire Burning

By Nacie Carson
41 Comments

I’m not going to lie – living the freelance life is pretty awesome.

I make my own schedule, work where I want, and can make things like exercising, spending time with my family, and meditation a part of my daily life without issue (all things that I struggled with while commuting two hours a day to a 9-5!).

But in spite of all this awesomeness, I confess that sometimes I find it hard to keep up drive and momentum. At times, motivating myself to sit down and submit that article, design that online product, or upgrade that widget is just plain hard, even though I am an ambitious person.

Keeping the entrepreneurial fire burning – that spark, passion, and drive to get up, get out, and make it happen – is a challenge that all career entrepreneurs struggle with. Over the years, I’ve had my share of down seasons where just checking my email seemed like a Herculean task. But I’ve learned some tricks along the way that help me ride out these periods of reduced drive without capsizing my freelancing career, and it’s my pleasure to share them with you here – if you have other suggestions of how to keep momentum up when motivation is down, please share them in the comments section with your fellow Entrepreneurs!

Make It Visual

Whenever I think about motivation as an entrepreneur, I always think about a quote from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita:

“Sometimes it’s very difficult to keep momentum if it’s you who you are following.”

Unexpectedly great insight from a man who wrote a musical called “Cats”…but for me this quote has always rung true and made me think about my entrepreneur’s journey in a physical way: my career is about following the leader, and the leader is me – so I need to lead and follow simultaneously.  And that can result in a lack of motivation when the leader in me needs to take a coffee break or the follower in me just needs to sit down and zone out for a while.

When your internal leader or internal follower loses focus on your goals as an entrepreneur, you start to lose momentum.  One thing that has helped me keep my leader and follower on track and heading the same direction is making my goals visual.

I keep pictures, words, and phrases of my immediate goals and long term goals around my home workspace in a very visible and borderline intrusive manner. Why? Because when I start to lose momentum and my internal leader isn’t keeping things in line, I have an external back-up system ready to take over. I like using big, bright, eye-catching visuals, but I know some people who utilize little post-it notes or little symbols strategically placed to keep momentum up when drive is down.

Whether you are designing a product, writing a book, or building an affiliate marketing empire, keeping your goals visible in front of you can act like a proverbial carrot on a stick – it can lead you forward when your own drive is running low on gas.

Switch Up The Routine

One thing I’ve learned about myself is that losing drive is often synonymous with getting stuck in a routine rut.  Sure, I have the capability to pretty much do what I want when I want, but that doesn’t mean I am immune from getting caught in a routine that can be as monotonous as a 9-5…the only difference is it’s a routine of my own making (and something I have power to fix!).

When I first started freelance writing, I confused routine with discipline. I agree that there is definitely some overlap, but following the same set of steps every day, day after day, doesn’t make you accomplished or successful. It just makes you predictable.

Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is that life opens up for you in ways it just can’t when you’re chained to a desk – but in my early days of working for myself, I basically emulated my old 9-5 schedule in a effort to be disciplined. It didn’t take long before I was dragging myself to my desk every morning with the same ennui that had characterized my employee days.

A friend of mine suggested I try working somewhere else for a day, like a cafe or library, to switch things up a bit. I took the advice and immediately felt refreshed and reinvigorated, and all I’d done was just adjust my daily routine minimally! Now I purposely build variety into my weekly routine to keep energy, joie de vivre, and drive up.

Variety stimulates creativity, and creativity stimulates entrepreneurship. If you’re batteries are feeling weak, try making a small change to your routine – work in a different location, exercise at a different time of day, or break up your work blocks into different size chunks. It doesn’t take much adjustment to make a difference!

Accept It, Don’t Stress It

I’m a detail-oriented worrier (can anyone say “Type A”?), and my first instinct when I start to lose momentum is freak out and stress. I worry about failing, I get down on myself for not being driven or disciplined, and I imagine my success crumbling under my laziness. The more I try to bully myself into kicking up momentum, the more disheartened and demotivated I get.

In the life of an entrepreneur, there are seasons of high momentum and seasons of reflection, recharging, and re-centering – and that’s just the way it is. Sometimes all you can do is accept that you might not be as productive or motivated as you want to be and then let it go. Stressing about being driven won’t make you any more motivated, it will just make you more frustrated. Letting go of the need to be in overdrive all the time allows you to replenish the vital and often unconscious resources that keep you achieving and succeeding.

What do you think, fellow entrepreneurs? What do you do when you start to lose a little drive? How do you get back on track and keep from wandering off the path?

Here’s to your Entrepreneur’s Journey!

Nacie

About Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a freelance writer and founder of The Life Uncommon, a career evolution and entrepreneurship community.
Her work on careers and authenticity have been featured in over 200 media outlets, including Portfolio.com, WalletPop, and two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Nacie's first book on career "fitness" will be in stores in April 2012. You can contact her via nacie(@)TheLifeUncommon.Net

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41 Comments

  • I like to vary my tasks – I go from working on writing to customizations to promotions. That way I’m not doing the same thing in and out. Sometimes even a change of scenery helps too, like taking the laptop outside or to a local cafe. It helps get the flow moving again. :)

    • Hi Kristi,

      Variety is the spice of an entrepreneur’s life! I find it SO important, and even just taking the laptop outside can make a difference. I think it is all about new stimuli and keeping yourself curious.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Nacie

  • I rarely have days when I am not motivated to work on my internet business. In fact it is only hours very infrequently. Maybe it’s because I am still driven to reach my goal of financial freedom. I hate to tear myself away from my computer most of the time.

    But I do take frequent short breaks which I think is important. I eat a healthy diet and drink a lot of green tea too. It might sound weird but I really think that helps. Food and drink plays a large part in how you feel. Trust me, my background is in nutrition.

    • Hi Sandy,

      I don’t think that bringing diet into the conversation is weird at all – food is fuel for the mind…I try to think about that every time I eat a cheeseburger (is this really fuel?!). Great point to add!

      Nacie

  • Nacie,

    If I feel that I am losing my drive I tend to either focus more on my physical health or do something entirely different for a day or two like working on my home or in my vegetable garden.

    Usually a little time away doing something else, even if it just for a couple of hours, does the trick for me.

    • Hi Justin,

      Taking some time away from projects/goals is really important. As Entrepreneurs, I think the first thing we forget to do is make time to NOT work. Getting some exercise, hanging out with friends, or even just doing something with your hands, like working in a garden or sewing can do wonders. Thanks for sharing this tip!

      Nacie

    • Hi Justin,
      I have had the same difficulty for many years although I have managed to not let it deter me overall. Sometimes when I push to hard on a task or work too long without a break or forget to stop for something to eat. When I do this I find myself looking for a reason to stop what I am doing….not that I need one.

      It is all about balance and moderation…something I know but nonetheless still need to watch when it sneaks up on me,,,,, you know old habits or being a Type A personality or have some ADD tendencies all are contributing factors.

      I have found that when I feel drained as mentioned, I then just stop and do something else for a while or just take a break….I also find 15 minute meditation really cleans out the mind and is rejuvenating.

      Your feelings are quite normal and rather than push through the feelings…you are doing the right thing by changing the situation.

      One last thing I had learned was to pay attention to my body and notice changes that are setting in …. they are subtle signals to tell you to take a break and ‘breathe’….and you will feel better.

      Charlie Nielson

  • You rock my world Nacie Carson! I can relate! This article resonates like a nice crystal wine glass for me. Beautiful music comes from your metaphors and keyboard! I thinks I really like you!

  • I think because we’re such inquisitive creatures that we need to mix it up. Keeping things anew, and focus on what works. I know I will will always have up and down days, but the key is to have more up days then down days.

    I appreciate as often as possible who I have become and I view my blogging as a type of therapy……I blog for health!

    Tony

    • You got it, Tony – variety is the spice of life! It’s all about mixing it up for me. Thanks for your insight!

  • I find it helps to have one or more people I can count on to talk to and get back the drive. Once I get talking I usually remember what it was that inspired me and get back on track. Thanks for some good ideas here.

    • Hi Ann – Support and Accountability is key when you’re an entrepreneur. I have a few friends I can call or check-in with that help get me straight when I start to wander away from my goals. Having someone who can lovingly tell you to buck up is SO helpful!

  • Completely agree with you on using the fact that we have control of our schedules to change up the routine when we like to keep things fresh.

    Another strategy to get motivated is to read success stories (Biographies, blogs, etc.) It can be in something completely unrelated to what I am doing (sports, business, overcoming illness, etc), when I read these stories they really motivate me to make my own success story.

  • Very interesting Nacie !!

    I often find my self struggling to get that blog post up, or make a YouTube video and your tips are definitely going to help me overcome those problems.

    I especially like how you said make it visual. I already kind of do this, such as putting a car I want as my wallpaper, or photocopying my checks I get and putting them on my wall.

    anyway, great post !

    Zach

  • Every time I seem to lose motivation I seem to find something that gives me hope again or I see some progress. It gets hard spending so much time spinning the wheels and getting nowhere.

  • Great post! To keep myself going, I have to keep my overall, life goals in mind every single day. Sure, this includes visual reminders of my goals, my vision board, reading my list of short and long term goals daily. But more than that, staying focused on my life-changing goals throughout my day is huge. Always keeping the big picture in perspective also prevents me from getting caught up in minutiae that do nothing but distract me from my journey.

    • Hi Hugh – great point! How do you keep yourself focused on your goals throughout the day outside of your vision board etc? Would love to hear your strategy!

  • Thank you for your advices! After 30 days a hard work, last 3 days I can’t do anything for my blog… So, now I know, it’s normal…

    • What ! After 30 days of hard work? You can do anything for your blog, It is really sad. Work some more hard.

  • The article was very motivating for a person like me who is not good at studies. I know entrepreneurs work hard and I am willing to work hard. I will be an entrepreneur after I am done with my studies. I have decided! :)

  • Excellent post! The thing that always sets me back is Google. When they make their major algorithm adjustments, I always loose traffic. This last one has caused me to loose 45% on one of my major money makers.

    It took a lot of dedication to get over seventeen hundred visitors per day to that website. In a matter of one week, after the update, I lost almost half.

    That sort of incident is difficult to hurdle over when it initially happens.

    It feels like an entire years worth of effort was just demolished in a day.

    How do you deal with something like that?

    • Maybe you could look for more reliable traffic sources (obviously this doesn’t happen every site!)? If this happens again and again the problem that is bigger than your motivational one is a strategical one.

      • That’s good advice Alice. Google is the gigantic river of all my traffic sources. I make Youtube videos, submit to article directories, periodically participate on Twitter and make an occasional Facebook post. I even have an email list that I blast post updates to.

        All of those other traffic sources bring in a trickle compared to the massive amounts from Google.

        My passion is in writting articles for the site and that’s why there is so much traffic that comes from Google, it’s the effortless SEO thing.

        I’m confident that I will overcome because I enjoy providing excellent content related to my niche.

        Where can I get effortless traffic (like SEO) that is reliable and doesn’t cost money?

  • Hey Nacie,

    I know this problem. For me it’s like that: I’m often very motivated to work on a certain project for a few days (seemingly out of the blue), the days go by, I work a lot, then my motivational level radically drops. In order to get out of this motivational downphase I often just need a little free time or the focus on another project. It’s like: creativity battery is empty – please recharge! I guess this is the *variety* I need. We all work in different ways and it’s good to know as much as possible about ourselves because then we can create lifes that fit to ourselves.

    Alice

  • Take a vacation or buy something that you want, make it as a reward for working hard. Motivate your self buy doing stuff that you love and like for sure your eagerness to work will be back again.

  • the moment i saw the title of this article, without thinking ive printed it out to be read again and again ( only articles that i re-read again over and over will be printed ) ..thanks for this Nacie, i believe everyone needs this..

  • Hi nacie, I agree that if you lose focus, you lose momentum. For me, post it notes works. I usually put my to do list in it and my goals. In that way, I keep going. The same routine everyday makes me burned out, so I stay out of the routine once in a while.

  • For me this kind of situation comes when I don’t have proper rest and everything seems completely routine. At such times, I just take a day or two off and completely concentrate on other things. Also it helps if we try to do something in a different way rather than the one that we are used to.

  • If such things happen, I usually take some money and go somewhere to have fun with my friends.

  • I actually do the same thing as George and I have a lot of post it notes with almost all the colors. Losing focus can happen in a snap but if you have things to remind you of what you need to do, you never have to worry.

  • This can definitely be a hard task, especially when you start burning candles at both ends. If only there was one more day in the week

  • I could never go the “write down your goals” route or place motivational phrases, images etc. around me. I simply grow tired of looking at these images or reading the text. I am also of the mindset that if I keep focusing on a certain goal it will actually not come true or I will grow exhausted even thinking about it, and therefore risk not even wanting to pursue that particular goal.

    Goals actually give me the creeps. Yes, I do want to have enough passive income to not have to worry about paying for my life or having a job, but is it really worth it to focus so much on reaching that specific $2k, $5k or other monthly amount when I could be enjoying my life? Once I reach that goal, then what? I’m trying to abolish goals from my mind, an arduous and long process, and instead focus on right now.

    Thankfully you were able to succor your ennui by going the freelance route. I hope to use succor in a conversation one day just to see the confusion on people’s faces. The usage of the word “ennui” seems to have become quite popular these days.

    - Andrew

    • This is very interesting. $2k or $5k, it does not matter. Life is a golden chance to enjoy. Goals never stop. If you achieve $2k, try to make a goal for 5k. :)

  • Excellent post! I always believe making the goals visual is a very important thing to achieve any dream. Thanks for putting up.

  • Very good article. I believe if you love what you do, that gives you momentum. Of course, seeing results helps immensely!

  • Great Blog ! Regards.

  • Nacie, thank you for writing this article. It’s a reminder to me. I try to add variety by working in different places and taking breaks. Sometimes, I actually take a day away from the computer and that helps to get the juices flowing again. Prayer, meditation or however one likes to think of it is good, too.

  • “I need to lead and follow simultaneously” – this is an insight that many freelancers and business owners don’t have. They think that it’s all about playing to the beat of your own drum, and the lack of discipline leads to failed ventures.

  • Internet Marketing for Fun and Profit !

    People get in to this for various reasons, but I would have to say that the biggest reason is to make money. Whether to try to make this a full time gig, or make just enough to make a car payment, money is a huge motivating factor.

    Unfortunately though, people get the wrong idea about just how “easy” it is to actually make any money doing this. In fact, some 93% of the people who actually cosider themselves internet marketers don’t make a red cent.

    Part of the issue is they are sold a bill of goods. They are told over and over how easy it is to do, that they can make money in their sleep, etc. What their NOT told is how much work is actually involved to GET to that point.

    Then there are those who simply don’t want to make the effort. They buy product after product, open it up and see that work is involved, then stop right then and there. Then they wonder why they are not having the success they feel they deserve.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to focus and desire. The true desire to succeed, then the power of focus to study and put in to action what they learn.

    It also helps a lot to laser focus on one or two particular things at a time. For example, focus on becoming a killer copy writer, or perhaps article marketing, or creating and selling products. In the internet marketing world, there are so many of these sub-niches that it can be hard to focus on just one or two.

    So right now, perhaps you’re at that point – trying to pare down your focus on one particlur subject. I can help you…

  • sound great to be a freelance mrs nancy…want to be like that…since i’m not english native…what your opinion about non english freelance…what can i offer for english person…or maybe you guys have any ideas what most needed by people from english language person that can be fulfilled by me :) thanks guys and two thumb for this cool site…just awesome

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