Ghostwriting; Thought Leadership Article - Why Freelancing Doesn't Work Without Self Discipline?
I want to curl at my bed’s headrest and work in my pajamas and eat Chinese out of a brown bag while being half distracted by my girlfriend’s texts.
I want to wake up late in the afternoons with a mild hangover and do some stretching before going to see my artist friends in a café and wait for an inspiration to hit my balls so I could be free by the early evening to attend all the book club invites.
I am aware that if I did that for a month, I will be either depressed, unemployed, or both.
What’s the solution?
I have been freelancing for half a decade now and it hasn’t been easy for a single working day. I am exaggerating, of course. I might have had 17 good days, but the rest of them were just like the first battle scene from 300 Spartan movie.
At present, I’ve just gotten more used to the battle. By which I mean I’m pretty good, usually, at ticking off my tasks.
The anxiety has toned down, and the secret to this improvement has been my consistency.
Nothing fancy here.
I have heard that advice over a million times before getting to this place where I can see what consistency actually looks like.
When people talk about being a freelancer, they have a made-up job in their heads. Something that happens magically because they were born gifted. A career filled with passion where you create the first few things and they go trending across the north and south hemispheres. In reality, nothing much would happen for a long long time for most of us.
There is no secret here. If you want to be a professional freelancer, you need to put in the hours, day after day, for years. Making a good career is like signing up for a kid. There is a lot of hard work on the way, and if you do things right, there is a possibility that things would turn out good. But even then, everything won’t be perfect.
And to be consistent, we need discipline, a set of rules that you would follow almost every day for the rest of your life.
Discipline sounds okay at first but if you look closer to it, it spins off to a tangent about how to be other things, like being healthy, than just making a schedule and sticking to it.
That’s when the topic becomes annoying and complex. If I knew that discipline is more about taking care of my body than installing Todoist on my phone, I wouldn’t have gotten its premium account.
I had to buy a new one.
Over the years I’ve figured out that the only way to survive this freelancing business is by having an ambitious temperament of a multibillionaire CEO. The lessons that I have learned over the years are here.
See if any of it can help you. If I can get my act together while clocking my work, so can you.
Here are four things you can try to be more consistent with your production schedule:
1. Health: Keep yourself as fit as possible
The correlation between health and self-discipline took me years to understand.
The rest of the three points on the list are relatively easy to implement, but there is no straightforward way to fix your health, especially if you have a set of habits that aren’t aligned with your goals.
If you drink or smoke like Bukowski, then the idea of discipline should be put aside and we should probably discuss sex and wine. It’s one thing to romanticize about being a professional writer, and then there is the other side where you have to consistently produce bodies of relevant useful work. I am sorry to break that out to you, but you can’t make a career between your hangovers. Our psychology and physiology are related. A sustainable healthy lifestyle is a key ingredient to become a professional writer. If you have a sick body, you can’t expect to shake your finger at yourself to stick to your schedule. Your body wouldn’t listen to your noble aspirations.
All our bodies are different. There is no one template to fit all our lifestyles. The world is currently going through a fitness revolution. The tools for tracking your health have never been more accessible. It’s time you find out what works for you, and give your health some space in your schedule.
2. Disciplined creativity: Stick to your production schedule
Most of the time a freelance task might not even look like real work or might look like too much work. In either case, you might prefer to jump out of your window than crossing it off on your to-do list. That’s why you need a routine.
It’s super important for a freelancer to have a schedule, and the integrity to stick to it. So when life would get a little inconvenient, which life definitely would, you end up doing your tasks anyway because it’s on your production schedule. That’s what professionals do. Avoid blank days and finish tasks.
Let’s say you’re a writer, because I have a special place for writers in my heart. Listen to me now. You are the workforce. You are the steaming engine of the train. You need to create your messages in such a way that it transcends its category of being just written content to become something more. Something that inspires and engages people. And that’s a product of disciplined creativity, not of an epiphany on a drunk weekend. So work. Every day. Almost.
3. Unplug: Take care of distractions
Personally, I am never going to work on my projects if I am given an option to scroll down the black hole of the Internet or watch Netflix.
I might sound more vulnerable to distractions than most of you, but don’t take this monster easy.
It eats hours in the factors of five. The best solution I’ve come across to handle my distraction is to unplug myself from the internet, and when the Internet is necessary for a project, kill every other distraction that could interrupt me on the way to finish my tasks.
It could be my phone. It could be the new book I am obsessed with, or my habit of constantly checking my texts.
Take everything out and sit with just black and white.
4. Measure your progress Everybody wants to create the next bestseller, but hardly anybody measures there progress. Today, people have learned to signal their positive behavior as a social currency. People want to walk around with their yoga mat, and new Nike’s and their new Mac Book Pro, but after the initial zeal, many people fall back to their old habits of comfort. Over the weeks of hard work, we tend to forget why we started the hustle in the first place, and how would we tackle the upcoming challenges. I’ve found that journaling is the most efficient way to combat uncertainty. If you can’t do a daily session, you should at least try to sit once a week.
You shouldn’t leave yourself too loose for too long without knowing where you’re headed. Set an intention, and shower it over all your actions. Getting to a disciplined routine is a long journey which might take months or years to perfect. This only means that there is only so much room for improvement in one day.
So don’t sprint. It’s a marathon.
Prolific professionals don’t run behind the superficial world of productivity. At the end of the day what matters is that you put in your hours, and those hours bring you closer to your purpose.
I run Seasonal Friend, a freelance content marketing service that specializes in copywriting, editing, and marketing strategy for small to medium-sized businesses. I believe in marketing that helps people. If you need help with your content or strategy, feel free to reach out.