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I've been working as a freelance developer for almost two years now, and I've managed to find myself in a pretty good situation. I'm working part time for a great client who loves me and has enough work to keep me busy full-time if I wanted it.

Part of the reason I wanted to be a freelancer was so that I could have more time and freedom to work on side projects, but now I only want to work on my own projects (which don't make any money), and I have a hard time staying motivated to do the work that actually pays the bills. And even though I'm paid more per hour than I ever have been before in my life, I'm barely keeping ahead of my expenses.

What technique should I use to motivate myself as my own boss?

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    Hi bugloaf, welcome to Freelancing SE. I edited this down a bit to reword this to focus on an answerable question. As a Q&A site, our goal isn't to dispense advice or poll for opinions but rather to get answers in Q&A format. I'm not 100% sure this is on-topic here as it seems more like a question for the Personal Productivity SE site, but since it's borderline, we'll leave it here for now. Good luck. – jmort253 May 13 '14 at 4:07
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In literal terms, be your own boss in every sense of the word.

When I find that motivation for client projects is slipping I fall into "boss" mode. That is, I set a schedule for work and adhere to it as if I had a boss. It doesn't have to be a strict 9 to 5 schedule, but a block of time -- 4, 6 or 8 hrs -- every day where I will not touch anything other than client projects.

I don't "cheat" and venture off. No random social network/forum/SE surfing during this time. No personal phone calls or text messages. No unnecessary breaks. I treat my office as if I didn't own it and someone else was responsible for my paychecks. This helps me ensure I stay disciplined and get work completed as I need to.

It can sometimes be very difficult to spend time doing things you would rather not be doing at the time. But if you had a 9-5 job, that's exactly what you would be doing most days. There are times where I must simply force myself to buckle-down and get things done. This is especially true if you're own lack of motivation is financially becoming an issue. Remember, slack off too much and you'll be looking for a new job which will probably pay less, if not new clients in a desperate fashion. If that's not motivation for you, it should be.

I also find that after the first 30 minutes to an hour, the motivation is no longer an issue for that particular day, sometimes more. Much like any task in life you really don't feel like doing.... once you start it, it becomes far less daunting that staring at it from across the room.

Here's a related question at GraphicDesign.StackExchange.com: How to Get motivated When Drained

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    To add, I also work like Scott. It's hard as hell. But you have to stick to your hourly time no matter what. If your wife/parent/brother needs you for X hours in the morning (and you decided to work in mornings), then you have to work extra in the afternoon to compensate your time. No matter what, you have to stick to the schedule. – Peter MV May 15 '14 at 5:15
  • I don't have trouble with motivation as a freelancer, but keeping regular hours is a challenge. Your approach makes sense. – Neil Anuskiewicz Apr 12 '18 at 19:25
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I myself got in the trap of "the desire to work only on my personal projects" but the problem is that you need cash without which your personal projects (until they'll pay-off) are domed to failure.

I tried to work less hours on personal projects and be more organized but I failed. So, this is what I did and worked for my case:

  1. I shifted all my attention on generating cash. This implied no more free time or time for "my personal affairs".
  2. I truncated all my personal projects from six down to only two and I put them on wait (in the beginning I didn't touched them at all for nine weeks).
  3. As the time passed I learned to live without the other four projects and I saw that in the short-run it was impossible for any of them to generate the cash I needed in the first place to make them possible.
  4. I made the habit of dedicating all my free time to research and the acquirement of new skills. This shifted completely my perception about the success of all of my own projects. Now I know many of them were inefficient or not a good fit on the long-run.

As a conclusion, I recommend you to put on rest all your personal projects for at least four weeks. If after this time they still seem as important as you think they are today, than maybe they truly are but, given that you need cash my advise for you is to go back to them once every eight weeks for no longer than ten days.
It is what I actually do. After each time period or amount of money gained for my clients I dedicate some time to perpetuate the two personal projects that I still believe that in the long-run are good for my business and my well-being.

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    Amazing answer avram. Good way of putting emotion aside and getting a good look at what one is doing. In the past I was a freelancer and also got tainted to like working on private projects more. However if looking at them from the distance I could've spotted their uselessness earlier. – Luceos May 15 '14 at 19:01
  • In point 4 you said This shifted completely my perception about the success of all of my own projects. I first thought you researched about the skills, but now it seems you researched about economics-side of the project, right? Or how did you figure out if the project will be successful or not? – Peter MV Aug 18 '14 at 5:59
  • A good project materialize very fast and becomes profitable in a reasonable amount of time. Now when I look back I can tell that the fail projects were sustained only by my passion; they never were to be profitable or achievable. No, I didn't expressly researched to see if a project is profitable or not. Is hard to say what will succeed and what not. What I did it was to learn and evolve. This came also with answers. – Avram Cosmin Aug 18 '14 at 19:22

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