How to shake up your freelance life and boost your satisfaction

Freelancers have the unique ability to be able to set their own work schedule, create their 'office' space, and take on projects they get the most out of it. If you didn't take full advantage of this last year, 2023 could be your year.

This is how to shake up your routine, change the way you think about your freelance work, and boost that serotonin.

Set an end-of-year goal

Whether it takes 30 days, 60 days, or longer to develop a good habit, there's no doubt that chipping away at a goal is the most sustainable and reliable way for most people to achieve it. If you think your staying power needs some work, choose something specific you want to tick off in the next 12 months. It could be successfully launching a podcast, booking a speaking event, taking on your biggest client yet, or finishing a qualification or certificate.

12 months gives you plenty of time to experience small successes, a few setbacks, and rethink your plan. When you look back in 2024, whether you've succeeded or not, you'll know more about yourself, what you need to feel motivated, and what you really want in your freelance career.

Change your scenery

One of the biggest benefits of freelancing is the freedom to work at any time and from anywhere. For some people, this can mean clearing out the junk room and turning it into an office space. For others it can mean hopping on a plane and working from a completely different country for 6 months.

Penang in Malaysia was recently highlighted as one of the most freelance-friendly destinations, with cheap rental costs, Airbnbs, and good access to cheap co-working spaces. Ho Chi Minh, Bangalore, Change Mai, Buenos Aires, and Tbilisi made the top ten too. Many of these countries offer freelance/remote worker visas giving non-residents the opportunity to do their freelance work from an exotic destination for a fixed period.

Entirely relocating isn't do-able or desirable for everyone. There's a lot you can do at home though. Changing your scenery can mean daily walks, investing in a standing desk, letting more light into your office, and filling your space with greenery and plants.

Do a freelance inventory

Taking time to reflect can help us to understand what really makes us happy. If 2022 was particularly stressful, it's important to identify why. If it was the year you achieved a nice work/life balance, it's even more important to identify how you managed it!

To do your freelance inventory, ask yourself these questions and any others you can think of:

  • What do I love about my work?
  • What do I not enjoy about my work?
  • What kind of clients matter most to me and why?
  • What kind of projects do I prefer to work on?
  • If I'm not doing those projects now, why not?
  • What tasks am I spending too much time on every week/month?
  • What caused me the most stress in 2022?
  • What created joy for me in 2022?

Learn something new and difficult

Learning new things, particularly when they're out of our comfort zone, can improve self-confidence, motivation, and - most of all - happiness. The University of Arizona found that 15% failure and 85% success is the ideal balance, keeping us willing to be challenged and motivated to continue. Too much defeat and we're all liable to throw in the towel.

Choose something you sincerely want to learn or get better at (so you'll want to keep going) but also difficult enough to keep challenging you. Think: juggling, rock climbing, life drawing, marathon running, ballroom dancing, chess. Anything new and out of your usual routine. Bonus points if it uses muscles you forgot you had or parts of your brain you've neglected.

Let go of some stuff

Removing things from your life can be just as beneficial as adding new things. Letting go helps us to deal with difficult emotions like stress, insecurity, and frustration. It can also help us to accept things we can't change, shed bad habits, end negative relationships, or even just change the way we think about ourselves.

If you're working someone who causes you stress, working on a specific project makes you doubt yourself, or you've been holding onto some physical items which are cluttering up your mind, 2023 could be the year to let go.

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