• Advice

3 ways freelancers can improve their focus, motivation, and drive

On a scale of one to ten, how motivated and driven do you feel today?

Maybe you’re firing on all cylinders, laser-focused on what will move you closer to your goals. If that’s you…hurray! Keep going.

Perhaps you’re tooling along just fine. You’re not setting the world on fire, but it’s good enough for right now (a perfectly acceptable standard to aim for sometimes!).

Or maybe you’re struggling to focus on the goals you’ve committed to. You have lots of ideas, but feel overwhelmed about which ones to prioritize, and the drive needed to push through the hard, boring aspects of the work just isn’t there. Maybe there’s some head-trash slowing you down too. If this resonates, nothing is wrong or broken, we ALL feel like this at times.

But no one feels great when they’re overwhelmed and unfocused, right? Happily, there’s a lot we can do to redirect toward our desired outcomes. In this post, I will guide you through a process that will transform a low-energy state into focused, forward momentum.

I will share:

  • An overview of how focus, motivation, and drive work
  • How to identify the 3 things that matter most to you (because not everything deserves your full attention)
  • A simple framework to help you remember what to focus on (because that’s a thing too!)

Ready to channel your focus, motivation, and drive in the direction of what you want? Let’s break it down.

Step One: Understand how focus works

I used to think of focus as a somewhat fixed entity and that folks who thought and acted in a more linear, consistent way were “good” at focusing, while the more visionary, non-linear, creative thinkers were not so good at it.

Pretty binary, right?

When I heard Dr Amishi Jha describe focus as a flashlight of attention, it expanded how I thought about and engaged with focus. Let me share an example she used. Imagine you’re walking home from the train station, it’s dark and your senses are on high alert. You have a flashlight trained on the sidewalk in front of you. Suddenly, you hear a noise behind you. Is someone behind you?!!! You swing around, taking the flashlight beam with you. Once you establish it’s not an ax murderer and just a cat stepping on a twig, you turn around, training your flashlight back on its original focus – the sidewalk in front of you and getting home.

That’s what your focus is like. Sometimes you get to choose where it’s trained. Sometimes it temporarily gets yanked in a different direction. That’s a feature, not a bug. How long your focus remains elsewhere is another matter, but just thinking about it this way is liberating, right?

Here’s another thing I learned while adding “certified ADHD coach” to my business coaching toolkit – focus, motivation, and how we feel, have everything to do with one another, and in turn how good we feel about the progress we’re making in business and life.

Enter the oft-misunderstood neurotransmitter, Dopamine. Contrary to popular belief, Dopamine is not just about reward (the term “dopamine hit”, while catchy, is inaccurate), but determines our levels of motivation, desire, and drive. For folks who experience lower levels of Dopamine (ADHD is just one reason) connecting desires with the motivation and drive to see them through can be enormously challenging. For example, clients who identify as neurodivergent often tell me that administration, bookkeeping, and filing taxes (some might say, the more tedious aspects of being a creative freelancer), are a constant struggle. 


A silver lining to all this is that when we understand our unique Dopamine baseline, and how we focus, we can tinker with our habits and strategies to maximize and direct that focus to the things that matter. Kind of cool, right?

Step Two: Identify the 3 things that matter MOST to you

As a creative entrepreneur you will always have more ideas than the capacity to make them happen (sad trombone noise!). In Step One, we established that each of us focuses differently. We also care about very different things, which is one reason why comparing ourselves to others is so futile. Where one creative business owner may have the desire to build a full-service agency with staff, a physical office, and high-ticket clients, another may want to build a highly profitable service-based business-of-one. In each of these scenarios, the goals you identify and actions you take will be VERY different, while being perfectly on-point for each person.

Here's a very simple process for sifting through all your ideas, and drilling down to just three? 

  • Get it all out of your head. Set a timer for 10 minutes and do a brain dump or mind map. 
  • Trust your gut. Without thinking too much about it, circle the 3 things that leap out as most important or impactful right now.
  • Attach meaning to your choices. Ask yourself why they are important. What will happen if you don’t take action on those things? What will happen if you do take action on them. How will you feel about yourself? How will your life and work be different/easier?  

Step Three: The Four C’s focus framework

A funny thing happens when I’m doing personal and professional development work. It made SO much sense at the time, I think I’ll never forget it. And then I forget it!

I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, which is why I came up with the Four C’s focus framework to help creative freelancers and entrepreneurs remember where to direct, or re-direct their focus (regardless of their unique goals).

The Four C’s focus framework


Creative ideas need time and space to develop. And that time is not something our productivity-obsessed culture will grant you – you’re going to have to take it and defend it. It took me years to stop feeling guilty about swimming laps (where my brain comes up with ideas and solves problems) during “work” hours.

For a creative entrepreneur or freelancer:

  • Looking out of the window is working
  • Walking the dog is working
  • Reading a novel is working

What are your non-work creative activities?

Action item: Instead of fitting these activities around your “work”, place them front and center for a couple of weeks and see what happens.


As creative freelancers and entrepreneurs, it can be very easy to become isolated. Whether you’re extroverted, introverted, or somewhere in between, people need people. As Brené Brown says: “We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to”.

I’ve joined, created, and led communities for as long as I’ve been in business. From group coaching, business retreats, and the monthly community boost Creative Mornings provides, I need other folks to bounce ideas off, co-create, and share support. What about you? Who’s in your arsenal of professional and personal supporters and cheerleaders? If you can’t easily come up with a few folks, might I suggest you think about starting to reach out and build those relationships? You won’t be sorry you did!


Capacity is simply the resources you have to complete the things that are on your plate. I love Charlie Gilkey’s acronym, TEAM (Time, Energy, Attention, and Money). Capacity is also fluid. For example, in this season of my life when I still have young kids, time is my most precious resource.

“Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays.” Morgan Housel

Everything I take on has to be within my time capacity, otherwise the wheels start to fall off. Be honest with yourself about your capacity and focus your resources accordingly.


No one’s riding for free and whatever your dreams are, they need funding. Sometimes you’ll be flush, and sometimes things will be a little tighter. But keeping an eye on your cash is what enables you to play the business game of business long enough to be successful.

OK, we covered a lot here, so feel free to pick and choose what area you’d like to focus on (pun intended!). There is no right order, and you can’t get it wrong, just start where you are.  You’ve got this!

Justine Clay is a business coach, speaker, writer & ADHD coach for freelancers & entrepreneurs. Sign up for her free guide: Pricing Creativity: Creative Business Pricing Guide for Freelancers & Small Agencies.

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