Staying Motivated Working on Side Hustles: Tips From a Business Owner For 27+ Years

Anyone running their own side hustle or small business is self-employed. When you work for yourself, there’s nobody telling you what to do. As a result, it can sometimes be more difficult to stay motivated and continue working. When you don’t work, you don’t make money.

I’ve been self-employed part-time or full-time since 1995 – about 27 years now. As a result, I have experienced and personally dealt with almost every obstacle that can come your way when you work for yourself. Shockingly, the most difficult obstacle to overcome can be yourself. I can help others avoid this productivity killer with some tips that I’ve acquired over the years.

Why Are You Self-Employed?

Why did you decide to start a side hustle or small business in the first place? You probably wanted to make extra money, but there can be a lot of different reasons behind this motivation. Maybe you don’t make a lot of money at your 9-to-5 job and simply need more to survive. Perhaps you want to try to eventually quit working for others and just be self-employed. It could be to make a better life for yourself and/or for your family.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why you wanted to start your own business. What matters is that there was a reason. Make a mental note of this reason and never forget it. For many years, I ever wrote this reason on a piece of paper and taped it on the wall behind my desk.

Any time you find yourself getting discouraged or wanting to give up, this motivating factor can be the thing that keeps you going. I originally wanted to make money for myself. When I got married and had kids though, my motivations changed. That is what ultimately propelled me to do the work to become self-employed full-time. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Immediate vs Long-Term Rewards

Almost every side hustle has the ultimate goal to make money. Some businesses may have other goals, especially online, such as gaining followers or website visitors. When you find success with any of these goals, it can simply motivate you to work harder and do even better. Consider what the rewards are for your side hustle. Are you likely to see success with these goals on a regular basis? Will you see these rewards soon or will it require a lot of patience?

Someone that runs an e-commerce website that gets daily sales is able to see immediate rewards and results from their work. This can make it much easier to keep going and can even make you want to build the business larger. A business like this requires less external motivation for you. Almost every business can reach this point, but some will take much longer than others.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, consider someone making YouTube videos that wants to make money from video ads. You can publish a video every day for weeks and still see minimal activity on your hard work. This can be very discouraging if you don’t realize it’s completely normal. A side hustle like this can sometimes take years to build to a point where you have millions of followers, so something needs to keep you motivated working to reach that goal.

Set a Schedule

Since I work at home, any moment I’m awake could be a moment when I’m working. This can potentially cause problems for yourself and for those you live with if you aren’t careful. For a while I even felt guilty being at home and not working, since I could potentially work at all times and make even more.

First, you have to find the right balance for yourself. I prefer to set a rough schedule for myself to work. Once I hit the time limit, I’ll stop working unless I’m trying to finish something important. This ensures that I don’t burn myself out by working too much. It also helps me get into a habit of working at a specific time each day, which makes me less likely to be lazy and avoid work.

Next you need to consider everyone living in your household and possibly those outside of your house that may depend on you. If your spouse works during the day and your kids are at school. it’s probably best to work while everyone’s away from the house. If you wait to work until everyone gets home, you’ll probably never spend time with them, and resentment will build with your spouse about your career choice.

Spend Time Away From Work

Make sure you have a designated working area for your side hustle. This can really help you to feel like you’re at work when you’re in that area and at home elsewhere in your house. You need some kind of separation between work and home. Personally, I love working at home but hate working in the house since it’s rarely quiet – nobody in my household has a job and I have kids. When I bought a house, this was one of the key things I wanted – separate space to work. I was able to get a house with a second, smaller building that’s air conditioned and turn that into my office.

Any time I’m out in the office building, my family knows I’m working and doesn’t bother me unless it’s important. When I’m outside or in the house, I’m not working. It’s perfect separation for both myself and my family. I spent years without that separation and can tell you that it will definitely cause problems if you don’t have it.

When I was talking about setting a work schedule for yourself, I mentioned that you don’t want to get burnt out. Working at home can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes you feel unmotivated and don’t want to work. Other times you feel extremely motivated and don’t want to stop working. Both of these situations can actually bring negative consequences. Don’t allow yourself to work all day long, every day or you will eventually hit a wall where you go from working a ton to barely working at all. It’s much better to pace yourself so you can continue to do the same amount of work long-term.

Hire Employees

Employees can be another potential solution to a lack of motivation. You can potentially hire employees to do all of the work for you to turn your business into a passive revenue stream, but that will likely make you lazier and could harm your business long-term if you aren’t involved at all.

A better solution is to have a job for yourself in your business and then hire employees to take over other tasks. In particular, I recommend taking the tasks you enjoy the least in your business and hire others to do those things. This will help you to stay motivated to do the work you’re doing that is of interest to you.

When you’re paying others to work and everyone is working together as a team that depends on each other to do their job right, this can also be motivation for you. When you’re all alone working on a side hustle, you could choose to avoid work and nobody will say anything to you about it. However, if you have other members on your team and choose not to work, you’ll probably affect their job too. When others depend on you, you’re much more likely to keep going with your team as your motivation.

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