You’ve probably seen the iconic Bruce Lee interview where he speaks on the value of becoming, “water, my friend.” While it’s certainly a cool interview, your goal shouldn’t be to become a teapot, nor is that the type of “flow” we’re talking about. The flow we’re talking about doesn’t deal with adaptability, but productivity. Reaching a state of flow means reaching a state of maximum production, where there are no distractions and work becomes easy. Your thoughts and actions flow effortlessly out of you. This isn’t some BS proverb (no offense Bruce), it is a real thing. Finding one’s flow isn’t something you only have to do once. It’s not like you’ll find it hiding under your desk and now you’ll flow forever. Finding flow is something you continually need to strive toward. There are no shortcuts, but if you’re able to grasp the following points, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a teapot.


You’ve probably experienced flow before and not realized, or not even known that what you were feeling was in anyway special. In order to recreate flow, you need to be able to recognize when it’s happening and how it makes you feel.

If you’re still fuzzy on what flow is exactly, or think it sounds wonky, an article from Harvard

Health Publishing says it beautifully: flow is, in simple terms, the meeting of a challenging task with an equal level of skill. Even if you’ve never thought about it deliberately, if you’ve ever felt in the zone, you’ve experienced it. When you’re in a flow state, as Harvard’s journal mentions, you lose track of time, aren’t interrupted by outside thoughts, and are genuinely engaged with the task at hand. Flow doesn’t only make you more efficient, it also makes you happier and more fulfilled. This state can transfer beyond working and into your personal life as well. You may have experienced it when preparing a meal or playing an instrument or sport.


Before we can manufacture a state of flow, we have to figure out in what situations we reach flow organically. The first question you may be asking is “when do I do the best work?” Well you’re a freelancer, so clearly you’ve figured out that the traditional 9-5, 40-hour workweek, is not the right fit for you. But with more freedom, comes more choice. It’s up to you to figure out what times and days are optimal.

You may find that you’re most productive first thing in the morning. You love to get up at 7:00am and start work immediately because the mornings are where you’re most alert (and potentially when the house is the quietest if you’re a parent). On the other hand, you may be a natural night owl who wants to start the day at 1:00pm and work into the wee hours of the night. Are there certain days you prefer not to work? Do you enjoy a mid-day break? Do you feel most energized after a nap? There’s no wrong answer here; it’s about finding what works for you. Don’t know when you’re most productive? Give a few different routines a try!


Once you have a good idea of what flow does for you, and the natural rhythms that lead you to it, you can recreate flow. Nail down your routine so you consistently hit your flow state every day. If that sounds too easy, it’s because it is. One of the elements that often creates a state of flow is spontaneity. Something about a moment or a mood strikes you and BOOM, you’re flowing. This is of course impossible to schedule. “So what was the point of figuring out my preferred work periods?” One’s schedule is only one part of the formula. In order to recreate flow, we need to create a situation in which that spontaneous bolt of lighting is most likely to occur. Scheduling is a big part of that, but so is your state of mind, your desk chair, the meals you ate that day, and even the weather. Once you’ve found the stream your thoughts naturally flow down, you want do everything you can to remove obstacles out of its way. This creates the highest chance that stream of thoughts will reach an ocean of ideas. If coffee helps you focus, maybe you have a cup or two right before you start working. If you like to be relaxed when working, try taking a break to meditate. If the thing that prevents you form working is a whole lot of pent-up energy, do a workout every morning. Finding and encouraging your flow state won’t only give you a higher chance of reaching flow, it will make you a better, more productive, worker in general.

Know that flow isn’t going to happen every day. It can be a tough thing to master, and there’s plenty more to learn about it than what we’ve discussed here. Even if you’re not a master of flow overnight, simply attempting to flow regularly will make you more and efficient and more fulfilled. Also, if there’s a day you feel like it just isn’t coming, that’s totally fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t always have to be flowing. Now that you’ve created currents to promote flow, you can jump in and out of them whenever you need.


When was the last time you picked up a pen and paper just to write? Not for a client. Not for paperwork. Not to be read and critiqued by somebody else. Just for you. If it’s been a while, consider adding a notebook to your creative toolkit! Research has shown that expressing thoughts in a private diary leads to some serious benefits, and most importantly, improved daily functioning. For freelancers, this could mean increased processing skills for critical thinking, improved organization when balancing multiple projects, and better brainstorming when a client asks for idea generation. Want even more good news? Journaling isn’t just for writers. Designers, accountants, and any goal-oriented person will see positive results from writing down their thoughts — spelling mistakes can slide here! It’s your journal after all, and the benefits from this simple activity are far too valuable to ignore.


At its core definition, journaling is a kept record, and an opportunity to work through personal problems and successes. Just like taking notes in class helps students retain a lecture, journaling can assist with remembering details that otherwise would have gotten lost in the chaos. There’s a reason why Alzheimer's patients are recommended to spend time journaling as a memory aid. By writing about an average activity, those with memory problems are more likely to recall past happenings with increased clarity. Documenting little details about an important project or a tricky client interaction could come in handy down the road!

Even better, freelancers who write about their struggles might handle similar problems or feelings more successfully in the future. Those who’ve gone through a tumultuous experience (a bad break up, a toxic workplace, etc.) can recollect how they worked through the problem before and put these strategies into practice on the spot. An anxiety-triggering conversation or business meeting could be nerve-wracking every time; OR, if you write about your experience, no problem at all the second time around.


It’s not just the negative entries that matter — gaining confidence comes from writing about positive experiences too. Take it from Matthew McConaughey, who has kept a journal for decades and has now arguably mastered the “confidence” trait (plus he just turned all those journals into a best-selling book). By recognizing your values, who you are spending time with, and what your lifestyle looks like during the best of times, you can see what habits are working in your favor. You can be confident about daily decisions and prioritize the routines that serve you best.

This confidence can also leak into creativity and higher thinking. While documenting the monotony of daily life might not seem like the most inspiring way to get the creative juices flowing, what’s actually happening is a “brain drain” of minor thoughts and issues. This allows freelancers to skip past the sides and get right to the meat. The mind can focus on the job at hand, instead of thinking about the long list of errands to run, or distractions from the day before. Plus, freeform writing (the crazier the better) actually helps us practice creativity. The act of letting the mind explore something new may give you an edge when it comes to pitching an idea that no one had previously thought of.

And you won’t just be smarter at your job, you will sound smarter too! A study found that people who wrote in a diary about their strongest thoughts and feelings used words such as “hence”, “therefore”, and “because” to connect sentence fragments in their non-journal writing, compared to those who didn’t dive as deep during their private writing practice. It doesn’t need to be sappy — but consider acknowledging how you really feel about what your roommate said, or why it’s important for you to visit home less frequently. Your communication skills could benefit, leading to more respect and confidence from people seeking your services.


One of the more popular journaling methods is bullet journaling for organization, accomplished through daily to-do lists or bulleted ideas. Keep yourself accountable by reviewing them later in the day to see that you got it all done! And don’t forget — organization can also come in the form of compartmentalizing thoughts before an important interview or client call so you can come across as confident and capable.

Plus, improved organization, confidence, and communication could even lead to manifesting your biggest goals and dreams. Don’t roll your eyes yet! This big buzzword made popular in the 21st century, implies that by simply hoping for something, you’ll bring about that very thing. Proponents of “manifesting” believe this can actually be accomplished by writing down what you desire and documenting the efforts to gain what is sought. At the very least, your goal will be at the forefront of your mind. You may take a bigger risk with a higher payoff or better align your current career with what you really want.

Of course, there is one catch ... consistency, but that’s a pretty small price to pay when keeping a journal can lead to a healthier, happier, and more productive lifestyle. Even a few short paragraphs each week could inspire a lifestyle change for the better, give you confidence during daily decisions, or be the breakthrough to your next big idea! Just start with one, and watch the dominoes fall.


No matter how well a job is going, how satisfied a client seems throughout a contract, this is no guarantee that it will end exactly as you hope. The reason being is that the end of a job is when money needs to exchange hands. No one likes parting with money, so sometimes clients just don’t. Of course, most of the time a contract will end with more money in your bank account because you and the client agreed on it. Sometimes though, when a contract ends, the result isn’t really what the client envisioned. This doesn’t necessarily mean you did a bad job. What a client wants can change day to day and when what they get isn’t what they wanted, they don’t feel it merits a good review, or payment. Most clients are not trying to con you, they may just want you to do more work before they pay you, but it’s important that you stick to the agreement you made. Not only because you need and deserve to be paid, but because if you ever want to work with this client again, you don’t want to give them the idea that they can get away with not paying you. The best way to ensure that your job ends favorably is to take steps during, and throughout, a contract to minimize the chance a client might get some crazy ideas when things wrap up.


Before embarking on any job offer, sit down with your client (this doesn’t literally have to be a face-to-face) and have a good long chat about your schedule, rate, expectations, deliverables and any other major terms, details, and conditions. If you get the feeling that a client isn’t satisfied with this agreement, be okay with walking away now. It’s better than walking away at the end, after hours of time and empty pockets.

If a client seems perfectly satisfied with the agreement, you can still periodically remind them of it throughout the gig. Regular, gentle, reinforcement won’t only keep a client to their word, but create a paper trail you can point to if they don’t. If you’re really concerned about client integrity, you can always write up a contract. You shouldn’t only remind a client of your initial agreement, but periodically ask them if the work your producing is still adhering to their vision. Are you heading in the wrong direction? Has their idea for the project changed at all? Make sure you’re on track the entire time so you don’t end up delivering a final product that’s way off base.


The best kind of business relationship is built on mutual respect, but also a degree of connection. It’s okay to get to know your client on a personal basis. While mixing business with pleasure can sometimes be perilous, there’s nothing wrong with being friendly and interested. Many business deals are sealed in the lunch room rather than the meeting room because people care about more than numbers, even in business. Having a personal connection (completely platonic mind you) is only going to help your chances of having an honorable client.

Simply ask questions. Ask about their business, their staff, their family, their hobbies. Not only will this endear you to them but it will help you to serve them better. Plus, by inquiring about them, you’re letting them know you care about their success and not just your own. Hopefully this leads to them asking about you. The less they see you as only a business transaction they less likely they are to flake when it comes time to take out the checkbook.

Another essential reason to have a friendly and open relationship with a client is that they’re more likely to voice their opinion freely. The primary reason for a job not well done is poor communication. The better a relationship, the better the communication, the better your work is, the less likely they will have any complaints at the end.


When a contract is coming to a conclusion you want to make sure the work wraps up nicely. Your work should be on time and aligned with what a client wants. You also want to make sure the relationship wraps up nicely. Thank the client for working with you, and request (as respectfully as possible) that a client provides you with a good review, or a potential recommendation, or, if the project went really well, more work. Don’t just hand in an assignment and expect a client to assume the relationship is done, or that you had a nice time. It’s almost like writing one of the those “thank you for attending my party” letters. It can seem tedious or pointless, but it can go a long way in this situation. If you haven’t gotten your final payment yet, you can mention it in your parting words as well, but the cleanest way to bring it up is really just sending an invoice.

Undoubtedly, every freelancer will meet every kind of client. When you come across those clients who becomes dissatisfied at the two-yard line, hopefully the tactics we’ve laid out here will help in some way. We also recommend (especially for larger projects), getting paid periodically throughout a project, rather than one big lump sum at the end. The smaller the amount of money a client has to pay you each time, the more likely they are to hit deposit.