Are They Motivated? How To Know If You’re Working With Freelancers Who Love What They Do

Motivation matters a lot in online work. When you’re working in your pajamas alone at home with no one following up on your work progress, it’s easy to just slump on the couch, and swipe endlessly on your Facebook newsfeed instead.

From my experience of handling hundreds of digital workers, online freelancers and creatives, the one thing that differentiates those that are truly great at their job and those who suck is whether or not they are motivated to do it.

For creative work, technical skill is good. But between the person with a passion for logo design versus the guy who knows all the gradients and layer tricks of Photoshop, I’d choose the former. Less skill doesn’t mean less creativity. Heck, you can even use Word and you’ll get a whiz bang logo.


Proof to this… our own logo for 199Jobs was made in Word and we’ve had some pats on the back for it, actually.

Moreover, While those without the skill can be frustrating at times, I’ve been trying my best to look beyond that and to check if this guy has the fire to do the work or not.

Is the lack of polish due to a lack of motivation or is it due to a lack of skill? The easy way to check is their bedside manner. If the guy also seems excited about working, that makes me excited to work with him as well.

Some jobs might seem to be not driven by motivation. Admin work for example, like tagging photos or sorting surveys, can look like a drag. But you’d be surprised how well some people do here.

Their motivation either stems from outside the work – like being able to work at home and spend time with kids, being able to provide for the family while studying. Or they just really love getting work done, since you can actually gamify your work here (i.e., “Yay, 200 items done, new record!”). While some are by nature, simply helpful people, and being able to help is a personal motivation in itself.


Money is actually not much of a motivator. In all honesty, money does not directly improve your life. Most of the things that do, cannot be bought by money.

Relationships. Experience. Learning. If you are motivated by these things, then you can be sure that you’ll go far in the world. But if you’re motivated by physical things, you will soon realize that the thrill fades away as soon as you pay for it.

There’s only one thing you need to do to find if the person doing the work has enough motivation to finish it: by actually observing how they work. It will show in their emails, their output and in their profile. I’d like to say availability but that is usually involves a lot of external factors locally, from bad cellphone signal to family events.

Some other things you can check:
1. How did their first message feel to you? Did they feel positive working with you?
2. Do they handle criticism with grace?
3. Are they upfront about problems?

In the end, it’s important to note that it is less important to motivate unmotivated people than finding ways to nurture those who are already motivated.

Photo credits: gensyn and TaxCredits

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