Setting goals, creating a business plan, outlining quarterly objectives — the process may go by different names, but the steps typically are similar. When you run your own freelance business, it’s important to review what you did previously and decide what you want to do next. Early in their careers, freelance writers may set specific goals for marketing, pitching and publishing to reach the income and dream publications they want. With more experience, freelancers may set broader intentions for the year and their next steps forward, which could include writing a book, speaking on stages or building a brand.
However you approach your review and planning process in 2020 — annually, quarterly, monthly or weekly — it’s helpful to understand how others approach their work. Check out these references, depending on your preferences:
- Contently’s The Freelancer gives four steps for developing a freelance business plan: Create your vision statement. Break down your financial goals. Map out how you’ll grow your business. List the clients you want to keep and the ones you want to land.
- Carol Tice, who runs MakeALivingWriting.com, talks about the freelance writing game plan, which includes setting goals, listing current projects, carving out time for big goals, building in breaks, and avoiding the Parkinson’s Law predicament (that a task expands to fill the time you give it).
- On The Write Life, freelancer Kristen Pope talks about the five steps for setting writing goals, particularly the importance of conducting a self-review and creating “SMART” goals that are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-bound.
No matter which approach you take, most resources suggest asking yourself questions to arrive at the goals and actions you should consider. Think about these and journal your answers:
- What is your ideal day?
- What are your long-term goals?
- How much do you want to earn, and why?
- With whom do you enjoy working?
- Which clients can you drop?
Overall, goal-setting experts recommend creating milestones that are within your control. Plan your marketing tasks rather than setting a goal to “get new clients,” says freelance writer Jennifer Goforth Gregory. Instead of saying that you’ll land a particular assignment or publication, say that you’ll pitch that publication a certain number of times. Here are some marketing goals that could boost your business this year:
- Add your latest clips to your website
- Send 100 pitches
- Set a daily writing or pitching goal
- Set a target rate per word or hour
- Schedule time for researching outlets
You may also want to set goals based on the “bucket” or domain in your life, such as financial or strategic. Here are some examples:
- Financial: $XX per month
- Marketing: XX pitches per month
- Growth: XX percent increase per year
- Opportunities: XX more speaking gigs this year
- Strategic: Write and submit book proposal this year
- Balance/flexibility: Take at least one full day off each week
- Bucket list: Dream publication you’ll pitch xx times
Good luck setting your goals this year! Check out the links below for software and podcast tips from fellow freelancers for ideas and keep you on track. (Note: None of these represent endorsed or affiliate links. They’ve been the most useful for me.)
Project management systems
All the services listed here have mobile apps and free or paid plans available. I’ve used all of them for various projects and companies and recommend them:
- AirTable: Formatted like a spreadsheet, this cloud-based service provides great database options for organizing your story ideas, pitches and assignments.
- Trello: This popular list-making service can be customized to appear as lists, cards, or boards to organize projects.
- Asana: Built for teams, this service provides easy tracking of progress and timelines of projects.
- Rebecca L. Weber’s Writing Coach podcast: A freelance journalist based in South Africa, Weber gives tips to fellow writers who want to land in big-name dream publications. I enjoy all of her episodes, but if you’re ready to dig in and plan, Episode 71: 2020 Vision, will be helpful.
- Ed Gandia’s High-Income Business Writing podcast: You may be familiar with Gandia and his work as a long-time freelance writer and writing coach. If you’re looking for a mindset shift and broader view, this early January episode, #199: Why You Should Study More Failures and Struggles in 2020, will do the trick.
- Melanie Padgett Powers’ Deliberate Freelancer podcast: I met Melanie through the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and her words of advice are always to-the-point and actionable. Her recent episode, #40: Reflect, Analyze and Plan Now for the New Year, poses helpful questions about goals and “non-negotiables” for your year.
Elsewhere on the AHCJ website:
Setting & Hitting Your Goals: This presentation was part of the 2013 AHCJ conference panel “Freelance: Road to Security.” Ilise Benum, founder and director of Marketing-Mentor.com, spoke about the importance of marketing yourself as a freelancer. Click the link and sign in at the AHCJ website to see her full presentation.