Goal-Setting for Freelance Writers: A Crash Course

Goal-Setting for Freelance Writers: A Crash Course. Makealivingwriting.comWhen I talk to successful freelance writers, I find we all have one thing in common.

It’s pretty simple — we have goals. We’re following a game plan for what we want to do with our writing career.

When I take on new writers in my mentoring program, my first questions are:

What is your goal for your freelance writing career? (Or, if you’re a blogger — what’s the goal of your blog?)

I find that lack of goals creates lack of momentum. The big problem with freelance writing is there’s no ‘boss’ standing over you saying, “Get 40 cold calls done this month!”

So you don’t.

Without goals, it’s easy to give in to fears about whether your writing cuts it, and not send that query letter, or make those business calls.

There’s also the chance to dither endlessly about what direction you plan to take. Will you only write for magazines? Write a novel? Target legal businesses? Many writers are overwhelmed by all the options, so they write nothing — or nothing that pays.

The change that happens when you have goals

I find when you start setting goals, there’s a shift in your mentality. You start to view your freelance writing business like a business. Which is what you have to do if you want it to pay your bills.

Setting goals creates deadlines — something freelance writers understand. Start making your own deadlines your top priority, over any current deadlines you have for others. In the long run, they’re even more important.

Setting goals doesn’t mean carving anything in stone. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities that crop up, that might change my direction. If you’ve been trying one approach a long time and nothing’s happening, it may be time to try a new angle.

Stay flexible — but have a game plan to start.

The most important goals

Here are the three questions I like to ask writers about goals:

Where would you like to see your freelance-writing business five years from now?

One year from now?

Next month?

You need a big picture and a near-term picture. Then it’s time to break it down into a to-do list for this month. What, specifically, do you think you could realistically get accomplished in the next 30 days that would move your writing career forward?

I find the one-month span allows you to avoid overwhelm — after all, it’s only 30 days, so you can only do so much. It frees you to find small steps you can take to try a new marketing angle, get a writing project finished, send a query.

Ultimately, that’s the most important step to take — break down your freelance-writing dream into some actionable, simple steps you can accomplish right away. Then next month, do that again.

Keep doing it until you’re earning what you want.

If you have trouble sticking to it, find a writer’s group, a friend, or a mentor who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals.

You know what’s coming next:

What’s your goal for this month for your freelance writing business? Leave a comment and let us know.

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24 comments on “Goal-Setting for Freelance Writers: A Crash Course
  1. Ruth Ekblom says:

    It is strange how these things happen. On my list of things to do today is: revisit goals and create a weekly plan from them.

    I agree with everyone, that without goals it is so easy to float along, and reach the end of the day without having achieved anything worthwhile. I find goal setting quite challenging, and keeping myself to them is even harder. I think the idea of finding a fellow small business owner who would also benefit from goals, and becoming each other’s accountability factor is good.

    My goals for this month therefore:
    1. To identify my short, medium and long term goals
    2. To find an accountability buddy
    3. To complete proofreading the autobiography I am working on
    4. To complete the children’s novel I am writing – just two more chapters to go, then it will need editing!

  2. I agree that goal setting is so important! It gives you that extra drive to succeed, and I find that it helps me to set aside fears completely, as I am focusing on a target.

    This month, I will be writing an essay and submitting it to an anthology, and will be completing a book review in hopes for it to be published in a literary magazine (it’s currently on spec, so we’ll see how it goes).

    I also went a little nutty, and I decided to take part in the Script Frenzy Challenge, Poem A Day Challenge, and the Ultimate Blog Challenge. It’s giving me the opportunity to catch up on creative writing I had to put on the backburner when my computer crashed last month. I love drowning in my writing! It’s an amazing feeling. 🙂
    Krissy Brady, Writer recently posted…Enter to Win a Copy of Short Talks- a Collection of Poetry by Anne Carson!My Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sounds like a lot of free challenges there all at once. I wouldn’t have tried so many, personally! Don’t forget to leave room for the money-earning stuff…

  3. Carol Tice says:

    My own goals for this month:

    Meet all my assigned article and blogging deadlines (afraid I’m already behind on this and had to get extensions from a couple folks…but it’s cool so far).

    Learn a couple new WP plug-ins for managing affiliates and monthly membership communities.

    Work on script for my mentoring-in-a-box planned video/workbook product.

    Work on new draft for copywriting ebook and deliver to designer.

    Get my butt to SOBCon on 4/28!

  4. Linda says:

    Goals for the (rest of the month)

    1. Make deadlines for five assigned print media articles without stressing myself out at the last minute. (Read: use good time management.)
    2. Connect with more bloggers at A-List Blogging (just joined) and start a blueprint for my own blog.
    3. Write bio and updated example paqe of my work.
    4. Pitch to two new outlets, at least one national.
    5. Take a break from the computer twice a day and walk around the block.

  5. L.C. Gant says:

    Wonderful post! Goal setting is such a critical part of what we do, both as writers and business owners. Thanks for the reminder; it is always needed 🙂

    My goals for April are the following:
    – Post twice per week on my blog
    – Complete weekly updates for my website
    – Write and send out at least 1 new query per week
    – Continue marketing on various social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook

    I like Linda’s idea of joining a small business blog and commenting regularly to drive traffic her way. Brilliant! Hope she doesn’t mind if I give it a try? I can use all the great ideas I can get 🙂
    L.C. Gant recently posted…Status Update- Recap of the First WeekMy Profile

  6. linda says:

    Goals for this month?

    – Continue posting daily
    – Finish the three contracted pieces
    – Identify, research, rough draft and pitch three new articles (two to new pubs)
    – Prioritize the ideas in my pipeline
    – For the first time, take a part of my novel-in-progress to my bi-monthly writing group (scary!)
    linda recently posted…Someone Else’s PassionMy Profile

  7. Linda says:

    My goals for the month are:
    – write a sample chapter for my non-fiction book proposal
    – write three blog posts per week analyzing the latest embezzlement arrests
    – find an appropriate small business blog and become a regular commenter to drive traffic to my site
    – continue adding useful content on how to set up administrative infrastructure in your small business
    Linda recently posted…OK Mayor Embezzles From Town of 3-000My Profile

  8. John Soares says:

    My freelance writing goals for April:

    1. Meet the deadlines I’ve negotiated with my current clients
    2. Contact at least two new editors every week about potential assignments
    3. Continue to expand my presence on LinkedIn
    John Soares recently posted…Over 2500 Listeners to My Recent PodcastMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Woo, two new editors every week! That’s aggressive…and I like to aim high, too.

      As I’m always saying in my “Why freelance writers need to make $100 an hour” argument, we so often fall short of our goals…so they need to be ambitious. Otherwise we don’t end up getting anywhere!

    • Linda says:

      I’d be interested to know how you are using Linkedin. I have a presence there, but have never really kicked in with how to leverage it. Perhaps Carol has blogged about that before. I’ll check for that, too.

      • kymlee says:

        Linda, on LinkedIn, there are questions, which I’ve been told, answering these questions can help you establish yourself as an expert and/or thought leader. You can also feed your blog directly to LinkedIn or publish your tweets there as well. Those are all ways to become more visible on LinkedIn.
        kymlee recently posted…“You don’t need that crap”- How to stop the shopping nag factorMy Profile

        • Linda says:

          Kymlee: Linkedin needs to be blended into my weekly goals in the near future. I have plenty of contacts, but I’m not using them.

        • Carol Tice says:

          I’ve never done the general LI questions, though I gather some benefit from those. I have gotten good traffic answering questions within relevant groups on LI, though.

          My favorite strategy though is looking at their job postings. I like to hit full-time jobs at companies I want to write for and ask them if they also work with freelancers. Have gotten a couple of good clients that way…more in that WM article link.

          I did a big Twitter post a while back…seems like maybe I should do an LI one for this blog soon!

  9. Carol Anne says:

    My goals for the month are:
    — write at least one post every week
    — continue adding useful content and links to the resources section
    — find resources for publicizing my blog

  10. Kymlee says:

    Goal setting is even that much more important when you work independently. It gives you something to be accountable for when you have no one else to kick you in the bum. Its the planning that I’ve seen other freelancers say is unnecessary. You may not have some formal plan, but every business needs goals and targets to reach in order to grow.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I so agree, Kym!

      One of the biggest problems of freelancing for many is the lack of structure. But if you create a structure, often it will drive your business forward.

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