Editor’s Note: This is an update of a 2020 article written by Carolyn Crist.
Setting goals, creating a freelance business plan, outlining quarterly objectives — no matter what you call the process — it sounds like a lot of work. But it’s worth the time and effort because planning for the future can lead to more satisfying writing gigs, less stress and greater income. It often involves reflecting on what worked and didn’t, and then incorporating that insight into your plan.
However often you approach this process — annually, quarterly, monthly or weekly — it’s helpful to understand other freelancers’ strategies and recommendations. Here are a handful of examples:
- Contently’s The Freelancer Creative offers four tips for achieving financial stability:
- Prepare profit & loss statements, using a record of your receipts and expenses.
- Use income to acquire assets, such as mutual funds, stocks or real estate.
- Be a generalist and a specialist; in other words, stay focused but be prepared to write about other subjects.
- Set up a savings account to manage your cash flow.
- Carol Tice, who runs MakeALivingWriting.com, wrote that “most freelancers don’t create a plan and suffer from lack of focus and profits. They think simply being a good writer is enough — IT’S NOT!”
- On The Write Life, freelancer Kristen Pope talks about 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.
- Freelance writer Elise Burley, who runs the Freelance Writers Hub, gives extensive advice about goal setting for freelancers, including aligning projects with goals, identifying skill gaps, tracking milestones and periodically revising goals.
- Of course, it helps to have some business skills. This video from the Society of Professional Journalists explains how to track earnings and cash flow, manage invoices and expenses and determine what local and state taxes you might have to pay. In this video, you’ll learn how to create a budget.
Most freelance business planning resources suggest answering these questions to help you determine your goals and actionable steps to take:
- 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,” said freelance writer Jennifer Goforth Gregory, who runs The Content Marketing Writer.
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:
- Regularly email your editors and ask if they are assigning.
- Set a weekly or monthly pitching goal.
- Schedule time for researching new outlets to pitch to.
- Update your Linkedin profile and use a professional-looking headshot.
- Add your latest clips to your website and update your bio.
You may also want to set goals based on categories. Here are some examples:
- Financial: $XX per month.
- Marketing: XX pitches per month.
- Growth: XX% increase per year.
- Opportunities: XX more speaking gigs this year.
- Strategic: Write and submit book proposal this year.
- Balance/flexibility: Take at least one morning off each week.
- Bucket list: Dream publication you’ll pitch.
Don’t forget to check out other articles about running your business on the AHCJ Freelance Center. There you can find in-depth information about contracts, insurance, finance and branding and marketing. Please don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions for future freelance-related articles.