Are You Starting Off the New Year Right? (2013 Version)

Originally published January 2013 (pre-hack, title giveaway)

open book on hardwood table

Perfect word, perfect word, where is that perfect word?

Well 2013 is already kicking off into full gear and I have to ask the question: are you getting everything started off right?  Are you tackling your goals, looking for new challenges, and moving towards the full freelancing career you dream of, or are you freaking out because it’s already February and you don’t know where the time has gone?  It’s amazing how the resolutions made during a (often tipsy) celebration of a new beginning can quickly fall away to the hum drum of everyday life.  If you take an honest look at what you’ve done so far this year, is it something to celebrate, or are you less than impressed with your efforts up to this point?

How do you change things this year?

This is the big question, isn’t it?  We all make resolutions or promises at one time or another – but following through is an entirely different beast, isn’t it?  It’s easy to make a list and tell yourself that you have plenty of time to accomplish those goals: whether it’s losing weight, working out, cleaning up the personal life, or working to create your freelance writing empire.  So how are you doing with any of these goals?  This isn’t meant as a guilt trip or a put down – and if you’re doing great then keep it up!  If you’re not, let’s tackle some of the main hurdles that may be preventing you from getting the most out of your freelance writing.

What’s your goal/driving desire?

Chances are, you’re setting your goals wrong.  This isn’t about short term goals either – we’re talking about your “IT” factor that is going to cause you to reach for your goals.  Do you know the difference between driving goals and short term?  In my opinion you need both to succeed.  That’s a hard lesson from over 8 years of freelance writing.  Whenever I’ve lost focus on either the short term goals or the “IT” factor, my writing and my income has suffered dramatically – not to mention the quality of my work wasn’t as good  even when the clients were still happy.  So what’s the difference?

Short term goals: These are the goals that most of us know how to set, but they’re also the ones we’re less likely to keep.  These are systematic and based on the practical.  Earn $3,000 a month to cover bills and taxes, using a calendar to map out your daily freelancing workload, cold calling 5 new clients a week to search for high end work.  These all fall under the idea of short term goals or necessary work.  Making deadlines, planning out workloads, filling up your schedule with enough jobs to make your money amount.  These goals are how you get better step by step while maintaining your professional writing business.  But they are poor long term motivators.  Without short term goals, you dream too much and don’t do enough to keep the bottom line solid and those little delays become missed deadlines and losing time as you take 12 hours to do what should be just 4 hours of work.

Your “IT” factor, aka long term goals: These should be strong goals, ones that focus on where you want to be, what dreams are worth chasing, what goals can cause you to work through the frustrations, pain, and just straight out “blahs” that come from a long time of self-employment.  There’s always going to be a time when you’re just not going to feel the passion or the fire.  During these times the day to day goals or schedules won’t be enough to carry you.  On the other hand, if you have that long term goal or dream then that can help be enough to push you through even when you’re not “feeling it.”  It’s really important to have both of these  in order to balance out your writing career.

Do you have your perfect balance?

Are you just a pure freelancer?  Do you want to build up the passive income?  Do you like tracking down new work, or do you prefer finding some repeat clients to work for over and over again?  It can be tempting to write a lot of highly technical articles or articles on topics you really don’t like because those pay the highest, but if you don’t like the topics then you need to make sure you balance that out with freelance writing on topics you truly do enjoy.  That type of professional business balance is what will help you enjoy your work, meet your goals, and grow the business.

Take a look at your skills

You should never be content with where you’re at.  I found out very early on that I could “phone it in” when it came to basic SEO 500 word keyword optimized content and it was still considered by most employers I talked to as some of the best content available.  In other words with almost no effort I could churn out acceptable content that my employers were more than willing to pay for, and often were happy enough with in order to buy more.

However, getting lazy is NEVER a good thing.  If you get into the habit of just cruising on auto-pilot, then you’re going to have a hard time breaking out of that habit.  That goes for high end jobs at $30 a page or more, and to get more of those jobs you need to thrive above and beyond on the ones you are given.

The same goes to developing skills.  The tagline I came up with for Master Dayton Freelancing was “When good isn’t good enough…”  (I know – great line, isn’t it?)  The problem is if at any time you settle for good enough, you’ll fall into the habit of just doing enough to get by and that will lower your ceiling – even if you don’t realize it.  Look at your writing skills.  Don’t be overly critical or harsh, but be honest and analyze them.  What are you great at?  What are you just good at?  What needs a lot more work?  Always work to keep improving your skills.  Go from bad to fair, fair to good, good to very good, very good to great, great to exceptional.  Whether it’s different genres, voice, whatever – you can always improve your writing ability and in doing so improve your business.

What frightens you the most?

This isn’t just a good question to ask about your business but it’s a good one to ask about your life in general to take on a full assessment of your life or any part of your life you’re looking to challenge.  Whatever intimidates you or frightens you the most, you will grow the quickest by taking that head on.  Plus the simple act of getting used to taking on your fears head on will make it easier and easier to take the types of chances you’ll need to take in order to really grow your freelancing business.

What did you do today?

Simple question.  This doesn’t mean research, planning, thinking, but what did you actually DO today?  How many articles written?  How many invoices sent?  How many queries shot out?  What hard numbers can you actually record to show your progress?  Take stock every few hours.  This habit alone can make you much more productive.

Have fun!

You need to enjoy what you’re doing.  There are good times and bad times with being self-employed.  Enjoy the benefits: the freedom of schedule, the time you can spend with family, the ability to work as many hours as you can fill with high quality work.  There are a lot of great benefits to being a professional freelance writer, and you should enjoy them all!

So focus in on how you’ve started this year so far – and keep on pushing to get the most out of your business and your freelance writing income!