New Month, New Goals

I can’t believe it’s December. It seems like we’ve been living with the smell for months now, when it’s probably been just a few weeks. The sewer folks were in – confirmed my suspicions. This is a dead thing somewhere in the walls, the ceiling, under the sink. I’m happy to report that the smell has dissipated to some extent. We opened the door to the powder room on Friday and no one gagged. Progress.

So this is officially the start of what we freelancers like to call the famine stage. December is, by most accounts, pretty slow. Work opportunities are lean at the beginning and dry up completely by mid-month. Good time to plan for 2009, don’t you think?

Everyone has their own version of goal setting, but here’s mine. You can use it verbatim or modify it to suit you.

1. Decide how much money you want to earn. Seriously. Get a number in your head. Write it down. Don’t be shy – this is a goal, even if it’s a six-figure goal.

2. Figure out how much per hour you need to make in order to reach that goal. I’ve often planned how much per month I need to earn – whatever works for you. Just decide over the course of the next 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days what your billing rate needs to be so that you can reach that goal without killing yourself in the process.

3. Reality check – really decide if the goal and the billable amount are going to work. It’s okay to say “I want to earn $500K this year.” It’s quite another to actually be able to by charging $100 an hour. For as you know, we don’t always have the luxury of working 8-hour days every day of the year.

4. Modify the goal or the figure in order to match reality. I can say “Hey, this is my million-dollar year!”, but am I really going to be able to earn $2,800 a day in order to get there?

5. Set monthly benchmarks. This is easier for me because I don’t have time to watch my Quicken charts every week (I’m busy earning it!). I set a monthly goal, which is easy to run through the invoices to see if I’ve reached it. Most of us know what we’ve earned in a month. We should. And do we check to see if we’ve reached them? Hmmm?

6. If you don’t earn enough in a month, do something about it. We set the goals just fine. What we don’t do is look at our process for finding work if we miss those earnings goals. Think about where your work has come from. Same old places? Some new ones that didn’t quite measure up? Then why aren’t you expanding into new areas? Why aren’t you looking for clients in different industries or at new publications?

7. Search for more (and better) revenue sources. Start with existing clients. It’s okay to raise your rates once in a while, you know. If you charge them $50 an hour and everyone else is charging $100 an hour, what, are you crazy? Raise your rates! Yes, you may lose a client or two, but I’ve found that higher rates doesn’t just scare off the low-price shoppers – it brings in the serious buyers.

How do you keep aligned with your goals? What’s your process? Do you have a process?

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  • Angie Ledbetter December 1, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Glad the stank is going away. 🙂

    Admirable goals/process. Maybe I’ll get better structured in the coming year!

  • Sal December 1, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Right now I am in the flood stage. I am applying to tons of articles and actually getting a pretty good response. My goal for next year is to be able to make $12,000 doing freelance work. While that won’t support my family and our bills, it will offer some cushion. Not to mention I think it is a lofty goal to make $1000 a month seeing as I am only making $100 a month right now with a blog that I have to post on M-F (my only live cash flow).

    I like the breakdown though. It makes a lot of sense to me. I think I will grab my new Moleskine and get to work planning out 2009, my 5 figure year 😉

  • khaye December 2, 2008 at 12:09 am

    This post reminded me that I should start plotting out my calendar for next year… 🙂 I will still be a teacher by then. 🙂

  • Lori December 2, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    You can do it, Sal. Just look in new places and also look at that blog job – is it really paying enough for the amount of work?

  • Sal December 2, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Can I ask a simple question? The blog job pays $5 a post for 200 words. I think it usually takes me about 10-15 minutes to crank one out. If that were the case for you, would you do it?

  • Lori December 3, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    Honestly Sal? I wouldn’t. But that’s because I have other work that pays a lot more. If it’s easy and you don’t have to work too hard, hey, why not? You can post in the early hours, spend time in front of the tv with the laptop and post for the entire week, and basically do this in your off hours. I had a job like that once and I kept it until the company arbitrarily changed our contracts (and our pay) without notice or warning. We had to sign on to post, and they pasted a contract we had to accept in order to post or even to cancel our contracts. It was then I was able to let the easy job go.

    Sal, it’s up to you entirely. I say if the effort is minimal and it’s not getting in the way of other work, keep it.