Writers Worth Week, Day Four: Define Your Target

What I’m reading: Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
What’s on the iPod: Tupelo Honey by Van Morrison

Hurry on over to Jenn Mattern’s All Freelance Writing. Jenn, who is a writer and business person we should all emulate, has given yours truly the space to rant on about more things worth-related. Give her comment love, will ya?

My mom has come for a visit just as A) I returned from Vancouver, B) Writers Worth Week revs up, and C) my car decides to finally die. I say “finally” because it’s had this intermittent starting issue for two years now, and the mechanic can’t diagnose it unless it dies and stays that way. So it’s a good thing. Just bad timing.

I will be in and out today, but leave comments! Remember, all comments this week that offer some form of advice are entries. Four lucky commenters will receive a free copy of The Worthy Writer’s Guide to Building a Better Business. Leave some advice for your peers and take away the same from them.

How often has this happened to you – you decide you’re going to make a certain income this year, but months go by before you realize you haven’t come close? You’re not alone.

One of the areas in which writers make a clear misstep in their careers is in their goals. Sure, a writer will say “I’m going to make $80K this year!” and he or she may in fact do so. But how are they getting there?

I struggled with this, too. I had the goal in mind, but I wasn’t setting up the targets in order to reach the goal. Then I got smart about it. I decided the only way to hit the goal was to hit the target.

So your worthy advice for today – define your target. Decide today how much you will earn annually (it’s not too late to set a goal like that). Now go one more step. Decide what you’re going to earn monthly in order to reach that goal. It’s simple math.

Of course, that leads to a bit more planning. Once you see where you need to be earnings wise each month, you should do the following:

Examine each current client relationship. Which ones are paying you adequately? Which ones aren’t? Keep the clients that are helping you reach the goal. The ones that aren’t paying enough but are taking up a lot of your time need to go.

Look at your networking and marketing. If you want to hit a target, you have to aim. Marketing and networking are your eyes locking in on that target. You may need corrective lenses – in other words, a revamping of your current approach – in order to see your target more clearly.

Be honest about your actions. If your current marketing plan isn’t working, why? Is it because you’re targeting the wrong people or because you’re not consistent with it? The best marketing and networking plans in the world are killed by inertia. You may not realize it, but it’s relatively easy to find new clients. Just define a path that suits you and apply it liberally.

Emulate your peers. Do you have a freelance friend whose career you envy? Look at what he or she is doing to attract those clients. Ask. Ask if you can shadow that person or pay him or her to coach or mentor you. Learn from people who are making it happen daily.

Open new doors. Current clients are great, but there’s only so much they need. Spend an hour or two looking over your clients’ businesses. What other companies and clients are there that do similar things? What cross-over industries can be tapped for writing help? If you’re interested in Magazine A, how would your articles fit into Magazine B?

Aim higher. I can’t stress this often enough. Always be looking for clients up the food chain, not down it. You may snag a neat little blogging gig that pays you $75 per post. But how does that compare to the newsletter gig that pays you $1,200 a month? Be aware of how many lower-paying gigs you take on, and pretend each one reflects directly back to your reputation. Each one does. You’ll be putting your experience in a portfolio. Seek out those jobs that will look the best.

How do you define – and reach – your targets?

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  • Cathy May 12, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I think this evolves as you gain more experience. When I first started freelancing, my goals were to increase the number of clients by XX, my income by XX-until I had some solid ground under me. Then I got more specific in my goals – e.g., annual/monthly income, traffic to blog, # of new clients, etc.

    My transition from Corporate to freelancing had a learning curve. I think some set their goals too high and then get discouraged and drop out. I found easing into it and raising the bar each year has helped my sanity.

  • Devon Ellington May 12, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    When I set a specific dollar figure, it doesn't work. When I phrase it (to myself), that I'm going to earn more this year than last year, doing jobs that excite and entice me, earning enough to cover my bills and extra to do what I want, I make more than I expected to earn.

    The more rigid the number, the less likely I am to hit it. The more I set the atmosphere in how I want to reach it, the more money I actually earn.

    It uses the theory of prosperity consciousness and applies it to my business.

  • Paula May 12, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Money has never been a big motivator for me, so I prefer Devon's method.

    This year I did set a modest monthly financial target. If not for that chronic late-payer I probably would have hit or exceeded the target each month. Even if I *earned* enough to meet my monthly target, I never count my income until the checks are in hand. (With new clients, I wait to count it until the funds have cleared.)

    Each year I add one long-term goal. In 2010 it was to add blogging and writing about fiber arts. I now write for a knitting blog. This year I have two long-term goals: 1) do more food writing (check), and 2) establish myself with at least one custom publisher (working on it).

    I only recently added the custom publishing goal after realizing now many custom newsletters and magazines I receive: two from the grocery chain I frequent, one from my bank, one from my health insurance provider, two from competing local health systems. There may be more. I read each one while thinking, "I could write this!"

  • Fiona May 12, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Such a timely post as I am nowhere near on target for this year.

    On the other hand, I've completed a book and so have been working steadily, just on work where the rewards will come in later.

  • Eva May 12, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    Yeah, Fiona, it's that whole long term-short term thing. Now that I'm getting regular book contracts, I may be working for 9 months on three books that are on deadline in various stages, but also filling in with shorter turnaround projects to pay bills in the interim.

    And there's no way of knowing what royalties will bring in, but I must say, royalties make me feel all warm and fuzzy! 😉

  • Ashley May 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    That's a great point, Lori, about each job and how it reflects on your reputation. I have advised a writer friend in the past who has taken jobs she's not proud of that she should drop the client and use the time to find better work that she can respect. It makes me sad to see her doing something she hates just to pay the bills. That's why she left her full time job in the first place!

    Because I'm still doing freelance part time, I can be choosier about the jobs that I take. That is very important to me, for the job to be enjoyable AND profitable. My goal is to do it full time, so I think my target needs to be leaning a little heavier on the "profitable" side 🙂