Your Freelance Career Evaluation

What’s on the iPod: Naked Kids by Grouplove

Today’s my TGIF (TGIT?). I’m taking tomorrow and Monday as we have this guy from Argentina showing up, and about a million of us are going to the city on Sunday to greet him….

Pope madness. It’s not the visit itself that’s created the madness (though it’s been the rocket fuel) — it’s the preparations that haven’t been easy to navigate. The ticket-purchasing debacle I mentioned on Monday was bad enough. Then came the logistics as local authorities decided it best to close roads and restrict access (and parking). So I went on the hunt for a parking space within walking distance.

$75 later, I’ve reserved a space in a local business’s parking lot. I think I got a bargain, too. Others were charging $130 and up for spaces that are still miles from the train station. I was relieved to pay it. We have one taxi service — one. And it serves a nine-city suburban area. Chances were slim at best. And forget Uber. Who’s up at 4:30 am?

All this parking-space planning was going on as I was finishing a rather involved project, which happens to be one of two projects left on the pile I’d started the month with. I reviewed it yesterday morning, handled a small request from a client, then had — what’s this? — actual free time in my work day for the first time this month. So what does a writer do when there’s free time?

Evaluate the career.

It’s way too easy when we’re busy to overlook potential issues or things we’re not doing that could reduce our income or our client pool. So it makes sense to look things over — really look — every quarter just to make sure things are going in the right direction.

It’s like a monthly assessment. Actually, I use my monthly assessments as a starting point. If you’re looking to understand where you might be missing opportunities, that’s as good a place as any (and it’s a good reason for you to play along here on the blog at the end/beginning of every month).

But let’s assume you don’t do monthly assessments for a moment. (For examples, click on the Monthly Assessment labels on the right.) In that case, open a Word document. Start with headings like these:

  • Queries sent
  • Emails/letters of introduction sent
  • Social media contacts made
  • Job listing applications
  • Work from new clients
  • Work from existing clients
  • Earnings this month
  • Bottom line (your assessment of how things went, what you could do differently, what worked, etc.)
With your monthly info, over time, you’ll be able to see a clearer picture of where you’re going wrong, what you’re doing right, and where the bulk of your work is coming from.
So, for those of you who assess monthly, let’s look at the info up close. Look for:
What worked. This is going to differ, as you well know, from one quarter to the next or even one week to the next. Clients have unique triggers. So what was drawing them in the most?
Who the client is. It’s so much more than just how you approached them. The client’s business, motivations, needs, and focus all count. Look at your current clients closely. Try to locate similarities, timing, reasons why they hired you, etc.
Which previous/existing clients or new prospects may need the same thing. The similarities among your paying clients are little road maps right to a similar type of client. Who better to approach first than someone who might already need you? If nothing else, it helps you refine your approach.
How often you marketed. Consider this your personalized tough love time. Did you really send out as many queries as you thought you had? Were you in touch with your targeted number of clients per day/week, or did you slack off when the workload became heavy? Here’s another important question to ask yourself — 
What excuses did I use this month that got in my way? That’s why I suggest the bottom-line assessment each month. You write your own excuses as you justify why it was a light month or why you worked just three days a week. For each excuse, brainstorm ways you can eliminate it going forward. For example, instead of saying the family trip getting in the way, you could plan next time to work two hours extra each week before and after that trip. Or you could take on higher-paying projects to make up for the time off.
Writers, how often do you evaluate your career?
What other ways do you use to determine if you’re on the right track?

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  • Joy Drohan September 24, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    This is a great idea, Lori. Thanks. Good luck with your pope quest!

  • Anne Wayman September 24, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    It's also an opportunity to review your over all goals… not just income, pieces published, clients etc., but a larger question or two like is writing giving me what I want in life in terms of satisfaction? Is there a better way to be of service… that sort of thing.

    Must be time for me to do that, ya think?

  • Lori Widmer September 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Thanks, Joy!

    Amen, Anne! It is indeed a great time for that, as well. Probably just as important as meeting earnings goals (and I'd vote it's more important than earnings).

  • Paula Hendrickson September 24, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    When you said to look at what worked (or didn't) for you, I knew that for me simply following up on LOIs has really worked well. Then I had to pause my reading because I suddenly remembered someone I needed to follow up with. Rest assured, I sent her an email before I came back, finished reading, and posted this comment.

    I bet some of the others here doing monthly assessments will agree: You quickly realize the same thing doesn't always keep working over and over. Sometimes mixing it up a bit provides a new surge of energy.

  • Lori Widmer September 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Yep. I agree, Paula. I'm guilty of it myself.

    You're right — sometimes trying a new thing makes a huge difference in your response rate.

  • Ashley September 25, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks, Paula, for reminding me that I have a few queries I need to follow up on!