The Action Part of Your Freelance Writing Action Plan

What I’m reading: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
What’s on the iPod: Have Love Will Travel by The Sonics

What a good time to step away from the home office. There’s no work getting done right now, no clients in the office, no answers to any questions I might have (I have one — it will have to wait until Monday, it seems).

We had a nice Christmas in West Virginia. His son and family live there, and it’s a beautiful area — remote, though close enough to the necessities, and surrounded on every side by mountains. Gorgeous. The weather, however, sucked. It was nearly 70 degrees and pouring rain most of the time we were there. But the time with family was nice.

The holiday cheer was greatly impacted by the passing of my uncle — my mom’s brother. I mentioned briefly the story of how she came to know she had a sibling, and of his stroke. He passed on the 22nd, and his memorial service is today in Ohio. It’s a trip I can’t take as it’s 8  1/2 hours each way and I’m wiped out from too many weekends spent traveling this month. My love will have to travel across the ether.

I’m still on vacation until Monday (and I’m getting way too used to sleeping in and not doing a thing), but I’ll be doing some business examination while I’m off. It’s when things get quiet that I can think and create and see those untapped opportunities.

Today’s job — look at my action plan for signs of inaction.

There’s where plenty of us freelance writers get off track. We make what we think are great plans that should make a significant difference, but months later, nothing. Why?

Because there’s no action built in.

We talked recently about reaching writing goals through simple planning. Your short list, however, isn’t much good if your goals are merely statements.

Let’s use an example to show what I mean. Let’s assume you’ve decided to increase your income incrementally. Your goal might look like this:

I want to increase my monthly earnings by $2,000.

Sounds fantastic! Only…. how are you going to do that? Right now, it’s just talk. So let’s revamp that goal:

I plan to increase my monthly earnings by $2,000 by pitching to two new publications each month and by returning to my former clients with new project ideas.

What’s different? You’ve given your goal some direction, some immediate action you can apply. Will it work? Depends on your clients, your market, your approach, and your tenacity. But the latter goal statement is much closer to getting you to move than the first iteration.

So let’s practice with a few just to get you thinking beyond what you want and into how you’ll attempt to get it. In the comments, give us your best revision of any (or all) of the following goals, or revise your own goals:

– I want to increase my hourly rate.
– I want to improve customer retention.
– I want to connect with four new client prospects per month.
– I want to move into a new specialty area by June 30th.

Writers, how would you advise other writers in reaching their goals? What works best for you?
What mistakes can you help other writers avoid in either setting or attaining their business goals?

About the author




  • Paula Hendrickson December 30, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    I'm so sorry to hear about your uncle. That would be rough for your mom at any time of year, but around the holidays is worse. Nothing more depressing than the sight of a poinsettia at at funeral or memorial service. I hope she's doing okay.

    As for goals…I've never been a big goal setter. List maker, yes. Goal setter, no. But I usually have a general idea of something I'd like to try each year. Several years ago I wanted to break into writing about knitting and was a contracted blogger for a yarn company (which dumped us all when it merged with another company with a celebrity knitter/blogger on the books), and wrote a piece for a trade magazine for yarn store owners. Another year I wanted to expand to food writing, and started contributing to what turned out to be the Slow Payer, but I also added a custom content client and have done several things for them, but nothing in about a year. This year it was to get into the TCA; I've been a member for about a month now, and the press kits are rolling in.

    After speaking with my cousin about how she spun her graphic design skills into a burgeoning Etsy business, I'm thinking about putting a few months in developing more knit and crochet patterns and start selling downloadable patterns online. My writing would dovetail with that fairly well.

    But I think I really need to find some more lucrative copywriting or whitepaper opportunities instead of focusing so much time on articles. Article pay rates are still stuck in the 90s — and dropping, at some publications.

    I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016. Emphasis on the healthy part for you mom and dad, Lori.

  • Lori Widmer January 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks, Paula. We had a few weeks to prepare for the inevitable, but that isn't much comfort for his wife and kids. Mom is doing okay — better than expected.

    I love your system, Paula! Hey, if lists work, go for it! The idea is to get moving forward. Inertia, as you know, kills it for many freelancers.

  • Devon Ellington January 8, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    So sorry for your loss.

    I like to break down goals into at least three action steps, each one building on the other one.

    2016 is a reassessment and reframing of what I want and how I want to get there — some of it coming a little sooner than I wished!

    But I think it all will be good.

    I did very little freelance nonfiction work last year — it focused mostly on fiction and scripts. I'm going to slowly add back in more freelance projects this year, but be pickier about them.

  • Lori Widmer January 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Thanks, Devon.

    That sounds like a great approach. It has to build upon itself, doesn't it? Otherwise, it's merely words on paper.