At the beginning of 2016 I decided to get serious about freelancing and switch to full-time. The research began and this blog was started in February because I got really frustrated trying to find concrete advice on actual steps to take to launch a business and land higher-paying clients. Everyone wanted me to buy this or that training course first, and I just wanted a few answers upfront; without that, I didn’t even know what course to buy. Eventually I found some good blogs, felt confident enough to make a site and start pitching, and I got a hold of Kelly James-Enger’s book Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success. Thanks to that book, in May of 2016 I set some goals for the remainder of the 2016 year. This month, I looked back on them, and I’d like to share the results here before moving on to set my 2017 goals.
2016 Goals: How’d They Hold Up?
Following Kelly’s advice, I set both outcome and production goals. Basically, outcome goals are the big things you want to achieve, and production goals are the things you plan to do to make the outcome goals come true.
2016 Outcome Goals:
- Get published in a magazine: for work and fiction. I was published in an online magazine (Bewildering Stories) for my fiction piece, “Hi, I’m Corpse Bride Barbie.” An article I wrote examining animal POV in Stephen King’s Cujo will appear in an anthology about writing animals in fiction from Ashland Creek Press sometime next year. I will get paid for the piece, so that can count for work. However, the goal was really meant to mean pitching an idea to a magazine editor. I didn’t pitch the article for Ashland, I just answered a call for submissions, but hell, we’ll still count it because I’m excited about it.
- Land Five Recurring Clients. Happy to say, accomplished! I have three recurring writing gigs, and two recurring editing gigs. However, I’m afraid I’m going to have to part ways with one of the writing gigs in 2017 if I can’t negotiate a better deal, which is something I’m dreading because I really, really love my editor on that project.
- Publish Arcamira. Hmm. Arcamira is my first novel, written at age 14, which I am revamping and publishing on the serialized literature site, Channillo. However, I don’t think Channillo is what I meant here because I was on Channillo in February and set these goals in May. I clearly underestimated how long the rewrite process would take. It isn’t done yet, so I haven’t been able to even begin sending it out or taking steps for self-publishing. That one’s an incomplete.
- Write the Western novel. Wow, this one is a complete fail. I went to New Mexico to visit my husband’s grandparents and multitude of cousins in April, and while driving through the flat, red, desert landscape and tiny towns so far out in the middle of nowhere it takes the cops about an hour to answer a distress call (not kidding), a novel idea smacked me rudely in the face. I was super pumped about it when I wrote these goals, but New Mexico was not a familiar setting for me, and once back in Tennessee, I quickly began to lose the feel for the whole setting before I even really got started on the writing, and the enthusiasm faded. I never got past the beginnings of the outlining stage.
- Get 150 Blog Followers. I’m only going to count WordPress followers here, which means that I didn’t quite reach this one. I’m about halfway there, and I’m happy with that. I need to do more blog-based networking in the new year, though.
- Make a Steady Paycheck from Affiliate Links. Ha! This is the most abysmal failure on this list. I made nothing from affiliate links. I’m not doing it right, I’m sure. I didn’t really have that many affiliate links in the first place because I hate pushy sales tactics, so I didn’t create multiple posts for the same affiliate products or programs. Ultimately, I just don’t know what I’m doing, so that’s a new goal for 2017.
- Make an Annual Income of $10,000. Met and exceeded! My net income for the year is around $12,000. May not sound so great to a corporate manager, but to a girl who made less than $5,000 in 2015, that’s heavenly. I’m extra happy with it because I didn’t even set this goal and switch to full-time until May.
*Unexpected Outcome 1: Through work for one of my recurring clients (a small publishing house), I am now the author of a non-fiction book for teens: People That Changed the Course of History: The Story of Frank Lloyd Wright 150 Years After His Birth. Such a fun project about a man who was the epitome of an eccentric genius.
*Unexpected Outcome 2: Through this blog, I met a lovely lady who recommended I take a free Writer’s Workshop from the University of Iowa (where many of the greats went) which she was working on as a moderator. I am so glad I did. It helped me produce the three best stories I’ve ever written in my life. They are all currently out for consideration at a number of literary journals.
2016 Production Goals:
- 15 pitches a week (after completing 90 day pitch challenge). I set this goal at the start of the pitch challenge that helped me launch PurpleInkPen. I kept up with this goal for a little while, but then thanks to the pitches, I landed a number of clients all at once and couldn’t keep up with the pitching due to my new workload. My recurring clients combined with occasional smaller projects kept me on my toes for the rest of the year, and I switched from hardcore pitching to just networking, which paid off by itself.
- Write Three Pages of Personal Fiction Per Day. I set this goal when I planned to write that Western, which didn’t happen. However, thanks to my rewrites on Arcamira, I probably came close to this goal, but I doubt I met it completely.
- One Blog Post a Week. Posted Sunday. I kept to this until very recently (like November), when I switched to biweekly. I made this decision based on time constraints and the fact that I was writing longer, more in-depth posts as my knowledge increased. My views haven’t dipped as a result, so I think I’ll stick to it for the time being at least.
- Devote Saturdays to Networking: I made this goal when I was just building my Twitter following, my LinkedIn profile, and my website, and I stuck to it rigidly for about 3-4 months. Then I tapered off after I’d established myself. I didn’t quit networking, by any means, but the networking opportunities began coming to me, and I just started networking when I had time rather than forcing myself to sit down and do it all on one particular day. Still, I got lazy with social media networking, so I need to boost that back up.
2017 Goals: What Comes Next?
I think … or rather I know it’s very important to keep moving forward with your business instead of staying in the same place doing exactly the same things. So, to help give myself direction for things I want to achieve as a freelance business owner, I’m going to set a new list of goals, because it worked out pretty well last year.
2017 Outcome Goals:
- Annual Income: $25,000. I’m going to shoot for the moon and try to double my income in 2017. If I don’t reach it, who cares? I’m still going to try.
- Shift PurpleInkPen’s Focus to Manuscripts. Narrowing down a niche is hard, and it took me a while to find the three interconnected niches I ultimately boasted on my website (read about how and what I chose here). However, I think I’m going to nail it down more concretely. While I always focused on books, I suggested that I would edit any sort of content (particularly web content) or ghostwrite articles rather than just books. While I may do other content writing on the side should I come across it (one of my recurring clients is ghostwriting reviews, not books), I’m going to market myself solely as an editor and ghostwriter of manuscripts. Period. I always focused on self-help for nonfiction books, but now I’m going to narrow down my specialty genres for fiction. I may also make a list of preferred genres to edit.
- Revamp Website. This goes along with number two. I need up update my content, but I also need to give the design an overhaul. I’d like a new logo, and I need to improve my SEO so that I get more traffic.
- Take on Two New Ghostwriting Clients. Now that I’ve narrowed my focus, and I have solid experience in the manuscript ghostwriting realm, I want to expand my work there, as it pays better than anything else.
- Improve Editing Hourly Rate. Through internships, courses, and hands-on experience, I’ve learned a lot about editing since graduating college in May 2015. However, applying all of that knowledge takes time, and when I calculated my hourly rate (from my fixed per page rate) for my latest editing job, I wasn’t satisfied. It was like $10 an hour, and as a freelancer, you ought to be making closer to $30 an hour to make ends meet. I am very careful when editing, and I don’t plan to change that. I also don’t plan to change my rates this year. They are average professional rates, and I don’t have enough years in the business to justify anything higher. I just need to drill myself and, using off-duty practice, boost my speed without hurting quality. It will take time, so I only expect to improve my hourly rate by a few bucks this year, but that’s okay. I’ll get there.
- 200 Blog Followers. Why not?
- Make Actual Money from Affiliate Marketing. Nothing big. Just one check would be nice.
- Finish Arcamira and Take Steps Toward Publication.
- Publish All Three Writer’s Workshop Stories. If I can get paid for all three, even better.
- Join or Start a Writing Critique Group Locally. I miss sitting at the workshop tables in my college English courses, talking about each other’s work face-to-face.
2017 Production Goals
- Hire a Logo Designer. Know any?
- Monthly Platform Updates. At the end of every month, I will update my social media profiles if applicable and make sure my website portfolio is completely updated.
- Three Fiction Submissions a Month. At least until I run out of stories to submit, then I’ll have to shift the goal to writing a new one.
- 15 Pitches a Month. Got to land those new clients somehow.
- One Blog Post Biweekly.
- Join Freshbooks’ Affiliate Program. This is the system I use to send invoices and keep track of my earnings, and it’s the bomb. I will only ever share affiliate links to things I actually know are awesome, and I use this every single day. It will be my best friend at tax time.
- Take Three Courses. I’m thinking one on SEO, one on affiliate marketing, and then the third is up in the air. Maybe marketing or self-publishing. If you know of any awesome courses in these areas, please let me know in the comments!
- Improve Editing Efficiency: Track, Analyze, and Train. I will time myself whilst editing and try to analyze where I slow down and why. Then, using that info, I will find or create drills for myself until I improve my speed without sacrificing quality.
- Network Saturdays. This year I don’t want to just dedicate all my networking to Saturdays, but that will be the day I ask myself, “Did you connect enough this week?” and if I didn’t, I’ll have to make it up that day. I want to focus more on networking via WordPress than I did last year. I also want to reach out to local writers to help me find or form that writer’s group.
I feel good about 2017. Of course, only time will tell if that feeling is justified, but I think that setting goals is a great way to help ensure that your year turns out how you want. If you have a clear idea of where you’re going and how you’ll get there, you have a starting place, and also a place to return if things go temporarily haywire.
If you’re a new freelancer or are considering taking up that career path this year, I strongly encourage you to set goals. Your goals are for you and should be tailored to you. However, I hope that by listing out my goals for last year and this year, I’ve helped you get a better idea of the sorts of goals you can and should set. Please feel free to share some of your goals in the comments. I would love to hear from you. I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas weekend, and I wish you best of luck in the coming year! Thanks so much for reading.