business of freelancing

Five ways to get the new year off to a great start

By December 26, 2017 June 29th, 2019 6 Comments

The ham, turkey and pudding may have barely settled in your belly (if you celebrate Christmas), but almost as soon as the festive season is over, the new year looms. Lots of freelance writers have told me that they want 2018 to be their year – one where they start a new type of writing, earn more, quit their day job or build up their side hustle. Whatever your aim for 2018, it’s worth ensuring you have done these five things to ensure the new year gets off to a strong start.

How freelance writers can get the new year off to a great start

1. Review the current year

In planning for the year ahead, it’s worthwhile to review the year that is just about to pass. 

In 2016 I wrote down answers to some questions based on an episode of Ed Gandia’s podcast where he posed 21 questions aimed at prompting reflections on the year.

I’ve taken a couple of Ed’s questions and added one of my own:

a) What was your biggest learning from 2017?

Think back – what’s the one (or two) thing that stays with you about this year?

Mine was that I don’t need a niche. I also learnt that you can earn very good money from freelance writing.

b) Why are you pursuing freelance writing?

For me, it’s about doing work that I love and the lifestyle that freelancing offers – my time is my own, I can pursue assignments and commissions with magazines, newspapers and publications that I love, I can undertake training that will grow my business (like doing Kate Toon’s SEO fantastic course) and I can work as hard (or not) as I like.

Being a freelance writer undoubtedly has its downsides, but for me, the positives far outweigh any negatives. 

c) Where are you getting a low return on investment?

In my 2016 review, I realised that my academic work was the least fulfilling and least well paid of all the work I did. I did a little bit in 2017, just to keep the door open, but in 2018, I’ve decided to discontinue it. For me, the combination of low pay as well as not particularly stimulating was the reason I decided to give it away.

There’s a great article in Junkee about writer Brodie Lancaster and the rubric she uses in deciding whether or not to take on a job:

Does it pay well? 
Is it fun/important? 
Will it advance your career? 

For Brodie, if she can say yes to two of those three questions, she’ll consider it. 

I’d also add that if I can do a job quickly and it pays well then I’d also consider taking it on. 

 So for you, which jobs do you get a low return on investment?

You may have a publication you write for regularly, but that doesn’t pay well (or pays late), or a client who you love and pays well but the work is inconsistent … it’s worth writing a list of your current clients and editors and seeing the kind of work you are doing for them, the time it’s taking, the money you are earning and reevaluating for the new year. 

2. Where do you want to be in one year’s time?

Think about December 2018 – what do you want to have achieved? How do you want to feel?

Do you want to break into a new magazine or publication?

Increase your work for a certain client?

Charge more per project?

Start doing corporate content marketing?

Whatever you want to do, it’s imperative to develop a vision of where you want to go and what that looks like. Not that your vision is enough to get you there (I’m not going to tell you that manifesting your destiny will make it come true!), but knowing where you are headed is a great start.

3. Think honestly about the amount of time you have to dedicate to achieving your goals

One of my writerly mates, Lilani is so good at setting aside time to achieve her goals.

It sounds so obvious, but if you don’t set aside time to achieve something, it won’t get done. I’m a slow learner in this regard, and each time I speak to Lilani, I’m reminded that I actually need to dedicate time to certain things in order for them to become a reality. 

Sometimes it can be a balance of whether you lose income or time in the short term to complete a long-held aspiration.

One of my goals for 2018 is to set aside 30 minutes each day to work on my business. For me, writing articles means I am working in my business, but developing this blog and resources for it, is working on my business. And next year I really want to offer more to the freelance writing community through this blog. 

Ask yourself, how much time can I and will I dedicate to my goal?

4. Set some targets

You know me well enough by now to know that I’m a fan of setting definitive goals. This year I set an income goal each month, and while I will still have an monthly income target for 2018, I don’t think that’s going to be my main goal.

For you it may be a number of pitches you want to send out, magazines you want to get published in, corporate clients you want to land – whatever it is – put some numbers down against your goals. You don’t have to think about how you’re going to meet those goals (yet), but you do need to think about what you want.

Once you’ve got your big goals, work out how you’ll go towards meeting them – is it a monthly income target, a number of pitches you want to send each week, a particular number of letters of introduction you want to send out? Whatever it is, break it down into at least monthly goals.

5. Work out what you need

How will you make time to meet your goals? Do you need to find yourself an accountability buddy to check in with each week? Do you want particular skills that you don’t currently have and so need to enrol in a course or find yourself a coach or mentor? Do you need to join a co-working space? Do you need more stationery (that’s a trick question – we all need more stationery).

This is your year. 

Work out what you want to achieve, what you need and who can give this to you. Then go after it.

I’ll be here cheering you on.

What are you doing in preparation to have a great 2018?  

6 Comments

  • Tamu Wright says:

    Hi Lindy! Thanks for saying you don’t need a niche. That has helped me to think a little more broadly about who I am and the kind of people I want to write for. I’ve been doing the health and wellness niche for about 3 years, but there are tons of other things I would like to write about in various parts of my business. However I feel pigeonholed in the health and wellness niche. So I want to explore getting rid of the niche thinking in 2018 to see how much more I can broaden my creativity as well as my pay as a writer.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Tamu, thanks so much for your comment. I think if you have other topics/areas that you want to write about other than health/wellness then go for it. In my experience not having a niche has not limited my creativity, happiness or ability to earn – in fact, it’s helped those three things. Good luck and let me know how you go!

  • Skye says:

    Thanks for publishing this!

    "This is your year" has been on my mind the past few weeks, so seeing it in writing from you, too, is really encouraging! I want 2018 to be the year I scale my freelance writing income massively and get published more widely. For me right now, that looks like going after airline magazines and smaller travel publications. I’d like to hit $5K a month in writing income and pursue this path full-time. Typing that out terrifies me because I have no idea how I’ll do it, but I think speaking lofty goals is the first step toward achieving them!

    Thanks for the resources you publish and for documenting your freelancing years. It’s so very helpful. I just recently came across your site from Dream of Travel Writing and I’m loving all of your posts.

    Have a wonderful new year!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Thanks for your comment Skye – I’m so glad that "this is your year" resonated with you.

      It sounds like an exciting goal for you this year, and good on you for putting it down in writing. I think hitting a monthly income goal comes down to numbers. Numbers in terms of pitching enough magazines and publications, and numbers in finding well-paying publications that allow you to reach your target.

      Let me know how you go!

  • Claire says:

    I’ve just finished the work I needed to do by the year end, so now I’m going to spend some time writing out my goals for the year and how I’ll hopefully achieve them, including the amount of time to be set aside for each. I really want to progress in 2018 and get some good new clients and get some traction with my writing business. I also want to set aside some time each week for fiction writing. Something I very much want to do, but which I often don’t find the time for. I will be concentrating on being productive and focusing on my goals. Good luck in 2018 Lindy, I hope it’s another really great year for you. You’ve done so amazingly well in 2017, your hard work has paid off and you should be very proud of all you have achieved. Good luck!

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Congrats on finishing up your work for the year Claire. I think it’s a great idea to write down what you want to achieve and how you’ll dedicate time to those goals. I’ve just bought myself a year planner where I’m going to put in all the bits and pieces that I never really account for in the year (school holidays etc).
      I’ll be really interested to hear how you go with combining your fiction writing with your business writing – setting aside time each day or week for ‘creative work’ is so important I think.
      Keep me posted on how you go with your goals of reaching new clients and progressing your business. And happy new year 🙂

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There’s never been a better time to be a freelancer. But how do you make the leap from writing as a hobby to full time freelancing? The Freelancer’s Year has all the tips and tricks you need to be a successful freelance writer.