Goal-Setting for Freelance Writers: A Crash Course

Carol Tice

Goal-Setting for Freelance Writers: A Crash Course. Makealivingwriting.comWhen I talk to successful freelance writers, I find we all have one thing in common.

It’s pretty simple — we have goals. We’re following a game plan for what we want to do with our writing career.

When I take on new writers in my mentoring program, my first questions are:

What is your goal for your freelance writing career? (Or, if you’re a blogger — what’s the goal of your blog?)

I find that lack of goals creates lack of momentum. The big problem with freelance writing is there’s no ‘boss’ standing over you saying, “Get 40 cold calls done this month!”

So you don’t.

Without goals, it’s easy to give in to fears about whether your writing cuts it, and not send that query letter, or make those business calls.

There’s also the chance to dither endlessly about what direction you plan to take. Will you only write for magazines? Write a novel? Target legal businesses? Many writers are overwhelmed by all the options, so they write nothing — or nothing that pays.

The change that happens when you have goals

I find when you start setting goals, there’s a shift in your mentality. You start to view your freelance writing business like a business. Which is what you have to do if you want it to pay your bills.

Setting goals creates deadlines — something freelance writers understand. Start making your own deadlines your top priority, over any current deadlines you have for others. In the long run, they’re even more important.

Setting goals doesn’t mean carving anything in stone. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities that crop up, that might change my direction. If you’ve been trying one approach a long time and nothing’s happening, it may be time to try a new angle.

Stay flexible — but have a game plan to start.

The most important goals

Here are the three questions I like to ask writers about goals:

Where would you like to see your freelance-writing business five years from now?

One year from now?

Next month?

You need a big picture and a near-term picture. Then it’s time to break it down into a to-do list for this month. What, specifically, do you think you could realistically get accomplished in the next 30 days that would move your writing career forward?

I find the one-month span allows you to avoid overwhelm — after all, it’s only 30 days, so you can only do so much. It frees you to find small steps you can take to try a new marketing angle, get a writing project finished, send a query.

Ultimately, that’s the most important step to take — break down your freelance-writing dream into some actionable, simple steps you can accomplish right away. Then next month, do that again.

Keep doing it until you’re earning what you want.

If you have trouble sticking to it, find a writer’s group, a friend, or a mentor who will hold you accountable for meeting your goals.

You know what’s coming next:

What’s your goal for this month for your freelance writing business? Leave a comment and let us know.


  1. Ruth Ekblom

    It is strange how these things happen. On my list of things to do today is: revisit goals and create a weekly plan from them.

    I agree with everyone, that without goals it is so easy to float along, and reach the end of the day without having achieved anything worthwhile. I find goal setting quite challenging, and keeping myself to them is even harder. I think the idea of finding a fellow small business owner who would also benefit from goals, and becoming each other’s accountability factor is good.

    My goals for this month therefore:
    1. To identify my short, medium and long term goals
    2. To find an accountability buddy
    3. To complete proofreading the autobiography I am working on
    4. To complete the children’s novel I am writing – just two more chapters to go, then it will need editing!

    • Carol Tice

      Those seem like great goals, Ruth. Best of luck on the novel…wish I could ever get to my fiction ideas!

  2. Krissy Brady, Writer

    I agree that goal setting is so important! It gives you that extra drive to succeed, and I find that it helps me to set aside fears completely, as I am focusing on a target.

    This month, I will be writing an essay and submitting it to an anthology, and will be completing a book review in hopes for it to be published in a literary magazine (it’s currently on spec, so we’ll see how it goes).

    I also went a little nutty, and I decided to take part in the Script Frenzy Challenge, Poem A Day Challenge, and the Ultimate Blog Challenge. It’s giving me the opportunity to catch up on creative writing I had to put on the backburner when my computer crashed last month. I love drowning in my writing! It’s an amazing feeling. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like a lot of free challenges there all at once. I wouldn’t have tried so many, personally! Don’t forget to leave room for the money-earning stuff…

  3. Carol Tice

    My own goals for this month:

    Meet all my assigned article and blogging deadlines (afraid I’m already behind on this and had to get extensions from a couple folks…but it’s cool so far).

    Learn a couple new WP plug-ins for managing affiliates and monthly membership communities.

    Work on script for my mentoring-in-a-box planned video/workbook product.

    Work on new draft for copywriting ebook and deliver to designer.

    Get my butt to SOBCon on 4/28!

  4. Linda

    Goals for the (rest of the month)

    1. Make deadlines for five assigned print media articles without stressing myself out at the last minute. (Read: use good time management.)
    2. Connect with more bloggers at A-List Blogging (just joined) and start a blueprint for my own blog.
    3. Write bio and updated example paqe of my work.
    4. Pitch to two new outlets, at least one national.
    5. Take a break from the computer twice a day and walk around the block.

  5. L.C. Gant

    Wonderful post! Goal setting is such a critical part of what we do, both as writers and business owners. Thanks for the reminder; it is always needed ๐Ÿ™‚

    My goals for April are the following:
    – Post twice per week on my blog
    – Complete weekly updates for my website
    – Write and send out at least 1 new query per week
    – Continue marketing on various social networks, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook

    I like Linda’s idea of joining a small business blog and commenting regularly to drive traffic her way. Brilliant! Hope she doesn’t mind if I give it a try? I can use all the great ideas I can get ๐Ÿ™‚

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