Writing Goals Reboot: 4 Moves to Fast-Track Freelance Success

Carol Tice

Remember those writing goals you set at the beginning of the year?

How’s it going? A lot has changed since COVID-19 turned the economy upside down, closing businesses, causing layoffs, and putting some freelance niches into a tailspin.

Crazy, right?

It might feel like you’re surrounded by uncertainty, but it’s hardly the time to hunker down, do nothing, and hope you magically achieve those writing goals.

Quite the opposite, actually.

Now IS the perfect time to take a look at those writing goals.

Get this right, and you can be a successful freelance writer EVEN during a recession.

Here’s the thing…a lot of freelancers get the whole writing-goals thing all wrong. And it can kill creativity, crush your confidence, and make you second-guess every move you make to move up and earn more.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. When you learn how to set the right kind of writing goals, you’re creating a pathway to success that you can control.

Ready to reboot your writing goals? These four moves will show you how.

First, ask yourself this simple question:

Are you setting goals for your freelance writing business?

I strongly recommend you do. But more than that, you need to set good goals.

  • What makes a good goal for a freelance writer?

It’s a question that’s been getting a lot of buzz in the Freelance Writers Den and with some of my coaching students.

Here’s an example of a writing goal one freelancer proposed:

“I will land and complete my first paid freelance writing gig by June 1, 2020.”

Now, that is certainly a great thing to aspire to — to break in and get that first clip all in about 5 weeks flat.


This is not a good goal


This goal is not within the writer’s control.

You might wish it, but you cannot make it happen. You can market your little fanny off, and:

  • Send queries
  • Write letters of introduction
  • Network like mad
  • Tap your social-media connections

But it might take 60 or 120 days to start paying off.

What if this writer got an assignment, but the deadline is June 30? Is she now a failure because she did not meet her goal? I would want her to feel totally victorious, but setting this bad goal would steal that victory away and make her feel “behind” in her timetable.

What makes a good writing goal? Here are my 4 requirements:

1. Be realistic

You want to get at least most of your writing goals accomplished, not hit the end of the month and have nothing you can check off. That’s depressing.

You want to build a sense of accomplishment here. So the first step in goal-setting is to look at the month ahead and what is planned:

  • Is freelancing a side hustle while you still work a day job?
  • Are you trying to work at home with kids around?
  • How much time do you need to manage other priorities in your life?

Get real about what you can get done in this specific month, given your life circumstances.

2. Prioritize

When you look at your wish list of what you might do to market your business, which items have the most potential to bring you the best-paying sort of clients?

Those are the ones to put at the top of your list…not the ones that seem easiest.

That’s why checking Craigslist ads, job boards, content mills, and bid sites should be on the bottom of your freelance marketing list, if it appears at all.

3. Keep it simple

Keep your writing goals uncomplicated and straightforward. Here’s a good and bad example:


“I will send 10 letters of introduction.”

Keep it simple. See how easy that is? Set writing goals you can measure based on your effort.

Bad (too complicated)

“I will send 10 unique marketing emails to prospects with income over $500 million.”

This writing goal has too many rules:

  • What if you see a prospect that’s a perfect fit for your interests, but only $100 million in revenue and you want to email them? You should, but detailed rules like these might discourage you from pitching that prospect.
  • What if you find another prospect where a virtually identical letter might work?

Don’t talk yourself out of doing marketing that might pay off in a perfectly nice client by throwing up too many parameters.

4. Set writing goals you can control

Focus your goals on what YOU can do to forward your career, not what you’d like the universe to give you back.

All we can do as freelance writers is put it out there, and keep trying different approaches until we see what hits.

But I can tell you, I know few writers who actively market their business who don’t see results fairly soon. So focus on your actions — they will pay off.

Writing goals for freelance success

After talking about my philosophy of goal-setting with the writer who share her plan to get her first gig by June, she revised it to this:

1. Get my writer website/blog up and running.

2. Make contact (either by email, LOI, phone or in person) with 50 potential clients.

3. Write every day.

You can see that these are all achievable writing goals that should move the writer closer to her dream of getting a paying assignment and turning it in. I love that her list isn’t too long.

At the end of the month, hopefully she can check them all off, feel like she’s making progress, and move on to new marketing goals.

Keep that up, and your end goal of finding more and better-paying work is going to happen.

What do your writing goals looks like? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Free E-Book for Writers: Recession-Proof Freelancer: A 12-Point Plan for Thriving in Hard Times. MakeaLivingWriting.com


  1. Ubai

    Keeping it simple is the key, not only for setting writing goals but for life too.
    During these trying times, life seems to have become complicated. But if we break things down into smaller manageable chunks, then they are easy to swallow and deal with.
    Thanks for the practical and inspiring piece.

  2. Lyn Marler


    I”ll admit, I loved “cartoon Carol! ”

    The color of the new tab panel and the simplicity is a great look as well.

    Looks like I walked into a lively discussion today.! I’m staying away from that one.

    So, as a short term goal, I set a monthly goal of something I’m pretty uncomfortable doing. This month that goal is 20 pitches to sites I’ve never pitched before.

    This gives me a sense of accomplishment for long term reward.


    Lyn Marler

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like a good plan, Lyn!

      I obviously loved being a cartoon… but its time is now over. Everything must be refreshed at some point! I think cartoon me was more appropriate when I wrote every post on this blog. Now, I write some, but host many great guest posts too, so I think the new look reflects that better.

  3. Amy Carpenter-Driscoll

    These are great reminders! It’s very important to reassess our goals and adjust them if they aren’t working. Also, setting yourself up for success is critical. Setting SMART goals is the only way I can break down my great big dreams and aspirations into achievable chunks.

    In addition to my writing goals, some of my current goals revolve around creating the right conditions for me to be able to successfully work. My family’s schedules have changed drastically since the pandemic struck, and we’re striving to create a good rhythm. Goals like “schedule on-duty and off-duty toddler parenting time with my partner” help me block off time to write.

  4. Karen

    Before we knock those affirmations and visualizations Jim is talking about, let’s understand that there are writers out there who can’t set and follow a goal to save their lives. And instead of despairing and beating myself over the head about it, I’d try all the great suggestions made in this blog. But fact is, these may not be enough to get me to act. For someone with crippling fears and chronic imposter syndrome, these additional tactics posed by Jim could very well work. Different strokes for different folks. The important thing is for the writer to make the distinction between goal setting and execution, visualizations and affirmations, understand the purposes of each and use them as he/she would tools in a toolbox or in a sewing kit. It may take one tool to get the job done for you, but for me, I may need all the tools to get the same job done. Let’s not forget that.

    • Carol Tice

      I guess these aren’t the sort of affirmations I’m used to — I think of ones that remind me of the positive strengths I have, the actions I’m taking. Rather than make-believe. But I guess if that works for you, go for it!

  5. Jim McCarthy

    Good info on goals! In addition, one thing I’ve always found helpful is to create at least one Affirmation related to each goal, both to keep focused on that goal and to mentally prepare for its achievement.
    1. A goal is a written statement of results to be achieved, by when, and at what cost.
    2. An affirmation is a positive recognition of that goal’s achievement, stated in the present tense, as though you are already enjoying the fruits of that goal.
    e.g. GOAL: ” Get my writer website up and running.”
    AFFIRMATION: “My website is humming, and my list is growing, daily. . . ”
    Good affirmations for newbies suffering from “Imposter syndrome,” might be something like ,
    “I’m worthy to receive anything that I want,” or,
    “My tweets are being retweeted at an incredible rate. . . ”
    Once you get comfortable with affirmations, the next step is “visualizations.” When you can “See” yourself in that affirmation, you’ve nailed that goal!

    • Carol Tice

      I don’t know… these ‘affirmations’ sound a lot like they might be lies to me, Jim, unless your tweets ARE being retweeted. I don’t think pretending you’re getting great results is affirmation… it’s delusion.

      Instead of stuff that’s made up, I think more productive affirmations would focus on what you are accomplishing and are ABLE to do, within your sphere of control. “I am keeping to my marketing schedule, and that will help my work get noticed.” Things that are true and positive make affirmations, to me.

    • Jim McCarthy

      Not lies, Carol, “visualization” is rather the process of recognizing (imagining?) yourself as if you have already
      achieved a goal. Little girls with doll houses do that all the time, so do young executives who carry a copy of “Dress for Success” in their briefcases.

    • kls

      I’m happy for you, Jim McCarthy, that your visualizations and affirmations work for you. The process works for Jack Nicklaus, too, and he recommends picturing your golf shot before you hit it. Success!

      For him, that is. Ah, the magnificent shots I visualized! Ish, the pathetic shots I hit!

      Go ahead, can envision and affirm till the cows come home. And please clarify what “little girls with doll houses” have to do with goal setting.

    • kls

      Oops! Go ahead AND envision, not “can envision.” Sorry.

    • Carol Tice

      No problem, Karen — remember, you’re covered under my Universal Blog Comment Typo Forgiveness insurance policy!

    • Jim McCarthy

      Little boys wear cowboy hats and little girls play(ed?) with paper dolls, both visualizing themselves in more adult roles in later life, don’t they?

    • Carol Tice

      I guess I think of children playing ‘let’s pretend’ as different from adults trying to achieve goals…but if it works for you, go for it.

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