I mentioned the other day that I was doing my quarterly planning, and a ton of people wrote in asking for more… so here it is! Quarterly planning for freelance writers.
Freelance writers need goals, too–they’re not just for big companies. (We need to eat, y’all!)
But don’t let the terms bore you. Goal setting and quarterly planning are basically fancy ways of saying “figure out where you want to go and then figure out how you’re gonna get there.”
In this post, I break down my annual planning and quarterly planning methods to help you set and reach your own goals. This is something you can start doing TODAY, no matter what week or month of the year it is.
Establish the Big Picture First
You have to know what your big picture goal is first, before you can break it down. Remember, this is your big picture goal, not anyone else’s. That’s part of the beauty of being a freelancer!
Do you have an income goal? A new project you want to work on? Something you want to make or someone you want to work with?
Write down what your big goal or goals are, most likely for the coming year. Once you have these, you can filter down.
Break it Down
Then break your big goal down by quarter, and next by month. Or just piece it up by month right away if that works better for your particular goal.
The main thing is to set benchmarks for each quarter (or month) that will help you achieve your annual goal. No worries, I’m going to give you a few examples below, once you understand the whole framework.
If you’ve done quarterly benchmarks, next break those into monthly benchmarks. Yes, this might take a bit of time, but I promise it’s worth it!
Slice It Even Smaller
In order for you to wrap your head around your big goal in your regular life, you need to slice your broken down pieces even smaller. (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Drum roll, please…)
You’ll want to break down your monthly targets by week. Then for each week, you can plan your very important tasks (VITs, for short) according to the monthly target. Your VITs are what’s necessary to move you forward towards your annual goal. You want to make sure that you accomplish those tasks, if nothing else.
So, when you make your daily “To-Do” list, it should include your VITs. Don’t do stuff that doesn’t move you ahead.
If there’s too much on your plate, you should outsource the routine work to a virtual assistant as soon as you’re making a steady income. You can read about how that’s actually doable for a freelance writer in my post here.
Example 1: An Income Goal
For an income goal, you’d ask yourself how much money you need to make in a year. Then:
- Break the annual number down to a monthly number.
- Break the monthly number down to a weekly number.
- How many of (your work) will you need to do to hit that? For example, how many blog posts?
- Now you know you need to find the number of blog posts per week or month.
Your next plan is to figure out HOW to land that work.
If you’re sending cold emails or pitching job boards, you have some metrics you can check. Otherwise, take stock of how you’ve found any clients thus far, and think about ways to do more of that.
Maybe one of your goals needs to be setting up a system for tracking pitches, coming up with ideas, and following up. (It shouldn’t take more than a week to come up with the first iteration of this system, then you can start building data to use for future goal-setting.)
Example 2: An Effort Goal
If you’re stuck and have nothing to go on yet, switch gears and set your goals for effort. (“A” for effort!)
Project how many cold emails you’ll send, or the number of helpful comments you’ll leave in relevant Facebook groups. Calculate the number of contacts you can make on LinkedIn. How many posts can you publish on your blog? (Keep this number lower than you might think!).
You can write down the number of hours you’ll spend per week actively hunting for clients. Or the number of hours you’ll spend practicing the craft.
My suggestion on this one is to split your time: 60% marketing, 30% practicing, 10% setting up your business/systems.
Example 3: A Project Goal
If your business is in growth mode, it might make more sense to focus on quarterly planning.
For quarterly planning, pick ONE major project to work on. This might be putting up your writer’s website or learning a new skill and breaking into a new market. Make it one thing that feels like a major step.
Then break down your milestones by month. Maybe Month 1 is training and info gathering, Month 2 is practice and prep, and Month 3 is building and launching.
For putting up your writer’s website:
- Month 1 is deciding what you want to be in your website;
- Month 2 is looking for the themes, plugins, and working on the copy; and
- Month 3 is actually building it and launching it.
For breaking into a new industry:
- Month 1 is identifying the direction, buying the course and/or book, and working through the material;
- Month 2 is continuing through the material, doing your sample(s), updating your portfolio, and developing contacts; and
- Month 3 is actively marketing yourself for your first client.
If you have any questions about how to do goal setting and planning for your own business, I recommend that you come into my free Facebook group. Let’s talk about it!
Post what your goals are, ask a question about where you’re stuck or where you’re not clear. For example, “This is my goal, but I’m not sure how to break it down.” Let’s talk about it over in the Facebook group.
If you need clips to round out your portfolio to help you reach your income goals, be sure and check out Clips Camp.
It’s my three-week course for new and advanced-new freelance writers who want to get started with high-paid client work. If you’re on Upwork or Fiverr and are miserable, or if you haven’t even done anything to get started and you don’t know what the first step is, Clips Camp is for you.
I teach you how to put together a solid portfolio of writing samples that position you as the kind of awesome writer that awesome clients want to hire. So if you want in on that or you just want more information, go to clipscamp.com and I’ll see you on the inside!