Freelancing: Getting Started and Setting Goals

I posted last week about, among other things, my decision to start a freelance business, and many of my family and friends got in touch to express their support. Seriously, can I take a moment to thank the people who read this blog? People I haven’t seen in years have sent me messages, commented on my posts and shared links on social media just to let me know they care about my journey and appreciate the updates. It means so much to me to hear that you guys enjoy reading my blog – it’s honestly the highest compliment in the world. SO THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!!

Now that I’m officially going freelance, there’s a lot to get done. Many, many people pursue full-time freelance writing and quickly decide that they’d rather enjoy the comfort and security of a full-time job. I’m not going to close any doors for myself; if the right 9-to-5 turns up, I’m probably not going to say no. But for now, I’m going to focus on building a list of clients, which will afford me the flexibility to travel, make my own decisions (to an extent) about what I publish, and eventually allow me to be financially solvent again.

Here’s an abridged version of what’s to come in this post: I already have a few clients … maybe enough to pay rent in a not-too-expensive city. But that’s about it. I’m not yet earning enough to pay for, you know, food, my Verizon bill, an internet connection or my Birchbox subscription. (The basics, obviously.) If this is going to work out, I need to quadruple my income within the next few months. I’m currently focusing on setting some concrete goals and finding steady work. If you’re interested in reading about my thought process and how I’m planning to do all of this, read on!

Learning from the past

Let it be admitted loud and clear: I’ve made grand plans to go freelance before. Historically, I’ve done this in moments of desperation, like when I got laid-off from my first job out of college when I was 22. When I’ve attempted this in the past, I’ve eventually given up and found an office job.

I think it’s important to take a look back at my past forays into freelancing so that I can avoid making similar mistakes this time around – and there are a few behaviors that I can see, in retrospect, stood in my way of success:

Not having a plan: As I mentioned, most of my attempts at freelancing have gone awry partially because they were done out of desperation. When suddenly faced with having to pay rent while simultaneously not having a job, it’s easy to throw your hat in the freelancing ring, however optimistically, in a misguided manner.

This can apply to other kinds of situations, too. For example, when I announced that I was planning to run the Auckland Half-Marathon, I did so without checking to see if spots were still available (they weren’t) and without considering that training so late in the game might be bad for my health (it was).

Quitting too soon: This is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve thrown in the towel on professional goals too quickly in the past. Some of this can be attributed to needing to pay bills, but luckily, I don’t have that worry this time around (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

Making excuses: In a recent conversation, someone was giving me some friendly advice on how to approach the whole freelancing situation. I realized that as he spoke, I kept rattling off a list of excuses for why I wasn’t putting a lot of effort into my blog or my work-seeking. So. Many. Excuses.

This is something I’ve noticed around me in other people, too. Guys – we make a lot of excuses to avoid taking responsibility for our own success. I’ve decided to stop doing this. Right here, right now.

Not believing in myself: This is another habit that I’m going to put to rest. One of the potential downsides of being an optimist is that you naturally want (and often try) to do everything under the sun – and realistically, some things aren’t going to work out. When those disappointments start adding up, it’s easy to get discouraged.

Case in point, take a look at the first post I ever published on this blog. Looking at the language I used, it’s clear that I was scared I wouldn’t be able to keep up with regular posting. I didn’t believe in myself or my ability to follow through. Without having faith in ourselves, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to push hard enough to achieve success in our endeavors. I am completely capable of creating whatever kind of career I want. I just have to do it.

Setting goals

Now, all the good intentions in the world won’t make a difference if I don’t do the work. Getting myself mentally psyched for this new chapter is just the beginning. I also need to set realistic, concrete goals that will allow me to grow personally and professionally.

I’ve decided to set daily and weekly goals, as well as long-term ones. My daily goals, thus far, have looked a lot like to-do lists, but that’s fine with me. I’ve been using the Todoist app to track my daily goals, and the app has worked great for me so far.

My weekly goals are a little more nuanced – though to be fair, this is the first week I’ve made them. I’ve decided to write these down in my journal, as I feel like they command a little more respect than an app can give (What can I say? I’m a sucker for pen and paper). Here’s what my list of goals looked like this week:

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Rachel Aust, a successful Aussie blogger and YouTube vlogger whose channel I really love, has some cool advice for goal setting that I’ve decided to follow. In addition to separating her goals into categories like I have, she recommends making your goals very actionable and concrete. As an example, rather than saying “I want to get toned and lose weight,” your goal should be “I want to bench press 120 pounds by March” or “I want to run 3 miles every Monday, Thursday and Saturday morning.”

In my case, for example, rather than setting a goal to simply blog regularly, I’m setting a goal to publish one post per week, on Wednesday afternoons. Other goals related to blogging include making a list of blog topics (check!), researching photography techniques for the iPhone (check, though I still need to do more work on this) and taking notes about my favorite bloggers’ sites in order to build my own content strategy (easy check … I love reading blogs). Moving forward, I’m going to use the latter half of my Monday and Tuesday afternoons to write and edit each blog post that will go to the presses on Wednesdays.

Finally, I have some long-term goals that I want to accomplish. I’m still trying to decide if I should put a time frame on these goals. On the one hand, I imagine it’s good to have an idea of how long it should take to achieve each goal; on the other hand, I don’t want to be completely discouraged if building my own business takes longer than expected. This is, after all, new to me. If you have advice on whether or not I should add deadlines to these goals, let me know! I’d appreciate your advice.

My long-term goals

  • Increase my freelance income by 400% (this sounds like a big leap, but I really only have two steady clients right now, and plenty of time on my hands).
  • Post to my blog once each week.
  • Re-design this blog so that it’s a personal website, rather than an online journal.
  • Submit at least one story per month to an outside, non-client website, such Elephant Journal or MindBodyGreen.

So, that’s what’s on my plate in the near future. As I said, I certainly won’t rule out the idea of an office job if the right one does come around – but first, I’m going to give this a try!

 

 

 

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