1. Get a jump on your taxes. I never wait until April to do my taxes. I like to figure out my gross income and calculate a rough estimate of my net income before the end of the year. Then I send that number to my accountant for an estimate of what I'll owe. Sometimes the number is scary, but I'd rather know that going into the new year than wait and be surprised sometime in 2014. And besides, I use that tax figure to help determine how much I put in my SEP, or self-employment plan, at year's end.
2. Invest in your career. You can write off legitimate business expenses before the end of 2013, so this is the time to upgrade your computer, purchase software, buy writing-related books (like, gosh, I don't know, Six-Figure Freelancing, Second Edition or Goodbye Byline, Hello Big Bucks, Second Edition! ), and other work-related products. I just stocked up on printer cartridges and paid for my annual membership to ASJA. Every work-related expense reduces your tax liability come 2014. (And see below for the half-price offer in Improvise Press' first two titles.)
3. Review your year. Every year, I clarify where my money came from. I usually send a holiday card and/or gift to my "whales," or most important clients. I also look for "lessons." Did I take on any projects that turned out to pay a lower hourly rate than I expected? Are clients asking for me to do work I need to gain more experience with? Did I have a steady stream of work, or was I facing a "feast-or-famine" scenario much of the year--like this one? What was the most worthwhile work I did? Which work paid the best? Which seems to have the most potential? Is there any kind of work I want to cut from my roster?
4. Set goals for the coming year. If, like many serious freelancers, you set an annual income goal, don't forget to calculate your daily nut. My goal in 2014 is to make $60,000, which means an average of $250/day. Average that figure throughout the year of 2014 and you'll meet your new income goal. Think about the other objectives you have as well. Do you want to branch into content marketing this year? (That's one of my goals.) Do you want to become an e-book author? Is this the year you get serious about writing fiction? Should you spend more time on social media--or at least use it more effectively? Decide what your goals are, and put them in writing.
5. Take time off. Every year, I take the week between Christmas and New Year's as vacation. Before I had kids, I used this week to sleep in, spend time with my husband, watch movies, and set goals for the coming year. I even read for pleasure! Gasp! Now with the kids much of my week is spent entertaining small children, but I do take some off during this week--and just as important, I'm planning when I'll take time off in 2014.
Too often as freelancers we wind up working all the time--nights, weekends, first thing in the morning--and that's a recipe for burnout. I know I'm more productive when I get away from my computer, so I give myself at least one day (usually Saturday or Sunday) where I do no work at all except for checking my email first thing in the morning. Unplug yourself on a regular basis. I promise it's worth it.
Readers, I hope 2013 has been a successful, productive year for you. If not, focus on 2014, and tune in next year for more practical, proven advice about how to make more money in less time as a freelance writer. And comment below to tell me what topics you'd like to see me cover here in coming posts!
Finally, there's less than 48 hours left on my half-price offer on print editions of Improvise Press' first two titles: Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets or Six-Figure Freelancing: The Writer's Guide to Making More Money, Second Edition. Until midnight on December 31, 2013, you'll get half off both titles when you order directly through ImprovisePress.com and use the discount code CHICKENS.