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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Why You Need Two Kinds of Goals--and How to Set Them

Last post, I talked about revisiting your year before you set your new annual goals. Once you know where you’ve been, you can start thinking about where you want to go.

Take time to consider what types of work you want to focus on, what kinds of markets and clients you want to pursue, and how you’ll spend your time—for example, how much time you’ll devote to querying new markets versus working on current assignments.

If you’re a relatively new writer who has never set a specific writing goal, make 2011 the year you start. When it comes to lifestyle behavior changes (think losing weight, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking), loads of research proves that people who set specific goals achieve greater success and are more likely to stick with their behavior changes than those who don’t set goals.

Setting goals forces you to take a closer look at your writing priorities, and get a handle on what’s really important to you. Writers who have heard me speak know that I divide goals into two types—overall, or “outcome” goals and production, or “performance” goals. Overall goals tend to be biggies—you know, like writing a novel, finding a publisher for your nonfiction book project, or finally ditching your day job to freelance fulltime.

The problem with outcome goals is that they don’t help you actually achieve your aim. That’s where performance, or production goals, come in. They’re the actionable goals that move you toward your overall or outcome goal. To be effective, they should be “SMART,” or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based.

For example, my income goal for the coming year is to make $60,000. That’s my overall goal. My performance goal is to make $250/day for 240 days/year, working an average of 15 hours/week. (This figure also fits with the average rate of $100/hour I try to maintain, and is realistic considering what I made in 2010 and the types of work I do.) Get it?

Think both big (your long-term aims) and small (e.g., meeting your daily nut)when you’re setting goals. After you’ve decided what they are, write them down, and track your progress in the coming weeks.

If one of your goals is more difficult to quantify than a simple income goal—say, getting more work published in national magazines—your performance goals might include researching a certain number of new markets each month, querying a certain number of editors each week, and sending follow-ups letters to editors who haven’t responded in a certain period of time.

Regardless, your goals should reflect your overall objectives as a freelancer. Don’t be afraid to tweak them throughout the year as your circumstances change. Smart goals give you a roadmap to follow, but you can always choose to take a different route to your destination.

Readers, if you’re up for it, share one or more of your goals here—and I may address them in future blog posts.

Finally, here comes a plug for my books. Want to make 2011 the year you double your income—or simply work more efficiently and make more as a freelancer? I've got books to help you do so.

I promise if you read any (or all three) of my writing-related books and follow their advice, you’ll see a marked difference in your freelance success and your bottom line. If you've done so already, I'd love to hear about your experience here!

Commercial over. Happy 2011 a few days early, and happy freelancing to all of my readers.


  1. I plan to split 2011 right down the middle. I have a goal to earn "x" during the first six months, then increase that amount for the remaining six months as I pick up steam. I'll be focusing on fleshing out my queries with more research and sending out letters of introduction to new markets. And hopefully my website will be up!
    By the way, thanks for your blog, Kelly. You do keep me motivated.

  2. Great article and perfect timing!

    If you'd like more tips, examples or worksheets you will find plenty at:

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Leigh. You have a good idea about a higher goal for the second half of the year; hopefully you'll be spending less time marketing yourself and more time working on assignment during the second six months, thanks to your pitching in the first six. Make sense? :)

    And I'm glad you're finding the blog motivating! :)

  4. Kelly, You shared this concept in your tele-conference you had a while back and it really helped me to change my focus. Thanks for putting it in writing so I have something to reference to.

  5. This is a great post. I am so new at this that it seems difficult to set income goals. But setting a goal for sending out queries or researching new markets might be just the ticket for me. For certain one of my goals for early January is to get my writing life and ideas more organized. I received your ghostwriting book as a Christmas present. I still have a long way to go to get to that point, but I feel like it has given me some direction.

    Have a great new year!

  6. Thanks, Carol, and Laura! Laura, I hope you find Goodbye Byline helpful--let me know if you have any questions about ghostwriting/coauthoring after you read it. :)

    Happy 2011! :)

  7. Great points, Kelly. I'm working on my freelancing goals today...always exciting.

    Since I'll be focusing more on my fiction in 2011, I really need to map out my plan of which freelance markets I'll still be targeting, and how much time (and anticipated income) I can allocate to these ventures.

    Happy 2011 to you! Wishing you all the best~