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Business Planning for Writers – A Guest Article

planbookOriginally called Write Your Own Reality Business Plans for Writers this guest article by Devon Ellington is a great way to start to shape your goals and planning.

Focus. Commitment. Desire. These are the three touchstones necessary for success as a working writer.

But what is the definition of “success”? How do you cut through the “have-tos” of life, both personal and professional, to leave room for the “want-tos”?

To one person, “success” means hitting The New York TimesBestseller List. To someone else, it means paying the bills. To a third person, it means a story published in a literary magazine that pays in contributor copies. There’s room for every definition of success – but the individual has to make their own, singular definition. How? Write your definition down!.

Plan Your Writing Business for Success

A business plan is vital, but to get to the business plan, it’s necessary to ask questions that affect the practical, the emotional, and the spiritual.

That’s where a list of questions to evaluate one’s goals, dreams and resolutions is useful. The need to create a focused plan for the coming year, to sort out projects and priorities, and to have something more definite to work towards than just “making a living as a writer” fashioned the questions below to act as a catalyst for reflection and an aid to define the coming year. To me, a goal is different from a dream, which is different from a resolution. How often do we make New Year’s Resolutions only to break them within a few days? By itemizing what we desire, we can write them into reality. A ”goal” is a practical, tangible objective I wish to achieve. A “dream” is something that seems farther away and is more ambiguous. A “resolution” is a way to live my life that will help bring the dream closer into focus as a goal.

Starting Point for Writing Dreams

The following questions are a starting point to help formulate goals, dreams, and resolutions. Feel free to add or subtract other ideas relevant to your own life.

  • Where do you want to be with your writing in the long-term?
  • Where are you with your writing now?
  • What project did you leave unfinished last year that you need to finish for your own peace of mind?
  • What creative goals do you want to achieve over the next year?
  • What financial goals do you want to achieve over the next year? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? (Note: Feel free to keep this number private, but you should set one).
  • What steps do you see necessary in your life to achieve these goals?
  • What will make you refer to yourself, first and foremost, as “writer”?
  • What steps do you need to take on the technical front to achieve your goals (such as improving spelling, grammar, and a general widening of skills)?
  • What steps do you need to take on the creative front to achieve your goals?
  • What changes do you need to make in your daily life (interaction with friends, family, job) to make this work?
  • What marketing steps do you need to achieve your goals?
  • How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?
  • With what new type of writing will you experiment in the coming year?
  • What new non-writing interest do you wish to add to your life this year?

Take your time with these questions. Wrestle with them. There’s nothing wrong with coming up with a series of widely different answers and then narrowing them down to what you really want and need.

From the information discovered in the process, you can make a list for yourself of your resolutions – ways to live your life as an all-around person that will support your desires. You can list your dreams – long-term desires that might not have completely formulated yet. And you can list your goals – the daily work that will bring you closer to the resolutions and the dreams.


As life is a work in progress, so is this process. Revisit it often during the year. Reward yourself for your achievements. Re-evaluate and see where your life has changed. Perhaps there are things on the initial list that are no longer of value. It’s okay to cross something off or decide that something you thought you wanted is no longer important. That’s not failure – it’s intelligence. And remember to build in activities that are removed from writing and bring other joys. Why be a freelance writer on your own schedule if you’re going to build yourself into the same box as if you worked for a corporation? Freedom, creativity and discipline are the foundations of a freelance life. Think of the questions as a guidebook of possibilities to make your journey as joyful as your destination.

Devon Ellington’s website is www.devonellingtonwork.com and her blog on the writing life is http://devonellington.wordpress.com/.

~~~~~~~

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

resolutions is useful. The need to create a focused plan for the coming year, to sort out projects and priorities, and to have something more definite to work towards than just “making a living as a writer” fashioned the questions below to act as a catalyst for reflection and an aid to define the coming year. To me, a goal is different from a dream, which is different from a resolution. How often do we make New Year’s Resolutions only to break them within a few days? By itemizing what we desire, we can write them into reality. A ”goal” is a practical, tangible objective I wish to achieve. A “dream” is something that seems farther away and is more ambiguous. A “resolution” is a way to live my life that will help bring the dream closer into focus as a goal.
Starting Point for Writing Dreams
The following questions are a starting point to help formulate goals, dreams, and resolutions. Feel free to add or subtract other ideas relevant to your own life.
Where do you want to be with your writing in the long-term?
Where are you with your writing now?
What project did you leave unfinished last year that you need to finish for your own peace of mind?
What creative goals do you want to achieve over the next year?
What financial goals do you want to achieve over the next year? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? (Note: Feel free to keep this number private, but you should set one).
What steps do you see necessary in your life to achieve these goals?
Each month, pick one step and work on it.
What will make you refer to yourself, first and foremost, as “writer”?
What steps do you need to take on the technical front to achieve your goals (such as improving spelling, grammar, and a general widening of skills)?
What steps do you need to take on the creative front to achieve your goals?
What changes do you need to make in your daily life (interaction with friends, family, job) to make this work?
What marketing steps do you need to achieve your goals?
How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?
With what new type of writing will you experiment in the coming year?
What new non-writing interest do you wish to add to your life this year?
Take your time with these questions. Wrestle with them. There’s nothing wrong with coming up with a series of widely different answers and then narrowing them down to what you really want and need.
From the information discovered in the process, you can make a list for yourself of your resolutions – ways to live your life as an all-around person that will support your desires. You can list your dreams – long-term desires that might not have completely formulated yet. And you can list your goals – the daily work that will bring you closer to the resolutions and the dreams.
As life is a work in progress, so is this process. Revisit it often during the year. Reward yourself for your achievements. Re-evaluate and see where your life has changed. Perhaps there are things on the initial list that are no longer of value. It’s okay to cross something off or decide that something you thought you wanted is no longer important. That’s not failure – it’s intelligence. And remember to build in activities that are removed from writing and bring other joys. Why be a freelance writer on your own schedule if you’re going to build yourself into the same box as if you worked for a corporation? Freedom, creativity and discipline are the foundations of a freelance life. Think of the questions as a guidebook of possibilities to make your journey as joyful as your destination.
Devon Ellington writes three serials for www.keepitcoming.net and is a regular contributor on hockey and horse racing to www.femmefan.com Her website is www.devonellingtonwork.com and her blog on the writing life is http://inkinmycoffee.blogspot.com.
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Jamie

    Great post & info; I’ll definitely be asking myself these questions as the new year approaches!

    P.S.- I love this website!

    • Anne

      Glad you find the site helpful

  • Common business sense 101 🙂

    The “reward yourself” factor is something I’ve long believed in. For me, rewarding myself has always been with plenty of international trips every year, starting when I was 19 years old. With a decade of traveling underneath my belt, I’ve always tried to go to a couple of places every year, minimum. My wife and I have been blessed enough in the past few years to up that to 5-6 trips a year.

    The importance of rewarding yourself is to keep your own morale high. The higher your morale, the better your productivity, and the better your productivity the better your income. Not to mention, your personal health and well-being are tied directly into how well you “feel” about yourself. Keeping a positive outlook is paramount, and rewarding yourself for milestones is a perfect way to keep on track.

    I’m also a big fan of expensive wines, good books, movies, and dinners out with the wife . I reward myself at least twice a week on a regular basis 😉
    .-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..The niches you didn’t even know you had =-.

    • Anne

      kayaking is one of my rewards

  • Wendy

    Wow, Thanks for this Devon. There’s a lot more there than I ever thought about. Definitely will be keeping this in mind for the coming year’s goals.

  • I especially like the “revisit often” notion. I revisit once a month. It really does help keep you on track.
    .-= Lori´s last blog ..The Lost Art of Competence =-.

    • Anne

      Yes, I now use an accountability partner… oh… I feel a new post coming on.

  • Anne

    great group of resources there

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