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So… What Do You Really Want?

setting writing goalsThe end of one year and the beginning of the next is a great time for some introspection. When it comes to your freelance writing career setting goals makes sense, with  a major caveat:

You’ve got to be specific, set a time, and believe you can achieve it.

It’s so easy to set a goal of something like “I want to earn a million dollars this year from writing.” Sure, who doesn’t. But most of us don’t really want a million dollars. What we want is the results we think having a million dollars would do for us. And most of us, in our heart of hearts don’t believe we can have a million dollars.

Get Specific With Your Goals

Goals need to be specific. Wanting a million dollars isn’t specific enough for most people. The actual results are likely to get better results.

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For example that million bucks might mean any or all of these to you:

  • Buy a home
  • Buy a hybrid car
  • Replace my computer
  • Send your kids to college
  • Go to the South Pacific
  • Go on a two-week writing retreat
  • Break the $100,000 barrier in our writing income

The first thing to notice is these goals are specific. In fact, they should be even more specific. For me, buy a hybrid car would probably read buy a used Civic Hybrid.

As you get more specific you’ll also find it easier to see if a particular goal is something you really want or if it’s just a notion. If it’s a notion, don’t try to turn it into a goal; you’ll only be disappointed. I actually keep a notion list and find that some of those things disappear while others turn into goals.

Goals Need A Time Frame

Your goals, to be effective, need a time frame. You need to tell yourself and your unconscious that you’ll have whatever it is by a specific date.

If it’s a big goal, like getting a book written or being able to quit your day job for freelancing, it helps to break the goal down into steps. These steps become mini goals; you need to believe they are possible and each needs its own time frame.

Setting the time frame for the mini goal will help you set a workable time for achieving the big goal.

Goals Need To Be Written Down

Your goals need to be written down. That may be obvious, but it’s surprising how few people actually write down their goals – some say as few as 5%.

I use a software program called GoalPro. But that’s certainly not the only way to do it.


A writer friend of mine actually uses notebooks designed for watercolors and does her goals as a mind map in multiple colors.

Find a way that works for you.

Is That What You Really Want?

I can’t tell you how important it is to be super honest with yourself as you generate goals. If it isn’t what you really want you won’t get there. If you don’t believe you can have it, you won’t get there.

You can, however, work up to a goal. For example, if you don’t believe you can break the $100,000 barrier in your writing income, then try for $75,000 or $50,000 – what ever number stretches you a bit, but is, to you believable.

Goal setting is really more art than science. It takes self-honesty, insight and willingness. It’s a skill worth learning.

You might also want to read: Goal Setting and Keeping IIBusiness Planning for Writers | Emerson on Goals

Have you set goals? Why?

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Deb

    Anne,
    As always, your articles are RIGHT ON TARGET!!!
    I have been thinking about defining and setting goals this week, and your article has given me the PUSH necessary to do what I have to do!
    THANK YOU!!

    • Anne

      You’re more than welcome.

  • I reached my goal – which is to be able to fully support myself doing what I love – blogging (for myself). Everything else is gravy.

    However, I did make a big sign to remind me to remain positive, which I guess if I have to pick a goal for 2010, that would be it. I have projects I’m working on and things I’d like to do, but I’m exactly where I want to be.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Your Turn: What is Your Dream Writing Job =-.

    • Anne

      Remaining positive is a worthy goal for sure.

  • I wrote about something similar to this. My question was– do I really want to break the 100K level? Hmm, not sure. I’m no where near interested in working more than 25-30 hours per week…

    • Anne

      That’s exactly the sort of contemplation I’m encouraging… keep us posted on what you decide.

  • Often guidance and/or accountability help us stick to our goals. Maya Smart has a new coaching program being launched that will work with serious freelance writers to build a strategy to meet their goals. It is called Writing Coach Pro (http://www.writingcoach.com/news)

    • Anne

      Coaching can certainly work – I know it does for my clients.

  • Hi Anne,
    I love your list! In fact, most of the items on there are on my own wish list. Thanks for reminding me that I need to keep focusing on the small steps leading up to my goal!

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