How to Crush Your (Paid) Writing Goals in The New Year
Having endless sparks of inspiration is a gift many creatives have. Although that blessing is at times a curse—especially when each new intention sidetracks us from actually sitting down to do the work. I too have several ideas brewing about how to expand my writing career in 2022. But falling off the New Year’s resolution bandwagon will be the inevitable outcome without a realistic plan on how to achieve these goals. Staying motivated is one major factor, so with this in mind, I interviewed freelance maven and Welcome to The Writer’s Life author Paulette Perhach about tools and strategies that can help us all level up in terms of paid writing opportunities over the 12 months ahead.
What are two to three good New Year's resolutions for freelance writers just getting started?
If you’re just getting started, remember that this is the hardest part of your career. But now is the time to invest in the structures that will continue to make your writing life easier, more profitable, and increasingly exciting in the future.
- Build in a bit of “sharpening the saw” every day. I recommend 15 minutes of watching LinkedIn Learning or even just a YouTube video on whatever part of your business you feel needs attention: bookkeeping, branding, lead generation, etc. If you’re super strapped for time, a daily podcast can be great for learning while you clean or drive.
- Start building your community. We think our business is words, but it’s people. People will hire you, edit you, read your stories, and recommend you to others. Join online groups or follow the hashtags of readers, writers, editors, and potential clients. Show up and help someone in a small way every day.
- Establish your record-keeping as if you were a real business—because you are! Even though the posters in elementary school told us knowledge is power, we let our contacts’ phone numbers, emailed opportunities, and URLs of published pieces fall into the darkness of the cracks in our system. I’m in the fifth year of keeping my Writer’s Mission Control Center, which is quickly becoming one of the most valuable assets of my business.
What about for writers who have been at it for three or more years?
We think that we only have to “make the leap” to become a writer once. But I think to keep your career as fun as you hoped it would be, you have to keep jumping! I have a matrix that I judge work on. It rates each assignment. On the X axis is appeal: low, medium, high. On the Y axis, pay: low, medium, high. I decided this year to retire the square that falls at the intersection of high pay, low appeal. I have a client I’ve earned $19,000 from this year, but I loathe doing the work. I read it out loud to my friends to make them laugh. They can’t believe I wrote that because it’s so not me. It’s not the best use of my gifts, and now, at mid-career, I think I’ve worked hard enough for long enough that I can make my living by using my gifts.
- Make moves. I got this from my client Kirsten Jordan, the first female cast member of Million Dollar Listing New York. If you watch Succession, you might also think about this as a play, as in, “What’s the play?” It’s taking a strategic risk in hopes of getting a certain outcome. I’m hoping that by giving up the most boring writing client, I’ll find someone who pays me the same amount for work that uses more of my natural voice. I already have a lead!
- Pare down. By now, you’ve probably had lots of interesting jobs and opportunities, and you’re a bit all over the place. Look at your workload, your social media, your branding, and hone. I drew a map of my business, and it looked like an overgrown raspberry shrub. I cut my podcast (sad face), my photography side biz, and writing RFP responses, so I could focus on being a coach and creative writer.
- Invest in help. Last year I threw down for a business coach, and the dollar signs on those invoices scared me. But if you look at anyone who’s the best in the world at what they do, they have someone coaching them to do it. If you don’t have extra money right now, you can always offer to barter—a vastly underused system that used to be the basis for how humanity functioned.
Any advice on how to juggle promoting more than one angle of your professional writing career?
This is a challenge, for sure. I want to be known as a writer primarily and a writing coach secondarily. However I’m not always sure I do the best job balancing those two. What I will say is that there’s room. I think people appreciate that you’re a human. That you have various sides. People mostly want to know if you can solve their problems. If you can write incredibly effective copy and magazine articles that go viral, no one is going to care that you also write vampire erotica.
Please share about a goal you once made for your own creative journey. Were you successful? And if not, what threw a wrench in your plans?
I wanted to be writing every day. And then you’ll never believe what happened: a pandemic descended upon humanity. That caused a major pause in my creative writing. However, I think the best habit I’ve developed is looking at where I’m failing myself and making sure I get back on track as soon as I can. I ask myself: What would I do if someone paid me a million dollars to meet this goal? You’d be shocked at how quickly a plan forms. So I started A Very Important Meeting, where I’m responsible to show up six days a week and lead a group writing session. Now I write every day.
If you’re ready to expand your brand as a paid writer, consider joining Perhach for Designing Your Writer's Life, which begins on January 27. And the following resources are useful additional reading about how to continue to promote your skillset and published work: