Smart Goals for Writers: How to Make Them (& Stick to Them)

goals for writers

Editor’s note: Goals for writers are as essential  in 2019 as they were in 1919,  so why not set smart goals?

Twice a year, in December and June, I work on my “life plan”: It’s like a business plan, but it encompasses career/finances, health, relationships, and volunteering. Each section includes a brief mission statement, a bullet-point list of goals, a bullet-point list of obstacles to those goals, and a paragraph or two where I brainstorm ways around or through those obstacles.

I don’t check on the life plan regularly during the year — just when I feel inspired. And when I go to it again after six months, I often find that I had internalized and met many of my goals without even trying.

Except the income goals. For years, every six months I’d write out an income goal, brainstorm ways to meet that goal — and do absolutely nothing different in my career to try to earn that extra income.

Eventually I smartened up, and realized two key things about setting goals:

1. Your goals need to be something you can control.

As a freelancer, it’s difficult to control how many clients you gain, how many assignments you get, or much money you make (though you can always shoot for a range; after all, we need to eat). However, you can control how many queries and letters of intro you send out, how much marketing you do, and how many hours you work. Increase these, and you’re likely to increase your income as a side benefit.

Why not try it yourself for 2011? Instead of saying you want to make X amount of money or garner five assignments from national magazines, set goals that you can control — like how much marketing you do. For example, my plan for 2011 is to conduct a direct mail campaign to 900 local businesses for my copywriting (100 down, 800 to go!).

2. Your goals need to inspire you.

Guess what? It turns out I’m just not inspired by income goals. As long as I can support my family and we can do (within reason) what we want, I’m okay. However, I am inspired by the appreciation I get from the writers I help through my e-courses and mentoring. This morning I had a client who told me she had a big grin on her face as I outlined a new idea for her. Now, that I like — I just eat it up!

So my goal is to do more teaching and mentoring. (And of course, the more teaching and mentoring I do, the more money I make.) I also enjoy writing for magazine editors who treat me well, so another goal is to seek them out, hang onto them when I find them, and weed out PITA editors. As a byproduct, I make a good income because it takes me less time to do assignments from magazines with a low PITA factor.

These goals keep me a lot happier than working my butt off to reach some magic number I don’t really care about.

So — what do you really care about? Try to set goals that make sense for you, instead of caving under the pressure to set goals that you feel you should want to reach.

Linda Formichelli has written for over 130 magazines since 1997, from Pizza Today to USA Weekend. She  runs the Renegade Writer, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010/11. She is the co-author of “The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success”


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Linda Formichelli, The Renegade Writer Blog

About the author

Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli is the author of The Renegade WriterShe has written for more than 130 magazines and is the co-author of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. She is also the author ofHow to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life - While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.