Diana Kelly Levey

5 Tips for Setting Freelance Business Goals You’ll Actually Hit

woman typing on laptop sitting on couch

August 26, 2019

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of running a freelance writing business. You’re answering clients’ questions via email, pitching ideas out to existing clients, emailing pitches and letters of introduction to potential clients, and trying to keep up with social media, oh yea, and track down that payment that’s three months late. It’s certainly enough to keep you busy, but, those tedious tasks will wear on you and eventually interfere with your motivation.

(Want more freelance-writing tips to help you run your business? Get my e-Book for 125-plus tips for freelance writers.)

Finding the motivation to stick with freelancing is one of the most common topics my freelance coaching clients bring up. I totally get it. Whether your motivation is waning because you aren’t hearing back from editors on your pitches, or, because you’re extremely overworked but don’t feel like you’re making enough money that you can sustain yourself, it’s easy to get caught in this trap.

That’s why I ask clients about their goals when they say they’re struggling with motivation.

If you don’t have short-term and long-term goals for your freelance career and revisit them occasionally, you’ll find yourself in December exhausted from running on the hamster wheel. Maybe you’ll even feel disappointed because you didn’t reach the goals you set at the beginning of the year. (Here’s how to set goals if you haven’t already.)

Here are some ways freelancers can look at their short-term and long-term business goals so they can find meaningful work that pays well and ensure they have a target they’re aiming towards. To quote the wise words of the late Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

How Freelancers Can Set Goals They’ll Actually Hit

Work backward from a few years out.

Do you have an idea of where you want to be with freelancing in five years? The gig economy is expanding quickly and if you want to be working for yourself, from home, you need to think about what that requires. Do you want to make six figures freelancing by 2020? Have you thought about the skills you’ll need to get there? If you plan to leave your full-time job (with health benefits and a retirement plan) to work for yourself, you’ll need to set a salary goal that’s about 25% higher than you’re making right now in order to make about the same money working for yourself. Here are six money decisions I encourage you to think about before going full-time freelance.

Decide how much you want to earn freelance writing this year.

You probably already have a general number in your head, but do you do a monthly check in to see how that’s going? As we’re nearly one-quarter through the year, have you revisited your income goal to see if you’re on track? I use a Google spreadsheet to track my assignments I’m working on (and how much they’ll bring in), as well as how much I’m waiting to be paid (in another sheet). With a goal to continue earning six figures as a freelancer, I feel most comfortable when those two sheets add up to close to $20,000. That’s usually for assignments I’m working on for the next two to three months, and assignments I’m waiting to be paid for that I turned in within the past month or two.

Set goals that have nothing to do with income.

One of the beautiful things about freelance writing is that you can work for a variety of clients and outlets and write about topics that mean something to you. One of your goals for the year might be to get a personal essay published. (Mine was! Here’s one about my adopted pup, Jackson.) Another good freelance writing goal is to break into a new niche. I’ve been writing about health for a long time but I’m looking to write more about pet health, personal finance, and skin care. (I addressed two of those niches in that essay!) Look for ways you can start building up clips for a new niche with topics you’re already covering. Here are some tips on how to add multiple niches to your freelance writing career.


Consider setting a goal associated with time.

There are a number of ways to think about this freelance goal. It could be a long-term goal to take three weeks of vacation from your full-time freelance writing career in 2020. Another goal could be to work fewer hours per week. (How many hours do freelancers work per week?) Maybe your goal is to track how much time you spend writing each article. If you feel that you’re not prioritizing freelancing as a side hustle, your short-term goal might be to work on it for 7 to 10 hours a week this month, and then 15 hours a week by the next season. A good short-term freelance goal could be to write faster so you can earn a higher hourly rate.


Get granular about your hourly rate.

When I addressed how many hours freelancer each week in that blog linked above and say that I aim for 30, those are the billable hours I’m working where I’m earning money for my time. I aim for at least $75 an hour freelancing on the low end and about 30 hours a week. That would average $2,250 of business weekly, times four weeks a month, times 12 a year, for an annual income of $117,000 gross if I didn’t take any time off and always hit that hourly rate for 30 hours a week. Oftentimes, my hourly rate is higher than that.

I’m not sharing these average hourly rate details to brag or to make you feel bad if you’re not there yet (I have over 15 years of writing experience that got me here), but this is to show you that if you want to earn a salary of $50,000 gross freelance writing, and you’re consistently working on assignments that pay $25  and they take you three hours to complete, it’s going to take a lot of work to get you to your goal. That’s why goal setting is important for freelancers. It helps you look at what you’re doing now and determining if it’s in line with where you want to be in the future. If you aren’t where you want to be with your freelance writing rates or the types of clients you’re working with, start working on finding higher-paying assignments that will get you to your goals. Learn about how to make more money writing.

Need more freelance pitching advice or one-on-one help with setting your freelance goals and creating the path to achieving them? Check out my freelance coaching services at the bottom of this page.

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