Does this sound familiar?
You’re putting in a ton of hours to get your freelance business up and running, clocking in time before and after your day job, jotting down business ideas during lunch, maybe even getting out of bed in the middle of the night to tackle just one more thing on your to-do list. You’re tired, but you feel good. You’ve set your sights on big dreams and have been working like a boss to get things in motion.
But are you any closer to your goals?
When I officially started my freelance writing career, I put my dream out into the universe: to make a full-time living as a freelance writer in a creative and sustainable way. I set two very specific short-term income goals:
- Milestone 1: Hit $2,000/month by Christmas 2018.
- Milestone 2: Hit $5,000/month by one year (July 2019).
I did not meet either goal. Why?
Looking back, it’s because I spent too much time on things that seemed important, instead of the things that actually were.
I didn’t prioritize the actions that would yield the results I wanted.
Solopreneurs wear multiple hats. We build and maintain our websites, network, market our services, and, of course, knock our paid client work out of the park. Add kids and family life to the mix — it’s easy to lose focus.
For me, the biggest challenge was trying to figure out which hat I needed to wear when.
What I realize now was that I spent so much time over the minutiae when I should’ve been laser-focused on income-generating actions.
Rather than setting a daily goal for pitching clients, I spent hours reading blog posts on how to be a successful freelance writer. I frittered away weeks and months agonizing over which niche to specialize in. Instead of writing samples or reaching out to potential clients, I tweaked my website for the gazillionth time.
Can you feel the resistance? Maybe it sounds all too familiar.
The lesson I’m learning time and again is the critical importance of prioritizing and completing actions that will help me reach my income goals, and then fitting in the rest of my list when I can.
But how do you stay on task when there’s so much that requires your attention?
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past year:
The social media time suck is real.
Nowhere do I feel more like a hamster on a wheel than when I’m slogging away on social media.
Right now, my social platforms of choice are Twitter, Medium and Pinterest. I spend a good amount of time on each, trying to stay active and build connections, but what started off as an exciting process is now quickly eating away at my time.
I used to have my Twitter account set to text me every time someone followed me, or liked or retweeted a post, or mentioned me in any way. In the beginning, it was exciting, like gaining a new (faux) friend. But lately it’s become a source of unnecessary distraction, so I recently turned my notifications off.
I heard that Pinterest marketing, if properly done, can be instrumental in driving traffic to blogs. So, a few weeks ago, I set up a Pinterest Business account (search Kari Anne Watterson) and went through the process of setting up my boards and pinning my content. With each new blog post, I create a new Pinterest image in Canva or PicMonkey and pin my new content to my Pinterest account.
In addition to pinning my own content, I spend time every day pinning other people’s pins. This is how you gain traction on Pinterest. I’ve gone from 0 monthly views and no followers to almost 60,000 monthly views and over 200 followers in just a few weeks. To be honest, I’m still learning what these figures mean. While the numbers sound promising, I know all the traffic in the world means nothing if it doesn’t produce leads.
I know there’s a ton more stuff I could do to optimize my Pinterest account, like learning proper keyword placement, hashtags, rich pins, and joining group boards, but I’m hesitant to spend any more time on the platform than I already do. I also know that automating my pins and revisiting my pinning strategy would help, but, again, that would take time to learn.
Pinterest marketing is long-term traffic generation strategy, so I know what I’m doing now should help in the future. But I’m also painfully aware that the time I spend on my social media efforts is time not spent on action that would lead to income generation now.
It’s a numbers game.
I once heard someone say that business success is just math.
For freelance writers, if pitching is a numbers game, then submitting ‘x’ number of pitches should yield ‘x’ number of projects which, depending on your rates, should net approximately ‘x’ number of dollars.
It goes without saying the opposite is also true. No pitches = no projects = zero income. (At least for newer freelance writers)
Bottom line: If I want to achieve my income goals, I need to prioritize actions that will generate income.
I need to maximize my social media efforts in far less time, and spend the rest of my day doing things that will build my client base, like following leads, pitching prospects and, of course, writing.
Less time on social media + more time pitching = increased odds of gaining new clients. Sounds straightforward, right?
I just need to hold myself accountable to my daily goals and my business should start taking off, right?
But the human mind can be fickle, and, despite the best laid plans, can actually work against you.
Online entrepreneur and life coach Natalie Bacon sums it up this way:
Massive action without massive thinking will not yield the results you want.
You can take all the right action but if you don’t work on your mindset as well, you’ll crumble at the first obstacle, which leads me to my next point.
Hold yourself accountable for your inaction.
Sometimes you think you’re taking massive action, but you’re really stuck in inaction. This might look like doing everything on your to-do list except the items you know will move the needle toward your goals.
And then you find yourself over-justifying your choices.
When I find myself over-rationalizing something I’ve done or not done, it’s often a sign that I’m letting myself off the hook for something important, and it’s often rooted in fear.
That’s when you need to break out your journal and start working through your thoughts until you get to the source of your behavior.
It would be easy to keep justifying and rationalizing why you’re avoiding the hard things, but doing so solves nothing and just prevents you from moving forward.
I’ve gone this route before.
It’s a lonely, soul-sucking, confidence-killing journey, and to think it could have been prevented by just taking action.
Because, as we all know, inaction is where dreams go to die.
So when you get that familiar sensation that something’s off, or that you’re spinning in circles, trust your gut. Step back for a minute and assess your actions objectively, with honesty and compassion.
Then hold yourself accountable.
Accountability to yourself is as much about self-honesty as it is staying laser-focused on your goals.
And if your honesty reveals seemingly insurmountable obstacles, stay calm. I can guarantee you someone has faced your situation before. The quicker you can move through your barriers, the faster you’ll achieve your goals.
Find ways to overcome your obstacles.
To a person building what seems an impossible dream, it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. You can’t see your actions for what they really are.
Sometimes the quickest way over a stumbling block or setback is to seek outside help. Reach out to a supportive online community, like a freelance writing Facebook group, or hire a business coach you trust.
Fortunately, I have people in my life who’ve been in my shoes and get what it is I’m working hard to achieve. And because they’re further along in their journey than me, they can sense the spinning when they see it. Having someone you trust and respect call B.S. and hold you accountable during these times is invaluable.
Whatever you do, recognize your fear-based behavior for what it is, and take action to move past it. Every time you do, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to face the next obstacle.
The solution is out there.
If you want to make a delicious apple pie, what do you do? You’re going to scour the internet for the perfect recipe, right? (Unless, of course, you already have your grandma’s recipe.)
And if it turns out amazing, people will ask you for the recipe or they’ll pepper you with questions: What kind of apples did you use? How thin did you cut the slices? How’d you get your crust so flaky?
Most people are happy to share this information with anyone who asks, because when you find something that truly works you’re excited to share what you know.
(Unless, of course, it’s your grandma’s secret recipe.)
If I’ve learned anything this past year it’s how willing people are to share their knowledge, whether it’s tips for content creation, marketing strategies, mindset hacks, or resources to help you build your business.
If you’re stuck, take advantage of the wisdom and experience of those who’ve gone before you. And if you have the business equivalent of a prize-winning recipe, do a kindness and share it.
Last year, Heather Deveaux of The Freelance Writing School recommended Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast, and all of the sudden I had access to business and marketing strategies I never knew existed.
This episode below was particularly powerful:
For those of you who don’t know, Brooke Castillo is a world renown life coach and host of the widely popular The Life Coach School Podcast. She talks about the power of mindset, and how changing how you think can help you achieve different results. I’ve mentioned Brooke Castillo before in previous posts (here and here) because I find her thoughts and teaching style so powerful.
(Interesting fact: Brooke launched her podcast several years ago. The title of her very first episode? Why You’re Not Taking Action. Clearly, this is a topic that resonates with many of us.)
I highly recommend both episodes for anyone who’s tired of feeling stuck and wants to make some real changes in their lives.
Because of Heather Deveaux, I was introduced to the podcasts of Amy Porterfield and Brooke Castillo. I’ve since recommended all three podcasts many times over. These podcasts, along with scores of others, offer advice on just about any business or life problem you might have.
So if you’re having a problem, don’t stay in inaction. Prioritize finding a solution so you can keep marching toward your goals. If you can’t find the solution from within, then seek out the help you need.
To quote entrepreneur and motivational speaker Marie Forleo, “Everything is figureoutable.”
You don’t need to blaze the entire path on your own.
Give yourself the gift of learning from others who’ve gone before you.
Don’t allow yourself to indulge in overwhelm, because answers are out there.
(For a list of my favorite motivational podcasts on personal development, entrepreneurship and writing, click here.)
Stay committed to your goals.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re running your own business. But if you set your ultimate goal as your north star, it will help you prioritize which right action to take next.
And if you forget everything else in this article, remember this quote:
“Every day ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow.” – Anonymous
I just set a new income goal for this year, one that’s seems crazy but I know is possible.
Each day I will remind myself of the above quote to stay on track.
I’m excited for this next year. I hope you are, too.
I hope you have an amazingly productive week.
Photos via Unsplash