As the year winds down and it’s a Monday I figured I’d combine my usual Monday musing on the freelance life with a look back at 2015, my first full year freelancing (although I didn’t do it full time until June 2015).
In July of 2014 I had my first article with a byline published… it was a piece on the joy of train travel published by women’s online magazine YouQueen. I got $10 for it and was ECSTATIC. No, seriously. It was kind of a whim. Just something I thought I would try. Maybe I could write for a living. People always say I’m a good writer. Did I WANT to be a writer? Don’t I have a BA in English? Didn’t I hate teaching? Is it too late? Add to that a dash of, “Um, we never see our families anymore…” and the uncertainty of my job’s future (or at least my position’s) and it was time to think about whether or not I could pull it off.
In December of 2015 I put in notice and here I am. Writing. It’s been transformative… I started with content mills and then moved on to YouQueen. From there it seemed like travel was going to be my gig until I got my first wine writing gig – writing a wine dictionary. And suddenly I was writing for multiple wine websites. And pretty good at it. While I thought I’d stay with wine writing, and I just might, the biggest change in 2015 was picking up a gig doing copy writing. I gained Digital Firefly Marketing as a client and have produced content for a TON of their clients. I’ve written about EVERYTHING you could possibly think about and many things you wouldn’t and really love it. It’s interesting, it’s varied, and I have learned about SEO, blogging, a touch about design. It started as a wine gig but turned into a great deal more. I’ve been welcomed into the DFM fold and feel like a member of the team but don’t have to deal with a commute.
Looking back, 2015 was a learning year. And I learned a ton. That said, there’s no better time like the last few days of a year to set goals for the next year… here are a few of mine and how they can apply to a wide range of us who are self-employed:
- Blog Better. I’m still getting a hang of this blogging thing. I like to write about freelancing… my journey is interesting and there is nothing quite like learning from someone in the thick of it. But I miss writing creative nonfiction and fiction so I may change things up for 2016. As far as a measurable goal: 3x a week is realistic.
- Increase Skill Set. There are three specifically that I think help ALL freelance writers dealing with online writing.
- I’d like to learn a little more about SEO in 2016, including figuring out WHAT is about to explode for searches and what the best keywords are in the various industries for which I’m writing copy.
- I’d like to learn more about digital photography – sometimes it takes me a really long time to figure out which setting to use. Lots of my photography is “I’m going to take a hundred shots with a hundred different settings!” and then picking the one that works best. Time intensive. I’d like to learn about and create a cheat sheet for my camera’s different settings. Note to self: stop reinventing the wheel – one probably exists.
- I’d like to learn more about video creation and editing – I’m in the process of creating some unboxing videos and let’s say they’re nothing like this kid’s Lush haul video.
- Increase Income. Let’s face it, as much as I like to write, it’s my job now and that means every decision I make related to writing is a financial one. November was a banner month so my goal is to increase every month for a year. Measurable. Small steps. Attainable.
- Continue Finding What Works. It amazes me how some of the strategies I used in high school (paper to do lists) still work. Having a small notebook with a running list is one of my favorite ways to track and it actually works for me. I started using a planner in 2015 but I don’t know… I just haven’t mastered it yet. One thing I do love about a planner is that it keeps a record and is far more organized than my notebook.
- Publish One Piece Of Short Fiction or Creative Nonfiction. I submitted ONE piece in 2015. My goal for 2016 is to submit four pieces and hopefully see one published but let’s face it: the more submissions, the better the chance. And four submissions isn’t exactly good.
There you have it, my 2016 professional goals. Feel free to get on my ass and hold me accountable. In my personal life, my goals look a little different. Kris and I have looked at three areas in which we’d like to be healthier: financially (transition years are tough!), physically (need to start eating better and training for the Grand Canyon!), as a couple (it can be tough to have valuable time together with all the competition for our attention.
I don’t know about you, but for me, the thing that works is TRACKING. Give me a spreadsheet… create an app… let me see my goal and measure it and I’m far more likely to succeed. I’ve started counting steps again as a way to start increasing my walking before we start training for the GC for real and I added the water tracker on fitbit because, yeah, I’m awful about hydrating.
What about you? What are your goals for 2016? And what gets you to achieve them? Happy New Year!