It’s audit time. Each fall I sit down to evaluate my writing business and determine if I’m meeting my goals… and doing the work I want to do. After all, who starts a business to be purely driven by client needs and income goals?
This annual reflection ensures I’m getting more than a paycheck out of my career by making decisions that fuel my personal interests and help me grow as an individual.
So, what questions do I ask? Well while doing the usual analysis of income, website visitors and social media engagement, I put on my thinking cap and dig into the whys and hows of running a business of one. Here’s a partial list of the questions I tackle. Maybe they will help you reflect on your work-life balance too.
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1. How many clients do I need to meet my income goals?
Years ago my mind shifted from the more is better scenario or quality over quantity. Also, it’s much easier and less time consuming to continue with a favorite client than it is to onboard a new one. So, keep that in mind. How many clients do you need?
2. Am I managing too many or too few clients?
This ties in with the first question. Maybe you do need to ramp up your client roster to meet your income goals. If so, embrace networking and pitching like crazy.
But, if you’re often mixing up the needs, guidelines and deadlines of the people you’re working for, maybe you have too many clients and/or projects to manage?
Multitasking hour after hour can lead to some serious brain drain and tiredness. The solution? Focus on one thing at a time. Maybe every Tuesday you work solely on projects for client X. Thursdays are for pitching. Or, Fridays are set aside for accounting tasks.
3. What value do I get from each client beyond money?
Look at your current client list and evaluate them based on how happy or frustrated they make you. Are the editors helpful and encouraging? Do the projects get lots of interaction on social media when shared? Do you smile or frown when a note from each client pops into your inbox? When you add projects to your calendar are they viewed as obligations or opportunities?
4. How is my website moving me toward my goals?
This question was a hot one for me at the start of this fall. I’m eleven years into full-time freelancing, so it’s obvious the initial reasons, processes and goals of my websites have changed over the years.
But, have they changed enough?
What is the purpose of an established website, versus a new launch? Is it time to level-up your website planning and maintenance? Last year I radically changed my content focus and publishing plan for the Web Writing Advice blog, and it’s been exactly what I (and my readers) needed at this stage in my career journey.
5. How do I want to spend my working hours?
Writers rarely push the pen from 9-to-5, Monday through Friday. We work based on our creative energy flows, deadlines and other responsibilities, like family and additional jobs.
So, think of this: When you’re at your desk, are you doing what you want? I’ve discovered many writers are leaning into automation apps to shave minutes off their social media management, accounting tasks and email marketing efforts. This creates more time for the fun stuff — writing.
6. Which aspects of my writing business do I enjoy most?
Focus on what you love. Then, hire a virtual assistant or buy a monthly service to help you manage the rest. You absolutely have to do some passion work each time you sit down at your desk otherwise you’ll eventually feel bored, overwhelmed and wonder why you started a writing business in the first place.
If you can’t outsource anything yet, because income is tight, start your day with something you enjoy to get you in a better mindset. I used to draft outlines for my lifestyle blog, Cupcakes and Yoga Pants, to warm up my writing muscles with topics that were important to me personally.
7. Which tasks are absolutely necessary to keep in my workflow?
Taking an inventory of the routine items on your schedule and deciding which ones aren’t moving you in the direction of your goals can be tedious, but rewarding. Maybe that social media automation app you signed up for is actually costing you time and mental energy because you end up on the phone with the help desk so often.
Things that were meant to ease your workday may be causing headaches. Can you identify and replace them?
8. Which tasks can I sunset?
Sometimes things need to end. Is there a service you need to cancel, but can’t bring yourself to do it? Make a good old pros-and-cons list to help you with your decision. Not all tasks were meant to be on your schedule forever. Plus, removing tasks from your schedule frees up more time for creative pursuits, pitching or new tasks that will actually make your writing life easier.
9. Which tasks nourish my career?
Take a moment to evaluate what you’re writing. Is it fueling you as a writer? Are you taking on topics and clients that truly make you feel content and fulfilled? Or, are you grabbing anything that pays and churning it out to pay bills? I’ve been there. We all have. But as you grow in your business, sustainable, long-term happiness requires nourishing your needs as a writer, and that gives way beyond a paycheck.
10. Which tasks are draining and need to be reconsidered?
Do you cringe every time you have to balance the business banking accounts or send invoices? Hey, you’re a writer, not an accountant. Maybe that’s a task you can outsource to recoup your creative energy.
Which other tasks do you dread? Make a list. Maybe hiring a fellow freelancer as an assistant could ensure the mundane tasks get done without dampening your writing spirit.
11. Which tasks have been put on the back burner and need attention?
Finally, get out that intended to-do list and highlight the things you’ve been meaning to do, still want to do or need to do. Why are they important? What’s the value of completing them? They aren’t getting the attention they deserve currently, so sit down with your work calendar and schedule time to address them. If it’s on your calendar with a dedicated time and date, you’re more likely to finally check it off your list.
Here’s to reflecting and refining your writing business for the year ahead.
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Note: This post was last updated on November 7, 2022.