Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

If you’re a writer, you probably have something you want to accomplish. You know, a big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG). Write a book. Make 100 per cent of your income from freelance writing. Secure year-round contract work.

So, what’s your goal?

And how long have you not been reaching it?

I don’t mean any offence, I just know from experience how those BHAGs can paralyse, overwhelm, and otherwise sabotage productivity. That is, until the BHAG is broken down into smaller, less hairy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know, the ones that will spark your creativity and propel you towards your dreams.

No pressure

For years I’ve said I want to write a book. In an offhanded, joking sort of way. And yet for all my wanting I have 1,600 terrible words accomplished. Why? Don’t I want to write a book? Then why am I not writing it?

Because I’ve never broken down the goal into manageable steps. Daily word counts. Specific time set aside for book writing. Book plotting. Why haven’t I? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s overwhelm. Maybe insecurity. Maybe I’m waiting for someone to not only beg me to write a book but also pay me to do it.


It’s time to get real, set the goal, state it, and break it down into steps that will get me there.

Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals for Your Freelance Writing Business

Everyone agrees goal-setting is important. However, while it’s fun dreaming and thinking big, the work of it is figuring out how to achieve your goals. The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is following the S.M.A.R.T. system goal-setting model. It’s quick, straightforward, and keeps you focused on action.

Once I have my BHAG (in this example, write a book) I break down the goal into smaller, less impossible steps. You know, I make them smart. Here’s how I define S.M.A.R.T. (because there are many ways to do it). I keep things straight by applying who, what, when, why, how to the matter. If I can’t answer those questions, my goal might still be too big.

Specific—what will you do?

Here’s where you force yourself to get clear and focus in on your objective. What do you even want to do?

If my goal is write a 50,000 page book I’m going to have to figure out how to make it happen. I need to break this huge goal into smaller tasks. Maybe it’s write 750 words a day. Maybe it’s a weekly word goal. Maybe I need an outline and table of contents first. Or maybe I need my topic before I get get into writing. By breaking it down into one or several specific goals, the huge task of writing 50,000 words is all of a sudden not such a crazy idea.

Measurable—how will you know you’ve done it?

The problem (for me at least, maybe you’re totally great at writing 50,000 words or achieving any and every huge goal you have by sheer will power and determination) with huge goals is you only know you’ve achieved it once you hit your word count or whatever it is you have as your finish line. But since it’s such a massive goal you need checkpoints along the way to keep you motivated and not paralysed in overwhelm. Break your goals into smaller pieces, all building towards that huuuuuuuuge goal and you’ll see your anticipation and excitement for the task at hand grow.

When I set myself a daily or weekly word count goal I know exactly what I need to do. Once I reach the goal? I feel pretty good. In fact, I feel great. I celebrate the small wins and feel confident I’m one more step closer to reaching my huge goal. Amazing how that works.

Achievable—who will do it?

Of course, goal-setting only works when it’s actually possible to accomplish it. So when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals you do need to ask if you can achieve it. Can you? How? You might have to look deep and get real with yourself at this point. Do you have the skills you need to reach this goal? Do you have the time? Do you have the resources? Do you have the money?

For me time is always the issue. So I have to ask myself, is this what I want? For reals? Or is it a nice idea. OK then, how will I make this happen? Because “I didn’t do it because I was busy” is a nice excuse, but if I’m going to use it then I should probably give up on my BHAG because it’s not going to happen.

Relevant—why are you doing it?

At this point in the process, you need to make sure you care about the goal and that it fits with your other goals. How does this goal fit in with your other, larger, dreams? Does it drive you forward in the right direction? Does it breathe life into you?

I ask myself if the goal I’m setting is worthwhile, the right time, and a good fit with whatever else is going on in my life. Sometimes I have to set my goals aside for a time while I finish up other tasks. Sometimes I have to shelve them because I realise while it’s a nice idea and fun and stuff, it doesn’t align with my other goals. This is hard but, when done right, honest.

Time-Sensitive—when will you do it?

What’s a goal without a deadline? If your goal is open-ended it stays vague—more like a wish than something you’ll actually accomplish. And because you’ve worked so hard to make your goal specific and realistic, you should be able to commit to a deadline you’ll be able to meet without too much stress. Another bonus when setting deadlines is to keep you focused on your BHAGs and not allow the everyday, urgent, busy stuff distract you.

Once I set a target for my BHAG I find it easier to set individual deadlines when creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. When I have the big number then I deconstruct it into smaller amounts until I have something I can work with, be it a daily, weekly, or monthly goal.

With my goals set I move on to breaking them into tasks, but that’s a story for another day.

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So, what's your goal? And how long have you not been reaching it? I don't mean any offence, I just know from experience how those BHAGs can paralyse, overwhelm, and otherwise sabotage productivity. That is, until the BHAG is broken down into smaller, less hairy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. You know, the ones that will spark your creativity and propel you towards your dreams.

Why I Got Up At 4:30 a.m. for 21 Damn Early Days


If you’re in my day-to-day life or follow my Insta-stories then you know I spent my weekdays in January getting up at 4:30 a.m. The main question I’ve fielded was why? Why am I getting up so early? The easy answer is because it’s a challenge: 21 damn early days. And we all know how much I love a good challenge.

But of course it’s deeper than that. I’m looking for a kick-start. A re-boot. A re-energy for going after the things I want in life. For the past however long I’ve struggled to hold on and I started losing focus.

Here’s how my days were going.

  • Roll out of bed
  • Make coffee
  • Get ready for work
  • Go to work
  • Go home or to the gym
  • Eat something
  • Watch TV or do freelance work
  • Go to sleep

Do this long enough and you become pretty jaded. My routine was crap, I tried to jam all the important things into the evening, after a full day of work. And I’m the kind of person who pours herself into her work so after 8.5 (usually 9) hours of putting all of me into my day job I was losing steam for anything extra. I wasn’t putting my best work into my best work, you know?

And then I felt bad about it. And I felt bad about myself. And I felt bad in general.

So, why did I sign up for 21 damn early days?

The challenge popped into my Facebook feed on December evening at a time when I was desperate for a change. A friend had suggested meeting for 6 a.m. gym sessions in the new year but I couldn’t imagine it (she told me later I looked like a deer in headlights when she suggested it). I struggled getting going in time for work, how could I do anything more? But as I read about the challenge I realized this might be the reset I was so desperate for.

Here’s the blurb from the 21 Damn Early Days website.

21 Damn Early Days helps you create the time to focus on what matters in your life. Monday to Friday, for 21 days, you (along with 100s of others) get up at 4:30AM and get after the things you want. We’ll help you create a system that gets you up, keeps you focused and motivated, and gives you the space and tools to understand and focus on what you want to do with your time. Finally, we’ll help you stay accountable, day after day, to the commitments you make for the program. The program runs Monday to Friday from January 3rd to 31st, 2017. Life is too short not to spend time focused on the things you care about. But in a world that’s getting busier and busier, finding that time seems to be like an impossible task. 21 Damn Early Days is designed to break you out of that rut and give you time, every single day, to focus on what matters to you.

The part where I was in: 21 Damn Early Days is designed to break you out of that rut and give you time, every single day, to focus on what matters to you.

I thought, if I can’t do this…then do I want the things I think I want?

It was a hard truth, but I was ready to find out if I was legit.

So now we’re at the end of the 21 days. And I did it. I got up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 weekdays. I got up, I went after what I wanted, and I’m here to tell you, it was 100 per cent worth it.

What did I sacrifice? I thought I would sacrifice sleep. I thought I would sacrifice social time. I thought I would sacrifice relaxing. Truth? I got more sleep than I have had in months (I have a sleep tracker so I know this for a fact, much to my surprise), I’ve seen more of my friends than I have in months (getting together for gym-time three times a week is the most regular friend-time I’ve had in ages), and although my routine/lifestyle adjusted I didn’t lose out on relaxing. In fact, it is now guilt-free because I accomplished the things I wanted to FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

Giving myself two extra hours in the morning has changed everything. It was staring me in the face, so obvious, but I wouldn’t see it because the adjustment was going to be uncomfortable. Or because I didn’t think I could do it. Or because I was afraid maybe I didn’t want the things I thought I wanted.

So here are a few things I’m taking away from the challenge.

  • I can get up at 4:30 a.m.
  • I can get up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 days
  • I can get after my dreams
  • My dreams are still my dreams and I’m even more clear on them
  • I can confront my fears and move past them
  • I am willing to do the work to make what matters to me happen
  • I am brave

I have a lot more thoughts about it but the truth is, it’s so early right now and I haven’t processed them yet. Because 4:30 is EARLY. So, so early.

And now the challenge is ended and I’m wondering, what will I do next? Go back to normal? Fall back into my “comfortable” rut? I can’t bear the thought. Now that I know I can do this, I must. Because what’s the point of all this if I’m not making the most of my days?

Ephesians 5: 11-16

NaNoWrMo and Me


I can’t remember if I’ve actually stated this anywhere but I had made a secret (or not-so-secret, I can’t recall) goal to write a book or novel in the year 2012.

And now it’s November.

Since I have no good ideas (although lots of really bad ones) I figured the only way I’m going to actually achieve my goal is to participate in NaNoWrMo—National Novel Writing Month.

I get a bit confused when things say “national” because I don’t know if I’m allowed to participate, assuming all things “national” are American in nature. Also it’s really hard to remember NaNoWrMo for some reason.

But even if I’m not really allowed I decided to do it anyway since I need not only motivation but accountability since clearly goal-setting isn’t enough for me.

So I haven’t got off to a fabulous start since, like I said before, all my ideas are crap.

But my goal wasn’t to write a good book, or even one I’ll show to people. The goal was to sit down and write a book.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Poor start or not.


I started writing numbers on my calendar so I could have daily word count goals but I went up in increments of 1,500 instead of 1,667.

Fifteen hundred words a day leaves quite a chunk left to write on the last day of November. Once I figured this out I increased the word count in the last week to 2,800 leaving me with one extra day…just in case…OK actually because I really am that bad at math.

And yes, this is after using a calculator.

Let’s just hope the words come easier than numbers.