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

You may or may not have heard of creating S.M.A.R.T. goals before. It takes some planning and brainstorming but it works!

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

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

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

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

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. Or maybe I’m waiting for someone to not only beg me to write a book but also pay me to do it.

Enough! time to get going on Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals

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 creating S.M.A.R.T. goals system. 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.

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

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. Oh, or maybe I need an outline and table of contents first. 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? How about 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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The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is by creating S.M.A.R.T. goals for your freelance writing business.

Other freelance writing tips

Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to traditional publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

No, really.

Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 28th edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over

I love writers and publishers guides. They’re on my Christmas list every year. But this is the first one I’ve read cover to cover and come back for more. And that’s saying something.

Laid out like any other writers guide, there are essays and articles on writing advice, publishing information, and an introduction to planet literary agent before getting to the good stuff. The listings. Who’s buying, who’s selling, who’s looking for what and when. It’s all good stuff, and I can’t get enough.

Jeff Herman has a wonderful sense of humour, which helps make typical writing and publishing advice come alive and keeps the reader engaged. The listings follow an interesting format, with the agency or agent answering a series of questions. It gives you a good sense of who they are and what they do and each get equal space in the book.

Agent Questions

  • Describe the kinds of works you want to represent
  • Describe what you definitely don’t want to represent
  • How do you want writers to pitch to you?
  • Describe your education and professional history
  • How did you become an agent?
  • Knowing what you do now, would you do it again? If not, what might you do instead?
  • Do you charge fees? If yes, please explain
  • When and where were you born, and where have you lived?
  • What do you like to do when you’re not working?
  • List some of the titles you have recently placed with publishers
  • Describe your personality
  • What do you like reading/watching/listening to on your own time?
  • Do you think the business has changed a lot over the past few years? If yes, please explain
  • What do the “Big 5” mean to you?
  • How do you feel about independent/small presses?
  • What are your feelings about self-publishing?
  • Do you think Amazon is good or bad—or both—for the book business?
  • What do you like and dislike about your job?
  • What are ways prospective clients can impress you, and what are ways they can turn you off?
  • How would you describe the “writer from hell”?
  • Describe a book you would like to write
  • Do you believe in a higher and/or lower “power”?

Thorough, right?

There’s also a section dedicated to Canadian publishers, which I heart.

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents, 28th edition: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over is available now from Amazon, Chapters, and anywhere else you buy books.

Jeff Herman’s Guide To Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents synopsis

The Writer’s Best Friend and Bible!

Writers, agents, and editors all agree that Jeff Herman’s Guide is the must have, go-to reference for everyone who writes. This book will get you past the slush piles and into the hands of the people who have the power to publish.


With Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents you will learn the names and contact information for hundreds of agents and editors, and will be given the “code” for how to win them over. More comprehensive than ever, this 21st edition will give you all the insider information you need to get published, including how to write knockout pitch letters and proposals, as well as an expanded Canadian section.

If you want a lighthearted yet no-nonsense guide to publishing, look no further than Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents.

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Meeting Your Ideal Client in Person | Getting It Right

Many freelance writers know their ideal client and are great at communicating online. But what if you’re meeting in person?

Ideal Client

Meeting Your Ideal Client…In Person

The introvert in me thinks maybe I can get by without having to meet clients or prospects in person or speak on the phone. Because I’m pretty good at ruining things in person with my awkwardness and inability to conquer small talk.

However, the business owner in me knows I can’t always hide behind a screen. Getting out there and spending time with clients and other freelancers is an important part of growing my business.

And if I can’t meet for coffee, how will I ever gain the confidence to attend a trade show or event or speak at a large conference?

Here are a few tips for getting public engagement right the first time.

Make Your Presence Stand Out

No matter the event, investing in some branding is a worthwhile expense. If it’s a booth at a trade show, a branded area will help you stand out, plus you can use it again and again. Some popular items include custom printed marquees, pop-up stands and table banners.

When Meeting Your Ideal Client, Have Something to Say

I find small talk difficult. I feel awkward and unsure of myself. But then I figured out a secret trick: work out anecdotes ahead of time. And when someone asks me about what I do and who I serve? Well, I also have my elevator pitch memorized.

Consider Offering Freebies

They work on your website so why wouldn’t the work in person? One of my freelancing friends has branded pens that she hands out to colleagues and clients. I love it! There are many reasons to invest in promotional products for your business, and the right promotional products will both be useful and will create a lasting impression. But don’t go overboard with the swag. Stick to a budget you can afford and regularly evaluate their impact.

Show confidence

Confidence is key when it comes to meeting with members of the public. Help your team to develop confidence when making sales or providing services to help make the right impression on your customers. Providing training, creating scenarios, etc. can all help your employees improve their confidence when meeting the public to give the best impression of your company from that first interaction.

Making a meaningful connection with your ideal client and networking with other freelancers can help you grow your business. As a classic form of marketing, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of going out there and meeting people face to face. What’s next on your list of ways to improve your business?

Many freelance writers know their ideal client and are great at communicating online. But what if you're meeting in person?

4 Email Etiquette Tips to Make You Stand Out

As positive as email is, it’s important to understand proper email etiquette in order to avoid business pitfalls. There can be unintended consequences when we let the rules slide.

Email Etiquette

Email Etiquette Tips

To make sure you never fall afoul of digital communication, here are four things to keep in mind when emailing potential client or customers.

Avoid Using The Term “Unfortunately” | Email Etiquette Tip #1

Unfortunately, businesses use this word all the time in emails. It’s a tricky term because it draws a line in the sand. In essence, you’re saying you can’t, and won’t, help. From a customer service perspective, this is frustrating. You want them to feel heard and cared for. “Unfortunately,” doesn’t accomplish this task. The trick is to say “no” without saying no. Try and find some sort of win, or at assure them you care and are looking into the matter.

Avoid being rude | EMAIL TIP #2

Regardless of what someone says over email it’s important for you to remain professional. This doesn’t mean you become a doormat or put up with abuse but there are ways to terminate a conversation without putting your professional reputation on the line.

Eliminate Outdated information | EMAIL ETIQUETTE TIP #3

I’ve talked about creating a digital business card with your email signature before and while that’s important there’s also the risk of not updating your digital signature and confusing potential customers or clients with outdated information. Take a quick look at your email signature and update as necessary. If your email signature changes with some frequency, consider outside help like

Avoid typos and grammar mistakes | EMAIL TIP #4

Another way to appear unprofessional is to send an email with typos and other errors. Although there is some forgiveness when typing on a mobile device, you risk being seen as lazy or worse. As harsh as it sounds, an unintended consequence could be your client wonders if you’ll deliver a professional service if you don’t even bother to spellcheck your emails. For a quick overview of how to catch typos in your own writing, here’s a helpful checklist.

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list but if nothing else, I hope it will convince you to pay attention to how you come across when you email customers and clients. A little goes a long way.

As positive as email is, it's important to understand proper email etiquette in order to avoid business pitfalls. The can be harsh consequences.

How to Find an Editor | 3 Tips

If you’re a writer wondering how to find an editor I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive!

Find an Editor

Yes, You Should Work with an Editor

Now, you (the writer) might feel like hiring someone to edit your work is unnecessary. The truth is, a good editor makes your writing better and it’s in your best interested to work with one if you can. They aren’t as close to your precious words and sentences (and commas and semi-colons) as you are and can give objective—not personal—advice on how to improve your work.

So consider it. Be open to it.

Different Types of Editing

If you’re writing short-form pieces like articles, essays or blog posts, you’ll probably work with a copy editor or a proofreader. If you’re writing long-form pieces like books then there are additional types of editing to consider.

  • Developmental editors takes a 30,000-foot view and look at the overall story and structure, ensuring the work flows from beginning to end
  • Copy editors go through material ensuring the work is suitable for the publication, check grammar, word usage, and punctuation, improve it for readability and organization and remove inconsistencies, errors and repetition
  • Proofreaders go through material in order to catch typos and fix formatting issues. At this stage there isn’t much (if any) reworking, just tweaks

How to Find an Editor

Once you’ve decided what type of editing you require, here are a few things to consider when you’re looking to hire an editor.

  1. Ask people in your network for references. Use your network! They want to help you. If you don’t know any editors, ask someone who does. Get a referral then look at their website. If he or she seems like a good fit for you, reach out
  2. If you don’t have a network or you’re still looking, go to a professional editors association. Sure, you can look on freelance sites for an editor and you might find an awesome one but I recommend going to a professional association like Editors Canada first. In order to be accepted into an association like this editors need a track record, training and professional experience
  3. Choose an editor in your niche. Just like you have a specialty, individual editors specialize in their areas. Every genre and industry has different rules so you’ll benefit the most from an editor who understands your niche inside and out and can make sure your work conforms the way it needs to

During this process it’s a good idea to reach out to several editors and interview them. This person will be working alongside you so you need to be confident in his or her work and abilities and you need to trust his or her judgment and advice. And yes, it is acceptable to ask for a sample edit and to check references.

Final Thoughts

One other thing to keep in mind: if you’re not open to being edited there isn’t much your editor can do for you. Don’t hold on too tight. Try and understand your editor wants to make your writing even better and isn’t attacking you or your person even though it can feel pretty unnerving at first.

If you can stick with it and trust your editor, you’ll learn a lot about writing…and yourself through the process.

If you're a writer wondering how to find an editor I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive!