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Thursday, January 02, 2014

Monthly Assessment: December 2013

What's on the iPod: Life by The Avett Brothers

Looking for some goal-setting inspiration? Check out John Soares' 19 Successful Freelance Writers Share Their Top Goals for 2014 featuring plenty of writers, including me. Thanks, John!

Welcome to a new year on this blog. It's a year that comes with plans -- goals, targets, and ways to reach them. If you're new to the blog community, welcome. Also, know that every month I make myself accountable to you for my actions toward those goals. You're welcome -- invited -- to join along and post your own accountability.

As Anne Wayman said here a few days ago, accountability is her secret weapon. Mine too. Just knowing that I have to report back on my efforts makes me much more conscious of my goals on a daily basis.

Whether reporting your accountability monthly or weekly, you get this psychological kick in the pants. Try it one month. See if there's a change in your work habits and marketing efforts as a result.

For now, feel free to follow along and post your results if you know them. If not, why not start tracking your efforts today? Here's how my December played out:

I sent out a few, but I knew when I sent them there wouldn't be an assignment. Magazines usually run out of freelance budgets in November -- some even earlier. No responses yet, so I'm going to tap the editors' shoulders to see if the ideas now have some validity with new budgets in place.

I sent out just a few of these this month, but I did follow up on quite a few I'd sent last month. No responses other than the typical out-of-office responses that plague December, but perhaps on second follow-up, things will become more appealing.

Existing clients:
The bulk of my work this past month, such as it was, came from current clients. One favorite client came back after a year or so of absence, and I was happy to see them back. Love working with them. Another favored client had an article ghostwriting gig that I was able to wrap up for them.

New clients:
Thanks to a referral, I did gain one more client this past month, and it may turn into an ongoing relationship. I signed the contract and will start work next week. Also, I'm finishing a second project for a newer client. Pretty good for a slow December.

Social media:
A new category for me, but I have put a good deal of effort into making connections via LinkedIn and Twitter. It's time to list them. LI was my biggest social media push this past month -- I connected with close to 25 new people, many of whom work in my specialty area. The groundwork has been done, and now I'll nurture those contacts and remain in front of them, engaging them in conversation (notice that I didn't say asking them for work -- I rarely do that).

Expectedly dismal. I'm at half my targeted earnings goal. I'd say that December is usually a tough month in which to find work, but that's making excuses. It is tough, but last year I surpassed my earnings goal by December 22nd. It can be done. It just takes planning a few months out.

Bottom line:
It was a bit of a weak month for me earnings-wise. On the whole, 2013 was weak thanks to unexpected surgery and what turned into a very long convalesce. The side effects lasted six months and included sapped energy levels, but I did what I could to plow through.

While that didn't help, it also didn't help to have a few clients lose budgets or interest. I marketed, but the focus area and methods weren't working. I've since revamped, added a few new ways to reach out to potential clients, and I'm feeling hopeful for this year. Even with the lower-than-hoped income, I still think this is the best job on the planet.

How did you do in December?
What worked? What didn't?
How was 2013 in general for you?
What one thing are you changing/thinking of changing?


Paula said...

You're adding Social Media, huh? I guess I'll have to pay attention to its impact from now on.

December was an odd month for me. The first few says I spent catching up from my Thanksgiving trip before heading to Chicago for a huge assignment that demanded the bulk of my focus until I turned it in on Dec 31. (Let's just say you may be shocked when I'm able to reveal where I was and who I met!) I also spent the better part of a week my sister's house for Christmas.

Queries/LOIs: None.

Existing Clients: Perhaps my magazine clients are rare, but my Favorite Editors spent December assigning like crazy. I was already working on the big assignment for them, and they assigned me four more stories all due by the first week of February. I'm also working on a pair of web articles for another long-time client. The holidays got in the way of wrapping those interviews. I wrote some executive bios for another client, who told me to keep some time open in February for another batch of bios. I turned down an offer of three low-paying articles due January 6. Even if I weren't fully booked, I wouldn't accept assignments over the holidays that require any interviews - unless they paid $2/word.

New Clients: An executive my sister referred my way asked if I had time for a few small projects in December. I didn't, but she said she'll have more work for me in 2014. Fingers crossed I didn't blow it, but I knew I was already over-extended.

Earnings were dismal, but fortunately I took in enough payments in October and November to cover my December and January bills...and the amount Favorite Editor will pay me for that big feature by mid-January will cover all of February's bills.

On paper December wasn't a productive month, but the piece I focused on will result in a clip I should get some great mileage from throughout the next year or so. (Even the top-dog editor I almost never hear from congratulated me on my big "get" for the magazine!)

I love going into the new year with projects lined up and more in the offing. I've got a good feeling about 2014!

John Soares said...

Lori, thanks for being so open about sharing your career with us. December was a lower revenue month for me also, but I'm OK with that. I spent a lot of time enjoying family and traveling.

And thanks also for the shout-out for my goals post!

Lori said...

Paula, I can't wait to hear who it was!

Thank you, John. I appreciate being part of the post!

Anne Wayman said...

2013 was pretty good... lots of changes toward the end, some of which I'm still assimilating...

Kathryn said...

While I've been writing part-time for four years, it wasn’t until April of 2013 that I quit my corporate job to write full-time. Since this will be my official “full year” of writing, I thought I’d start by joining the conversation with some well-seasoned writing veterans.

Lori, I agree with being accountable. Heck, accountability is one of the reasons Weight Watchers worked for me
Like most of the posts here, December was slow. However, November was unusually productive so I’m ahead of the game (just a tad) for January.

Goals for 2014: Build back into my work week the reasons why I decided to write full-time and not feel guilty for pursuing them. Those include spending time on completing creative writing projects, getting back to running every day, and staying healthy.

Since December was slow, I used the time to nurture clients that I haven’t been in touch with for a while and to get organized for the New Year.

For this month, existing clients are already contacting me for work so next week should be a good start after this holiday week.

I’m hoping to generate new clients this year, so I’m just now penciling out goals. One of them also includes powering-up my social media efforts. To date, LinkedIn has been the front runner.

And I too agree that this is the best job on the planet. Thanks Lori!

Lori said...

Kathryn, I've loved watching you flourish in this new career. Fantastic results for 2013! Love your goal -- creative writing IS why we've gone into this gig. Good for you for aiming part of your effort toward it.

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