On setting and meeting business and income goals.
It is now April and for many of us in the UK and India, the financial year 2016-17 will end this week and a new one will begin.
I have spent the last few days looking over my accounts, doing my numbers, and wrapping up the business and income side of things. I’ve also been setting new business and income goals.
I have two sets of goals each year. In January, I use the energy and the feeling of a fresh start to set creativity and productivity goals. I’ve frequently said that my vision for my life is to read books, write books, and travel. At the beginning of each year, I set goals that are aligned with that vision. I think of the projects I’ll work on over the year, the countries I want to travel to, and I set a target of books to read. I also set personal goals, such as for health and fitness, family, and social life.
But in April, a new financial year begins and as I close my books for the year, it’s interesting to look at how I’ve done financially, what needs to change, and how I intend to do better.
This year, I thought I’d share these goals with you so that I can give you a year-by-year glimpse into my life and goal-setting, and hopefully inspire you and give you context for setting your own income goals.
My writing life is made up of several parts, and so I have individual goals for each of them. Here they are.
The International Freelancer and Non-Fiction Books For Writers
I’ve been blogging and talking about my experiences as a writer since 2002 (!) but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve thought about creating an online business that would provide any sort of income. I started an unrelated website in 2011, took it to 100,000+ page views a month, but never really could sustain the level of commitment it required to steady the income because I didn’t care for the subject.
With The International Freelancer, it’s been the opposite. It’s been a slow growth project because even though I love teaching writers, I am a writer first.
I am committed to making money from my writing because my goal is not to be a profitable site for writers, but to be a profitable writer.
It is important for me to live that because if I don’t live that, I can’t—in good faith—teach it. That is one part of it. The other is that while I love the business, I am at heart a writer. I didn’t start the business to make money. I started it to help writers. And I can’t help writers or teach them anything if I’m not writing and making money from that writing.
The International Freelancer has grown substantially in the last year and I’ve always been ambitious, so I will continue to work on it and make it grow. With that in mind, this is what I want to do with the site this year:
- Continue to focus on helping writers find fulfillment in their careers while also making a fantastic income. I will continue sharing my journey honestly and showing the real ups and downs that come with a creative career. Not just the positives and the rosy picture, but the tough days, the days of defeat, and the days when I mess up.
I want The International Freelancer to be a resource writers turn to repeatedly in order to feel empowered and in control. I’m committing to a weekly blog post (every Monday on The International Freelancer website) and a daily newsletter editorial (which goes out to subscribers over email.)
- This year I want to experiment with different formats and ways of delivering my message—video, audio, webinars, social media, syndication, etc. I move slowly with most of these things because, as I said, I put my own writing projects at the forefront and I don’t want to start something if I won’t be consistent with it. This year, however, I’m hoping to find some balance and add new things slowly.
- I’m also planning to publish several ebooks for writers this year. I have two books already, but I want to do more and these will help with my income goals. Eventually, there will be print editions and audiobooks as well, but as of now, I have several half-finished manuscripts I’m very excited about that I would like to finish, get edited, design covers for, and just put out there. I’m committing to at least three this year, although I hope I can do more.
Novels and Short Fiction
I have been working on my novel for the last six years. Intermittently and with several months (sometimes years) of no progress in between, but I started it over six years ago and I am now in the very last and final stages of editing. This is, I hope, the year that my fiction will finally get off the ground and become a solid part of my writing career. My goals for it include:
- Finish the editing. I hesitate to say this because I often underestimate the time it will actually take, but I expect that this last round of editing will take about a month. Then we should be ready to take it to market.
- Sell the book. This is the year I hope my fiction career will get off the ground and what I mean by that, really, is that I will sell this book. Once the edits are finished, that is the next step and I already have an amazing agent who is ready and waiting for this manuscript to land on her desk, so then we will go to market. While, of course, no one can predict what will happen with a book, I am confident that it will sell and meet my expectations in terms of the advance I receive.
- I will, over the course of the year, be focusing on building the audience for this novel and engaging with readers. Since I can’t say with any certainty what the publication date for the book will be, it’s something I will work through on an ongoing basis.
- I am also very committed to finishing the first draft of my second novel, which is already partially written. I started it last year the day after I started looking for agents and am eager to get back to it once the first one is done. I have a very rough outline-style draft, so I want to take that to a cleaner version. The first book will eventually have taken 6.5 years to finish. I’m hoping the second will take about that many months.
- And finally for my fiction, I want to write more short stories and have that be something that adds to my income goals. I have one finished story that has, until now, not sold. Probably because I’ve only sent it out twice. So I intend to write at least three more stories and then get into a routine of submitting them regularly.
I started my career with nonfiction, so I suspect I will always remain passionate and engaged with it. I love all kinds of nonfiction, including self-help, biography, narrative, and memoir, and I intend to experiment with all these forms as my career grows. One of my life and income goals is to write a hundred books before I die, and nonfiction is definitely a big part of that!
- Earlier this year, I took a course on writing six-figure and seven-figure nonfiction book proposals so that I could flesh out an idea that I wanted to explore. I have written nonfiction book proposals before and, in fact, got my first agent on the back of one, but as with anything else, the ambitious old me wants to reach higher and so I wanted to learn from the experts.
- I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to publish the few nonfiction book ideas I have or how they’ll contribute to my income goals. The one I’m currently working on would be of interest to large publishers, so I’m hoping to write it up and see where that goes. But I’m also open to the idea of self publishing it, so part of my work this year will figure out what I want to do with my non-fiction books and what direction I want to take.
Phew. I know that’s a lot. But remember, not only do I do this full time and for a living, but I also have been doing it for fifteen years. Those of you who followed me during my early years may remember that my early goals were as simple as “break into 5 new publications this year,” and “send an average of five pitches a week.” So a few things have changed since then.
- I do still have some freelancing clients, but I’m increasingly interested in replacing them with income from fiction and nonfiction book projects. I’d still like to write articles, essays, and op-eds about things that interest me and matter to me, however, and so my goal for the year is to have at least 12 such pieces published by the end of the year.
- This has been a surprise to me, but I’ve really enjoyed coaching writers over the last few months, especially since I attract go-getters like myself who are committed to putting the work in and getting the results. After a few hits and misses, I’ve now got a coaching model that works for both me and my clients and that will be the one that I will formally structure and roll out in the next few weeks. I don’t have too many expectations from coaching at this point, but I’m committed to coaching at least ten writers this year and helping them achieve whatever goals they’ve set.
Business and Income Goals
This is what I believe: You can have a creatively fulfilling career. You can have a fantastic income. You can have them both simultaneously. And you can have it all on your own terms.
That is not only what I believe, but how I approach my writing career. It is something I have achieved to a certain degree already and will continue pushing forward with.
Success to me is not only winning awards. It is not only being a bestselling author. It is both.
Love AND money.
I don’t separate my income by categories anymore because I feel like all my writing feeds into each other. That said, I separate The International Freelancer income from my personal writing income.
This is the first year that the income from The International Freelancer has exceeded my personal writing income, but that is most likely because I’ve spent most of the year working on my novel. Once it sells, I suspect the scales will either be even or my writing income will once again come out on top.
- My primary goal for my business this year is to continue investing in my learning as well as in my business. I have increasingly started hiring support for my business—virtual assistants, coaches, editors, etc. I will continue doing more of that in the coming year. I am also investing in learning and personal development, taking at least one class a month on a subject I don’t know very well.
- In terms of income goals, I usually set three targets. A base goal, which is the minimum I expect of myself for the year. A stretch goal, something that is just outside of my comfort zone. And a dream goal, which would be very exciting to hit and would help fulfill a dream.
So, for this financial year:
Base goal: Make £10,000 ($12,500) more than I did this year.
Stretch goal: Double my income. This would put me well into the top 1% of female earners in the UK, a goal that is personally meaningful to me as an immigrant to this country.
Dream goal: You know how we’re always told that in order to do something big, we need to have a vision, a big reason? Retiring my husband and making enough that he can quit his job and work on his own ideas is my big vision, my big picture, the reason I work and push so hard even when I’m exhausted and don’t want to.
In order to hit this goal, I’d need to triple my income. Completely doable and I believe it is possible for me this year, but I am aware I’m still playing small and within my comfort zone and so the real challenge for hitting this goal will be to change my mindset and start pushing outside of what is familiar on a much larger scale.
I’m very excited about the year I have ahead and I will come back and report in April 2018 to see how I did, what I learned, and of course, new income goals.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more. She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators. Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
Sign up for The Wordling
Writing trends, advice, and industry news. Delivered with a cheeky twist to your Inbox weekly, for free.