Businesses have strategic plans, update, and implement them regularly. Perhaps you already have one for your freelance business (if you’re a small business owner reading this, rather than a writer, consider hiring a good writer who knows how to put one together to help you — it will be some of the best money you’ve spent, provided you actually follow through).
Perhaps you don’t yet have one. And, as a freelancer, we choose to live our lives differently than a business, with more freedom to use our lances where we choose. So it’s more personal than many corporate plans.
You need several elements to create your own plan:
Where do you want to be? When do you want to get there? For me, as an individual at this point in my life, ten years is too much. I look at five years, then three years, than a year (also, for me, considered New Year’s resolutions).
I’m not a big fan of “vision statements” because I think they often use market speak to cover the real destination/determination. But if you feel a vision statement is helpful for you, craft one. If you feel sharing it will garner the business that helps you reach your vision, then, absolutely, post it on your website.
Part of my “vision” when I work with clients is to communicate THEIR vision in an exciting and engaging way, and in their unique voice.
With my own work, my vision has to do with each project improving in both art and craft, over the previous ones.
Some people break down “vision statements” and “mission statements” into separate categories. I feel they should be integrated, especially for a personal plan.
Whenever I see a company talk about “core values” I am suspicious. Do they walk their talk?
But for your own strategic plan, you have to decide what your core values are in relation to how you want to progress in your working life.
One of my values is that I now extend my practice of “conscientious consumerism” to when I hire on with clients. If I don’t trust their integrity and values, if I feel they are hypocritical, or if they are trying to profit off something I believe is harmful — we are not a good match.
We all have to make our own decisions, and draw our own boundaries.
I’m not a big fan of this element of a strategic plan, although it’s good to clinically look at your own strengths and weaknesses, and then decide how best to use both.
Opportunities? As freelancers, we daily create our own.
Threats? For freelancers, it’s usually the threat of our work and boundaries not respected.
Read a few corporate strategic plans and the SWOT will chill you. It explains a lot of why we are in the mess we’re in.
This is important. As freelancers, we’re often trying to get through the day, the week, the month.
Look at the best of the freelance community, the ones who thrive — they’re looking ahead. They’re using each assignment as a building block to long-term goals, not as a stopgap.
Break yourself out of crisis mentality and look at what you want long term.
Again, most of us are freelancers because we want a better work/life/personal/creative balance. In our personal strategic plan, we need to work on goals for different areas of our lives.
As freelancers, we tend to want and need a more integrated life than a compartmentalized one.
Manageable Steps with Deadlines To Reach Them
It’s great to take time to come up with all these lists and plans, but if you don’t take action on them, it’s all useless.
Break down your goals and visions into manageable blocks, and give yourself a deadline for each one.
We’re freelancers; we’re used to deadlines.
Then take the actions necessary to see them through.
I like to check in with myself on my goals every month, and then do a big reassessment every year.
Daily To-Do lists make me feel confined and imprisoned; monthly ones give me the flexibility I need to get it all done without feeling overwhelmed. See what works for you. It’s okay to change.
As you assess, as you grow, you will see that you have to let go of some things in your plan you were sure about early in the process.
It’s okay. It’s not failure to realize that something no longer works in your evolution. It’s healthier to let it go than to stick to it just because you wrote it down.
The most important thing, in any strategic plan, though is to take action and not expect it to happen without the work just because you wrote it down.
The elves aren’t going to show up and write your books and clean your house and send out your media kits and LOIs. You have to sit down and put in the work.