The New Year is upon us! And while lots of writers say they want to improve their craft or build their online platform in 2014, vague goals aren’t enough to really propel yourself forward.
Instead, push yourself to set specific deliverables, ones you can actually check off as you complete them. It can be difficult to hold yourself accountable for the abstract goal of becoming a better writer, but if you focus on executing a specific plan, you’ll have a lot more to show for 2014.
With that in mind, here are six meaningful goals you should consider setting for yourself this year:
1. Write and launch an ebook
Ebooks are a great way to build your brand, and they’re fun to create. But best of all, they can be incredibly lucrative, especially if you create something people actually want to buy.
While Kindle can be a strong means of distribution, especially if you need help reaching potential readers, don’t overlook the option of selling ebooks on your own website. Non-fiction, particularly how-to guides, sells well at a high price point, and when you sell on your own site, you keep all the profits. The downside of selling on your site is that you’ll have to hustle hard to help buyers find you.
To get started, check out Ali Luke’s ebook, The Blogger’s Guide to Irresistible Ebooks, and Dana Sitar’s post on What You Should Know Before Publishing Your First Ebook.
2. Build your email list
Whether you’re looking to sell books, make a living as a freelance writer or build a business as a writing coach, you’ll need people who are willing to shell out dollars for your products or services. The question is, where will those people come from?
That’s why you want to start building an email list as soon as possible, and if you’ve already started, put solid effort into growing your list. Your subscribers will not only be your community, they’ll also be your community of buyers. Investing in an email list is like putting money into an interest-earning retirement account: the earlier you start, the more capital you’ll accumulate.
Other great resources include Sean Ogle’s thoughts on How to Create a Killer List Building Offer, Kimberley Grabas’ post on The Writer’s Guide to Building an Email List, and Gregory Ciotti’s advice on List Building for Blogs.
3. Publish guest posts on at least three popular blogs
Writing blog posts for other sites is one of the best ways to build your own network, including your email list. Not only will guest posts send traffic to your site (assuming you include a link to your site in your bio), they also serve as solid back-links, which will boost your own blog’s SEO.
But don’t just say you’ll guest blog more; instead, create a concrete goal to work toward. I like to set a schedule that keeps me on track to guest blog once a month or once every other month; this Problogger post explains that strategy in detail if you want to put it to use in 2014. (Click to tweet this idea).
Push yourself to pitch popular blogs, sites that get a good amount of traffic so you’ll see returns on your hard work. Use Google’s Page Rank checker to judge whether blogs are worth pitching, and shoot for blogs that have a PR of at least 4.
For more advice on guest blogging, see Razwana Wahid’s post on 6 Ways to Knock Your Next Guest Post Out of the Park and Kelly Gurnett’s advice on Submitting an Unforgettable Guest Post: Tips from an Editor. Danny Iny’s course, Write Like Freddy, is another great resource.
4. Learn how to optimize your content for search (SEO)
Writers often want to get more eyes on their work, and you’ll get far more readers for every piece you write if you optimize it for search engines.
So if you don’t understand SEO or how to apply it to your blog or freelance work, make an effort to learn the basics. It’s not as scary as it sounds! Even optimizing just the headlines on your blog posts will go a long way toward helping your site gain traction.
5. Replace your lowest-paying client
All freelancers have a client or two — or even three — at the bottom of the totem pole. They don’t pay us enough for our work, but we keep producing for them because we don’t want to lose the revenue.
Know what’s long overdue? Replacing that client. Because when you say goodbye to that low-baller, you’ll have time to take on a new client who’s willing to pay you what you’re worth.
Of course, this is easier said than done, especially if you’re worried about possibly losing that client if you increase your rates. If you’re not sure how to go about it, follow Tom Ewer’s step-by-step plan for making this game-changer happen.
6. Set aside blocks of time to write
When you write for a living, it’s all too easy to get distracted. Whether you find yourself spending too much time on social media or leaving your home desk to tidy up the house, turning your attention away from your screen means a serious drop in productivity.
So rather than multi-tasking, set aside blocks of time to focus solely on writing. Charlie Gilkey says you only need two hours at a time to do this well — so yes, it’s possible even if you work a day job or have kids to tend to.
The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to rearrange your schedule so it includes these uber-productive blocks of time. And that means more hours to accomplish all the projects on your 2014 list!
Are any of these goals on your list for 2014? What are you hoping to accomplish?