Prioritizing the Actions that Will Lead to Your Goals

Post - Prioritizing Actions

Does this sound familiar?

You’re putting in a ton of hours to get your freelance business up and running, clocking in time before and after your day job, jotting down business ideas during lunch, maybe even getting out of bed in the middle of the night to tackle just one more thing on your to-do list.  You’re tired, but you feel good — as you should.  You’ve set your sights on big dreams and have been working like a boss to get things in motion.

But are you any closer to your goals?

For example, when I officially started this blog in July, I put my dream out into the universe: to make a full-time living as a freelance writer in a creative and sustainable way.  I started this blog to hold myself accountable.  In my first blog post, I set two very specific short-term income goals:

  • Milestone 1:  Hit $2,000/month by Christmas 2018.
  • Milestone 2:  Hit $5,000/month by one year (July 2019).

Because my goals are income-based, I should be focusing on income-generating actions. When you’re wearing multiple hats, though, it’s sometimes challenging to know which right action you should choose to do next.

It’s so easy to get hung up on all the little details you think are necessary to start and run a new business.  As a solopreneur, you do it all: building and maintaining your website, networking, marketing, and, of course, your paid client work.

The lesson I’m learning time and again, though, is the critical importance of prioritizing (and completing) actions that will help you reach your goals, and fitting in the rest of your to-do list when you can.

I mentioned in a previous post that my social platforms of choice were Twitter, Medium and Pinterest. I have been prioritizing my Pinterest graphics and boards because I know Pinterest marketing, if properly done, can be instrumental in driving traffic to my blog. So even though I know I should update and optimize my LinkedIn profile, it will have to wait until my Pinterest business account is fully set up and ready to go.

While tying content creation to Pinterest marketing is a long term traffic generation goal, I should also be prioritizing actions that will lead to income generation now.  I should be actively looking for leads and pitching ways I can help on a daily basis.

If pitching is a numbers game, then submitting ‘x’ number of pitches should yield ‘x’ number of projects (on average). Conversely, submitting no pitches at all will almost guarantee a yield of no income.

Bottom line: if I want to achieve my income goals, I need to prioritize the things that will generate income.

Being accountable may require uncomfortable reflection.

Sometimes you find yourself concentrating on everything other than the items you know will move the needle toward your goals, and then you find yourself over-justifying your choices.

When I find myself over-rationalizing something I’ve done or not done, it’s often a sign that I’m letting myself off the hook for something important, and it’s likely rooted in fear.

That’s the time to break out your journal and start working things through until you get to the source of your behavior.  It would be easy to keep justifying and rationalizing why you’re not doing the hard thing you need to do, but doing so solves nothing and just prevents you from moving forward.

As we all know, inaction is where dreams go to die.

I’ve gone this route before.  It’s a lonely, soul-sucking, confidence-killing journey, and to think it could have been prevented by just taking action.

2018-09-03 Post (Photo #2) rawpixel-303966-unsplashSo when you get that familiar sensation that something’s off, or that you’re spinning in circles, trust your gut.  Step back for a minute and assess your actions objectively, with honesty and compassion — as you would for a friend. Then hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to yourself is as much about self-honesty as it is staying laser-focused on your goals.

Ask for help.

To a person building what seems an intangible dream, it’s sometimes easy to miss the forest for the trees. And sometimes if you’re too far gone, you can’t see your actions for what they really are.

Having someone you trust and respect check you and hold you accountable during these times is invaluable.  

Fortunately, I have people in my life who’ve been exactly in my shoes and get what it is I’m working hard to achieve.  And because they’re further along in their journey than me, they can sense the spinning when they see it.

Sometimes the quickest way over a stumbling block or setback is to seek outside help.  Reach out to a supportive online community like this one or hire a business coach you trust.

Whatever you do, recognize your fear-based behavior for what it is, and take action to move past it.  Every time you do, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to face the next obstacle.

Some help if you’re paralyzed by inaction

Sometimes you listen to something so powerful that you just want to share it with everyone.  I recently started listening to Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast (highly recommended by Heather Deveaux of The Freelance Writing School), and I was blown away by this episode below:

If you can listen to the podcast, great.  I think you’ll learn a ton of valuable stuff — likely about yourself.  If you can’t listen but would love to know more, Amy posts a condensed summary of each episode (show notes) on her website. The show notes for the above episode can be found here.  She also includes downloadable transcripts of each episode at the end of her show notes.

For those of you who don’t know, Brooke Castillo is a world renown life coach expert and has hosted her own podcast (The Life Coach School Podcast) for years.  She talks about the power of mindset, and how changing how you think can help you achieve different results.  Interesting fact: Brooke launched her podcast several years ago. The title of her very first episode? Why You Aren’t Taking Action

If you need more motivation…

We can always learn from those who’ve gone before us.  I’ll leave you with these quotes from two people I greatly admire and respect:

Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Photos via Unsplash

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The Power of Momentum: How One Action Toward Your Goal Motivates You to Take Another

Post - Power of MomentumI know it’s been some time since my last post.  I haven’t given up.  I’ve been taking consistent, intentional action to build my freelance writing business.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Working through Heather Deveaux’s course, How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business. (See previous posts for my thoughts on Heather Deveaux’s blog, podcast and freelance writing course). I’m currently on the seventh module – creating writing samples. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and spend some time on this section, as it is easily one of the most valuable. You will work through exercises designed to sharpen your online writing skills. Heather provides topics, minimum word count and keywords to hit. By the time you complete the exercises, you should have a diverse portfolio of writing clips to show to prospective clients. Heather even offers to review your samples and give pointers on how you can improve.

If you find yourself struggling with the assignments, Heather encourages you to reach out to her directly.  I did, and she offered some great, actionable advice:

  • Just start writing: Heather says to resist the idea of a perfect first draft. What’s important is putting pen to paper. “Allow yourself to write something awful if that is what it takes to get on with the process.”
  • Avoid the research rabbit hole: It’s easy to get derailed by the sheer volume of information available on any given topic. If information overload is hindering your writing, Heather says, “Don’t worry about the research. I know that is like telling a banker not to count the money before they put it in the vault, but trust me. Pick one. Pretend you know everything there is to know about it and pretend that whatever you put on the paper is the God’s honest truth.” Then, with draft in hand, go back and do some focused, targeted research and add substance where needed.
  • Choose to add value:  After you’ve done some research, you’ll need to decide what information to include in your final work. Heather offers this suggestion: “I constantly ask myself: what didn’t I know before I started reading this? Because you know more than you think and many readers know more than they think, so lead with a question that draws out the most important information first.”
  • Stay on point: “Before you sit down to write something that you have researched, come up with the working title and then refer to it numerous times asking the question, ‘Does this information contribute to the answer of that question or fulfill the promise of the title?’ For example, if I am writing about how to improve SEO in a blog, I need to be careful to only include information that answers the question, ‘How can I improve SEO in a blog?’ and that helps filter out all the other crap.”

2. Publishing content on the online writing platform, Medium. My reasons for doing this are six-fold: 1) To exercise my ‘discomfort’ muscle by putting myself and my work out there; 2) For a sense of community as writing can be isolating; 3) To sharpen my writing skills by occasionally writing on topics unrelated to my blog; 4) To start building an online presence on an internationally read platform; 5) To push traffic to Eleanor and Jane; and 6) To read others’ work.

Stephen King wrote in his memoir, On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Medium is a fantastic place to do both.

3. Building social engagement. I know that networking and online engagement are critical to increasing traffic and growing an online business. I’m a fairly private person, but I’ve found that commenting on particularly informative or well written posts or articles allows me to contribute to the community and connect with my fellow writers and readers without the in-your-face feel of other engagement efforts. Sometimes I’ll comment on a blog directly; other times I’ll tweet a link to an article on Twitter. Word of mouth marketing is powerful. If I feel a specific blog or podcast would be right up a person’s alley, I don’t hesitate to share.

4. Revamping the Eleanor and Jane website. I actually started Eleanor and Jane a couple of years back, when I was thinking about writing for a living. At the time, the only thing I really knew about WordPress was that anyone who was anyone used WordPress for their business website or blog. So I signed up for a free WordPress account, uploaded a free, basic theme and wrote a couple posts.  Then I left the blog dormant for a good year or two.

More recently, I posted a couple of articles on the technical side of starting an online jewelry business on Etsy. I mistakenly thought that any content was good content for Eleanor and Jane, so long as it was informative and somehow touched on any aspect of building a freelance business. It was only after I started sharing Eleanor and Jane with others that I realized my website was all over the place. I knew I needed to streamline my content in order to reach a more targeted audience. Although I was proud of my posts about my Etsy business, I decided to take them down.

Fast forward to last month. When I fully committed to making a living as a freelance writer, I went back and tweaked my first post, added another, and switched to what I thought was a more professional-looking theme. I still didn’t want to spend too much time on website design — I really just wanted a place I could direct people so I could start establishing my online presence as a freelance writer. I figured that, in time, I would register my preferred domain name, switch to self-hosting and hire someone to redesign my website so it would match the vision in my head. (More on what’s wrong with this line of thinking in posts to follow.)

When I first started writing on Medium, I did not include a link to Eleanor and Jane on my Medium profile. I realized it was because I was not proud of my website. And since exposure to my blog was one of my main reasons for joining Medium in the first place,  I spent last week revamping my site until I was happy enough to add the URL to my Medium profile.

I wanted a minimalist, clean website. I went with a different WordPress theme, switched fonts, added a short bio, added a sidebar widget to showcase my blog post titles, and, most importantly, added a Work With Me page with my services and contact information.

Is my website perfect? No. But it’s better than it was and now readers and prospective clients have a way to contact me.

5. Next steps

In the near future, I plan to transition to a self-hosted plan which will allow me to do so much more with this blog. I’m excited to learn about the popular plugins, in particular Yoast SEO.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the backend of WordPress. Understanding the technical aspects of blogging will allow me to offer a more valuable package to prospective clients.

I’ve recently started looking into registering my domain name. I hit an unexpected (but not uncommon) snag which may result in me having to rename this blog unless I want to keep it on WordPress.  That’s a story for another post.  One step at a time.

Your turn.

What have you been working on lately?

Podcast Spotlight: The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux

Post - Podcast Spotlight - Freelance Writing School with Heather DeveauxNow that I’ve made the decision to seriously pursue a freelance writer career, I need to set up my shingle, so to speak.

I know I can write, but establishing a business framework and prospecting for clients is not yet in my wheelhouse.

I want to give myself the best chance for success, so I’ve been doing a ton of research on the steps I need to take to launch my business professionally, and as quickly as possible.

There are a gazillion online courses out there offering to teach these very steps.  Many are fair to modestly priced, but some can be pretty cost-prohibitive for those just starting out.

I bookmarked one such writing course for the future.  While the $197 price tag is well below others I’ve seen, it’s more than I’m comfortable spending right now on self-development.  I know it will be worth every penny, though, so I’ve decided to use it as an incentive.  I will only purchase the course with funds earned from writing, and only after hitting the $1,000.00 mark.

Until then, I’ve been taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge shared freely in the podcast world.  I listen to podcasts on self-improvement, motivation, entrepreneurship, and freelance writing, just to name a few.  It’s like having front row seats to networking or marketing conferences I can’t yet afford.

Often, I’ll set up a podcast on my phone and immerse myself in topics ranging from SEO, blogging, and Pinterest marketing, to the hard-fought paths to success of some of the most heralded entrepreneurs, all while running errands, washing dishes and folding laundry.

It was while searching for ‘freelance writing’ podcasts that I stumbled upon The Freelance Writing School Podcast (aptly named).

For those of you who have long nurtured a dream to make a living writing but have been too scared to start, I strongly encourage you to listen to The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux.

It will inspire you to stop overthinking, push past your fears of failure and start moving toward your dream today.

I have listened to countless podcasts over the past year but never left a review — until now.  Below is my five star i-Tunes review of The Freelance Writing School Podcast:

Want to stop procrastinating and actually create the career and life you’ve always dreamed of? If so, you have to listen to The Freelance Writing School Podcast with Heather Deveaux, read her blog at HeatherDeveaux.com and watch her You tube videos.

Heather is unabashedly transparent about her former life (endless starts but never finishes, being quick to quit when things got too real or uncomfortable).

But in 2016, she had enough and decided to take action to change her life. She set out to lose weight and has since lost and kept off 80 pounds. Just in the past year or so, she launched a full-time freelance writing career (earning more than her former desk job), a podcast and YouTube channel to share her incredible freelance journey with others, and The Freelance Writing School course to teach others step-by-step how to launch their own freelance writing careers.

Yes, her language is colorful, but that’s because she is being her true, authentic self. Her down-to-her bones passion is teaching and helping others move past their own self-limiting beliefs to achieve their own version of success.

The one takeaway from everything Heather teaches? “If I can do it, you can, too, if you’re willing to get out of your own way, do the work needed, and enjoy your failures and successes along the way.”

Be ready to really dig in, analyze what’s holding you back, and move confidently and fearlessly toward your dreams.

If you’re paralyzed with self-doubt, this podcast is for you.

If you feel your previous failures will hold you back, this podcast is for you.

If you’re tired of all the years you’ve wasted not living the life you’ve always wanted, this podcast is definitely for you.

Plenty of podcasts offer great advice on creating successful freelance writing businesses.  But I find many of us aren’t quite there yet.  It’s hard to focus on being even more successful if you’re still stuck on how do I just start.

That’s where The Freelance Writing School Podcast comes in.  If you’re the type who talks yourself out of your dream before you even start, or you’ve finally committed but are overwhelmed by the next steps, Heather Deveaux walks you through each phase.

She knows what we’re struggling with because she’s been exactly where we are. 

I was thrilled to learn that she had just launched a course (How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business), and that it was reasonably priced (only $75 U.S. dollars).

If you’re interested, I’ve included a link to her course description (see above).  Please know that I am not an affiliate, nor do I receive any compensation if you purchase her course.  I’m just a big fan.

These are some of the things you will learn from her course:

  • How to deep dive into mental barriers that may hinder your chance for success (and what to do when they arise)
  • Setting up your business (accounting needs, project management, e-mail marketing, etc.)
  • Identifying your niche market
  • Setting rates
  • Setting up your website and social media accounts
  • Creating writing samples, maximizing samples for SEO

I am currently working through the self-paced modules and have learned so much already.  The course is definitely worth every penny.

Even if you don’t purchase her course, be sure to check out her podcast, her YouTube videos and her personal blog at HeatherDeveaux.com.  She shares so much valuable information on how she makes money as a freelance writer, for free.  

Just as valuable, however, are her deep dives into her own self-improvement journey.  She is not afraid to lay herself bare as she tackles her own occasional self-limiting beliefs.

Which leads me to…

Why do I want to freelance? (Revisited)

I know I touched on this in my first blog post, but after working through the first steps of The Freelance Writing School course, How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business, I came up with a more substantive list:

  • To be able to work and travel – independently and with my family
  • To realize financial goals I never thought possible
  • To build a nest egg so I can facilitate my dream of traveling
  • To help people (still working through how I can best serve)
  • To inspire my girls to think outside the box and to never stop showing up in life
  • To know that if everything falls apart I have the wherewithal to build it all back up again
  • To be open and authentic
  • To spread hope and possibility to others
  • To learn the power of consistency and showing up daily in dogged pursuit of my goals.

Why I Started Freelancing

Blog Post 1 Why I Started Freelancing (Canva)

After over a decade in the legal field, I realized I was stuck, both professionally and personally.

I was essentially a passenger in my own life.

I started researching ways to earn income from home and quickly discovered the limitless potential of the freelance marketplace. I loved the thought of earning money on my own time, on my own terms. What really hooked me, though, was the idea that my earnings potential was only limited by how much time and effort I was willing to invest–there was no pre-fixed salary that would cap how much I could bring in.

After looking at some options, I jumped in and quickly learned…

Freelancing is hard.

My first freelance jobs were in transcription. I had years of experience doing dictation and thought this would be a natural foray into the freelance world. I started bidding on transcription jobs on content mills and soon spent hours transcribing audio files.

At first, I loved it. I’ve always loved learning new things, and transcription gave me inside access to a whole host of fascinating topics like tech, digital marketing, growing web-based businesses, the military, patent law, start-ups and entrepreneurship, and on and on. The transcription process itself was tedious, but I was getting to learn things well beyond my normal realm.

Freelancing was amazing.

The down side? I was literally spending hours and hours hunched over a computer desk with my headset and foot pedal struggling to complete assignments that, in the end, only brought in piddly money.

I looked for ways to make the transcription biz more profitable. I watched video after video to learn inside tips for becoming a faster transcriber. After awhile, I noticed something interesting. Many videos were set to run with closed captioning. I didn’t give this much thought until the day I came across closed captioning that was so chock-full of errors it was like witnessing a bad-lip reading parody. It was so distracting I spent more time reading the closed captions than listening to the tutorial.

After that, I couldn’t help but check the closed captioning on videos. After seeing an amazing amount of error-filled transcripts, I decided to review political campaign videos to see what ‘correct’ closed captioning should look like. Surely campaign videos would have accurate closed captions for their older and hard of hearing constituents who use closed captioning on a regular basis. I was shocked to find video after video of downright embarrassing automatic translation errors, many of which ran completely counter to the candidate’s platform (imagine the words ‘racism’ and ‘Nazi’ popping up in a candidate’s closed caption transcript without their knowledge).

Seeing the potential market for correcting error-filled YouTube transcripts, I learned the process of correcting (in some cases, creating) closed captions, and added video closed captioning to my list of services.

Soon I started getting requests to caption SEO/data analytics tutorials, podcasts, webinars, etc.

Freelancing was empowering.

I had pinpointed a need, researched the market, learned the skills and software necessary to produce clean, uploadable transcripts, and figured out how to pitch and market my services.

Clients were soon seeking me out.

Unfortunately, while video captioning was better money, it took twice as long to complete. Not only was I transcribing word-for-word, I then had to go back and time-sync the transcript to match the audio. I soon learned one of the most important business lessons of all time:

Services must be scalable for a business to grow and become profitable.

Competition in the transcription and video captioning field is pretty fierce. Individual transcriptionists and captioners are not only competing against their global counterparts, but big-volume businesses.

After six months of working endless hours for minimal profit, I returned to the bricks-and-mortar workforce.

Although the return to a regular paycheck was wonderful (getting paid every week was like Christmas), I never let go of the dream of working from home.

It’s all about marketing.

One day it dawned on me that I had been marketing myself all wrong.

A paralegal’s bread and butter is researching complex issues and using that knowledge to write compelling arguments on behalf of clients.

I had been so focused on looking for freelance opportunities with my minimal skillset (typing, proofing, editing) that I failed to see that all along I should have been marketing my high-value skillset: research and persuasive writing. I updated my online profiles to include freelance copywriting and other writing services.

This time I will not burn the ships.

Some advocate the “burn the ships at the shore” method of freelancing, i.e., eliminating all potential avenues for retreat so you are forced to take action toward your objective.

This was the method I chose in my first foray into freelancing. I did not, however, have a fiscally responsible plan in place.

It was nearly disastrous.

If I could give any words of advice for those desperate to quit their 9–5 to start freelancing now: BUDGET, PAY DOWN DEBT, and SAVE before making the leap.

Otherwise, your moments of euphoric freedom will quickly turn to panic and financial despair.

I’m all for gritting things out, eating Ramen, and grinding away. That’s great when you’re single with no kids. But when you have a family depending on your income for basic necessities, things get real super quick.

My freelance goals

I have serious goals for freelancing, but this time I plan to pursue them responsibly.

I plan to stay in a “real” job (synonym: steady paycheck) until I bring in a specific dollar amount per month. Doing so will allow me to stay solvent while I prospect, build my online portfolio and grow my business.

Financial goals

They say those who write down their goals and share them publicly are much more likely to achieve them. So, here goes:

I want to build a nest egg of $10,000 in savings (to start), pay down debt, save for home repairs and renovation, and really start socking away for my kids’ college tuition.

And while I’m building my business, I want to set aside money to travel with loved ones so my ‘someday’ bucket list items don’t get relegated to only when I retire.

My short-term goal is to bring in $2,000/month extra income from part-time freelance work by Christmas (five months away).

My long-term goal is to regularly generate $5,000/month or more from part-time freelance writing. To achieve this goal, I will need to find ways to generate passive income that makes sense for me, and through means that aren’t already oversaturated.

Can anyone really be a freelance writer?

I think so, but:

It will take focused, dedicated effort, day-in and day-out, week after week, month after month, year after year.

It will also take the most grit and determination that I’ve ever had in order to succeed.

The power of persistence.

Throughout my journey, I will be channeling these words of wisdom from NPR’s Ira Glass on the importance of persistence for those just starting out in creative work:

“…[The] thing that I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting, creative work…went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

The thing is…everybody goes through that. And for you to go through that…you gotta know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story.

It’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap, and the work you’re making is going to be as good as your ambitions…

It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while.

And you just have to fight your way through that.”

Ira Glass, 2009

Interview Excerpt by Current TV

“Ira Glass on Storytelling Part 3”

Public Radio International


And that’s how Eleanor and Jane came to be. Named for two strong, independent women, Eleanor Roosevelt and Jane Austen, I created this blog to hold myself accountable to my lofty goals and to share my ups and downs as I move forward.

Next up for Eleanor and Jane

I will continue to blog here not only to hone my writing skills but to learn how to produce valuable, engaging content on a consistent basis.

Because the focus of this blog is building a successful and sustainable freelance career, I plan to include posts on self care and personal development as well.

Finally, starting in September, I will share a monthly income report with profits/losses to show how well I’m progressing. The figures may be slow going at first, but I know this is a long-haul journey. I am looking forward to Christmas when I can look back and see how far I’ve come in just five months!

If you’re working toward a dream of your own, or maybe have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you.