Strategic Planning for the Freelance Technical Writer

I’m not going to lie to you: I’ve been winging it on this freelancing thing for six months or so. And by “winging it,” I mean that to obtain work, I’ve primarily operated within my comfort zone. What that means in practical terms is that I’ve worked with people or industries I know. It’s a reasonable and practical way to pursue work, but what if that’s not enough? That’s when I decided to knuckle down and develop a strategic plan for myself under the assumption that my current network and lines of business will not work.

I shared my planning template with a friend and figured, what the heck, my blog readers might have some use for it, too. I was inspired to write this, in part, after reading Sally Hogshead’s How to Fascinate web page, which provides insights on how others see you. I highly encourage you to visit that site as well. Use the following as you see fit.

Big Picture


Marketing and business development people like the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) quad chart. It’s a good starting point for assessing where you or your organization is, business-wise.

For this table, you need to look honestly at how you approach the marketplace with your particular set of skills. Strengths and weaknesses are pretty straightforward. Opportunities are places/industries where you might apply your strengths/skills. Threats are people, other businesses, or situations that might get in the way of you getting the career you want.

Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunities Threats

I add value by…

List the top 3-5 things you’re good at or why you are good at what you do. This is your personal “value proposition,” the reason others will hire you over someone else.

I provide the following services…

What specific tasks do you perform at your current job? If those tasks are irrelevant to your “dream career/job,” what sorts of things can you do that you would like to get paid for? Even better—go wild and conjure up a list of things you’d do for free just because they’re fun.

I work best with:

This is where you think about your ideal work environment:

  • Location (Close to home/kids? Suburbs? City?)
  • Company/team size (Big company? Small business? Do you work alone or with a group?)
  • Work content (in what type of industry are you and “your kind of people” working?)
  • Operational culture (Are you a neckties-and-dresses kind of person or khakis and gym shoes? How do people behave in your ideal workplace? What does the work location look like? What does your work space look like?)
  • People (Educated? “People” people? What do they have in common? What makes them different?)

I will find my ideal job/clients by…

If you know where you want to go, then all you need to do is figure out where People Who Want to Hire You will be.

I will obtain a steady (or sufficient) income by pursuing the following strategies/tactics…

This was a blurb I added for myself because I’m trying to freelance. It’s the action side of the previous question: “Okay, I know who I want to work for/with, and where I can find them; here’s how I’ll go about getting their attention.”

My elevator pitch will be…

This is the very short version of “Why should someone hire me?” Assume you’ve got to make an impression with someone you want to work with and you meet them in an elevator. You can’t freeze up—you have to know what you’ll say. Here’s mine:

  • “I’m the writer that entrepreneurial engineering firms call if they need a lot of new, complex information synthesized quickly and clearly. I’m interested in helping communicating about the products and services of the future.”


Website links that provide a starting point for the types of careers, companies, or work you want to pursue.

Is this a full-fledged, business-ready strategic plan? Maybe not, but it’s a lot better than winging it, right?

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in careers, clients, freelancing, job hunting, personal, technical writing, workplace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Strategic Planning for the Freelance Technical Writer

  1. Hey! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided
    us valuable information to work on. You have done a
    marvellous job!

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