I touched on this subject a little over three years ago, and it still remains relevant. Planning and strategizing are as important for the freelancer as they are for any business, but are often neglected while we deal with the tyranny of the urgent everyday tasks that must be done NOW. However, we owe it to ourselves to be proactive and to think about the future and the big picture before we’re caught off-guard, and the important becomes the urgent.
Revisiting my strategic plan
When I wrote about strategic planning in 2014, I was six months into the freelance life and still looking for work. I was a bit in panic mode, trying to find work–any work–that would pay some bills. I had a jack-of-all-trades resume designed to capture anything that might resemble technical writing. I was getting work with that desperate-to-please appeal, but the work I was getting wasn’t quite what I was hoping for (low-paying) or expecting (sporadic, not for fields I was familiar with).
This was around the time I started talking to my buddy Kate the coach, who got me to focus on the types of work and customers that would best suit my goals and, more importantly, my expenses. I spent the next year positioning myself for more corporate freelance work, and that (with a good helping of luck) is how I’m paying my bills today.
Now, three years later, my life is more stable and I have some time to think and plan. My biggest contract looks steady through early next year, so I am not in a rush to find the next job. However, it’s still important that I think seriously about what comes next before 2018 arrives and I find myself looking for work without a plan.
Wouldn’t it be better to do some planning without the desperate need to pay some bills? Fear of unemployment fueled my first attempt at marketing. The result was unfocused and, to be honest, had a whiff of desperation about it. My approach could be seen as akin to someone who hasn’t dated in a while–as was trying to be all things to all people. That same trying-too-hard mentality doesn’t go over well with prospective partners of any kind.
So I’m back to filling in the blanks for some important statements about my market position:
- My Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats are…
- I add value by…
- I provide the following services…
- I work best with…
- I will find my ideal job/clients by…
- I will obtain a steady (or sufficient) income by pursuing the following strategies/tactics…
- My elevator pitch will be…
And since I’m on a contract that meets most of my professional, personal, and financial needs, it makes sense to seek out future work akin to what I have now…or better! Some folks are fond of saying that the time to be seeking your next job is while you’re still employed, and there’s some truth to that because the fear factor isn’t there.
Other long-term planning
The next phase of work isn’t the only thing I’ve been working on.
I got a new car, for instance, because the previous Bartmobile was leaking transmission fluid and had just crested 80,000 miles. Did I want to put several thousand dollars into a transmission if the repairs would be worth more than the car? No.
I have been looking at investing again, something I haven’t done a lot of since I left full-time employment. However, theoretically I’m at the peak of my adult money-making years, and I should still be putting money aside for retirement while money is still coming in. So that’s going on.
I decided that it was time to pay for a certified public accountant (CPA) to put my books in order. I am also looking at incorporating Heroic Technical Writing into something resembling a formal business.
While I have no spouse or dependents to worry about, I’d prefer that the bulk of my assets go to specific people rather than the government, if at all possible. That means talking to a lawyer about creating a will, “advanced directives” (medical orders for what to do with me if I’m incapacitated or end up in a vegetative state). Again, I see this as a part of long-term planning, best done while I’ve got most of my marbles and the leisure time to put them to constructive use.
Marketing & branding
I’ve been working with a couple of people whose opinions I respect to help firm up my personal branding and market positioning. Some of this will fall out of the discussions and plans listed above. That could mean changes to how I describe what I do, what sorts of services I offer, or how I use this website to reach potential customers (I appreciate and respect my readers, but this is not really a marketing site). If I change what I do, I’m going to need to change how I market it, right? Maybe I’ll end up shifting from contracting to consulting, which pays better but requires a lot more thinking and customer service than I’ve been doing up to now.
So while things are going well and I have a clear head, I’m taking some time to work on the important things that will help me improve personally and professionally…because the urgent things will arrive soon enough.