Apples and Oranges: Evaluating Your Freelance Business Without Comparing Yourself To Other Writers
Some of the greatest joys of being a freelance writer for hire come from the ability to work independently and to your own standards. However, without the structure of company-mandated performance metrics, yearly evaluations and frequent meetings with a supervisor, many writers struggle to understand their own progress and performance. These corporate rituals, though often tedious, provide a constant stream of feedback that freelancers must find other ways to obtain.
For many writers, the natural reaction is to compare themselves to their peers. Forums, social media, networking events and one-on-one conversations are ripe with opportunities to quiz other writers about their workload and habits. Writers seek out information from their peers on
- How many articles per week they complete
- How many clients they work with
- How many pitches or query letters they send out
- How long it takes to complete an article
- How much they make per pay period
However, ranking yourself against other writers in this way does not provide meaningful information since statistics only provide a partial picture. These writers may hunker down for a 12-hour day while you work eight hours. They may have a different number of distractions, personal commitments or other responsibilities. In addition, each writer has his or her own set of talents. While you may excel at generating ideas another may write faster or research more efficiently.
Taken out of context, information from other writers does not provide a valuable platform for evaluation.
Rather than comparing your apples to another writer’s oranges, setting up a system of self-evaluation may be the key to maintaining and improving performance. Rather than casually considering your skills, formalize the evaluation process by using a one to five scale to rank your performance in each of the key areas of freelance writing, including customer service, editing, research, creativity and marketing. Then, write down your strengths and weaknesses in each area.
Using this evaluation as a starting point, create an action plan for improvement. Comparing where your career is today to where you would like it to be three months, six months and one year from now, create a range of both long and short-term goals complete with target dates. To keep progress attainable, focus on just two to three areas of improvement at a time and set goals in small increments. In addition, ensure that each goal is measurable. For example, rather than deciding to improve your marketing skills, commit to increasing your contacts to potential clients from your current rate from one each week to three each week.
Evaluating yourself as a freelance writer is an ongoing process. Rather than completing one self-evaluation and then forgetting about it, track your progress toward your goals on an ongoing basis. Then, revisit your evaluation at the three-month mark to see if hitting your goals has made a difference in your overall business. If it has, continue along the same path, and if not, reassess the situation and tweak your goals to serve your business better.
Writer Bio: Michelle S is a fulltime freelance writer specializing in fashion, travel, and nonprofit writing. Her current goal is to reduce her caffeine intake from ten cups of tea to just nine.