I’ve been a freelancer for over 25 years. I didn’t say ‘freelance writer’ because I do several things to earn a living. I do several things because I want to. How do I know that I want to? Each year I create my business vision. I then expend my energy making it real. For instance, I wrote almost full time for several newspapers and magazines for about a decade. That’s what I wanted to do. But I still taught a night school course one night a week. To me, teaching is like writing: I conduct my research and then deliver my words–in person, not on the page.
I’m not saying every writer should teach. If you can’t envision yourself standing in front a group of inquiring minds, then you might — emphasis on might — not want to.
I now earn my living writing and editing for corporate clients, conducting business-writing training , teaching online courses for the University of Toronto, teaching private online courses and selling my books. It is what my business vision says I want to do, so it’s what I do. In other words, having a business vision helps me focus. It helps me prioritise my time and create my website to ensure it reflects who I want to be.
What’s your business vision say you should be doing? Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? Who do you want to do it for?
If you are like most freelancers, you don’t have one. You just do. Nothing wrong with that, if you like what you are doing and are making enough money doing it. But if you have a nagging feeling you’d like to be doing something different, it’s time you asked yourself the W5 questions: who, what, where, when and why.
Who do you want to be? If you don’t know, how can you become that person? I want to be a writer, trainer and teacher who writes books on the side. Go to my website, paullima.com, and you will see that is who I am.
What do you want to do? Let’s say you want to be a writer. That’s cool. But do you want to write for newspapers and magazines or corporate clients? Do you want to write books? If so, fiction or non-fiction? Do you want to write a bit of several things? You need to know what you want to do so that you can devote your energy to doing it.
Who do you want to do it for? There is a big difference between writing for periodicals and corporate clients. There is a big difference between teaching night school and conducting corporate training gigs. At minimum, for the latter, you need a jacket and tie!
Where do you want to do it? I’ve worked from home, other than short teaching and training gigs for over 20 years. That’s what I want to do. That means I do not apply for contract positions or gigs that would have me commuting to an office most days of the week. I want to work from home.
When do you want to do it? If you want to teach or train, but you want to take most of the summer off, you would not be promoting yourself as a teacher or trainer in May or June, because you might land gigs that take place over the summer. In short, having a business vision in place helps you do what you want to do, when you want to do it.
Why do you want to do it? It helps to know what motivate us to do the various things we want to do. Sometimes the going gets tough, and knowing why you want to do something can help keep you on track.
How do you do that? Having a business vision doesn’t automatically mean you will be who you want to be. It means you can work on becoming that person. If you want to teach or train, for instance, but have never done it, you don’t start pitching yourself as a trainer or applying for teaching jobs. Perhaps you start by taking some courses that help you become a more confident teacher or trainer. Then you start looking to do what you want to do. If you want to write for periodicals, you spend most of your working day researching markets and pitching query letters.
In short, who you are is up to you and you. Create a business vision, and then work on making it real. Visit your vision once a year, and consciously decide if you want to keep on the path you’ve envisioned or if you want evolve. You don’t have to make changes every year; however, think about who you want to be, and work on becoming that person.
[ Paul Lima is exactly who he wants to be: a freelance writer, business-writing trainer, writing instructor and the author of books on business writing, promotional writing and the business of freelance writing. Read more about him online at www.paullima.com. ]