When you work for yourself, there’s a lot to get excited about… skipping the alarm clock… fitting your work around your life instead of the other way around… all the good parts of “being the boss.”
And, personally, I do love waking up around eight, “commuting” down the hall, and working from anywhere with an internet connection.
However, I learned early in my freelance-writing career that, if you’re not careful, there’s a downside.
When I started out, I didn’t understand a lot of the business aspects of… well, running a business.
I’d read a lot about it, and I came from a family of self-employed people, so I’d seen it in action.
But, you don’t learn from osmosis, it turns out.
What did help with building my business was becoming a part of a community of freelance writers and reading everything I could about business practices.
One of those practices was a major “aha” for me — the importance of regular check-ins with yourself. An assessment, if you will.
How to Track Your Progress Like A Salesperson
Salespeople do self-assessments all the time.
They have daily, weekly, and monthly targets to hit that help them know if they’re going to make their income goals.
As a writer and freelance-business owner, it helps to do the same.
Now, you might not be tracking sales numbers. In fact, there are a lot of different ways you can assess your progress… and it’s up to you to decide which is best for you.
I’ve met writers who track their outreach efforts. I’ve met others who track their daily word count. I’ve also met businesspeople who track fitness and personal goals alongside their professional goals.
It turns out that taking 15-20 minutes each week, or even just every month, to assess your accomplishments and learning experiences provides insight no matter where you are in your journey!
Take a CEO’s Approach to Making Strategic Decisions
Large companies have CEOs who make strategic decisions about the direction of the business. To do that, they need information.
Your business is the same. You need information to know the best way forward.
When you’re responsible for every aspect of your business, it’s easy to get busy handling client work and lose sight of the bigger picture. For example, you might “hope” you’re going to reach a certain income goal during a quarter, but, if you don’t have a plan for how that will happen, you’re relying on luck rather than well-conceived actions.
The good news is it doesn’t take long to shift into a CEO mindset.
How to Be Your Own CEO
To cultivate a CEO mindset, start to think in terms of performance and process. What did you achieve and how did you achieve it? Not hours worked, because that’s irrelevant.
For example, you may know you need to land three projects in a month to make the income you desire.
But, do you know how many people you need to talk to before you’ll land three projects?
Salespeople talk about this as “knowing your numbers.”
Whether you’re networking or sending out warm emails or making phone calls, not everyone you connect with will need web copy. And, even some who do may not be a good match for you and your services.
Which is fine. Just like everyone isn’t the perfect fit for reading the latest John Grisham page turner, not everyone is the perfect fit for your writing business.
Now, I wish I could say it’s as simple as “reach out to 100 businesses and you’ll land one client.”
But, it isn’t.
And that’s where the regular assessment comes in. By regularly looking at what you’re doing and the progress you’ve made, you’ll be able to see the big picture and pinpoint areas for improvement.
Each week, or each month, create a simple bulleted list of:
- What Worked – Accomplishments
- What Didn’t Work
- What Can Be Improved
You can do this for both personal and professional tasks. I like to aim for at least five notes in each category. For example, in August last year, I had a very good month. I attribute that in part to improving my prospecting efforts and reaching out to a lot of people the month before. So, under What Worked, I noted the approach I used to contact people in July, as well as the number of companies I contacted and how many converted into clients.
On the personal side of things. I also did yoga at least once a week that month.
Under the What Didn’t Work category, you might include a new schedule you tried that didn’t fit with your lifestyle or a warm email template that’s been getting a disappointing response.
Under the What Can Be Improved category, you could write “better positioning as a specialist in my chosen niche.” And then, jot down some notes on how you might make this happen. Things like getting bylines in industry publications or landing an ongoing content-marketing role in one of your niches.
It’s an “at a glance” way to assess what’s going on.
Instead of going blindly along hoping your business is healthy and growing, when you shift into a CEO mindset and pause to assess, you’ll know better what’s working and what you should change.
There’s always room for improvement, but in order to actually improve, you need some sort of a baseline. This gives you that.
You’ll be better able to spot the gaps in your business and make a plan you can follow.
If you do this monthly, you may be surprised at what you accomplish.
Whether it’s eating less sugar, exercising more often, or landing more clients, you need a plan to follow. When you follow the plan, check in with yourself regularly, and make adjustments based on what you find… you’ll move along the path to success much faster.
What about you? Do you try to cultivate a CEO mindset? Do you practice a regular self-assessment for your business or personal goals? If so, what have you learned?