Creating Clear and Measurable Goals in the Pursuit of Writing

How do I know this is working?

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There are all kinds of reasons to start writing: the enjoyment, as an outlet to vent or relieve stress, to build a legitimate money making business, or any combination. As I’ve just started this journey, I wanted to set out some clear goals that I can come back to months or years down the road to feel the progress I’ve made. Plus WordPress told me that would be a good place to start, and who doesn’t like taking advice from an automated email.

SHORT TERM (3 MONTHS)

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Crank out content. Period. Blog design can be clunky and outreach/distribution can be limited. Developing a cadence for writing so that it becomes more natural, however, has to be the most foundational element of getting this to work, whatever “getting this to work” actually means. A blogger I’ve taken a liking to in recent months, Nicolas Cole, writes about the importance of volume (the input you can fully control) in his post, Want To Become A Successful Writer? You Need To Do These 2 Things (Daily). The measure I’m setting for this particular goal is 2 posts a week over my first 3 months, so let’s call it an even 25 posts by the end of July ’18. This one’s #3 for anyone keeping score, which I’m sure is nobody.

MEDIUM TERM (3 MONTHS to 1 YEAR)

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Generate a following. It doesn’t have to be huge early on, but at the end of the day every blog needs people to read it and to come back for new content. Developing engaging content and building out robust email lists is a tall order, but a logical next step to gain traction. By May 1st, 2019, I’m aiming for a 10k follower base across all media outlets. SEO, email, content distribution, subscriber growth – yea I gotta figure all that shit out.

LONG TERM (1-2 YEARS)

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Develop a clear content calendar that I can use to create more structure and organization of output, tailored to specific outlets and channels. The blog may be the source and the north star, but how do I develop a strategy for tweaking this content for Medium, Quora, Tumblr, or anywhere I else I may be looking to develop a following? I’m hoping in my first year I can develop a clear sense of what types of content resonate on specific media outlets, and devise a clear and consistent strategy for output. By the end of 2019, I’m gearing toward structured content calendar to guide my output beyond the simple stream of consciousness strategy that I am leveraging now in order to build volume.

REALLY LONG TERM (2 YEARS+)

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Monetize with some level of reliability and consistency. I certainly hope to create some revenue stream prior to 2 years, but I fully expect it to be wildly sporadic at the onset. Volatile affiliate income, marginal banner income, maybe some marketable ebooks, but nothing that can replace a day job until I can build a personal brand, and I recognize and appreciate the process that goes into that. But 2 years is also a lot of time. If I can’t build something here in 2 years with some level of reliability from a business standpoint then I’m doing something wrong. Either the content doesn’t resonate or the marketing/ops needs some serious pivoting. Whatever the case, I’ll likely know what’s wrong along the way based on whether or not I hit my short and medium term goals. That said, I’m setting a goal of >$2k in monthly income exclusively from writing by May 1st, 2020.

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER

With anything we do, a key lesson I learned from the corporate world is that there are lead measures and lag measures. Lag measures are the results, i.e. revenue, followers, etc. They are the results of the work we put in, which are the lead measures. Lead measures are things we have full ownership and control over. I can set a goal of 25 posts in the next 3 months and by July 31st I either did it or I did not, but the success or failure of that particular goal is entirely on me, with no extraneous factors affecting my production. I don’t want to drop a “do or do not, there is no try” line from Yoda here, but you see what I’m getting at. I am very intentionally and deliberately setting my immediate goals to focus only on lead measures, and as time goes on, I will develop new lead measures for the period of time directly in front of me, studying exactly how the lead measures correlate to the lag measures over time. If we focus relentlessly on the things we can control in the present moment, and appropriately adjust that focus based on what we learn about how our inputs influence our outputs, we can greatly reduce the level of uncertainty in a highly uncertain environment. As they say, luck is simply where preparation meets opportunity.

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