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5 New Year’s Resolutions for Freelancers That Aren’t Stupid

By Sarah Miller December 20th, 2016

All around you, friends are making New Year’s resolutions about eating more low-glycemic foods and drinking less beer. They’re going to attend more yoga sessions and stop arguing about politics on Facebook.

But you’re Different. You’re Better. You’re a Freelancer. You don’t make stupid resolutions. You make real changes that will bring more happiness and prosperity into your life, and most importantly, more drop-dead brilliance to your readership—because that’s the whole reason you do this, right?

Since we know that’s the kind of freelancer you are, here are five resolutions that’ll actually change your life.

1. Make more friends who are writers and editors

Don’t think of it as networking. Think of it as meeting people who will give you money once you’re friends with them.

No, seriously. The more people in your industry who like you, the more work you’ll get. Plus, writers and editors are more fun than other people, so it’s a win-win.

By the way, I’m not talking about hanging out with jerks to get work. I am talking about pursuing friendships with people who are interesting to you. You help them. They help you. It is often referred to as community.

2. Upgrade your financial system

During the daily grind of deadlines, pitching, and constant rejection (peppered with the occasional triumph), it can be hard to keep up with the bureaucratic hassle of freelancing. It’s so easy to just dash off an email invoice, but sloppy invoices are often the sign of a sloppy freelancer.

Nice, neat professional looking ones from simple, readily available templates do wonders to raise your status with clients, and honestly, don’t take much more time than just writing an email with your name, address, and social security number.

You might think to yourself: “Oh, what’s the point in being so corporate and uptight about this, bro? I’m an artist.” Well, it’s possible to be an artist who invoices lots of clients and, therefore, has a system down and deserves a lot more work.

As for the whole “Oh, I will pay the IRS later!” routine, January always arrives a lot faster than you think. Find an accountant who likes to ping you quarterly with weird emails like, “Hey, moneybags! Don’t forget Uncle Sam.”

3. Learn stuff

Sure, you could just continue to write personal essays about your childhood or hot takes on Westworld. But imagine the heights of success you could rise to if you knew the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre, or a thrush and an egret, or igneous and metamorphic rock.

It’s a pretty simple rule: The more stuff you know, the more valuable you are.

If you are good with languages, start learning one, and read everything you can about the countries where those languages are spoken. (Hint: They speak Portuguese in Brazil. There’s no such language as Brazilian.) Also, you probably want to learn a language that a fair amount of people speak: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French. And no, pig Latin is not a language.

4. Start a political discussion group

You don’t have to know everything, but you should be able to identify major world leaders. You should know people in the United States cabinet and have a basic understanding of the issues making current headlines. Even if you write about fashion or music or art, everything that happens in politics will influence your area of expertise. It is no longer cute for people who write about the world to know nothing about it.

5. Ask clients for more money

I have a friend who was recently asked by a professional coach if he’d been fired by any of his clients lately. My friend replied that he had not, and the coach countered back with this: “You’re not charging enough.”

At some point in 2017, someone should say, “How much do you charge” and you should then respond with a number that makes you a little nervous. Also at some point in 2017, someone should say to you, “That’s a little high for us.” You know how to respond to that person? Say thank you and goodbye.

And then you’ll say to yourself, “You idiot! You’re going to starve.”

But you won’t. Have faith. For every client who says, “Sorry, see you later,” there are probably three who will recognize your value. And they’ll probably give you the rate you want. Just remember, after you celebrate, don’t forget to send half of that windfall to the I.R.S.

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