New Year, Fresh Start: 9 Ways to Recalibrate Your Business in 2011

Happy almost-New-Year! This is an updated version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago. The advice is still relevant, and it’s something I follow myself every year.

Once the confetti is cleaned up and the hangover is over, it’s time to start thinking of your 2011 plans for freelance writing. The new year is a great time to clear space in your business life and get set for the next year. Here are some suggestions:

1. Buy holiday cards for Christmas 2011. I like to send my editors holiday cards, and I tend to choose pricy ones with fold-outs and pop-ups and all kinds of goodies. Right after Christmas is the time to get your cards on sale at Borders or Barnes & Noble. You can also find beautiful cards at a discount from The Museum of Modern Art.

2. Update your business plan. You do have a business plan, don’t you? Mine is both a personal and a business plan, and I update it twice a year. It contains goals, roadblocks, and ways to overcome those roadblocks for categories like health, home, and work. If you need help, check out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans by Gwen Moran.

3. Clean off your desk. New year, fresh start. Go through the piles of papers and sticky notes on your desk and in your in-box and either do, delegate, trash, or file them. This is also a good time to clear out your e-mail in-box, reorganize and streamline your e-mail folders, and clean up your computer desk-top (how many file icons do you have cluttering it up?).

4. Back up your computer. If you don’t regularly back up your computer, now’s the time to make a plan to do so. Research back-up options such as Internet back-up services, set a back-up schedule, and set your calendar to send you reminders when it’s time to back up your files (or set the system to automatically back up on a regular basis).

5. Create clips. If you’re like me, you have a stack of magazines with your articles waiting to be turned into usable clips. Do it now! I cut mine out with an Xacto knife and then recycle the rest of the magazine. I store the clips in files labeled A-Z. Every once in awhile, I turn a few select, recent clips into PDF files to send to editors who request them. No matter how you create your clips, imagine how good it will feel to be rid of all those magazines cluttering up your office.

6. Educate yourself. Restock your bookshelves with books that reflect where you want to be in 2009. For example, if you plan to move into corporate writing, get Bob Bly’s Secrets of a Freelance Writer and The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman. Looking to sell more magazine articles? Well, even if I do say so myself, you can’t go wrong with The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock. While you’re at it, sell books that no longer serve you on (I’ve made a few thousand over the last several years selling books on

7. Get rid of your tolerations. Tolerations are those little things that bug you every day and drain your energy: My computer’s fan makes a lot of noise. My friends keep calling while I’m working. The contract for my new assignment still hasn’t arrived. My office is too dark. Make a list of all the tolerations that are getting on your nerves — life coach Kristin Taliaferro suggests writing down 100, which is easier than you might think — and then brainstorm ways to put the kibosh on them.

8. Stock up on supplies. Go through your stocks of computer paper, CDs, paper clips, ink cartridges, pens, notebooks, and other business supplies. Make a list of ones you’re running short on, and make a run to the office store to replenish your supplies for the new year.

9. Shoot for the stars. What do you really, really want to accomplish in your business in 2011? This will be part of your business plan, but it can help to also write your primary goal on an index card that you look at every day. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, look at the card and ask yourself if what you’re doing now will lead you to your goal.

What do you do to set yourself up for the coming year? Please post your advice in the Comments below.

May your 2011 be full of fun and lucrative writing assignments! [lf]

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12 comments… add one
  • Hi Linda:

    My initial year as a full-timer hasn’t been the easiest, and one of the things I plan on doing before 2011 is taking a step back and recognizing what I did that was either beneficial or slowing me down.

    What I do is clear out all my files and get rid of clutter, and I sit down and map out my strategy for the upcoming year. Out with the old, in with the new.


  • I just moved, I’ll be unpacking until I’m 105, and I’ve got a lot of work booked, so I need to make sure I don’t drop the marketing ball early on.

  • Steve, I think that’s a good plan. That way you can cut out whatever is a waste of time for you. Devon, good luck packing — and marketing!

  • Linda, these are excellent things to do anytime. The most important thing I do at the beginning of the year is get a new planner and transfer over all the important 2011 tasks and deadlines.

    I strongly urge everyone to back up their files frequently. I do it every day, sometimes 2-3 times per day. I also have all of my files on two different computers, a portable hard drive, and on a friend’s portable hard drive off-site.

  • Great post, Linda. I like to use the week between Christmas and New Year’s to clean/organize my office, get my goals for the next year down in writing, etc. It’s a great time to start planning for a productive next year. 🙂

  • Kevin

    I would add a #10, but it should go at the front in the #2 position, maybe: Reflect on 2010 — the highs, the lows, and visualize how you want 2011 to go.

  • Thanks for your comments! John, I really need to back up more aggressively than I do…thanks for the motivation! Kelly, I do the same thing…it’s one of my favorite times of the year (except for the snow and cold part).

  • Great List! I especially like numbers 2,3,6, and 9! My plans for 2011 are going to take some effort but I am excited to get started. It is time to get pitching!!

    Thanks Linda!!


    P.S. #2 and 6 will be taken care of with one of your classes soon!!

  • Look forward to working with you, Danielle!

  • Linda, I’m really enjoying your site! In 2011, I hope to God I figure out what it is I’m doing wrong and start landing more assignments. 2010 wasn’t terribly impressive (I groan), but I’ve still got the tenacity of all true writers! I aim to get in those glossy pages with guns smoking.

  • Welcome, Leigh!

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