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The Best New Year’s Resolutions for Freelancers

A woman sitting at a table with her laptop open, holding a cup of a coffee, and writing in a notebook.

Evidently, less than one-quarter of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions until January 30, which can make the resolution thing seem pointless. If you’re a freelancer, though, there are some valid reasons to make resolutions.

The problem with many popular New Year’s resolutions is they’re too vague: eat healthier, get in shape, travel more, and so on. Because they don’t have a clear plan of action to accomplish these things, people soon give up. Freelancers face the same dilemma. If you just resolve to make more money or grow your business, you probably won’t get very far.

However, if you make clear, concrete resolutions that involve action, you can take your freelance business to a whole new level in the new year.

So, what should a freelancer resolve to do after that ball drops?

Refine Your Social Media

Here’s a relatively fun and easy one to start with: align your social media presence with your freelance brand.

Sure, you might not typically use social media for business purposes, but as a freelancer, you and your business are one and the same. At some point, a potential client is going to look you up online, or a social media follower is going to consider hiring you. What will they see when they look at your page?

Cleaning up your social media doesn’t mean your posts always have to be business-oriented or bland. Most freelancers aren’t expected to act professional online the way some people in other industries are.

Still, your social media should tell people something valuable about who you are and what you do as a freelancer because you never know who might be looking you up.

Develop Your Brand

On the same note, the new year is a great time to develop a personal brand.

Your personal brand serves as a guideline for how you represent yourself online, as well as in-person. It’s an important part of what makes someone want to hire you. An authentic, well-thought-out personal brand can set you apart from competitors in your niche.

Update Your Website

As a freelancer, you likely already have a website or online portfolio, but how long has it been since you updated it? Adding your latest headshot and new projects or skills would be a good idea.

Take an afternoon in January to review your site and jot down everything you need to update or change. After you make the changes, you can share your newly polished site on all your updated social media channels and find out who’s interested in what you do.

Don’t have a website yet? Making an online portfolio is another great New Year’s resolution for a freelancer!

Choose a Financial Tracking System

If you already diligently track all of your freelance paychecks and expenses, this resolution isn’t for you. If, however, you’ve let your financial tracking slide a bit this year, it might be time for a new system.

It’s important to track everything that goes in and comes out of your bank account. A detailed tracking system can save you lots of time (and potential fines) when you do your taxes. It will also make you a more financially responsible freelancer.

It’s up to you which system to use, but we recommend Wave if you want a free option, or QuickBooks if you’re willing to pay for more features.

Make Your Quarterly Tax Payments

A man sitting at a kitchen table looking at a piece of paper, and holding a pencil and smartphone, and a woman in the background in pajamas looking at her phone.
WAYHOME Studio/Shutterstock

If you’re not already in the habit, resolving to pay your quarterly taxes accurately and on time is an excellent (and important) goal for the new year.

While the consequences for not doing so are relatively small (you might be charged a penalty and have to pay off your tax bill over the next year), why not take steps now to avoid falling behind?

List Potential New Clients

Freelancers sometimes feel pressured to seek out new clients. When they have enough work, though, it’s easy to be lulled into a sense of stability.

Unfortunately, few (if any) clients last forever. If your client volume is steady now, it’s still a good idea to list some potential leads in the new year. Always having a list of possible clients can save you a lot of scrambling and stress when a contract ends, and you need a new income stream.

Make New Freelance Friends

As a freelancer, you don’t have the luxury of making friends with coworkers the easy way. But if you have a circle of people who understand what you do, and the challenges you face, it can make freelancing much easier.

So, this year, why not resolve to make some new freelance friends so you can support each other? Check out some networking events in your city or Facebook groups in your industry. If you can’t find any, consider making an event or group of your own, and let new friends come to you.

Always Use a Contract

If you’ve been working without contracts in 2019, it’s time to end that practice for good. Resolve to find a good contract template and always get it signed before you start a freelance project in 2020.

While freelance contracts can’t protect you from everything, they go a long way toward making clients behave and pay on time. You can find all kinds of contract templates online, so you won’t have to invest much time in protecting your work.

Get Rejected More

Finally, here’s a counterintuitive resolution: get rejected more in the new year.

If you haven’t piled up many rejections in 2019, you probably haven’t spent enough time outside your freelance comfort zone.

It’s time to pitch bigger clients, ask for more money, or apply for a grant. Reach a little higher for opportunities, and collect any rejections like trophies. Each one will teach you something new, and soon, you’ll be getting accepted for opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have even pursued.

All freelancers face unique struggles within their professions, but these resolutions are universal. Choose a few that best suit your goals or needs, get yourself a day planner or calendar app, and start working on those resolutions as soon as that ball drops!

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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