Happy New Year!

Have you ever started a new year full of intentions to improve your creative career or business, only to see them fall by the wayside in a few short weeks, leaving you feeling more discouraged than ever? The good news is you’re not alone. The even better news is there is a way to turn your great intentions into a better business.

I’ve been helping creative professionals get gigs for more than 15 years, first as an agent, and now as a business coach, teaching freelancers and entrepreneurs how to build creatively fulfilling and successful businesses. From photographers and graphic designers to video producers and IT specialists, I've learned that it’s not lack of talent or desire that hold people back. It’s having the plan, strategies and accountability they need to make their ideas happen.

If you’ve ever “failed” at New Year’s resolutions, but are committed to making 2015 your best year yet, I’d like to share some simple strategies that will turn your resolutions into results.

1. Make your business a priority

“One is distracted by this notion that there is such an thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff to come up with my payload” -Leonard Cohen

Turning your creative ideas into a thriving, sustainable business takes work. Make your business a priority and commit to doing whatever it takes to make your ideas happen.

But first, let’s talk about dreams….

2. Dream bigger

I recently asked a client who her competition was and she responded “other little freelancers working in their spare room”. Do you see how limiting that mindset is?

Playing a bigger game starts with having big dreams. Take a notebook and write down all of your hopes and aspirations for the next 30 years. Don’t hold back - list everything you want, big and small. Change the story you’ve been telling yourself and work on your mindset each day. Reading books, mediation and exercise all help. I’ll share a few books that I love at the end of this post.

OK, so you’ve committed to doing whatever it takes and your head is in the right place. Now let’s talk about making your big ideas happen….

3. Break big dreams into tiny steps

The reason our big ideas don’t amount to anything is our inability to see how they will happen. As a result, we psyche ourselves out before we even start. The trick to getting things done is breaking big ideas down into baby steps. I’d like to share a simple and effective technique that I use and is perfect for visual people. It’s called a Mind Map.

Simply take a piece of paper and write your goal, e.g. Your Business Name, at the center. As thoughts come to mind, draw branches from the central point and write them down (in as few words as possible). You can create sub-branches for additional thoughts/action items.

Your first draft will probably be all over the place, so review, consolidate your ideas and create a new, prettier version (I use Coggle). It will look something like this:

4. Prioritize and calendarize (I know it’s not a word, but it should be!)

Take your mind map and number your goals by priority. Start with number one, let’s use Networking as the example, and list action steps you need to take. For example:

a) Research BNI and visit one chapter this month
b) Become a member of Freelancer’s Union and attend one event this month
c) Research local AIGA chapter

Now enter those action steps into your calendar. Once it’s in the calendar it moves from a guilt-inducing “should” to practically a done deal. Without it hanging over your head, you’re free to do something else.

5. Bundle your to-do’s

Have you ever ended your day feeling exhausted and frustrated because you ran around like a headless chicken, without much to show for it? I have and it sucks. I now bundle similar tasks together and take care of them in one sitting. My week looks like this: I cluster my coaching sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday so that I can stay in the zone and be as present as possible. Tuesday is dedicated to content development and marketing and Friday is my book keeping and general admin day. Clustering your efforts also helps you balance “doing” and “creating”.

6. Get an accountability buddy

Being an entrepreneur can be lonely, so getting support from a like-minded professional is essential. For the last couple of years I’ve worked with an ‘accountability buddy’, and it’s been life changing!

Like any other good relationship, you need to choose carefully. A great accountability buddy is:

  • Motivated
  • An innovative thinker
  • In a different field, but targeting the same client
  • Supportive of your goals
  • Objective and willing to give you honest feedback
  • Receptive to your ideas and feedback
  • Willing and able to meet or talk at least once a week

I hope these tips will inspire you take inspired action and achieve your big goals this year. If you’d like to brainstorm a custom plan for your new year, I’d like to offer Freelancer’s Union readers 10% off my one-hour strategy session ($150 value). If you’re ready to turn your inspired ideas into action, simply click here to book your session.

Here’s to 2015 being your best year yet!

P.S. Here are a few mindset book recommendations: A Happy Pocket Full of Money by David Cameron Gikandi. The Game of Life and How to Play it by Florence Scoval Shinn. Embrace your Magnificence by Fabienne Frederickson.

Justine Clay has been helping freelance creative talent build thriving careers for more than 15 years. As the founder of Plum Creative, she built a track record of making the perfect match between high-level, independent creative professionals and clients that included Vogue, Bloomingdale’s, Henri Bendel and West Elm.

Justine’s desire to share her knowledge with more than the handful of people she represented led her to found Pitch Perfect in 2010. As a business coach for creative professionals, Justine helps her clients define what makes them unique, create a clear marketing message and get more, high-quality, better-paying clients.

Justine’s services include one-on-one coaching, workshops and talks. She is also a regular contributor to the Freelancer’s Union blog.