Setting freelance editor goals

Hand holding pen over a notebook with words 'My Plan'

The end of the year is the perfect time to set your editor goals for the next 12 months. Find out how to set strong editor goals.

Why should freelance editors set goals?

In every area of life, it’s important to have something to aim for. It gives your activities purpose, rather than trundling from day to day, unsure of why you’re doing it or where you’re headed.

When you’re employed, many of your work-related goals may be set with the help of your employer or your line manager through a development programme. Self-employed editors must take it upon themselves to think about their short- and long-term goals, for both work and self-development.

This approach will remind you why you became an editor and keep you on a path of improvement. It will help you constantly provide a better service and will give you a sense of achievement at each milestone.

It's important to set goals, rather than trundling from day to day, unsure of why you're doing it or where you're headed. Share on X

How to start setting editor goals

I like to start top-down. I begin by thinking about where I want to be in a year (or longer), then gradually break down these goals into three-month goals, then monthly goals.

The best editor goals are SMART. That’s in caps for a reason. It stands for:


Be clear on what you’d like to achieve and why. If relevant, also pinpoint who is involved, where it is located and which resources are needed.

For example: I’d like to apply for Professional Member CIEP status to improve my marketability, reduce imposter syndrome and increase my earnings.


How will you know you have achieved your goals? When you have reached a certain percentage, level of earnings, particular analytics?

For example: I’ll know I’ve applied for Professional Member CIEP status when I have completed all the requirements for upgrade and have sent off the application form.


While it’s important to stretch yourself, ensure your goals aren’t so far out of sight as to be unattainable. Make sure your goals are achievable in terms of finances, time available to you, resources and knowledge/experience.

For example: My goal of applying for Professional Member CIEP status is achievable because I’m already an Intermediate Member and I have enough hours for Professional status. I also need just a few more study points to apply, and I have the determination and will to succeed.


Your goals need to be applicable to your situation, to you as a person and to the time in your life and career. They also need to be relevant to the socio-economic environment and in keeping with other goals you have set. (Some people use ‘Realistic’ instead of ‘Relevant’ here, but this seems too closely related to ‘Achievable’ to me.)

For example: The goal of applying for Professional Member CIEP status is relevant to me because I’m an editor, I’m currently at Intermediate Level, I have enough experience, and I can set aside time and money to study.


Each goal you set must have a deadline, otherwise it will be hard not to let daily tasks get in the way. If your major goal has a long deadline, set milestones along the way to keep you motivated and to break up the massive task into manageable steps. Ensure your deadline is achievable, yet stretching.

For example: I will apply for Professional Member CIEP status by 30 June 2022.

Know your ‘why’ for your editor goals

This is related to being specific and relevant (see ‘S’ and ‘R’ in SMART goals above), but it’s so important that it deserves its own mention.

Don’t pick a particular goal just because other editors have similar targets, or because you feel you should be in a particular place by a certain age or stage of your career. If you do, you may find yourself struggling to achieve it.

Good goals are personal to you. Know why you are striving for something and remind yourself frequently. This is a strong motivator and will keep you focused on the prize.

You can see my ‘why’ for each of my goals below.

Knowing 'why' you are striving for something is a strong motivator and will keep you focused on the prize. Share on X

Reward yourself

Each time you achieve one of your goals, or a milestone towards that goal, it’s important to reward yourself. This will create a feedback loop by giving you a dopamine hit, motivating you to hit the next milestone or goal.

The reward doesn’t have to be big. OK, a bottle of bubbly when you reach the top tier of your chosen professional editing membership organisation, or when one of your clients hits the New York Times bestseller list. But for the most part, a reward can be something like:

  • an hour reading in the bath (for pleasure, not work)
  • a round of golf
  • a massage
  • a cup of coffee at your favourite café.

Find a planner or journal that works for you

Why use a planner? Because the good ones will guide you through the steps outlined above. This means you don’t have to remember how to set effective, achievable goals. A good planner will also help you to work a little towards your goals each day by breaking them down into weekly or monthly milestones and tasks.

People often ask me which planner I use. I’ve tried a few different ones with varying degrees of success.

Then I hit upon the Legend Planner. This was a game-changer for me. Ones I’d tried before were either too detailed or not detailed enough. Some demanded quite a bit of time each day to set daily goals and debrief every evening. Others didn’t ask for enough data about reasons for goals or how to reward myself, for example.

Enter the Legend Planner. My Goldilocks journal – neither too hard nor too soft.

There are various formats available, but the one that works for me is the ‘Deluxe Weekly and Monthly‘ version. (If you already have your perfect planner, scroll down to see my own editor goals for 2022, along with my ‘why’ for each one).

The Legend Planner is my Goldilocks journal; neither too hard nor too soft. Share on X

What I love about the Legend Planner

  • Guides you to set long-term and short-term goals
  • Starts by encouraging you to think big and imagine your ideal life
  • Doesn’t demand much time each day to keep it updated
  • Doubles as a journal and planner
  • Covers a whole year, whereas other planners only last three or six months. There is also a Legend Planner format that does last 90 days and allows you to plan each day in detail if you prefer.
  • Undated, so you can start any time
  • Lots of different colour covers available (click on the colour you like below for more details, or to see even more colour options!)
  • Stickers (motivational, celebratory, functional and more)

My editor goals for 2022

It may help you to know my editor goals for 2022. Here they are, and I’ve tried to make them as SMART as possible to give me every chance of success:

  • By 31 March 2022, I will have completed my business plan so that I have a concrete roadmap of how to grow my editing business.
  • By 30 June 2022, I will have applied for Professional Member CIEP status to improve my marketability, reduce imposter syndrome and increase my earnings. (I will break down this longish-term goal into monthly milestones. These will help me to keep on target to complete the necessary training courses.)
  • By 31 December 2022, I will have earned 50% more via my editing business than in 2021, to ensure financial stability. (Again, I will break down this long-term goal into monthly milestones to make it more achievable and to keep me on the path to my final goal.)
  • I will incorporate two 10-minute yoga sessions into my working day (five days per week) to keep my mind and body active, focused and relaxed.
  • I will drink one litre of water every day for at least five days each week to improve my physical and mental wellbeing.

Want to know more?

Once you’ve set your editor goals, it’s time to make sure you do a bit each day, or each week, to stick to them. For a great system on how you can do just that, read this article: A how-to guide for setting better goals by Aline Holzwarth. Aline takes you through the example goal of drinking more water and breaks it down in such a way that it would be difficult to not achieve it.

Let me know in the comments what your biggest editor goals are for 2022. Seeing them in black and white will give you some accountability and make them real!

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