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Stop and Ask Yourself These Four Questions Before Making Plans for the New Year

Stop and Ask Yourself These Four Questions Before Making Plans for the New Year
Photo by Estée Janssens / Unsplash

If you're serious about getting paid more for your writing (or maybe even getting paid for the first time), then you've probably already started planning how you'll achieve your goals this year.

But whether the planning you've done is detailed and written down or just the daydream variety of planning that will happen "someday" you need to stop.

Is planning important?


If you don't plan, you'll really struggle to achieve any kind of success.

However, there are four questions you need to ask yourself BEFORE you get down into the planning weeds.


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Years ago, my husband, two children, and I moved from Australia back to the US for a couple of years so my husband could do his master's degree. We were living in California, which is the land of the outlet shopping mall.

Now, for those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept of an outlet mall, it's meant to be a place where a whole lot of brands and concept shops sell excess stock, show off new season samples that are coming through experimental clothing designs, all kinds of stuff. And it's often, but not always at bargain price ... which is a big deal when you're paying university fees and working part-time jobs.

One day we decided to go to an outlet mall we hadn't been to before.

I thought I knew how to get there.

And my husband thought he knew how to get there.

So we very blithely packed the kids in the car and we drove off without checking the map.

Result? Two hours later we finally stopped, actually looked at the map and discovered that we'd missed the exit and were nowhere near that outlet mall.

And now we had two very hungry, tired, and thirsty kids who were bored out of their minds. And we still had a two hour drive to get home.

Mission FAIL!! 

My point?

If you don't stop and take the time to make sure you're headed in the direction that you want to go, chances are very high that you're going to end up someplace you didn't really want to be.

So here are the four questions to ask yourself as you make, or you solidify, your plans for this new year. By answering those four questions, you'll be able to begin working towards your goals and know you're at least headed in the right direction.

So go grab a cup of your favorite hot or cold beverage and some paper and a pen. And if you can, go find a quiet space. Are you ready? All right. Here's the questions. 

Question 1: Do Your Core Values Need To Be Updated?

In other words, are the values that you use to live your life and run your writing business still the same?

Have those core values changed or do they NEED to change? I'm not talking about ditching core values like decency and respect. But the situations we face and the maturity we gain over the years can sometimes mean the values we use to define how we run our businesses need to be updated (or maybe even upgraded).

For me, one of my core values is that I care about people. People are the heart of my business and their success is my success. So when I went through this same exercise for my business, I looked at that core value, and thought, Nope, no change to that. That is still exactly the same.

And just a side note, if you've never gone through the process of deciding what your core values should be for your writing business, please take the time to sit down and write down three to five core values that are central to your business.

When I first did my core values, I used a process from the book "Traction" by Gino Wickman (affiliate link). I like his process because it's a very practical way of figuring out something that's fundamental to running a business.

Question 2: Are You Still Serving The Right People?

Or to ask the question another way, do you still want to keep on serving the people you've been serving or do you want to make a change?

This is a really important question because interests change. Circumstances change. People change. And if things change, you need to be changing with it, if that's relevant to what you're doing.

So for me, when I thought about the people that I'm serving, I asked myself if I needed to make changes. And the answer was yes, I am tweaking things just a little bit this year.

My area of expertise is in helping coaches, consultants, community managers, and course creators grow the online side of their business. In this new year, I'm going to be doubling down on helping you, as writers, understand how to use a business approach to making money from your writing skills.

Question 3: Have Your Long-Term Goals Or Aspirations Changed?

I find that that's always an interesting question, because I know there's some people who find it really, really difficult to plan out any length of time.

I have a friend who, because of circumstances beyond her control, finds it impossible to plan for periods longer than one year.

And I get it. It's difficult enough planning for a week, let alone for the long term. But it's a really important question to ask. What do you want your life to look like 10 years from now?

So when I went through this exercise for this new year, I looked at my ten year goal and realized that it has definitely changed. A LOT!

I still want to be helping people master digital and business skills in 10 years' time. But I also want to grow my fledgling portfolio of revenue generating content websites to the point where I can build a full team to manage everything.

Why? So that I can spend more time with my grandchildren.

It's a huge dream, but it is possible.

So has your long-term vision for the future changed at all? If it has, in what way (or ways) has it changed?

And once again, if you don't already have a dream for what your life and business could look like 10 years from now, please schedule some time in your calendar to work on it.

Question 4: What Are Your Unique Capabilities?

What do I mean by "unique capabilities"?

In his book, "Traction," Gino Wickman asks readers to identify the three things that (when combined) make them unique in the market.

And to help with the process of identifying those three things, he uses a concept from Jim Collin's book "Good To Great" (affiliate link). This process has a slightly odd name (the Hedgehog Concept), but don't let that put you off.

Think of a Venn diagram with 3 overlapping circles, with each circle containing one of the following questions:

  • What are you deeply passionate about?
  • What can you be the best in the world at?
  • What drives your economic engine? (ie. how do you make your money?)

By answering each of those three questions, you will have discovered what makes your particular approach to writing unique. Because where all three of those "circles" overlap, is where you'll find your area of genius ... skills, experiences or abilities, that when combined are difficult or impossible for anyone else to replicate.

Sound too good to be true? Especially if you're struggling to figure out what's so special about your own writing at the moment?

When one of my community members did this exercise, she went from thinking that other people could do what she does, to suddenly realising that no, they actually couldn't.

And that's because the golden thread pulling everything together into a unique set of skills is in her "why". And her "why' is built into the very bones of her business.

Here's her 3 business "uniques" (to use Gino Wickman's phrasing):

  • Passionate About: She's passionate about local ecosystems and how the interplay between birds, insects and native plants is critical for a healthy environment
  • Could Be Best In The World At: She's really good at artistically photographing birds, insects and flowers
  • Economic Engine Driver: She makes it easy for people to buy her photographs, either as a digital or physical product

Each of those things on their own is not unique. But that sweet spot in the middle, her "why," is to help people get back into nature. To see the beauty around them and feel the calmness it can evoke. And to help people make a difference in their local area for the birds, insects, plants, etc., that make up a local ecosystem.

So great photography skills + passion for nature in local areas + relevant products that evoke that local nature creates a uniqueness that is hard to copy.

And it's going to be the same for you.

It takes effort to figure out what's unique about what you can offer, but it's well worth the time it takes.

Here's another example. My three uniques are:

  • Passionate About: I am passionate about helping people who, because of their current situation, need an alternative to a typical 9-5 job. I help them build their own business to the size they want it to be, so they have more choice in how they live their lives.
  • Could Be Best In The World At: I've been in situations where I couldn't work a 9-5 job either and I've felt the pain. And I’ve got years of experience in the corporate world and senior management positions, as well as being my own boss. So I know what's involved in building and running an online business. Plus I've got deep experience helping carers/caregivers, mums with kids and people over 50 overcome barriers to successfully build their own business.
  • Economic Engine Driver: I use coaching, community, courses and other digital products to help my chosen audience. And I use a proven quiz-based framework and process that helps them identify, attract, and serve THEIR customers.

And there you have it. Taking the time to answer those four questions is going to set you up really well for this coming year. You're still going to need to plan. You can't get away from that fact, but you'll be able to do that planning from a rock solid foundation.

So once again, just really quickly, those questions are...

  • Are your core values still the same?
  • Do you still want to keep on helping the same people you've been helping? The same type of customers?
  • Have your long-term goals and aspirations changed?
  • And what are your unique capabilities?

If you found this useful, please, please share it with someone else who would find it helpful as well. And if you're not already part of an online business community, I'd encourage you to come and check out the Online Business Liftoff community at onlinebusinessliftoff.com.