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  • Writer's pictureIngrid H.

How to Set and Achieve Income Goals as a Freelancer - and a Giveaway!

We're already a few weeks into 2021. Have you set your goals for the year yet?

As freelance translators, we can fall into the habit of thinking, plan?? There's nothing to plan, my inbox dictates the plan!

You have to point yourself in the right direction to have any hope of getting to your destination.

I know I used to think this way. A few years ago, I attended a retreat in December where we planned out our businesses for the next year. As a freelancer working mostly for agencies, I struggled to see how I could “plan” or “control” anything about my business. I felt at the whim of the agencies and the work they sent my way. While the other entrepreneurs around me at the retreat planned out launches and marketing campaigns, I doodled on my big post it and took selfies.

These days, I have a totally different outlook on how to run my business.

Importantly, when I did my review of 2020, I saw that the goals I had set last January mostly came to pass, and some within dollars of the amount I had written down. To me, that’s proof of the importance of stating our goals and being specific. You have to point yourself in the right direction if you have any hope of getting to your destination!

I’m here to tell you that as a freelancer, there’s a lot you can plan - including setting income goals.

Quick note: I encourage you not to get overwhelmed by all the information/tips in this post and just decide you don't have time for this. I'm giving you permission right now to take what seems useful and leave the rest. Small but consistent actions are the key!

Income Goals

How to Set Income Goals as a Freelance Translator

When planning your income goals, you should start with a hard look at where you're at. Don't just randomly aim for $100k because it sounds good if you're currently at $40k. Which is not to say don't dream big! Do. Just assess your current situation first and then make a strategic plan to get where you'd like to be this time next year.

Start by reflecting on these questions, and then set your income goals based on your answers.

First, gather the breakdown of your income last year by client

Use your 1099s, or your own tracking system.

How does it look?

  • Is it too heavily weighted on one or two clients?

  • Do you notice that your income from one client was drastically reduced this year?

  • Is there one client that gives you a large portion of your income, but you hate?

  • Is there one type of client that you really enjoy and would like to find more of?

  • What else stands out?

So, how can you increase your income?

Let's break this down into two scenarios and look at some strategies for each.

A) You're already working your max amount of hours

What you can do:

  • Replace some of your clients with higher payer clients to increase your total income

  • Raise your rates

  • Add a new specialization and start out with higher rates, phase out lower paying clients

  • Find a new client to replace that one you hate!

B) You're not working as much as you'd like

What you can do:

  • Find new clients similar to the ones you have

  • Find new, higher paying clients

  • Add a new specialization or service

  • Find a new client to replace that one you hate!

Use this information to shape your goal setting

Based on what strategies you want to use from above, set your goals for this year. We'll pick smaller actions towards these goals and schedule them in the next section.

  • Find a client to replace Nightmare Agency that will bring in $10,000 this year (yes, it's hard to predict how much each client will bring in. Again, the point is to state your intention so you're pointing in the right direction. The more specific, the better!)

  • Add 3 new agency clients by March

  • Add 1 new direct client every 3 months

  • Bring in $5,000 from new specialization by June

  • Get 1 project in __ field by March

  • Find mentor in new specialization by February

The more you do this, the more data you will have to make your goals more specific and effective moving forward. You'll be able to see how long it takes to get certain types of clients and what techniques are effective or a waste of time for your specific situation.

Also, note that this kind of goal focuses on the outcome, which is something we can't control. Use this type of goal to shape your concrete actions, and evaluate your success or failure based on whether you completed the actions, not whether you achieved the stated outcome.

Move on to the next section to set and schedule your actionable strategies towards these goals.

Marketing Goals

You should work just as hard for your own business as you do on your clients'.

Whether you're trying to increase your income or just maintain your business, all freelancers should be doing regular marketing of some kind.

You can pick a certain amount of time per week, or a number of specific activities per week. The only thing that's for sure is that if you don't have a plan, it will never get done. Client work will always take precedence. Of course paid work is a priority, but you should work just as hard for your own business as you do on your clients'.

To plan this out, pick 1-3 marketing channels you're going to use (social media, networking, in-person or virtual events, blogging, phone prospecting, email prospecting, etc.). Then decide when you are going to do these things and put them on your calendar.

Pick actions that are going to be sustainable for you long term - consistent action is the key. And don't add too much at once. Choose 1-3 that you can commit to; you can always add more once you have momentum with those.

Some examples of specific marketing activities for freelancers:

  • Add new specialization to website by 1/31/21.

  • 3 phone prospecting calls every day before 9 am.

  • 10 email prospecting emails every week - 1 hour each on Monday & Tuesday

  • Post to LinkedIn on Monday and Wednesday

  • 1 blog post on the first Tuesday of the month to generate leads in x specialization

  • Attend 3 client-facing events in 2021 - research now when they are and start planning

Now we'll look at some of the goals from the Income Goals section and specific actions we can schedule to accomplish them

(again, don't try to do them all! Pick a few that seem most suited to your target clients):

Add 3 new agency clients by March

  • Apply to 3 agencies on the 1st Monday of every month

  • Apply to one agency every Thursday from 3-4 pm

Add 1 new direct client every 3 months

  • 3 phone prospecting calls every day before 9 am.

  • 10 email prospecting emails every week - 1 hour each Monday/Tuesday

  • Hire someone to research and create prospect list by 3/31/21

  • 2 LinkedIn posts/week on topics my clients care about

  • 4 posts/month on blog about client-related topic

Bring in $5,000 from new specialization (let’s look at this one step by step)

  1. Finish course in specialization by 1/31/21

  2. Add new specialization to website by 2/3/21

  3. Add specialization to resume by 2/5/21

  4. Email 5 potential companies every Friday to offer volunteer work in specialization until I have 5 “past clients” in specialization

  5. Then add strategy for new direct clients from above

Savings/Investment/Retirement Goals

How to Plan for Retirement as a Freelance Translator

Being self-employed doesn't mean ignoring your long-term financial goals like retirement! You're the boss now, shouldn't you be taking good care of your employees?

There are two ways I like to do this:

Dollar Amount Goals

Set a goal of how much you want to have in each account (savings, retirement, and investment) by the end of the year. Then divide by 12 to know how much you need to be transferring every month.

Say you want to contribute $6,000 to your Roth IRA. $6,000/12 would mean you would need to transfer or set aside $500/month.

Due to the nature of billing cycles for freelancers and not having regular payday, you might be transferring more one month and less another, but knowing the monthly amount allows you to stay on track.

Alternatively, you can look at your budget and see what you can afford to put in each account every month. Multiply that by 12 and that is your annual goal.

Percentage Goals

Another easy way to do this is to calculate a percentage of each payment you receive - this takes all the guesswork out of it. This is also a good method if you haven't been in business long enough to know what you're going to be making or what you can afford in these areas.

For example, for each check that comes in, allocate 25% to taxes, 10% to savings, 10% to investment, 6% to retirement, etc. You'll adjust the numbers based on your personal goals and expenses. When a payment comes in, break it down immediately so you know how much of that paycheck is actually free for you to use.

This is the system I use, and I have an excel spreadsheet set up with the formula so I can easily plug in the amount of the payment and see the breakdown of how to allocate it. Then I either transfer the amounts to different accounts immediately, or let a few payments accrue and do two or three at one time.

I'll do a separate post on this method and share my spreadsheet in the future, so sign up for my mailing list below so you don't miss it!


Block out any vacations you have planned for this year on your calendar. Even if they're just staycations, it will help to know that you have planned time off coming up.

You'll be able to communicate to your clients in advance that you're going to be off to try to avoid any emergency requests while you're trying to relax. You can even schedule your vacation responder in advance in your email provider if you're an over-achiever!

Vacations are related to your income goals, too. Maybe you want to add a vacation savings account to your plan from the last section. You'll also want to take any time off into account in your annual income goals. If you're shooting for $5,000/month, knowing that you're taking two weeks off in August or a whole month off in October. Will you take extra projects at other times to make up for it? Or will you just rest easy when you see that you only made $2,500 in August, knowing that you planned this all along?


Put important accounting and tax dates on your calendar. I like to set a reminders in my digital calendar for a few weeks ahead of the deadlines so I get a heads up.

  • Estimated tax payment due dates

  • Tax filing deadline

  • Deadline for issuing 1099s to subcontractors (coming up January 31st if you're in the US!)

  • Follow-up on unpaid invoices (pick a day every quarter)

  • Payment reconciliation - schedule at regular intervals or at year end

Mid-Year Check-in

Schedule a check-in around June, or at the end of every quarter. Where are you at with income? Are you on track to meet your annual goal? What marketing actions are working? Which aren't? Then adjust as needed.

Ok, ok, let's talk free stuff! The Giveaway:

Subscribe below to win a Passion Planner like mine above!

My birthday is coming up on February 3rd, and I decided I wanted to share something I love with all of you. So I'm giving away a Passion Planner to one lucky winner ($35 value). The winner will get to choose the color and size - see This is NOT a sponsored giveaway (ha!). This is just the planner that I use and I'm excited to share!

To enter the raffle, sign up for my mailing list here, and follow me on Instagram or Facebook at @ingridholmtranslation

I'll pick a random winner on February 1st. You'll get to pick the color of planner of your choice and I will have it shipped to you.

I hope you found some useful techniques in this post to help you plan for the year ahead. I'd love to hear what you plan to implement from these ideas, or your own planning strategies!

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