The Most Important Thing Most Writers Never Do

2018 - Me speaking at Lola Retreat

I’d be driving and think, “Oh damn it, I never followed up with Susan.”

I’d be shopping and realize it had been six months since that editor offered to read some pitches.

I’d look in my email for the last time I made contact with that person who would help me get where I want to be, and it had been two years.

And I realized that I need a better system.

As cluster-f*ck prevention, I’ve been keeping my Writer’s Mission Control Center for years, tracking my submissions, story ideas, and publications. But there was something I wasn’t tracking, that, as essentially a B2B salesperson (a subset of what we writers are), it was crazy I wasn’t writing down.

It was my opportunities.

There’s this concept of the sales funnel, which essentially says that a small portion of the people who know about your work will eventually buy it. At the top, the widest portion are just about anyone who hears about you. While there’s no universal definition for an opportunity, I would define it as a situation that presents a higher chance of getting a sale (or anything else of value, like a speaking opportunity that could lead to bigger things.)

When I look at my opportunities, I see editors I’ve been recommended to, publications that have invited me to send work, and — I just added this one — calls to pitch.

When the new year came, I kept seeing all these calls to submit to magazines. I took screenshots and emailed them to myself. But my question was: Where do I keep these so I know I’ll actually follow up?

I realized, then that a call to pitch is a kind of opportunity. These now live organized in my Writer’s Mission Control Center:

But wait… how do you know you’ll actually follow up???

That’s where my Executive Meeting comes in. Every Monday, I have an all-day meeting with myself, where I go through the most important 10,000 ft issues of my freelance writing business. I have a list of about 20 things I do. On them is the item: Check and update opportunities.

This has me sending little emails just checking in, taking small steps toward big goals. It has people emailing me to say, “Thanks for being great at following up.” Who, me?

You can build your own spreadsheet, or check out pre-configured The Writer’s Mission Control Center Deluxe!

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