As a freelancer, you’re responsible for your own structure. We’ve talked before about how this can be difficult, especially when you’re sitting at your kitchen table in your favorite sweatpants, but I’m not talking about your daily structure right now.
This time, I’m talking about setting some goals. I’m talking about doing more than saying, “I sure hope I can make more money this year!” I’m talking about taking an actual writing utensil and creating a goal map on a chalkboard, or sitting down at your desk to fill out a goal-setting worksheet.
Have you ever broken an egg into a skillet or bowl and gotten a few shards of shell floating around in the whites?
Have you ever tried retrieving those shells? It’s hard. You can’t just clumsily fumble about with your fingers and come out with exactly what you were hoping for. Chances are, you’re going to end up with egg on your hands and shells in your breakfast… unless you come at it with a little strategy. Nobody wants to chomp on an eggshell… nobody I know, anyway.
Strategizing to run a freelance business is pretty similar. If you tackle freelancing with a messy approach and half-baked plan, you’re likely to end up with messy and half-baked results. Part of learning how to freelance is learning how to set thoughtful, deliberate goals for your business.
Goals are pretty important. In your personal life, setting goals can help improve your quality of living and help you grow as a person. Achieving personal goals can result in higher self-confidence and the general feeling of climbing the tallest mountain in the world… while singing… and calculating super-difficult math problems all at the same time. It feels pretty awesome.
Achieving goals for your freelance business can feel similar, but with the added bonus of avoiding stagnation and failure. You want to get that piece of eggshell.
I’m going to walk you through the questions you need to ask yourself in order to get those goals a cookin.’. Be sure to snag the handy goal setting worksheet we’ve created at the end of the post so that you can print it out and keep it in a visible place.
1. What are the long-term goals for your freelance business?
Like I said before, it doesn’t count to simply say, “Earn SO MUCH money!” That goal is hard to define, and has the chance to be either too simple or too difficult to achieve. When you state your goals, it’s important to be as specific as possible. A better example would be, “Support myself solely through my freelance earnings,” or “Make x amount of dollars per project by 2018.” Forcing yourself to think of long-term desires (we’re thinking 3/5/10 years from now) causes you to think about your future, your intentions, and your abilities on a more critical, in-depth level.
2. What are the medium-term goals for your freelance business?
Is “medium-term” even a real phrase? Oh, well. I’m sticking with it.
When I say “medium-term,” I’m thinking about goals that you would like to achieve in 1-2 years. These things won’t take quite as long as those long-term bad boys, but you’ve still got to put in some time before they actualize. An example for me would be “Attend Hubspot’s Inbound Conference.” For me, a goal like that requires a lot of budgeting and children who are a couple years older than they are now. I can’t pull that off right now, but I can absolutely make it an attainable goal for the near-ish future.
3. What are the short-term goals for your freelance business?
With a short-term goal, it’s easy to say something along the lines of “Get organized!” or “Communicate Better!” These goals are just entirely too vague. Setting vague goals is a good way to set yourself up for failure, and you don’t want to start right out of the gate by failing, right? “Getting organized” can mean a lot of things.
Try a goal like “Buy a planner and use it daily,” or “Learn how to track expenses in QuickBooks.” Details help you make a plan that is easy to tackle.
4. Which of my short-term goals are top-priority?
Are any of your goals time-sensitive? Anything involving taxes, due dates, or penalty fees needs to be attended to immediately. If colleagues or fellow freelancers are depending on you, it’s critical to take care of those things as quickly as you can so you can keep your reputation and your relationships intact.
5. What are the deadlines for these goals?
Give yourself a deadline for each of these goals, and be realistic when you do so. Do you have the time to commit to these deadlines right now? Will that time open up further along in the future? Know your abilities and set your goals according to them.
Instead of writing “three months from now” on your goal setting worksheet, write “March 24th.” Watching an actual date loom nearer can be incredibly motivational.
6. What do you need to achieve your goals?
Sometimes a goal requires money, education, or supplies in order to achieve it. Make a list of the things you need for each goal, and start working on acquiring them. If your goal is to meticulously track your expenses this year, an app or accounting program might be helpful. If you have vowed to yourself to attend a huge conference in the next three years, start saving up for it now. If your goal is to learn how to code, start researching code schools or online education options. Before you know it, that deadline will show up… do you want to be prepared or disappointed when it does?
7. Can you break down your goals into manageable chunks?
Use this space on your worksheet to break down your big goals. You can’t eat a giant pizza in one bite… but you can happily work your way through it a slice at a time. Overhauling a website, for instance, is a huge task full of many small ones… which are easy to cross off a list.
Scratching your pen through a list item can have huge motivational power. Don’t underestimate it.
8. How will achieving these goals improve your life?
Don’t let the trudging get you down. You’ve set these goals for a reason… so make sure you remind yourself of that. How will your life be better once you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself? Will you be happier? Will your business be more efficient?
Back to those eggshells. Rather than swearing and fumbling around in runny goo, let’s say you picked up your phone and looked for a solution online. It doesn’t take much looking to learn that you’ve got to fight eggshell with eggshell. Simply use a larger piece of broken shell to scoop out the rogue pieces. Instead of pushing them away, it will simply stick to the tiny buggers, and you will find yourself with a deliciously satisfying plate of scrambles.
Why is a sweet egg trick relevant to a “how to freelance” piece? Because, with a few minutes of research and thought, that sweet egg trick ended with you achieving what you set out for in the first place: breakfast.
Now it’s your turn. Where is your freelance business going to take you? We’ve got a super-slick goal setting worksheet available to you right here, waiting to get filled with your methods of inspiration and motivation.
If you need us, we’ll be right here, cheering you on.
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