You’re wired for progress and chasing your dreams. Setting and working towards goals can help you move your freelance journey and business forward. But the whole process can feel daunting, murky, or offputting. Don’t worry, though. Here’s how to set freelance goals you’ll love pursuing and achieving.
What are Goals?
Before we get into goal-setting strategy, let’s give the word goals a working definition. Goals are specific, intentional benchmarks you plan to hit along the way to a grander vision. Makes sense, right?
Here’s an example:
Let’s say your master plan is to earn a full-time living freelancing, only working 3 days a week. You can achieve that in different ways. You could learn and implement productivity hacks to get more done in less time. Or, you could seek out higher-paying gigs and clients, so you need fewer of them to hit your income target. Maybe you want to try doing both.
Your goals, in that case, could be to:
- Increase your earnings by $X amount per project or hour with both current and new clients
- Gradually drop the clients that don’t meet that threshold
- Learn and implement a new productivity trick each month
Why You Need to Set the Right Ones
The right goals can motivate you, help you make decisions, and be a measure of your success. If you’re feeling lost or deflated, a quick review of your objectives should get you back on track. Then, as you face choices that impact your business, you can make them through the lens of your goals. If an option supports them, go with it. If not, ditch it or put it aside for later. Finally, when it’s time to gauge how things are going in your business, goal achievement is a good barometer.
The Consequences of Setting the Wrong Goals
But, if you choose your goals haphazardly, the reverse of those things will likely be true. Your goals could become demoralizing, putting a dark cloud over your business – and your life. You’ll have no clear lens from which to evaluate choices and opportunities. And your freelance goals can’t be cleanly used to measure your success because you pursued metrics that didn’t align with your vision.
How to Set Freelance Goals You’ll Love
So how do you pursue metrics that do align with your long-term vision? How do you set freelance goals you’ll love working towards and achieving? Follow my 8 step process.
1) Get Clear on What You Want
Your goals are supposed to advance you towards an ideal freelance business. But they can’t do that if you don’t know what ideal means for you. Think about what led you to go freelance.
If you became self-employed because you wanted more flexibility in your life, your goals will probably look different than someone trying to make as much money as they can, as fast as they can. Make sure each goal you set supports your why for going freelance.
2) Take a Baseline
How close are you to your ideal? Your goals should look different if you’re right on the edge versus if you’re still way off.
For example, if you only want to work 3 days a week, but you have 60 hours of deliverables due each week, you’re pretty far away from your goal. But, if you’ve only got 35 hours of work per week on your calendar, you’re much closer — especially if you’re able to put in long days.
3) Plot Out Your Steps
Think about what actions you could take to move closer to your vision. Be realistic here, and don’t bite off more than you can chew. Otherwise, you’ll get overwhelmed quickly. (Ask me how I know this!)
Let’s say you primarily went freelance for the increased earning potential. You’ve got your sights set on making six figures. If you’re earning $85,000+ per year freelancing now, jumping to $100,000+ seems pretty realistic. But, if you’re only bringing in $25,000, you may want to scale your target back this go around.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to see that big of a bump in a short period. I know people who have done it. But, it’s not necessarily the norm. Plus, in my opinion, metered growth is much more sustainable than a meteoric rise. You’re much more inclined to set a freelance goal you love if you’ve got a solid chance of making it happen.
So, for example, to move from $25,000 to $50,000 per year in freelance income, some potential goals could include:
- Double the number of clients you have
- Double the amount of revenue you earn per client
- Raise your rates by $X and acquire X new clients at that rate
Pro Tip: Make your goals measurable. Don’t just say you want more clients. Specify how many new clients you’re going to get.
Related Reading: How to Get Clients as a New Freelancer
4) Set a Timeline
Goals need to have a deadline. Otherwise, they’ll just be floating out in space indefinitely, prone to being forgotten and put off. So, determine when you’ll complete each action you’ve pledged to take in step 3. Again, you need to be reasonable here.
For example, you probably won’t have your dream website up and running in a month. But, it’s feasible to choose a domain name, buy hosting, and start building it within that timeframe.
5) Make Your Goals Public and Visible
Once you’ve established what you’re doing, don’t keep it to yourself. Share your goals with other people so that they can help hold you accountable and cheer for you when things are slow going. You can do the same for them.
To stay focused, you need near-constant reminders of your goals. So, for best results, plaster them everywhere you look! Write them on the whiteboard in your office. Jot them down on sticky notes and affix them to your laptop. Create a vision board for each round of goals you set. Do whatever you need to do to make sure your goals are the driving force behind your business.
6) Incentivize Yourself and Track Your Progress
Sometimes, it’s hard to stay motivated – no matter how compelling your goals are. Life is distracting, and it’s easy to get thrown off course. So, incentivize yourself to stick to your plan.
Visualize the reward you’ll get after reaching each milestone. If it’s the satisfaction of a job well done, so be it. If it’s takeout from your fave restaurant or a new outfit, that’s OK, too.
It’s a good idea to track your goals — especially as you move closer to your deadline. You might work well under pressure and kick things into high gear near the end.
Resource for You: If you use an app for everything, check out these that are specifically for goal tracking.
7) Be Willing to Flex
Of course, you don’t set goals with the intention of blowing them off. And, yes, you should put in the effort required to achieve them. But – realize that sometimes it’s not going to happen.
You may have a personal tragedy. The world may go topsy turvy because of a pandemic. Or, you may change your mind about the direction you want to take. No matter what, don’t beat yourself up. Just reevaluate and choose new targets.
8) Take it From the Top
Once your deadline has passed, it’s time to take stock. Did you reach your goals? If yes, celebrate! If not, regroup. Goal-setting is a continuous process, so be prepared to repeat it indefinitely on a loop for as long as you live.
Well, there you have it. Now you know how to set freelance goals you’ll love – and have a great shot of achieving! No matter how things shake out for each individual goal, I know you’ll be successful overall. Get after it!
Learn by listening: Check out this podcast on 8 steps to set goals as a freelancer.