How to Set Freelancing Goals that Really Make Sense

The setting and achieving of goals is one of the key elements in any self-development and business growth program.

When I was still working in the UN, we spent days and quite a lot of money for planning. The end result of all our planning was to have goals.

Freelancers benefit from having goals as well. Goals motivate us. They can keep us going even when freelancing gets challenging. Goal helps us make decisions about projects and clients. They also help us see if we’re on the right track, or if we should redouble our efforts or even change course completely.

In this post, let’s talk about how to set freelancing goals so that they make sense. Goals that will push you towards achievement and success, but without making you a slave. And goals that will leave you feeling fulfilled when you meet them, not empty wondering what all the hard work was for.

Vision: The Source of Goals

One of the most common mistakes in goal setting is making goals that you don’t really want. This may sound stupid at first, but, in reality, a lot of us make this mistake.

Stop and think about it. How many of your goals reflect what you really want… and how many are what other people expect or demand from you? Sometimes we even set goals because everybody else is doing so.

If we let others dictate the goals we make, then those goals won’t effectively motivate or drive us to succeed. Instead, we may feel resentful. And when we reach those goals, we’ll find we’re not any happier or satisfied.

The way to avoid making this mistake is by starting with a vision. According to Michael Stelzner, author of Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, the way to formulate your vision is by asking yourself, “Where do I ultimately want my business to be?”

Take at least an hour or so to let your imagination run free and come up with an honest answer to this question. Then write out your vision statement in a brief paragraph.

Walk away from your vision statement for at least a day. Then look at it again with fresh eyes. Ask yourself if that is what you really, truly want. If not, make adjustments. If it is, then you’re ready to set some goals.

SMART: The Language of Goals

SMART is the acronym corporations use to remember the best way to express goals. It stands for:

  • Specific. Your goal should be as specific as possible. For example, rather than saying “My goal is to earn more,” it’s much more effective to say “My goal is to earn a net income of $100,000 this year.” Use numbers and other quantifiers to make your goal as specific and tangible as possible.
  • Measurable. When you use quantifiers, you’re also making your goal measurable. You (and anybody else for that matter) should be able to look at your results and say whether or not you’ve met your goal. Thus, a goal like “Have 5,000 email subscribers by December 2011″ is a measurable goal, while “Have a critical mass of email subscribers” is not.
  • Attainable. While we want our goals to challenge and stretch us, we want to make sure they are attainable. There’s nothing more frustrating than striving for a result that’s simply impossible to achieve. It will de-motivate you and make you feel like a failure. So don’t aim for a $500,000 income if you’re about to give birth to your fourth child (Note: Perhaps that IS an attainable goal for some; it isn’t for me). Be honest with yourself, but don’t settle for small goals that you could accomplish with very little effort.
  • Relevant. Remember your vision statement? Your goals should all contribute towards your vision. Therefore, your goals need to be relevant to the ultimate end result you’re aiming for. If your goals aren’t relevant, then what’s the use of attaining them?
  • Time-bound. Finally, your goals should have a definite deadline in time. State when your want to accomplish each goal. For instance, “by December 31, 2011,” or “at the end of six months.” Deadlines are powerful for motivating, focusing, and energizing us.

Types of Goals

When we talk of freelancing goals, most of the time we think of income goals. However, keep in mind that freelancing isn’t only about making money.

I think you’re a freelancer because you want a certain lifestyle. Include this lifestyle in your vision. Make goals about how many hours you want to work, what types of clients and projects you’ll be working on, and what other professional activities you want to do.

Also, consider writing goals to cover other aspects of your life, such as spirituality, inter-personal relationships, health, character development, and whatever else is important to you.

Goals and You

Do you set goals for your freelancing business? If so, what process do you follow? Have your goals helped you become more successful as a freelancer?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Do post them in the comments section below.

Image by ogimogi


  1. says

    Thanks, Lexi! The SMART technique has been really useful for me since I started setting goals for my business. I read them every morning to help keep me on track and adjust them usually once a month as necessary. I can’t imagine where my business would be without constant reflection on goals – so necessary!

  2. says

    Great Article,

    I find what works best for me is writing goals down and immediately take some action to achieving that goal not matter how small. I also continually read my goals either on paper or on screen everyday. This helps set them into your deep into your mind.


  3. says

    The 5 “SMART” points are very important, yet really easy to lose sight of. I find it also helps to break goals down into sub-goals, so that you can know when you’re on the right path.

  4. says

    Hi Lexi, SMART goal setting has worked wonders for me, especially once I realized that I could also still be very flexible and modify them as I go along.

    Being specific, in particular, was such an obvious step but somehow I never correlated not having anywhere specific that I wanted to be with my complete lack of focus and direction. My natural inclination is to be open-ended, so it was a bit of a struggle to pin down my specific goals but once I finally did, that’s when I was able to make meaningful strides forward.

  5. says

    Well I have goals, and there are…

    short term (by next year)
    – Start my freelance service and establish a portfolio.
    – Acquire enough clients to gain a $3.8K monthly income for my student loans and independent living this year. Though, I have no job as I’m living with my parents. However, I seriously want to live alone [/get away from them]!!

    mid term (in 3 years from now)
    – Acquire a dog. Although, I’m not sure, because I want a shar pei, a beagle, or a golden retriever lol.

    long term (in 3 years from now)
    – Own a 2 story house that’s $50K in a nice neighborhood… or just fix it up? lol
    – Own a $40K Camaro ZL1 (orange, grey, or black — I’ll make a decision when I get the car lol)

  6. says

    As a social worker, I used to teach clients these tips for setting goals, but it does help to have a reminder. The one thing I don’t have is a vision statement–I pretty much set my goals based on assignments from editors and clients. Sitting down and really thinking about what I want my writing business to be would help that. I’m going to give it a go!

  7. says

    This may very well be the hardest thing for me, personally and professionally. I think I have goal commitment phobia! Tying it to the vision is a great idea, though — I’ll be trying that out. :)

  8. says

    It always makes sense to set some SMART goals. They are the only way to achieve what we are aimed for. But it is always necessary to MEASURE. Thanks for your advice.

  9. says

    Set a goal in freelancing which is realstics is really tough.Because everyone coming into the profession of freelancing has a ambition of income of 4 figure and this is not realstics.So a goal according your skill.

  10. says

    Now a days free lancing has become one of the most easiest way to earn money sitting at home.People specially the youngsters are getting more and more interested to this business.This blog has enunciate this concept in a simple way.

  11. says

    This may perfectly be the toughest thing for me, independently and by professionals. I believe I have target dedication Tying it to the perspective is a excellent idea,


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