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.

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