When you work full-time for an employer, your career goals are often laid out for you through promotions and regular pay rises. Entry-level positions can lead to senior roles and potentially even leadership jobs down the line. As a freelancer, however, you have to learn how to set and achieve goals, in order to pave your own way. This provides a unique opportunity—you can set objectives that match your ambition—but it also has its challenges. Here are some suggestions to help you not only choose the right goals, to remain motivated, to ultimately achieve them.
Figure out your priorities
The first step to finding out how to set and achieve goals is to think about what your priorities are and what you want to get out of your freelance career.
If reducing the amount of time you spend working is a priority, your goals will be geared towards that. Other examples are: finding higher value projects, setting a more rigid schedule for yourself, and integrating smart tools into your workflow to streamline certain tasks. It may seem obvious, but it is worth repeating, knowing what your priorities are is the first step to setting goals and it will help you to remain motivated as you achieve them.
Set clearly defined goals
Once your priorities are established, the next step is to set clearly defined and achievable goals. Having a set of realistic and specific targets, especially if you are new to goal-setting, will keep you motivated and encourage success. Setting specific goals is actually a core tenet in the popular “SMART” goal-setting guide. The helpful acronym tells us that setting Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related goals are key and it provides a reliable roadmap for reaching certain milestones.
Having specific goals and creating a timeline for them is more effective than setting an ambiguous, generalized intention. For example, “make connections with two new clients within the next two months” is much more concrete and actionable than “make more money”. Learning how to set and achieve goals to make them more specific, also tends to be more measurable, which makes it easier to track your progress and stay motivated.
Don’t take on too much
As you think about what goals will allow you to realize your ambitions as a freelancer, try not to get carried away with the number of objectives you set for yourself.
Similarly, while it’s important to remain ambitious when goal-setting (you don’t want goals to be too easy), you also want to set yourself up for success. By taking on 10 goals at once, you are stacking the odds against yourself: if you realize 3 of the objectives you set, that will only be a 30% success rate. Whereas, if you had set those 3 goals from the beginning, you would have a 100% success rate and feel more accomplished. Many of the hurdles you will face when it comes know hot to set and achieve goals are mental, so stack the deck in your favour when possible.
Keep an eye on long term
If you have an idea of where you want your career to be in five years, your short-term goals will essentially be the steps that get you there.
A long-term ambition should therefore be broader than short-term goals but more specific than “make more money.” It’s really about envisioning where you want your career to end up. Do you want to be working in a different field? Do you want to have an assistant or freelancers you can delegate to? Do you have a specific income level you want to reach to attain personal goals? All these questions, and more, will inform your long-term plan and illuminate the short-term goals that will get you on the right track.
As a freelancer, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the big picture: much of our energy and time is spent on the here and now, what with scheduling projects each month, budgeting, and building a professional brand. But intentionally setting goals is vital to keeping yourself motivated over the long-term and ensuring that your career is continually evolving. We hope the aforementioned tips help get you started as you set goals for your freelancing future.