I originally started freelancing as a challenge to myself. Could I find someone to pay me to write within the next month? That was the very first goal I set for myself as a freelancer, though I didn’t formally vocalize or document it at the time.
Goal setting isn’t the most fun activity to do at first. It seems impossible to predict what will happen in your freelancing business 12 months down the line, let alone 12 days. Don’t let that stop you from goal setting though. It’s a critical component of every freelancer’s success
What's Included in This Post:
Start Setting Goals as a Freelancer or Small Business Owner
There is one golden rule to goal setting. Make every goal SMART:
Keep these five parameters in mind as you set your freelance goals and you’ll do just fine. Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of how or where to even start with goal setting.
To be honest, long-term goals may be hard for many of you to set in the beginning. They definitely were for me. Instead, focus on the shorter term. After you accomplish your initial set of goals and have a more accurate idea of how things are going to go for you, you can start setting long term goals.
Just know that setting goals will help you flesh out your general business strategy, so it’s a necessary exercise.
Freelance Goal Setting Ideas
Below you’ll find some example goals you may want to use starting out. When setting your own, try to focus on no more than three to five goals at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed with all that you have or want to do.
Get XX leads in 90 days.
Leads can come to you in a number of ways — from your website, as a personal referral, through a random encounter on social media, etc. The first month may be a little quiet, so give yourself more time with this goal.
XX new [clients/jobs/gigs] in 30/60/90 days.
Only a small portion of your leads will turn into clients. Knowing this, you can estimate how many new clients to expect within the first three months. This number may change depending on how quickly it takes you to ramp up your business and as you refine your lead generation strategy.
Average monthly revenue for 6 months.
If you can estimate the number of leads and clients you’ll get, you can estimate your upcoming earnings, too. This will be useful for things like budgeting, pricing adjustments, marketing strategy, and more.
XX of testimonials received per month.
While your website and body of work will help you sell your services to some clients, others won’t be so easily convinced. The most powerful marketing method is word-of-mouth, so you should start asking for testimonials from clients as soon as possible.
XX hours per week spent on non-services.
As a freelancer, you have to do it all. There’s no one to outsource your business and administrative tasks to (at least not now). As such, you’ll have to devote a certain amount of time each week to things like marketing, prospecting, cash flow analysis, and so on.
XX social media followers per month.
Social media is a useful tool in marketing, lead generation, and relationship building. The more time you spend sharing meaningful exchanges on it, the more effective your marketing efforts will be in driving in new business.
Quit job by [date]
If you’re currently employed, you may be freelancing in the hopes that it will replace your full-time job. While this is a longer term goal, it’s a really fun one to set. Nothing will motivate you harder to become a successful freelancer than knowing it’ll enable you to leave a job you dislike.
Take the Guesswork out of Goal-setting
I've developed dozens of resources for my freelancing business as well as for clients over the past decade. Trust me, pre-made templates, worksheets, calculators, and resources can provide you with a huge sense of relief when you're trying to focus on getting clients and doing the work you're paid to do.
You'll find all of these resources in the Freelancer Toolkit -- including a Goal Planner & Tracker as well as a Business Plan template.
As you can see, you don’t need to dream up lofty goals where you’re generating six figures the second you start freelancing. Instead, start small, be realistic, and also be kind to yourself. The freelancing journey is different for everyone, so you’ll need some time to find your groove and figure out what exactly a realistic goal looks like for you. Over time you’ll become a more effective goal setter.
One final word of advice as it relates to goal setting:
Get in the habit of setting goals as early as possible. By making it a regular practice to set, track, and revamp your goals, you’ll always have a carrot dangling in front you, urging you onto bigger, better, and more profitable horizons.