Every professional person understands the importance of setting business goals. But establishing, never mind achieving goals, can be, well, intimidating.
So, where do you start when there is a crush of priorities from biggies like finding high-quality clients to more modest goals like figuring out how to set up a home office in a small space?
Having ideas is one thing, but developing strategies for setting and achieving goals is how you’ll ace your objectives and build a successful personal enterprise.
And here’s the thing: It’s not as scary or daunting as you might think. Also, no need to wait for a new year to get to work on setting business goals.
Start today. Right now, in fact, as you dive into the six steps of goal setting.
The 6 Steps of Goal Setting
I’m including examples of my own goals in business — feel free to use them for your very own. After all, goals are meant to be shared (see Step #4).
Step #1: Where Should I Start When Setting Goals?
To quote Plato, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” And you know what? A few thousand years later, it’s still true.
Taking that first step in setting business goals means that whatever you’re striving to bring to life — from big things like guest blogging for a major player in your industry to relatively simple things like choosing the best online accounting service for your business — is closer to becoming a reality.
This may sound a little woo-woo, but it’s true.
So, how do you approach setting quantifiable goals? Start by defining what matters most to you in terms of growing your business. Are you looking to double your income? Dreaming of working with a particular type of client? Want to get some reliable sales closing techniques under your belt?
Don’t be shy. Jot down those crazy, out-of-this-world goals, too. Nothing is off-limits. Just be specific with your words, because a general “I want to be successful in business” isn’t enough information to go on — not for you, and not even for a genie who has your best interests at heart.
EXAMPLE GOAL: Grow my freelance content marketing business by 20% this year.
Step #2: Define Quantifiable Goals
Once you have your goals in business outlined, it’s time to break down the steps you need to make those goals a reality. The idea is to come up with bite-sized chunks that are measurable and that you can tackle without getting overwhelmed.
Take it one goal at a time. Ask yourself, “What needs to happen for me to get this done?” and go from there. Some goals may have a laundry list of steps, and that’s okay. Others may be much quicker to achieve than you initially thought, which is always a win.
EXAMPLE GOAL: Up-level my freelancing project management skills so I can bring more people on board to help grow my business.
- Research project management solutions to find the best digital freelancer tools for my business.
- Once I’ve made my choice, set up existing projects.
- Invite current collaborators to their projects.
- Create an easy onboarding process to make it simple to add more subcontractors.
Step #3: Commit to Your Goals by Setting Deadlines
Now that you’ve set quantifiable goals and have tasked out the steps needed to make them happen, now what? Make your goals time-bound, so you can start making progress.
Now, it’s essential to be realistic with your deadlines. Of course, you want to put a little fire under you to get things done, but don’t burn yourself.
Think about how long each task will take and pick a reasonable date that’s not too aggressive but not too loose either — then put it in your calendar. If you need an extra boost, set reminders for each due date.
EXAMPLE GOAL: Raise my freelance rates.
EXAMPLE STEPS AND DEADLINES:
- Email all existing clients that I’m raising rates on February 1st. Due: January 15th
- Update the packages on my website to reflect my new rates. Due: February 1st
- Get better at setting boundaries with clients, especially around deposits and final payments. Due: Ongoing
Step #4: Go Public With Your Goals by Recruiting an Accountability Partner
While deadlines are vital in setting business goals, we sometimes need an extra push to ensure we don’t blow past our self-imposed due dates.
It also can be helpful to share strategies for setting and achieving goals with someone in your industry. This is where finding an accountability partner within your network is key.
If you don’t have a friend or colleague to help you in your quest for achieving business goals, the Unemployable Initiative is a great place to find that accountability partner.
EXAMPLE GOAL: Attract new clients to help grow my business.
- Redo my freelance portfolio, so it showcases work that aligns with the type of clients I’m after. Due: January 5th
- Invite my accountability partner to critique my website, including my new pricing structure, and offer suggestions. Due February 15th.
- Join a Mastermind group for ongoing support in achieving business goals. Due March 1st.
Step #5: Improve Your Productivity Skills
Achieving goals in business aren’t done in a vacuum. Even with all the steps we’ve already discussed, if your productivity is low, then you’re at a disadvantage. The good news is that there are many proven ways to boost your productivity that you can easily implement.
EXAMPLE GOAL: Strategize on how to get more done in a day.
- Make my workspace a distraction-free environment. Due: March 15th
- Explore how to automate my business. Due: March 27th.
- Create a personal kanban board. Due: March 31st.
Step #6: Celebrate Milestones
When it comes to setting business goals, one of the most important parts is celebrating the sweet moments of triumph. But, unfortunately, we Unemployable types tend to be the worst kind of boss — the kind that ignores accomplishments and cracks the whip for the grind to continue.
Just remember, you had many good reasons for going freelance, and topping the list was to enjoy the fruits of your labor. So do just that! Achieving business goals is worth celebrating, so be sure to do something special for reaching milestones both small and large.
- Buy yourself a fancy beverage. (I’m a big fan of $6 golden lattes, for example.)
- Take the day off and do something fun and exciting. (Bonus: This is a great way to stimulate creativity, too!)
- Set new business goals. I know this sounds counterintuitive as a “reward,” but the next level of freedom may double as a business goal, for example, adopting a digital nomad lifestyle.
- Check out our client gift ideas — you might see something special you’d like to get for yourself. Go ahead; you deserve it!
Strategies for Setting and Achieving Goals
As you start to dive into the six steps of goal setting, keep these best practices in mind to ensure your objectives are achievable and will help you get to where you want your business to be.
Reflect on Your Work Style
What works for others may not work for you and vice versa. So take some time to think about how you work best and what your plan for achieving business goals should look like.
If you’re someone who would rather spend an entire day on business development rather than an hour or so each day, do that. Do you have a crazy schedule with kids? Figure out how to make achieving business goals happen based on your schedule.
Hold Monthly Check-ins with Yourself
It’s critical to have a pulse on how things are going as you work through the 6 steps of goal setting. You don’t want to overload yourself to the point where you stop making progress on your objectives, but you need to be honest with yourself about what you can handle (client projects, day-to-day work, and juggling personal life is a lot!).
Now, I’m not saying to throw in the towel when the going gets rough. You got this! Instead, assess your situation and gauge if you need to adjust things.
Don’t Forget the Numbers
Are you tracking the right metrics to ensure you’re actually moving the needle on your quantifiable goals? Metrics help you identify the areas you need to work on as well as where you’re excelling.
Whether it’s a LinkedIn strategy you’ve deployed to attract new business or if you’re working another angle to get more clients, make sure you’re looking at the right numbers to see if you’re progressing.
To Make Your Goals a Reality, You Need to Have a Plan
Working on your business is just as important as your client projects. In the freelancing and solopreneur world, nothing is guaranteed. Therefore, you have to invest time in the tactics that will keep business propelling forward invoice after invoice.
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