When you’re the boss of your freelance business, goal setting should be fun. It should be exciting! Because it is completely up to you and you can set any goal you want.
Want to focus on launching a new website this year? Go for it!
What to focus on replacing your full-time income with client work? Great! Want to focus on re-watching the entire Gilmore Girls series again just in case they do another revival next year? Do you!
Just setting goals like this isn’t really the hard part, though. Don’t get me wrong – narrowing down and identifying what you really want to work on this year IS hard. But it’s the planning after that’s the hard part. It’s also what makes all the difference.
If you’re still sitting here with an empty calendar and loose ideas about what you’re doing this year, it’s time to get down to business my friend. And don’t worry, I’m doing this one with you and I’ve made some worksheets for us both to get through this.
So grab your worksheets, grab a coffee (or wine) and let’s hammer this out.
Step 1 – The Brainstorm
I really liked including this step this year because it opened my brain up to things I didn’t necessarily know I wanted.
Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and let your mind wander, writing down any goals, projects, or ideas that come to you. I started by writing “GO BIG” at the top of my sheet and let the goals flow out of me and onto my paper.
Your goals can be anything – make $75,000, quit my job, write a book, launch a podcast. The key is to not filter yourself. Don’t read it back while you’re brainstorming and don’t overthink. If something pops into your head write it down no matter what it is, no matter how big or small it may seem or how much sense you think it makes. I wrote down that I want to collaborate with Hailey Devine, someone I’ve never met or talked to and we don’t even do remotely similar work. But it popped up, so it’s on the list!
You can write personal goals as well, they don’t all have to be about business. If you want to journal or cook more or learn to kite surf – whatever! Write it down.
When the timer goes off, admire your list and all the brilliant wonderful things that have been sitting in your head.
Step 2 – The Reflection
In order to know where you wanna go, you gotta look at where you’ve been.
I always hate the reflection part of planning, but I embraced it this year with two exercises recommended by the Fizzle Show.
The first exercise involved answering specific questions about my year in business. These questions revealed to me how I felt about certain projects, types of work, clients, marketing activities, and my year as a whole.
The second exercise answers two questions – what worked and what didn’t work. Some of the answers might be repetitive, but the brainstorming, free-flowing nature of this exercise helps to get a bit deeper. I also focused on mindset while thinking about these questions rather than just honing in on tactics.
Think about your mindset, your habits, your relationships and partnerships, as well as your workflow and specific launches, projects and tactics.
These two exercises will give you a pretty clear picture of what you need to let go of and what you should keep doing. Which takes us to step 3!
Step 3 – The Intention Setting
Resolutions don’t necessarily work. Making sweeping changes in your life on January 1st will probably result in pretty much the same old you by February.
But I do believe in setting intentions as a way to guide your choices and behaviours.
Just setting the intention to ‘be happier’ or ‘eat healthier’ or ‘be more productive’ isn’t really enough either. You have to get a bit more specific – and I’m not talking about SMART goals here. I mean getting deep into what would make you happier, healthier, or more productive, and setting the intention to choose that each time. It basically comes down to this:
What are you going to say “YES” to this year, and what’s going to be a “NO”?
This can be about business, personal life, productivity, health, or anything you want. Here’s some examples:
I’m saying yes to:
- going to more tech meetups in my community
- working in pomodoros
- planning my day the night before
- a positive morning routine of meditation, journalling, and stretching
- adventures big and small
- invitations to collaborate or be interviewed that feel like a good fit
I’m saying no to:
- morning meetings because that’s when I’m most creative
- that one friend who always leaves me feeling drained and depleted
- my fear of reaching out and asking for feedback
- checking my email all day
- using Instagram Live/Facebook Live as a marketing channel because I’m not comfortable using that medium
Whatever you are saying yes or no to will help you prioritize your time and make choices that bring you closer to your goals – and closer to the kind of life you want to live. Whew. That got deep (and a bit personal). Let’s move on.
Step 4 – Setting Your Big Goals
After alllllll that. It’s finally time to choose the goals that feel best to you 🎉.
Review all of your notes and brainstorms and pull out the goals that stand out and feel best to you. Maybe you had a few really similar points that can be bundled into one goal, or maybe a particular theme kept coming up that you want to focus on.
You can choose as many goals as you want, but try to be realistic. How many big goals can you really accomplish this year? 4? 5? 10?
I chose 5 professional goals and 5 personal goals, which feels like a lot for me but I’m reaching this year because they are all things I really want.
If you want, you can create one overarching or ultimate goal that guides the rest. This could be a financial goal and all of your business goals go to meeting that. Another popular way to do this is to choose a word of the year. Your word reflects what you want to accomplish, be and feel this year, and your goals can all be related to that word.
The thing is – goal setting works differently for everyone so do whatever feels right to you. If you resonate with only haveingone major goal, then go with that. If you want to be guided by a word, then go with that. Do you.
Once you’ve chosen your goals write them down and put them somewhere that you can review them every. single. week.
Step 5 – Break It Down
This is the hard part. But also the part that is going to make the biggest difference. Breaking down your goals is the difference between looking back in 6 months and saying “Look at all this stuff I got done!” and “What the heck have I been doing this year?”
So we’re going to break those goals down into milestones or projects, and then even further into tasks.
Milestones are points along the path to your goal. This always confused me, so I choose to look at it as mini-projects that make up one big project.
So if my goal is around list building, my mini-projects or milestones might be:
- create a new lead magnet
- set up ConvertKit account
- write 4 blog posts to support lead magnet download
- write autoresponder sequence
- reach out to 10 people about guest blogging or podcast interviews
Each of these milestones is a project on its own, but put together they are going to reach your list-building goal.
Once you have your milestones laid out, brainstorm every task you need to do to get there. Get granular here. For a new lead magnet your tasks might be:
- research topics in BuzzSumo
- brainstorm ideas
- read blog comments to find common questions
- pick a topic
- create lead magnet outline
- write the first draft
- design template/hire a designer
- create a call to action boxes
- write social media content
- create a lead page…
Each of these tasks should be so broken down that you can accomplish them in one block of time in your calendar.
So “write lead magnet” is a big project that you can’t necessarily do in one 2-hour block – especially if you aren’t exactly sure what you’re going to write about or don’t have a design template. But “research topics in BuzzSumo” can be done in one half-hour block, as can “create call to action on website”.
When your tasks are broken down to this level of detail, you can sit down any day of the week and get shit done. No writer’s block, no clicking around trying to figure out what to do next. Now get this in your project management tool and your calendar, and start crushing your goals.
This is a long process, I know. But going through it will help you to get on the right track, start the year strong, and make progress on your most important goals all year.