Goal Setting for Freelancers: How to Focus on What Matters Most in 2019

Setting a 2019 goal for your freelance business will help you focus on what matter most and create the future you want.

You probably know that you should have a 2019 goal for your freelance business. But there are so many other things that you need to do now, like doing great work for your clients and all of the day-to-day tasks of running a freelance business. So you don’t have time for goal setting. Or maybe 2018 didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to and you’re discouraged. 

So instead of setting your 2019 goal, you flounder around, unable to build a stable, successful freelance business. If you’re already successful, you may not be doing the type of work you want to do or working with clients who treat you right. Or you may be working too much and need to bring some balance into your life.

Predict Your Future with Your 2019 Goal

Make 2019 less stressful and more prosperous by taking the time to set a 2019 goal for your freelance business. With the right type of goal, broken down into small, manageable chunks,you can predict your future—by creating it. This post:

  • Highlights how your 2019 goal can help you create the future you want
  • Gives you a proven way to set and achieve your goal
  • Shows how two freelancers are creating the future they want through their goals.

Here are 3 ways that your 2019 goal can help you. 

1. Focus on What’s Most Important. 

“When you are building a business, there is a lot of information that comes at you,” says freelance medical writer and advisory board specialist Ginny Vachon, PhD. “Should you branch out? Should you improve your website? Should you go to more networking events? It goes on and on and on. Goals help you bin ideas quickly into the ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘maybe later’ piles.”  Ginny’s company is called Principal Medvantage Writing, LLC.

Later in this post Ginny shares her 2019 goals, and talks about her challenges and successes with her 2018 goals.

Get Past the Distractions

And there are lots of distractions that keep us from thinking about the future, like client deadlines, sending out invoices, tech problems, and much more. When you set a goal, you focus on what’s most important to your freelance business. And once you know where you want to go, you’ll be eager to get there.

2. Trigger the Habits of Success. 

Habits are the decisions you make and the actions you take every day. Setting your 2019 goal will trigger the habits of success, and make it easier for you to take actions that won’t benefit you until later.

Actions are important because we have control over our actions. And every time you complete an action, which can be small, you’ll feel good about yourself.  So you’ll want to keep making decisions and taking actions that will help you achieve your goal.

Build the Goal-Setting Habit

Ginny and I have made goal-setting a habit. We both set our annual goals every December. And we both make time regularly to work on our goals.

Most of the time, Ginny sets aside 1 hour a week to work on her goals, either Friday morning or afternoon. Sometimes she’ll work on her goals less often but for longer.

“If I need to do more thinking and less executing. I will make time in the morning, when I’m bright and fresh. Afternoons are for more mindless tasks,” she says.

And I like to work on my goals at night and on weekends. I usually do this for a few hours once or twice a month. When I have a lot to do, I set aside most of a Saturday or Sunday. 

It’s good to experiment to figure out what works best for you in setting and working toward your goals. The right timing, based on the “science of the daywill help you achieve your goals. 

3. Keep Making Progress Toward the Future You Want. 

When you actually want to work on your goal, you’ll keep making progress toward creating the future you want. Getting closer to your goal by completing actions gives you the momentum to keep going.

“Goals inform the direction and texture of your business and your life!,” says Ginny.

Falling Off the Goal Wagon is Okay

Ginny and I both sometimes “fall off the goal wagon,” as Ginny likes to say. We don’t always fully achieve our goals. But we know our goals will help us create the future we want, so we keep working on them. And we know it’s okay to adjust our goals when they turn out to be too hard to achieve or not what’s most important to our freelance businesses. 

Set Your SMART 2019 Goal

The right type of goal to create the future you want is SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound.

Specific: Setting a specific and attainable goal is really important. It’s easier to stick with and achieve a goal that’s specific because you have something concrete to work towards. 

Measurable: If you don’t measure what you’re doing, you don’t know if you’re making any progress. Measure whether you’re spending your time doing things that are important to your freelance business.

Attainable: And if your goal is too big, you’ll get discouraged and stop trying. So it has to be attainable. 

Relevant: Your goal also needs to matter to you (be relevant). If it doesn’t, you won’t want to work to achieve it.

Time bound: Just like you have deadlines for your client work, you need a deadline for your goal. Otherwise, working on your goal will get lost behind everyday tasks.

These are NOT SMART goals for freelancers:

  • “Make more money.” 
  • “Get more clients.”

These are SMART goals for freelancers:

  • “Make $20,000 more in 2019 than in 2018 by getting 3-4 new clients.”
  • “Make $20,000 more in 2019 than in 2018 by getting more business from current clients.” 
  • “Diversify my business by getting 4 to 6 different types of clients by December 31, 2019.”  
  • “Structure my business so that it is less of a one-woman show.” This is one of Ginny’s goals. She wants to outsource some of the tasks that she’s not good at and doesn’t like doing. 

Set Annual or 100-Day Goals

Annual goals work best for most freelancers. Some experts recommend 100-day goals. If you need to build your business fast and are motivated and ready to work hard, try 100-day goals. 

Break Your 2019 Goal Down Into Manageable Chunks

An annual goal, even when it’s SMART, can be scary and overwhelming.

So break your 2019 goal down into small, easily achievable mini-goals and the actions you’ll take to achieve each mini-goal. Set mini-goals for each quarter. If you’re using 100-day goals, set monthly or 10-day mini goals, depending on how hard you’re willing to work.

Your SMART goal, mini-goals, and actions are your plan for achieving your 2019 goal. And having a plan makes you 2 to 3 times more likely to stick to your goal. 

While you can’t control the results, you can control your actions. Taking the easiest actions first and fast makes it easier for you to keep going. And taking the right actions consistently will eventually lead to the results you want.

____________________________________________________

FREE SMART GOAL WORKSHEET 

Use the SMART goal worksheet to make 2019 your best year in freelancing.

Download your free 2019 SMART goal worksheet

____________________________________________________

The 2019 SMART Goals of Two Freelancers 

Here’s an example of 2019 SMART goals from Ginny and me. We also talk about our 2018 goals and what we did and didn’t achieve last year.

For Freelancers Focusing on Building a Stable, Successful Business

Ginny and I both have mature freelance businesses, so our SMART goals will be different than yours if you’re still focusing on getting steady, high-paying clients.

Also see examples of a SMART goal, mini-goals and actions for business-building freelancers near the end of this post.

Ginny’s 2019 SMART Goals

Ginny started her freelance business in 2015 and she’s now doing well. “It is time to exit survival mode,” she says.  So this year, Ginny is focusing on taking her business to the next level and completing one of her 2018 goals. Her new professional goals for 2019 are to:  

  1. “Structure my business so that it is less of a one-woman show by outsourcing some tasks.” 
  2. “Create a service mission for my company.” 

Her 2018 follow-up goal for this year is:

3. “Do more with those articles I wrote!”

SMART Goal #1

“I learned this year that there are just some things that I have no business doing,” says Ginny. “When I hired someone to format a PowerPoint presentation for me, it took her 1/10th of the time it would have taken me and it was a million times better than what I could put together.”

So this year, Ginny wants to outsource some tasks. Her mini-goal for the first quarter of 2019 is to:

“Identify three things that I can outsource, and then do it.” 

The list of possible tasks for outsourcing includes: bookkeeping, editing, document formatting, PowerPoint beautification, and perhaps even hiring a personal assistant and/or outsourcing LinkedIn.

And to meet this mini-goal, Ginny has planned one action so far:

“Outsource one thing by the end of February.” 

Ginny plans to do this “even if it is scary,” she says. So you can see that Ginny knows that achieving this goal will be hard for her, but she has made a commitment to doing it. 

SMART Goal #2

With a stable, successful freelance business, Ginny would also like to create a service mission for her business so she can help others. As a freelance medical writer, Ginnys is living a privileged life. “I work hard, but I am also lucky. I want this world to be better because I was here,” she says.

For example, over the summer Ginny was walking on the beach with her daughter and saw a plastic bottle. Her daughter was upset to learn that people throw their garbage into the ocean. “I said to her, ‘Well, it isn’t enough to say what a pity and move on. Let’s work to make it right.’ So we got a bag and picked up the trash we found. This year, I am going to take my own advice!” 

Ginny’s mini-goal for the first quarter of 2019 is to: 

“Identify a service goal that I care about and set up a system to make it happen.” 

And to meet this mini-goal, Ginny plans to:  

“Pick my cause and create a mission by the end of January.”

SMART Goal #3

Ginny’s third 2019 goal is a follow-up to one of her 2018 goals:

“Create more top-of-mind awareness among clients, prospects, and colleagues by developing resources to help clients who are hosting advisory boards and the medical writers supporting them.”

But she fell behind on this goal because with two new clients, Ginny simply had too much work. Getting one new client was another 2018 goal for Ginny.  The action she took to meet this goal was to ask current clients for referrals.  “I did this and the results were amazing! All I had to do was ask,” she says.

When she had more time, Ginny went back to working on the articles, which she wanted to post on her website and LinkedIn. Then Ginny realized that her website wasn’t set up for articles. “I had to take a step back and work on revamping my website,” she says. “While I was working on the site, I told the developer I wanted a space for articles, so I was faced with this big gaping hole when the website launched where the articles should be. That was motivation enough for me! “

Ginny’s new website has an Articles page. She wrote one article for clients and prospects, “How to Hire the Right Medical Writer for Your Advisory Board.”

The other articles ended up being for other writers. “It felt like my intensions were cleaner. It felt like less about marketing and more about sharing,” she says. 

Ginny’s third professional 2019 goal is to:

“Do more with those articles I wrote!” 

Last year, Ginny had planned to publish her articles on LinkedIn. But she didn’t get to this. Her mini-goal for the first quarter of 2019 is to: 

 “Start publishing my articles on LinkedIn.”

And to meet this mini-goal, Ginny plans to:  

“Publish one article by the end of February.”

Maybe Ginny will combine this with her first goal, and outsource this task. “Every time I sit down, I just can’t make myself do it. There are so many people who love social media. I am not one of them,” she says.

Personal Goal 

Also, Ginny has set a personal 2019 goal for herself: 

“Do 10 pull ups.”

“I have no idea how to do a pull-up. But two of my best friends are professional acrobats, so I’ll ask them and make a plan,” she says.

My 2019 SMART Goal

I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t think about my 2019 goal until I started to work on this post.

My 2018 goal was to update my marketing and get one more anchor client. Also called whales, anchor clients are extra-large clients that freelancers can count on for lots of steady, high-paying work.

Like Ginny, I updated my website last year. I updated the content and design, and added a lead magnet (see The Storyteller’s Checklist near the bottom of the home page).

And I had planned to develop a video about me and my business. I ended up dropping this action last year, and haven’t put it on my list of actions for this year. A video is more of a “nice to have” than a “need to have” marketing tool, and I don’t expect to have the time to do this right this year.

I met my other 2018 goal too: Getting one more anchor client. This was a stretch goal, because we can never know for sure whether a client will become a source of steady work. But one of my two new clients in 2018 needed a lot of freelance help and became another anchor client for me. 

2019 SMART Goal 

My 2019 goal is to work less and diversify my work and income more. 

But that’s not a SMART goal. It’s relevant and time bound. But it’s not specific or measurable. It may be attainable, but without being specific and measurable, it will be hard to tell if I achieve this goal. 

So, I needed to think about this more and turn it into a SMART goal. Here’s what I came up with:

“Reduce my average workweek from 55-60 hours to 45-50 hours and shift my income from 90% freelancing and 10% teaching/coaching to 80% freelancing and 20% teaching/coaching.”

This is a very specific goal that I can measure. Here’s how I’m planning to do it:

Mini-goals for the first quarter of 2019:

  • Late January: Offer Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve 
  • Start developing university professional development course

Mini-goals for the second quarter of 2019:

  • Work about 26 hours per week on freelance work
  • Develop another Mighty Marketer course
  • Continue developing university professional development course

Mini-goals for the third and fourth quarters of 2019:

  • Work about 20 hours per week on freelance work
  • Start doing less work for lower-paying clients
  • Offer Finding the Freelance Clients You Deserve in April and September
  • Offer new Mighty Marketer course in November
  • Reduce other Mighty Marketer work to less than 10 hours a week
  • Fall: Teach university professional development course

As you’ll see, I’m planning to do more freelance work in the first and second quarters and less after that. I don’t mind working a lot in the winter but I really want to have more free time over the summer and a little more work-life balance overall starting in the fall.

Keep Moving Toward the Future You Want

Ready to set your 2019 SMART goal and start working toward the future you want?

______________________________________________

FREE SMART GOAL WORKSHEET 

Use the SMART goal worksheet to make 2019 your best year in freelancing.

Download your free 2019 SMART goal worksheet

______________________________________________

If you “fall off the goal wagon,” it’s okay. Review what’s happening. Decide whether you need to:

  • Change your 2019 goal and/or mini-goals
  • Work harder to achieve your 2019 goal and mini-goals.

Also measure your progress regularly:

  • At the end of every quarter if you set an annual goal 
  • Every 25 days if you set a 100-day goal.  

Find an Accountability Buddy

And if staying on track with your goals is hard for you, find an accountability buddy. Share your goal with another freelancer andcheck in with each other monthly. 

Knowing that you’ll be talking to Joe next week about your progress will motivate you to make some. An accountability buddy can help you solve problems when things aren’t going so well, and celebrate successes with you.

______________________________________________

Mini-Goals Examples

For Freelancers Focusing on Building a Stable, Successful Business

Say that your 2019 goal is:

“Make $20,000 more in 2019 than in 2018 by getting 2-4 new clients by December 31, 2019.”

So here’s what your mini-goals and actions might look like for the first two quarters of 2019.

First quarter 2019: 

  • Quarterly mini-goal: 
    • Research 80-100 new prospects, with a focus on [TYPE OF CLIENTS YOU WANT TO WORK WITH] in the [INDUSTRY] and start direct email campaign.
    • Join 1 or 2 professional associations and start networking OR get more involved in my professional association(s).

______________________________________________________

Learn How to Use Direct Email to Get the Clients You Deserve

Direct Email Swipe File, with templates, examples, and tips
Direct Email: The Awesome Way that 4 Freelancers Got 12 Clients

_____________________________________________

  • Actions to achieve the quarterly mini-goal:
    • January:
      • Join and volunteer for at least 1 professional association
      • Research about 40-50 prospects
  • February: 
    • Research about 40-50 prospects 
    • Send about 5 direct emails per week 
    • Participate in professional associations (continue to volunteer and network online)
    • March: Start direct email campaign: 
      • Send about 5 direct emails per week 
      • Participate in professional associations (continue to volunteer, attend meetings, and network online)
    • Late March: Review and assess progress toward goal

Second quarter 2019: 

  • Quarterly mini-goals: 
    • Continue direct email campaign and networking through professional associations
    • Build LinkedIn presence

_____________________________________________

Learn How to Use LinkedIn to Get the Clients You Deserve

Ultimate LinkedIn Checklist for Freelancers
LinkedIn for Freelancers

_____________________________________________

  • Actions to achieve the quarterly goal:
    • Weekly: 
      • Send about 5 direct emails per week until you have as much work as you want
    • March: 
      • Develop a compelling-client focused LinkedIn profile
      • Attend 1 networking event
      • Participate in professional associations (continue to volunteer, attend meetings, and network online)
    • April: 
      • Attend 1 networking event
      • Start building your LinkedIn network by adding about 30 relevant connections
      • Start engaging connections on LinkedIn (commenting to other people’s posts)
    • June: 
      • Continue building your LinkedIn network by adding about 30 relevant connections
      • Continue engaging connections on LinkedIn (commenting to other people’s posts and writing 1 post per week)
      • Follow up with people who’ve positively responded to your direct email but haven’t hired you yet
      • Attend 1 networking event
    • Late June: 
      • Review and assess progress toward goals 

Now you have a SMART 2019 goal, and a plan to achieve it!

______________________________________________

Learn More About Goal Setting for Freelancers

FREE SMART GOAL WORKSHEET 

Download your free 2019 SMART goal worksheet

How to Get Back on Track with Your 2018 SMART Goal 

Find the Freelance Clients You Deserve with Your 2018 Goal

9 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Getting the Clients You Deserve

Grow Your Freelance Business by Catching a Few Whales

Free Tools

Direct Email Swipe File, with templates, examples, and tips

Ultimate LinkedIn Checklist for Freelancers

Blog posts about Direct Email and LinkedIn

Direct Email: The Awesome Way that 4 Freelancers Got 12 Clients

LinkedIn for Freelancers

Learn More About Ginny Vachon and Lori De Milto

Ginny

Website                                   

LinkedIn profile                 

Me 

Website                                                 

LinkedIn profile