With the passing of another calendar year, many people seize on the opportunity to create new goals for their freelance business.
We’ve all created new year’s resolutions that fell by the wayside in a few weeks (or sometimes even sooner!). But when it comes to your business, you can’t afford to let your goals drop off.
Here we offer some of our biggest tips to grow your freelance business this year, including how to set goals that really matter, track your progress, and improve your mindset.
1. Commit to Hitting ONE Big Quarterly Goal
Most companies view their years by fiscal quarters for a good reason: An entire year is just too long to plan for effectively.
Set your company up for success by aiming for just one big goal each quarter. More than one goal at a time becomes overwhelming and you’ll lose momentum.
Some of my quarterly goals have included onboarding one new subcontractor or securing one new client under contract. Each of these tasks could take days, weeks, or the entire quarter but accomplishing just one of them will move your business ahead.
And if you finish that quarter’s goal early then you can set a new one and get started on that.
How To Do It: Conduct a SWOT Analysis
A SWOT (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a commonly used tool for figuring out where your business is and where it’s going. It’s a framework used to evaluate a company’s competitive position and to develop strategic planning.
With the start of a new year, now would be a great time to do a SWOT analysis for your business. And we recommend you do them quarterly.
After you conduct your SWOT analysis, you’ll be able to easily determine what goals would have the most impact on your business. Then pick the one with the most legs and table the others for another time.
2. Commit to Hitting Your Financial Goals
Successful businesses know their numbers. Whatever your desired income—whether it’s a monthly fee or yearly salary—you need to know how many hours you have to work and for what rate.
Truth be told, these are two figures that are ever-fluctuating. You may work for a flat fee on one project, for example, and you don’t have a set hourly figure. You may have clients in different industries that pay higher than others. There are all kinds of variables you’ll find as a freelancer, so the key is to be flexible.
However, here’s our pro tip: Know your worth! Don’t use job-bidding sites that undervalue your expertise. Don’t agree to a lower hourly rate if it’s much less than you normally charge.
You may want to agree to a lower flat fee for a new client you’re hoping to land for long-time work. But make it clear that this is an exception for your first project ONLY to see if you are a good fit.
How To Do It: Know Your Numbers
In a nutshell: Take your desired income, divide that by 50 (weeks in a year minus two vacation weeks), and then divide that by how many hours you plan to work in a week. That will give you your average hourly rate.
Or, if you have a rate you’re comfortable with, take your desired income, divide that by 50, and then divide that by your hourly rate to get how many hours you need to work a week to hit your desired yearly income.
These numbers should NOT be fixed for life. You should always be checking industry standards for freelancer rates. There are legitimate freelancer networks that keep track of these figures—and so should you!
3. Commit To Working When You Work Best
Not everyone works best between the hours of 9 to 5. (You may have discovered this in a previous life in the corporate world—I certainly did!)
As a freelancer, you can, in large part, determine your own hours. That is, unless you have an agreement with a client to be on-hand for a specific meeting or are needed on an important call. Those are generally few and far between requests, so you should make an effort to be there for them.
I do my best work in the early to late evening. I’m a night owl—always have been, always will be. That has pluses and minuses. One big plus is not getting interrupted with calls or emails during my prime working hours. One drawback is that if I have a question about something, I need to wait until everyone else is back at work to get an answer.
For two years, I worked in Australia for U.S.-based clients. Sometimes I had to take a 3 a.m. phone call, but it was worth it!
How To Do It: Evaluate Your Energy
Find out when you feel the most energetic, when your problem-solving abilities are at their finest, and when your creative juices are flowing the most freely and craft your ideal schedule around this timeframe. It may not always completely align with your clients’ needs but, for the most part, you can create your best schedule (and best life!).
4. Commit To Believing in Your Success
No matter what goals you’ve established for your business, they are possible and you can do it! There will be times when you feel like you’re failing, but don’t dwell on those thoughts.
That doesn’t mean things will come easily. They won’t. Freelancing is wonderful…and hard!
But, trust me, nothing will give you a greater sense of achievement than believing in yourself and seeing what you can accomplish.
How To Do It: Avoid the Negative Self-Talk
You may have heard this one before: You wouldn’t say that to your child, would you—so why would you say it to yourself?
Negative self-talk is detrimental to anyone, especially someone who is running their own freelance business. Avoid the “I can’t” or “I’m not good enough” language at all costs.
Feel like you’re “faking it until you make it?” Here are some ideas to rid yourself of imposter syndrome.
5. Commit To Doing the Work
Our motivation to work toward a goal—whether it’s more flexibility, time with our family, a better income, etc.) is usually strong enough to overcome doubts. But sometimes it’s simply not.
As humans, it’s natural to have our motivation and energy level wax and wane. And that’s totally fine. You can’t run on full cylinders all the time! Even a Formula One race car driver needs to make a pit stop once in a while.
How To Do It: Explore What’s Dragging You Down
When you feel depleted of energy or like your motivation just isn’t there, it’s time to step back and analyze what is happening.
Perhaps you just finished a big, difficult project that zapped your energy. Maybe you haven’t had a day off in three weeks. Or maybe you’re coming down with something and you just need a little more rest.
Sit down with yourself and be honest. If you can truly identify what is dragging you down, you can address it properly then get back to work.
For example, I have a quarterly project that involves working seven days a week for almost a month. (I know, crazy…right?!) But I love working with this client and the nature of the work and I’ve learned how to fit it into my life successfully. However, I’ve been working on this project for four years now and I only admitted to myself recently that I was absolutely spent at the end of it. So, I made a decision: I would take a long, four-day weekend at the end of the project every quarter. Now I build that into my schedule and don’t allow myself to turn down this “required” time off. It makes the days in which I’m exhausted a little more bearable and gives me something to look forward to at the end of the project.
6. Commit To Checking In on Your Goals
You should always write down your quarterly (or annual) goals. Put it prominently where you’ll see it every day like above your desk. Simply keeping a goal in your head means you’re likely to forget it.
As a copywriter, I find inspiration from words. And nothing is better than words of encouragement. So, instead of just writing “secure one new client this quarter,” give yourself a pep talk with the goal. Try writing, “Share your talents with even more people and secure one new client this quarter.”
How To Do It: Add Time to Your Calendar
If you’re anything like me—and, let’s face it, if you’re a freelancer then you’re likely a go get’ em type of person!—accountability is critical to your goal-setting success. Once you set your quarterly goal, put the deadline on your calendar. Put a weekly reminder there, too, if you need frequent check-ins.
One helpful calendar reminder I set for myself is to put “send invoices” on the books for the last business day of the month. You’d think that paying yourself would not be something you forget, but when you’re busy in the day-to-day of work, sometimes the calendar is something you don’t keep your eye on.
7. Commit to Making Progress Every Day
Before you know it, weeks if not months pass when you realize you haven’t checked in with yourself.
At the start of every week, determine your top task for moving toward your goal(s) and growing your freelance business. In any given week, you’ll have projects or jobs you need to get done. But that isn’t part of growing your business—it’s just working in your business, not on your business.
It’s easy to skip business-building tasks from one week to the next. But putting it off becomes a bad habit to fall into. Don’t slack on yourself and your business! You’ll do yourself no favors putting off this important work.
How To Do It: Schedule Time for a Daily Planning Session
Spend 15 minutes once a week picking your business-building task and working toward it. Chip away at one task that makes progress toward your goal every day. Here are three possible frameworks you can use to plan your year and make sure it’s as successful as it can be.
Execute Tasks by Day of the Week
Devote a day each week to performing one of those business-growth tasks. Here’s a sample schedule:
Monday: Prospect for new clients
Tuesday: Check in with previous clients
Wednesday: Ask clients for testimonials
Thursday: Make updates to your website and social media profiles
Friday: Do admin tasks
Don’t forget to schedule days according to how you work best. I like to do things like administration tasks on Friday when my energy level is low after a long week.
As the year goes on and you make more progress in some areas, you can always switch out your goal of the day. No new updates needed for your website? Great! Make Thursdays the day you find more connections on LinkedIn or follow other industry leaders.
Break That One Task Into Five Tiny Tasks Each Day
If you’re having trouble getting a task done, then perhaps it’s too big. I didn’t say it’s an impossible task. Just one that needs to be broken down into little tasks, ones that take only minutes to accomplish but help get your motivation back on track.
For example, if your goal is to check in with previous clients, take a look at your document that lists all your clients. That’s one task. Then break the doc into categories like “Current Employer and Title, Email, Phone, Date Reached Out, Reply,” etc. Next, start filing in the doc one by one.
The key is that these tiny goals should be so absurdly small that you don’t feel any resistance, fear, or dread doing them.
This way of scheduling also works well if you hit an impasse at any time. Break your tasks down until they’re insanely easy and get to it!
Have One Big Goal Each Month
Some people don’t like the idea of a fixed goal per day. If that’s you, try to develop one big goal to complete each month.
You can plan your big goal each month for every month at the beginning of the year or plan month by month as the year progresses.
Some big goals might be to “rebuild your website,” “attend one industry conference in which you make 20 industry contacts,” or “get testimonials from five previous clients.”
If you employ these actions and strategies to help you accomplish your goals this year, we’re sure you’ll grow your freelance business!
Will you commit to doing any of these things this year? If so, which ones? Let us know in the comments below!