Imagine yourself as a typical office-going employee. You probably have monthly, quarterly and yearly targets set for you. If you achieve them, you know you have a good chance at that appraisal. If you don’t, you know you will be held accountable by your immediate supervisor. Pretty straightforward, right?
Now, as a freelancer, you are the one who has to do all of the above. You have to set your own targets, keep yourself accountable and find ways to stay motivated. Because, let’s face it: Nobody is interested in your personal performance, except you. So, how do you get started?
The key to being successful, as shared by almost all successful people, is rigorous goal-setting. You should know what you want, why you want it and how to achieve it.
“The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact … those people have goals.”, writes Seth Godin.
In this post we’ll share with you one of the most popular ways of doing this: the 30/60/90 day plan.
Step 1: Prioritize
The very first step to goal-setting is prioritizing. Priorities are different from goals. While goals are more specific (“I would like to increase traffic to my blog by 50 percent”, priorities are broader aspirations (“I need to increase my content marketing efforts to build my personal brand”).
Think of all aspects of your life—home, career, health, family, love, friends, finances, personal growth etc. Envision how you see each of those progressing three months, a year and five years from now. Prioritizing all the major aspects of your life will give you clarity on the goals you should set for your freelance business.
Step 2: Start with the 90-day mark
Let’s get back to your freelance career now. Envision the 90-day mark and decide what you want to achieve by then. Do you want to start offering new services, increase your income or perhaps reduce the number of hours you work?
Write down clear goals for your three months. Ensure that they are SMART:
- Realistic and
It’s quite obvious now that “Start making more monthly income” is not a clear goal. Instead try, “Increase monthly income to $8,000 by August 2017.”
Step 3: Work backwards
Start goal-setting backwards from the 90-day mark to Day 1 of the plan. What are the things you will have to do over the course of the three months to get to the goal you’ve set? Break it down to the 60, 30 and daily mark.
You will be working on all your every day things too, of course—the deadlines, the grocery shopping, the meetings—but ensure that the daily milestones will ultimately lead you to the 90-day goal you’ve set. That is what you are aiming for at the end of the day—your North Star that will make you happier and a better freelancer.
Here’s an example of a well-defined daily goal: “Send cold pitches to five potential clients today, quoting an increased hourly rate of $75.” Often the daily goals may seem to be drab and tedious, but because you’ve tied them to your 90-day goal that is inspired by the kind of life you want in the long term, you will have some enthusiasm to complete them.
Step 4: Track and analyze
Track your goals regularly. You can use whatever means you want to do this. A planner will do just as well as an app, just as long as you use either on a daily basis. Also, remember to adapt and change. If you find your daily goals are not working well enough to get you to your 90-day goal—alter them! While goals keep us accountable, they can also be optimized and improved over time, especially when they take the form of micro-milestones.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Things will come up and you may not meet a couple of your daily goals. As long as you are moving in the right direction, you’re making progress.
Step 5: Stay motivated
It is easy to get side-tracked from our goals. How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions only to forget (or worse, stop caring) about them no later than a month down the line?
You have to work on keeping yourself motivated day after day. One of the ways to do so would be to reward yourself, perhaps at the end of the 30th, 60th and 90th day or at the end of each week with a successful streak. Reward yourself with what makes you happy and make sure it’s something that you’d look forward to. For instance, setting aside a couple of hours to read that book you’ve been dying to dive into, treating yourself to a movie or simply taking a day off.
Another way to stay motivated is to get an accountability partner, someone who’ll help you stay on track. It could be a friend, a family member or a fellow freelancer.
Goals will keep you focused on the most important things in life and weed out the distractions. Now, go ahead and whip out your pens and books and start goal setting your way to freelancing success.