Today, 48% of an independent consultant’s time is spent doing non-earning activities that include 1) Lead generation and 2) Back-end admin, leading to millions of wasted hours each year.
With clients, your own business, and admin tasks all vying for your attention, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Your S.M.A.R.T. goals, mini-goals, and actions help you focus on what matters most, and give you a plan to achieve the freelance future you want. If you consistently work on your goals, you can build a stable, successful freelance business.
Your Freelance Aspirations
Prioritizing your aspirations and creating goals - and writing them down - helps you focus on what’s most important and get past the distractions of the back-end, lead generation tasks all freelancers face. Whether you set one goal or several goals, you want to make sure they're S.M.A.R.T.:
Specific: It’s easier to stick with and achieve a goal that’s specific because you have something concrete to work towards.
Measurable: 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. 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.
To get us all started, here is an example of goals we have set at Mylance,
- Get an average of 9% engagement on our LinkedIn posts. We average around 7%, we’re so close!
- Get 300 website visitors a week
- Get 5 successful customer referrals from Bootcamp Alumni to the June or July Bootcamp
These goals are NOT S.M.A.R.T. goals for freelancers:
“Get more clients.”
“Have more time off.”
“Make more money.”
These are S.M.A.R.T. goals for freelancers:
Goal #1: “Email four letters of interest every week in June to build my network and lead generation.”
Goal #2: “Raise my rates to $$$ with my current clients by June 30, 2021 so I can work less hours with equal or more pay.”
Goal #3: “Make $20,000 more in 2021 than in 2020 by onboarding new retainer clients at a higher rate by the end of Q3.”
Break Your Goals Down into Small Pieces
Even when they're S.M.A.R.T., goals can be overwhelming, so we suggest working backward to break them down into smaller goals and action items. Start with an end goal on an end date. What are the to-dos you’ll have to complete to get to the goal you’ve set?
Goal #1: “Email four letters of interest every week to build my network and lead generation.”
- Set time aside every morning to find 3 prospects
- Every Wednesday, write the letters of interest for the top four prospects you’ve found that week. Make sure to keep some notes to help navigate this initial communication with confidence and your solutions to the prospects' problems.
- Every Thursday, take a look at the emails, edit, and then send!
- Extra: Join a professional association or community to grow your network
Goal #2: “Raise my rates to $$$ with my current clients by [timeframe] so I can work less hours with equal or more pay.”
- In the next 7 days, email your clients and ask how you’re doing and what could be improved.
- Research current rates and what your work, talents, and skills are worth. One of our favorite resources to figure this out is the YouWorth App. It links to LinkedIn and let’s you know what your salary should be based on your profile.
- By [timeframe], know your updated prices and have a communications plan. For example, if the client told you that they wanted more responsiveness and updates from you when you initially asked for feedback, you could say something like: “Based on feedback from you and other clients, I’m becoming more selective with who I work with. This will allow me to be more responsive and available with my clients. My price for new clients is XX% higher effective immediately, but because of our relationship, I’ll give you a big discount so that your price will only be XX% higher. I’ll also give you 30 days at the current rate before the increase goes into effect.”
- Connect with your current clients via phone by [timeframe] with the notice of new rates starting in [timeframe]. Still unsure of how to have this conversation? Check out this checklist.
Goal #3: “Make $30,000 more in 2021 than in 2020 by onboarding new retainer clients at a higher rate.”
- As you begin conversations with prospects in Goal #1, make sure you lead with potential clients that are able to be retainer clients.
- For every new client onboarded this month (and the foreseeable future), start them at the new higher rate researched in Goal #2.
Focus on what you can control
This may be hard to hear but motivation doesn’t matter. Motivation is really nice, but what happens when it runs out?
Consistent actions matter. Habits matter. The decisions you make, habits, and the actions you take every day, account for about 40% of our behaviors. A new behavior, like working on your goals, becomes automatic when you make it a habit.
Building these habits, and accomplishing actions and the mini goals, like researching prospects, will lead to the results you want: bigger, better clients and a stable, successful freelance business.
Find an Accountability Buddy
If staying on track with your goals is hard for you, find an accountability buddy. Share your goal(s) with another freelancer and check in with each other monthly.
Knowing that you’ll be talking to your accountability buddy on a certain date about your progress will motivate you to make some. An accountability buddy can also help you solve problems when things aren’t going so well, and celebrate successes with you.
You saw our goals earlier, will you be our accountability buddy?