It’s that time of year again where every man and his dog will be making ridiculous new years resolutions which, although made with the best of intentions, will probably not make it past the first week of January. When the clock struck twelve to announce the beginning of the new year I found myself thinking about what my own resolutions would be, surprisingly, I’ve not made any for my personal life but have made quite a few in an effort to get my career as a freelance writer and blogger of the ground, hopefully some of the observations I’ve made will be of use to you.
For the first time in many, many years I had a very sophisticated new year spent at a friend of a friend’s very nice apartment. One of the other guests managed to come up with what is probably the most original question for the time of year and decided she would systematically ask every last person what their resolution was. Despite rolling my eyes when she first asked the question I was genuinely interested in hearing everyone’s responses so I feigned enthusiasm and played along.
Out of all of the people present, only one had an original answer to the question (not me, I decided to not rock the boat), the others were the typical lose weight, become healthier, quit smoking, take up a new hobby etc. Whilst I’m not saying that these are not admirable goals, I find it hard to believe that the resolutions will be kept. it sounds awfully cynical of me but the stereotypical resolutions are so cliché and general, it’s hard to take anyone making them seriously.
The problem with these resolutions is that they are not specific enough. You want to lose some weight and eat healthier. Great. Will you be losing 1kg or 20kg? Does eating an extra apple a day constitute ‘eating healthier’ or do you intend a full overhaul of your current diet? With such general goals it’s easy to quit before you’ve achieved anything real, by not giving yourself an actual target you’re conning yourself by providing your own get out of jail free card.
People also tend to fail in not maintaining the resolution. Once you’ve lost that weight or sorted your diet out it can be easy to slip back into old habits negating any progress that has been made. The result? You make the same resolution the following year and are caught in an inexorable loop to which there is no escape.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m not a fan of new years resolutions as I find them far too cliché and, more often than not, pointless. Saying that, I think that the principle is valid and holds value, value that has been lost but can be rediscovered through proper planning followed by observation and monitoring of progress. The principle of a resolution should be embraced by all those who run their own business. If there’s something you’re not happy with or think you can improve, why would you not make every attempt to change it?
Since embarking on my path to become a freelance writer and blogger I’ve always had a set of goals which I strive to hit. I believe that keeping the goals at the forefront of your mind is key to helping achieve them. In my previous house I had them scrawled on the mirror in my bedroom with a dry wipe marker and now have them on the glass top of my desk next to where my laptop sits. The reason that I want to see them everyday is because it’s a stark reminder of what is usually the lack of progress I have made and so is a very much-needed kick up the arse for me.
Before the new year I had a very simple set of ‘small business goals’ all centred around growing the business, increasing my readership through social media and increasing revenue earned (we’ve all got bills to pay!). I’ve included a selection of the main goals below just to give an idea of what I am trying to achieve.
- Earn £5k
- 1000 Twitter followers
- Get 5 clients
Whilst these are still goals I wish to achieve I realised that they are too general and as such don’t really offer me much direction or method in which to achieve the goals. I decided to have a full overhaul of my goal method in the hopes of making swifter progress. To start with I broke the goals down into short, medium and long-term with ‘deadlines’ for achievement as well as giving daily and weekly goals to be hit.
Below you can see the goals broken down into ‘terms’.
- Earn £10k by the 1st May 2014
- Land 5 clients by 1st March 2014
- 1000 Twitter followers by 1st March 2014
- First post published on external website by 15th January 2014
- Minimum 1 post for Have-a-Word
- Minimum 2 tweets per day
I’ve left the selection somewhat reduced to spare you from wasting your time looking at my goals thus giving you more time to make your own 😉 How thoughtful of me! I like to think of the daily and weekly goals as the method which I’ll use in order to achieve the more substantial goals. In this case having an active twitter will make it easier to attract new followers and an active blog not only looks good to potential clients but also gives you a wider range of work to use as samples. Ideally you want as many of the goals to compliment one another and to feed of other’s success to make the whole process run smoothly.
Make sure that when setting your goals they are ambitious yet achievable. If you set yourself overly ambitious goals which you cannot achieve you run the risk of demoralising yourself. Breaking them up not only helps you plan your strategy but can offer intermittent motivational boosts. You may be surprised how success with even the most minor of goals can boost your confidence and spur you on to achieve more.
After I’d broken all of the goals down into sections, I had another look at them and realised that something was missing.
Trying to threaten myself with not being able to pay rent or bills feels a bit too much like negative motivation. I believe that the best motivation is the carrot/stick method, obviously being made homeless is my stick, all I needed was my carrot. I’m something of a techie and love to get my hands on a new gadget. Unfortunately for me I am trying to reduce my outgoings whilst I set up my business and gadgets, well, they ain’t cheap. What I decided to do was to pick my most desired items and holidays and offer them, to myself, on a sort of commission or reward scheme. Once a goal has been hit, I get to go somewhere nice or buy something shiny.
At the end of the process my goals now look like this.
- Earn £10k by 1st May 2013 – Home theatre system
- Get 5 clients by 1st March 2013 – Weekend away in Europe
- 1000 Twitter followers 1st March 2013 (ambitious I know) – Dinner at fancy steak and lobster place
When choosing your goals ensure you place the ‘bonuses’ of highest value on the most profitable or hard to reach goals. Not only will this increase your sense of achievement but should also prevent you from wasting all of your profits. The goals can be anything you want them to be as long as the incentive will motivate you and are scaled to the goal appropriately.
A lot of discipline is needed in order to stick to the goals you’ve set. You need to realise that you’re now a business and need to operate as such. In an organisation you would not be rewarded for lack of performance, the incentives are there in order to motivate you to become the biggest earner in the company, in your company. If you feel as though you would have trouble sticking to the goals enlist the help of a willing significant other, friend or family member.
Once your goals have been reached and you’ve bought yourself something shiny or gone somewhere hot you need to set a new set of goals and the process begins anew! Some goals will naturally lead on from themselves i.e increasing your twitter followers, where as if you only have 3 clients but are making enough to live comfortably and are happy, you will want to focus your attention on another area of the business. If you don’t achieve your goals by the set date, you need to reset the date and start over. You’re not letting yourself cheat your way to a treat.
I like to think of the method as a sort of very simple, fluid business model which is able to adapt and evolve along with you and your business making it applicable at any stage in your career. It’s far more forgiving than the rigid models used by those looking for bank loans and I believe more in line with starting a freelance writing/blogging career where you really have to rely on yourself for everything.
If you were to apply the above method to your freelance career what would be the main goals you would set yourself? Tell us in the comments below.