It’s that time of year… when we instinctively reflect back and look ahead at the same time.
Throughout most of my design career I’ve flown from one year into the next, pretty much by the seat of my pants. Without a plan. Without measurable goals. Just doing the work that lands in my inbox. And I’ve done okay.
This past year has been different. It’s been better than okay – I more than doubled my income. I credit the increase to setting goals that I can actually measure.
When I look back, I realize I had NO idea what a goal really was.
I had no clue how to set meaningful goals that could actually make a significant difference in my business.
What is a goal?
A goal is something you can measure but don’t fully have control of the outcome. Here’s where we typically go wrong with setting goals:
- We confuse them with projects.
- We set our goal timeline too far out.
- We don’t make them measurable.
- We confuse them with our overall vision.
- We don’t make them specific to our business.
A few years ago, a business coach told me to come up with a big thing I wanted a year from now.
I decided I wanted to take my family to the beach for several weeks, maybe a month, in the summer. I wanted to be able to afford that. This thing I chose was supposed to motivate me to move my business forward.
While it was motivating, there was no way I could tie that to what I was supposed to do tomorrow. I couldn’t see the line from point A to B.
The problem – I hadn’t set a measurable business goal – it was more like a personal vision. While visualizing where I wanted my life to be in a year was lovely… I struggled to move my business forward on vision alone.
That business coach failed to give me the steps in between, the ones that tied my big personal vision to the next task on my list.
I needed first to understand what my yearly income needed to be to afford such a luxury and create quarterly goals that would help me get there. Then I could go to the beach.
TIP: Most of us will “take home” 50% of what we make after taxes and expenses. If your goal is to take home $5000 every month, your business needs to make $10,000. Whatever that number is for you, your goals need to move you in that direction.
Don’t aim lower than where you want to be just because you think you can’t get there. You can. It just might take more than one round of goal-setting to achieve it.
Examples of quarterly goals (I recommend 1 to 3 goals):
- Increase income to $30,000
- Gain 2 new clients at $XX per project
- Add 3 new retainer clients
- Work with 2 new strategic partners
- Increase my list by 30%
- Generate $1000/month of passive income
- Sell 5 website review offerings
You’ll note that I can measure these, but I can’t exactly control the outcome. Can you see how you can begin to connect a bigger vision to a tangible thing to work on next? Now you can create projects that will help you reach any one of these goals.
A project is not a goal – it moves you toward your goal.
Once you set your quarterly goals, you’ll need to create projects and tasks specific to that goal. I write my quarterly goals down on my whiteboard calendar and in my planner. I intentionally place them where I’ll see them every day and reference them as I create my weekly and daily schedule.
Each quarter I sit down and work on my goals and at the same time, decide roughly on the projects that need to happen to support them. As I plan out each week, I set aside at least 2 days a week to work ON my business (every single week).
Working IN my business = client work.
Working ON my business = projects that move me toward my goals.
What does a project look like?
Projects should be directly related to your goals. For the goal Gain 2 new clients at $XX per project, your projects might look like this:
- Update my portfolio to showcase only directly related ideal client work.
- Restructure my packages and update my services.
- Setup virtual coffee with 2 strategic partners per month and let them know the types of projects I’m looking for.
Tasks are what you work on every day.
Now, you can create specific tasks for each project. On your business development days, start working through your tasks. Let’s drill down on Update my portfolio to showcase only directly related client work.
- Take XYZ client out of my portfolio
- Get more screen captures and a testimonial for ABC client
- Create a case study for ABC client
- Add my best project to my homepage
You can see how Create a case study for ABC client (task) » Updated Portfolio (project) » Get 2 ideal clients for the quarter (goal) » Income met for the year » Go to beach.
Now your “ON your business” tasks connect directly to your quarterly goals – goals set with the intention of moving your business forward.
You’ll no longer skip (or flounder on) your business development days because you aren’t sure what to work on. Everything you do tangibly connects to something bigger. It may not feel overly productive at first, but collectively, over the course of a quarter, you’ll see movement. If you do the work, I promise you’ll get results.
It’s okay if you don’t meet your quarterly goals or you accidentally make them too small or too big. But now you have something to review and measure, and you can make informed choices the next time you set goals. You’ll begin to see your goals for the next quarter before the current quarter ends. You’ll get faster at making decisions.
When you reflect over this past year, what would you like to do differently next year? What 1-3 goals for the first quarter of this year could help you get there? Head on over to the Drama-Free Design Collective on Facebook, tag me and tell me. I love talking about goals.