Every January, we experience a sort of annual reset when we establish our New Year’s goals. Now’s the time that all freelancers consider the same questions: What are your professional objectives for this year? Where do you plan to take your finances, career and creative work?
After speaking with a few indys, I discovered that the top resolutions for the new year include acquiring new clients, locking in anchor and retainer accounts, working less, making more and streamlining their businesses. Many fellow freelancers are also focused on taking time off, creating new products and spending time on their own creative projects.
Unfortunately, according to The New York Times, over half of all New Year’s resolutions fail. But you don’t have to be a statistic. Here are a few tips on how to ensure you follow through on your goals.
Create a Daily Plan
With the starry-eyed optimism of January upon us, New Year’s resolutions can often be a bit audacious: This is the year you’ll make six figures, work a four-day week and finally land your dream client — all at the same time! Though it’s important to be realistic, almost any goal is within reach when you have the right plan in place.
Progress starts with a clear daily agenda. Instead of focusing on the result, create a road map for what you’ll do each day to get there. Let’s say you hope to make $100,000 in 2018. Freelancers who work 220 eight-hour days can break that down to $500 per day, or $62.50 per hour. Once you have this sort of breakdown in place, you can develop daily, weekly and monthly milestones accordingly. Soon your big goals will seem more achievable, and you’ll have a better measurement of what’s realistic and what’s not.
Look to the Future by Revisiting the Past
Look at your past performance to determine how to make your future successful. What worked well, and what stood in your way? Maybe it was a lack of marketing that prevented you from reaching new customers. If so, you have a clear area to focus on moving forward. On the other hand, if you’ve been successful at networking and giving talks, it might be time to step up your output in that area. Being objective and realistic about your past performance will help you dial in on where to focus your new goals.
Stay on Target With Tech
You’re always attached to your smartphone, right? Well, try using that technology to stick to your resolutions. You can start by simply setting up to-do lists and daily reminders in your phone. For example, imagine you’re a freelance designer and your goal is to complete one marketing-related task a day, such as sending out a pitch or updating your portfolio. You can set aside 15 minutes before lunch every day to tackle these tasks, and turn on an auto-reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.
Even better, apps can keep you from flaking out on your goals. If you want to learn new skills, check out Coursera or iTunes U. Building a new budget? Mint and Acorns can help you out. And if you want to research and connect to specific prospective clients, try LinkedIn and Glassdoor.
Mindfulness may be the key to achieving your New Year’s goals. This practice can take many forms, including yoga, meditation and spending time in nature. By improving your ability to focus and concentrate, you’ll set yourself up to succeed in business. Embracing mindfulness can teach you how to direct your time and energy so you can figure out where you may be holding yourself back — allowing you to streamline your business and focus on tasks that’ll help you achieve your goals.
Refocus With Regular Reviews
What if you’re halfway through the year and you find that your goals have changed? This happens more often than you may think. Karen, a freelance copy editor, found that her income goals weren’t a good match for her lifestyle. “I started last year with a massive income goal,” she explains. “I learned that I could achieve it, but it took a lot of time away from health and family. My kids are young, and I realized that right now I want to spend time with them. But setting such a high goal also gave me hope for the future.”
Regular reviews, whether they’re monthly or quarterly, can help you determine if you’re on track for the goals you set — and whether those goals are still the right fit. If they’re not, you should feel free to adjust your initiatives accordingly.
Support can make all the difference between achieving your goals and missing the mark. Hiring a coach, joining a mastermind group, setting up check-ins with an accountability partner or just asking your family and friends for advice and guidance can help you create a connected community that keeps you on track. For example, working with a writing coach a few years ago helped me stay on track with a book project. Regular check-ins and a sounding board were essential to me being able to power through the project and get it to the publisher on time.
This year, dream big with your New Year’s goals. Go after that big account, kick your income into another tax bracket and take your freelance career to the next level — whatever that means for you. With a detailed strategy in place, you’ll be well on your way to counting the year as a significant success.