2010: Grow Your Freelance Business By Setting Goals

2414000236_cf0b3b106d_bI admit I’ve never been much of a planner. I’d rather get out and do than sit around all day talking about doing, but never getting done. However, I heard my favorite financial guru, Dave Ramsey, speak about setting business goals the other day. He basically said that if you’re a dreamer, but never set goals, you’ll never plan to do it and it will always remain a dream. If your doing it, it’s no longer a dream.

To often, we all know what we want to do, but we don’t plan or set goals to do these things. We may happen to fall onto that path by chance, for example I’ve always wanted to be a freelancer, but I didn’t actually plan to leave my job and freelance until I’d gotten sick and my business has suffered because of that. Had I planned and set attainable goals beforehand, I’d probably would’ve started off about where I am now, instead of starting off for a month straight with no work.

The Right Way To Set Goals

To have the best change of attaining our goals, they need to be as specific as possible, with both details and timelines, and they need to be manually written down.

The wrong way would be: (another example from Dave Ramsey)

  • I want to lose weight

Whereas an actual proper goal would be something like:

  • I want to lose 30 pounds in the first 3 months of 2010.

From there you can break the goal down into action steps. So what are my goals for 2010?

  • I want to bring in $100,000 in web development work in 2010
  • I want to partner with 3 web development clients that specialize in web apps
  • I want to be able to refuse any project under $500 after June 2010

All of these goals are difficult, but attainable. They shouldn’t be too easy, where you don’t have to do anything to attain them, and they shouldn’t be impossible to attain either (i.e. I want to make billions).

What Next?

Our goals would be useless if all we did was write them down and forget them for the rest of the year. We need to now plan action steps and break these goals down into to-do items every week or month.

First, you should take out a calendar and write down deadlines for each goal. In my case, my deadlines would be: 1) End of the year, 2) Every 4 months and 3) After 6 months.

After we’ve figured out when we need to accomplish these goals by, we then need to figure out how to accomplish them. Let’s take a look at my first, and hardest of the 3. What can I do to make $100,000 in a year? Time for some math! Let’s look at what I’m doing now:

  • I average $500 per website build, with an average of 10 hours of work.

If I were to continue this pace next year, in order to make $100,000, I would have to:

  • Make 200 websites at $500 per site
  • That’s 2000 hours of work
  • 250 8 hour days

Whew that’s a lot of work! Technically I could probably do it, but that would mean putting in 10-12 hour days and/or working weekends, since I really only get 4-6 hours a day to code during business hours. While there is an average of 260 business days in a year, ┬áthat doesn’t provide for sick days, vacation, days I have no work or clients at all or any free time I need to take off.

What if I could bump my average site sales up to $600 and still 10 hours of work per site? Then it would be:

  • 163 websites at $600 per site
  • 1,630 hours of work
  • Only 203 8-hour days, or 406 4-hour days

So for me to attain this goal, I would either have to up my rates, or lower my hours. Both can be easily done, as I often quote 10 hours for a site that takes me 6-8. I could start trying to attain this goal by raising my rates enough to bring an extra $1,000-$2,000 a month, which also means I would need less projects to attain this goal.

What’s The Point?

The important lesson to take from this, is that we shouldn’t just wake up, go to our office, work, go home and repeat everyday. While you may still grow some this way, you’ll never head in the right direction. There have been several times where I had to stop working and start thinking about the business side of my business.

While this was difficult for me, it allowed me to realize that I wasn’t doing the work I wanted. This lead to dropping services and clients and realigning myself. In that first month, I can tell you I made at least 5x what I did the previous month. And I only offered 3 services and looked for 1 type of client versus 10 or so services and all clients.

Failure Isn’t Failure

In goal setting, a failure isn’t always a failure. Let’s say next year I worked hard at trying to meet my first goal, making $100,000, but I only made $80,000 after all my hard work. Let’s say the year before without any goals I only made $30,000. Did I really fail then? I still would’ve more than doubled my pay.

The great thing about being a freelancer, or wanting to be a freelancer, is that YOU control your pay, your work and your future. You’re not reliant on a boss for a raise or the types of projects and clients you have to work with. Make that matter by really taking control of your business.

Stop saying “someday” and start saying when. OK I’m getting off my soapbox!

Your Turn

How have you attained your goals or are you still trying to set some? Are you still waiting to make the leap to freelancing “someday”? (There’s no better day than today and no better motivator to make money than having no money!)

Why or why haven’t you set or met your goals?

Photo courtesy of DeaPeaJay