Ok, so you’re a one person show. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be critical when it comes to your work and evaluate it or check if you’re on track with your objectives.
We all know the benefits… As a freelancer, you have the unique freedom to design your own career path and set your own goals. Hurray!
But this can be both a blessing and a curse. It allows you to pursue your passions and work on the things you love, it also means that it’s up to you to stay motivated, assess your own progress, and have to set goals for yourself.
Enfasis on “goals”, not “make a million euros writing this article”. That’s an entirely different thing.
The problem with going solo is that there’s nobody there to bounce ideas off of and clients never give you feedback. They just hire you again or they don’t. That’s all the feedback you get.
Not thorough appraisals at the end of the year, no assessing how motivated you are and how well you did. Those are all introspective exercises you need to do on your own.
So, why are self-evaluation and goal-setting important for freelancers?
Long story short, they can be a great wake up. Are you looking back on the past 6 months and (objectively) all you did is 2 projects and generated half of what you hoped you would?
Then you, my friend, have not been dedicating too much time to business development. Or your pitches weren’t good enough. Or you didn’t assess well the leads you had and went completely over their budget. Or you fell into a cycle of endless work, which led to burnout or caused you to miss out on other opportunities.
You get the idea.
It’s true. Freelancers are self-starters who can organize their own workload, set their own hours, and work from anywhere in the world. However, if you don’t evaluate your progress and set goals, you’re going through life like a duck through a pond.
That’s something my dad always told me to avoid when I was growing. Some golden fatherly advice right there.
How to assess your progress
To understand where you are currently and what you need to do to reach your goals, you first need to assess your current situation. Start by listing out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). This will help you gain a better understanding of where you are now, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there.
Strengths - What do you do well? What are you most proud of? What makes you a good fit for your work? These are the things you should be putting more time and effort into.
Weaknesses - What are your areas for improvement? These are things you need to work on improving, whether it be your research or talent acquisition process, managing your time, or growing your network.
Opportunities - Where is the industry heading? What types of clients are most in demand? What is the current state of your industry? These are things that you need to actively look out for and take advantage of as a freelancer.
Threats - What are some potential challenges you may face? These are things you need to actively avoid or address as soon as they arise.
Setting short-term and long-term goals
Once you’ve evaluated your current situation and know what you need to do to improve, you can start setting goals. Short-term goals are typically set in two-week increments and are meant to help you achieve your long-term objectives. While they won’t make a drastic impact on your overall career, they can help you stay productive and on track during busy seasons or when you’re facing a lot of challenges. Long-term goals, on the other hand, are the things you want to achieve in the long run.
Here’s how I do it for my copywriting work:
At the end of each year, I make a “wish list” of goals. Everything I’d love to achieve in the upcoming year.
I evaluate how realistic they are, I delete those that are just dreams, and keep those that seem achievable.
I break those down into specific tasks per quarter and per month. Ex: the goal can be “increase organic traffic to my website”. The tasks will then be: “write 2 SEO blog posts per month in the first 2 quarters”, “monitor results at the beginning of Q3”, “write more or less” depending on the results and also on how much effort you put in versus the outcome.
How to measure success
As a freelancer, it can be easy to get caught up in work and lose track of your progress. I stick to a very simple way of doing it: ticking things off a list. It is both soooo satisfying and also a great way to keep track of progress. I organize my workload 2 weeks in advance and make up to do lists. I use Evernote for it because it helps me track everything easily. But only that. I use it to track my annual and quarterly goals too.
Measuring your success isn’t rocket science. The key is to be very specific and clear with your goals when you make the annual ones and then just break those off into quarterly goals. I then check in every quarter to see how I did. That is, when I’m not working, writing or preparing my on-point newsletter that covers freelancing personal tips and advertising / copywriting inspiration.
A freelancer’s ability to self-evaluate and set goals makes up a large part of their success. As a freelancer, you’re your own boss and have the power to set your own goals and set your own hours. That being said, if you don’t evaluate your progress and set goals, you run the risk of falling into a cycle of endless work, which can lead to burnout or cause you to miss out on pursuing other opportunities.
But that’s just me… thinking out loud.