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Setting Goals as a Freelancer

It wasn’t intentional at the time, but I quite enjoy that my freelance anniversary is 1st January. Since everyone else is setting goals & reviewing the last year, it’s great motivation for me to jump on the new year bandwagon & reflect on my latest year of freelance life.

1st January 2020 marks 6 years since my first self-employed day. It both feels like it’s been (a lot!) longer & like I still have a lot to learn – & listening to freelance friends who’ve been doing this for many more years, I have a feeling that won’t change any time soon.

So in the spirit of constant learning & evolution, regular goal-setting & reflection is an important part of making sure I’m a) progressing in the right direction & b) still enjoying what I’m doing! It’s not just a new year thing for me – you don’t need a special date to set a goal – but it’s as good a time as any for some new challenges.

Looking back: what’s been working (& not)?

2019 pros: finally achieved a better work/life balance (from about mid-June, anyway), said ‘no’ to the right things, said ‘yes’ to some things that I didn’t think I was good enough for (but totally was – go away, imposter syndrome!), figured out which parts of my work I love & which bits I’m ready to move on from

2019 cons: really bad at work/life balance for the first 6 months!, had to get used to a much more unstable routine & income after leaving one regular client & another project ending, working on too many last-minute projects & events which meant looking at an empty calendar one second & a full one the next… (stress)

Looking ahead: what needs to change?

  • Planning further ahead – although I’ve now got used to not having at least one stable 1-3 day a week client, which is how I’ve worked for most of the past 6 years until fairly recently, I’d love to start booking work in a bit further ahead. For some of my current work this isn’t really in my control, so it might mean shifting my priorities around a bit. While I’d love to leave enough flexibility to say ‘yes’ to the odd last-minute project, I don’t want them to make up the bulk of each month this year.
  • New projects & challenges – I could (& probably will) write a whole post just on the challenges of progressing as a freelancer, & this is definitely one of my main goals for 2020. It’s easy to keep doing the same things year after year, but with the training side of my work especially this can feel a bit stagnant & like I’m not putting the full breadth of my skills & experience to use. I’d like 50% of my work in 2020 to be on new projects. So this leads to the next goal:
  • Continuing in the right direction – taking on more work in training content development, digital skills programme management & digital inclusion projects; work that will challenge me & develop new skills, or make better use of skills I already have.
  • Constant learning – I have an ongoing list on Google Keep of skills, platforms or subjects I’d like to either brush up on or start from scratch, so the goal here is to focus on one per month in 2020.

Setting time for reflection

There are some obvious times to review & reflect as a freelancer – new year, new tax year, end of the month, quarterly. Some of my goals above are longer term, so a quarterly check-in seems about right to see if I’m getting better at booking in work further ahead, or on the right track for working on more new projects. The learning goal is one I have every year, so I’m already in the habit, but a monthly reflection is helpful as I can review what I’ve learnt this month & choose a topic for the next one.

Motivation & resources

This time of year I love reading other freelancers’ yearly review & goals, & chatting to self-employed friends about what they’re planning for the year ahead. Other sources of motivation:

  • Podcasts
  • YouTube (but not hours of it – here are some videos I’ve watched this week)
  • Getting out of the house to work – to avoid a) the leftover Christmas snacks & b) working in PJs

There are so many methods of setting goals, goal frameworks, planning worksheets etc if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, but I’ve found that sticking to the simple “what worked, what didn’t, what do I want to do next” means I don’t get carried away with ‘planning’ as an activity in itself. I’d love to know your goals for the year ahead, tweet me at @emmavgray 🙂

Category:Freelance Life
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