We're not in the mini league any more kids - this is our livelihood. If we want to achieve our goals, we have to work for them. But how to create realistic ones and more importantly, how do we make sure we're still on target? Well instead of leaving you to shoot blind, Karen Martínez has some key points for laying your goals out like a champ.

With every New Year, we freelancers usually feel motivated to improve our businesses and achieve new goals. We may think it’s a chance to start all over and become the freelancer we want to be.

As the year goes by, it’s not always easy to stick to those goals. Sometimes we don’t find time to implement our ideas. Other times, we forget about those goals before March arrives. That’s why it gets difficult to accomplish success.

For that reason, in this post you’ll find some simple yet effective tips that might help you to get started planning your goals and keep on track to improve your freelance career.

Identify Areas for Improvement

Life changes come after we accept there’s something we need to improve. You should look into your business and your personal life. What are your struggles? Are you always behind with your workload? Do you want to have a better work-life balance?

With that in mind, write a list of everything you would love to improve. It may include things like keeping your desk organized, quitting your day job or making six figures a year.

Just make sure you include on the list everything you want to achieve. If you add new goals randomly in the middle of the year, you’re less likely to integrate that new goal to your current action plan because it would take you more time and effort. However, don’t go overboard and try to limit your amount of goals. It’s better to start the year with all your goals defined. That way you can create a complete plan to achieve those goals.

Prioritize and Set Just a Few Goals

From that list, what are your main goals? What things are bothering you more? What small goals will help you to accomplish the bigger ones?

Some goals are related. For example, If you want to avoid procrastination, you spend more time working and landing new clients. Which in turn, might lead you to having the amount of clients and projects required for a six figures income.

Smaller goals can help you to accomplish bigger ones. Imagine your goal is to be more organized this year. You could establish smaller goals or tasks to help you accomplish that bigger goal. For instance, you could set a goal of using a new app to keep track of your projects or you could create daily mini-goals like putting an item in its place once you finish using it.

Select, prioritize and establish a logical order. Start thinking about what you want to accomplish and then analyze the little steps that can take you there. It’s not written in stone but it will help you to keep on track.

Once you plan your goals and establish where to start, it will be easier to set dates.

Establish Dates and Deadlines

Deadlines and milestones are important. If you don’t set them, you won’t know how much time you’ll need to dedicate to your goals. This also helps you to stay motivated because you see tangible results on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Let’s say you want to make six figures a year. It’s hard to stay motivated if you have to wait an entire year to know if you’re going to succeed. When you set milestones, you understand your progress better.

Identify short-term, mid-term and long-term goals. Six figures a year is your long-term goal. However, you’re probably not going to have overnight success. It’s a work in progress. You’d need to make around around 8333.33 (100,000 / 12 months) every month to achieve that goal.

What are your short term goals? Would it help if you landed two more projects per month to reach the monthly figure? Then set aside time to pitch prospective clients. If your conversion rate is 10%, you’ll need to send 20 pitches every month to land those two projects.

You’d need to approach 5 prospective clients each week to achieve it. You could also improve your strategy and increase your conversion rate to spend less time sending pitches.

It’s easier to say you’re going to approach 5 prospective clients this week than using an abstract concept like landing more clients.

The same applies with other goals. If you want to maintain an organised desk, then plan to clean it once a week. Even better, if you finished using a folder, store it. Those little habits make a difference.

Create Metrics and Track your Progress

Be specific. You know what you want to achieve. But how are you going to know if you’re getting where you want to be?

You can track your progress daily, weekly and monthly. Use time tracking and project management apps - like Solo :-) - that way you’ll know how you’re spending your time and you can plan your week.

Imagine you want to improve your productivity. How could you measure your progress? A good way to do it may be to calculate your income/hours worked.

See the chart below:

You’d need to consider billable and non-billable tasks. Some days you could spend more time marketing yourself and sending proposals. It won’t necessarily mean you’re not being productive. However, you should establish metrics and analyze your variables to understand the big picture.

One thing is to know you need more clients in order to quit your 9-to-5 job, but another to know the exact amount of clients you need. How much money you’ll need to make from each project? How many hours per week you’d need to work? Answer those questions to select your metrics.

This will help you to compare what you were supposed to do with what you actually did. However, don’t go overboard here and don’t try to chew more than you can swallow. This leads me to the next point...

Be Realistic

The more complicated and extreme your goals are, the less likely you’re to accomplish anything at all. Rome wasn't built in a day and your goals won’t be either. Know yourself and understand your limits. If you realize you need to work 40 more hours per week to achieve a specific goal and you only have 10 hours available, it’s up to you to be more flexible and change your deadlines or your goal.

When I started my side hustle I used to think I’d work 5 hours every night and almost all day on weekends. The truth was that I also need to spend time with the people I love, run errands and relax. That goals weren’t realistic.

I’d get home and feel exhausted. I’d sit in front of my computer and start procrastinating. I convinced myself that I was working when I spent the 5 hours reading posts, surfing the web and standing in front of a blank page. I barely accomplished anything.

Nowadays I’m happy when I get home at night and work two hours straight without any distractions. I still work on weekends but I allow myself to have a free day. I push myself to work harder when I have to but I avoid setting an unrealistic schedule.

At the end of the day, it’s your job to understand what you want to accomplish and see if your plan is working for you.

Get Back on Track and Adjust Your Goals

It's normal to lose sight of your goals when you’re cozy in bed but you need to work. The important thing is to understand your actions and get back on track. Self-pity and regret are useless and they can ruin all your progress.

You may have a slump during the year. Something can come up that changes your plans a little. An ill relative or a new baby are new elements in the equation. Don’t give yourself a hard time and reevaluate your goals.

You may need to make some adjustments in deadlines or you can change your metrics to measure more realistic goals considering the situation.

Your Choice

Now it’s the perfect time to sit and think about what you want to achieve this year. Set a few goals and deadlines and build the year you want for you.

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. That is the reason why it’s important to set realistic metrics and get back on track when you’re struggling with your goals. Remember it’s good to push yourself harder but it’s not about trying to overwhelm yourself.

It will be easier to set more realistic goals next year once you evaluate your results from previous years. You’ll be aware of what you’re capable of and you’ll realise new things you’d need to improve for your business. You could also consider doing weekly or monthly reports to stay informed about your progress and make adjustments as soon as possible.

At the end of the day, your freelance career is up to you! You’re in charge of planning your goals and achieving success.

We’d love to know your New Year’s Resolutions. What are your struggles? Do you have any tips to set goals and actually stick to them? Leave a comment below!

Karen Martínez is a freelance blogger for hire based in Panama City. She also helps freelancers to build a successful business and a fulfilling lifestyle. If you want to know more, feel free to download her manifesto!

This blog post is brought to you by the creators of Solo; your freelance wingman. If you'd like to contribute to the blog, contact us on hello[at]wearethrive.com.