Goal setting for freelancers

by Rebecca Hass


Whether or not you’re getting ready to go back to school this fall, there is something hardwired in us about September. It’s the season of clean notebooks and a new teacher. We get a fresh start. That may explain why September is such a hot mess of resolutions and goal setting. Forget New Years, the day after Labor Day holds the future you.

Now is the perfect time to create your vision for the life you want to be living. Where do you want your freelance career to take you? Living on the beach and writing travel pieces? Covering exciting stories in urban centres? What is your goal in life and work?

Be S.M.A.R.T. but with a twist

In the world of business they have goal setting down to a science. For a goal to succeed, they say you need to use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Time-bound.

But for freelancers (and, I’d argue, pretty much for everybody outside of the world of selling widgets) that acronym does more harm than good. I’m keeping the first three (Specific, Measurable and Accountable) but tossing the last two. Your goal needs to speak to you so that you have the fuel to chase it. Choosing a goal that is first and foremost ‘realistic’ is like letting Eeyore book your holidays: predictable and unexciting.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s Jim Carrey on being ‘realistic’:

“You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take the chance to fail at what you love’ Jim Carrey commencement speech, 2014.

Being realistic means letting the fear of failure set your goals. Instead, I want you to use the R for Resonance and the T for Thrilling. You’re a freelancer and came to your craft for the love of something. What was it that fired you off in this direction in the first place? Resonant goals speak to who you are and why you are here on the planet. A resonant and thrilling goal will put fire in your belly. When was the last time you thought about your work thrilling you?

The three big mistakes everyone makes when goal setting

1. You set the goal from a place of fear. When you do that, you are trying to choose a ‘sure thing’ so you won’t be disappointed. The result? This goal will not speak to your values and will leave you sad even when you attain it.

“Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.” Les Brown, motivational speaker

2. You get stuck on ‘How’. ‘How will I make it happen?’ If you ask how, you will stop before you even get started. ‘What’ is the key you must find. If you know ‘what’, then the ‘how’ is a simple to-do list. It’s that easy.

Remember: Don’t let ‘how’ spoil a good ‘what’.

Instead, ask yourself: What do I value? Community? Self expression? Making a difference? Your goal needs to embody what you value in life. When in doubt, ask yourself: What would I want the title of my obituary to be? I’m not being overdramatic. This is your life. Be bold now. Find your ‘what’ and life will feel well lived even in disappointing times.

3. With your ‘What’ defined, start making a plan from the end, not from today. Imagine you have your autobiography in your hand. Now, read the last chapter first. If you know where you’re going to end up then you just have to work the plan backwards. You could start at being 70 years old but for our purposes, how about looking even just 5 years down the road?

• It’s fall 2020 and I am working at ________________________ with _______________which makes me happy because I feel ____________________. I also love it because it allows me to _____________________which really matters to me.

Here is your ‘What’ with your ‘Why’. These are your fuel, it must be resonant and thrilling, for you to achieve this goal.    

• Now ask yourself: What has to happen for you to get from where you are today to that job/life? Take broad strokes and guess what the likely path is. Write it down in any order.

            Now the easy part!

• Figure out the order these things happen in. What happens in year one, in year two and so on. This will tell you how many years it will take to get there.

Now you have the WHAT, the WHY and the HOW made up of the likely steps and lucky breaks needed to make it into reality.

Lastly, break it down to the first six months and start working your plan. 

Now you have a goal and a plan! Trust yourself to dance with whatever life brings you. Getting what you want is only part of being happy in life. A richer path is really the goal.


Rebecca Hass is a Certified Life Coach and freelance broadcaster, writer and performer. You can get more tips on how to survive the freelance life at her website www.rebeccahass.ca or follow her exploits on twitter @rebeccahass.

Posted on August 19, 2015 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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