Articles - 29th January 2021

Goal setting and the first step to freelance success

Words by Elizabeth Bennett
Illustration by Jon McCormack

When you get thrown a year like 2020, making goals can feel a fruitless task. Amidst so much uncertainty, it can seem as if you’re simply setting yourself up to fail. However, having goals is crucial when it comes to working for yourself. They provide structure, focus and boost productivity. So, why should you set goals for this new year?


Why are goals important?

When you’re drowning in deadlines or furiously networking to find new work, it can feel difficult to take some time out of your busy schedule for goal setting. However, doing so provides structure to your working life and a motivation behind the hustle. “Goals become a basis for your business strategy. By working backwards from your goals you can form the tasks and actions that need to be completed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis,” Gabriella Marsden, founder of Good Business, a support network for female business owners, explains.

“If you don’t have a direction, you don’t know where you’re going,” business coach Amber Leach concurs. For Leach, setting goals is also an excellent way to track your progress. “Looking back at your goals gives you something to reflect on. It is a way to see how far you’ve come and where you’re going,” she adds. Meeting those goals incites a feeling of achievement and a much-deserved pat on the back which can often be missing when you work solo without a boss to congratulate you.


The difference between short, medium and long-term goals 

When we speak about goals, normally they can be broken down into three categories: short, medium and long-term. Short being monthly or quarterly, medium being yearly and long being anywhere from two to ten years. You can start out by setting medium or long-term goals and work backwards to create the shorter-term goals. Marsden recommends that people dream big first: “Think about what you want to achieve by this time next year and then work back from there.”


How to set goals

Marsden explains how we tend to fall somewhere on the spectrum of goal setting: “Some have no lid on their aspirations, some people go with the flow and others fall somewhere in the middle.” Establishing where you stand on this can be helpful in working out how to set good goals. Do you need to reign yourself in and be more realistic or do you need to push yourself to think bigger?

Marsden emphasises how relevance is really important. “Think about what is relevant to you. Consider what would make you happy, not what you think you should be doing,” she advises.

Sometimes thinking big can be really helpful. “Try something new, go in a different direction, you never know where it might lead you. You’re never too old to set goals or have new dreams,” Leach says.


Maintaining a healthy relationship with goals  

In any freelance career – and especially during a pandemic – being flexible about your goals is really important. Expecting to achieve all of your goals may be unrealistic, and sometimes the goalposts themselves change. “Most freelancers forget that they are in charge. Remember you are the only person putting the pressure on you,” Marsden says. Instead be open to mixing up your goals as you go along, depending on whether your circumstances or the landscape itself changes. Leach approaches work goals flexibly but financial ones less so: “Financial targets are the main thing that always stay the same but you might have to be open to changing how you get there.” For example, Leach, who normally splits her time between wedding photography and coaching, has focused on coaching and now also marketing consulting since the start of the pandemic.

As a self-employed person it can be easy to fall down the rabbit hole of working too much and subsequently neglecting other areas of your life. “Just setting business goals is unhealthy,” Leach notes. She recommends instead having goals across all of your life to instill some balance. “I set goals in eight areas of my life including areas like family, health and purpose,” she says.

Why not take some time out of your working schedule this week to think about your long, medium and short-term goals? You might be surprised how much it improves your mindset.


What are your goals for 2021? To grow your business, or to just find your first client? No matter what stage you’re on in your freelance journey,  Albert and UnderPinned’s Ultimate Guide to Freelancing Course will make sure you’re on track to build a successful freelance career. The course starts February 1st and will consist of five jam packed weeks of learning. Find out more about the course and sign up here.


We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

If this sounds like you, head over to our Virtual Office and send us your best work via an UnderPinned Portfolio. We want to hear from you!

Make your UP portfolio

Related Articles

The six step guide to firing a client

Every client relationship has to end at some point. But some end less well than others. Toxic client relationships cost you money and rob you of yo...

Read more
Which social media platform is best for your industry?

Despite how it sometimes feels, social media is not the be-all and end-all of freelancing. In fact, in terms of finding paid work, there are much b...

Read more
Do late fees even work?

I’ve been a freelancer for five years, and at the end of every single one of my invoices, there’s a piece of text I’ve never actually used. “Please...

Read more