How do you set business goals?

It’s a good question. And not one that gets asked in the right way a lot of the time.

Whether you’re new to biz or you’ve been an entrepreneur for a long time, you probably know that goal are important if you want your business to grow. But did you know that there are right ways and wrong ways to set those goals? And, if they’re done in the wrong way, they can actually have a negative impact on both you and your business.

But, done in the right way, your business goals can help you work harder, more efficiently AND help your business grow from strength to strength (provided that you put the work in, that is! 😉)

In this post you’ll learn:

  • Why it’s important to set business goals
  • How not to set business goals
  • And, most importantly, how to set business goals that motivate you and help your business to grow and flourish.

So, if you’re ready to set goals for your creative business, keep reading!

Learn how to set business goals that motivate you and help your business to grow, rather than scare you into doing nothing! Free workbook included #BusinessTips #BusinessGoals #GoalGetter

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Why Do You Need to Set Business Goals?

If, like me, you’re creative and your mind races with new ideas pretty much on an hourly basis. And, if you’re like me, you also think that you’re doing fine without fixed goals – you just kinda work on whatever you feel like as the inspiration and energy comes to you.

WRONG!

I genuinely used to think that I could run a business without goals. Oh, how wrong I was! I mean, I got “stuff” done but that’s exactly it. It was just “stuff”. I had no idea what direction I was going in or what that “stuff” was helping me to achieve (HINT: it wasn’t helping me achieve anything!)

Here’s why your business needs goals:

  • Motivation –  Your business needs to have a purpose. There’s a reason that you’ve decided to take the leap into the unknown. And you need to make that reason/purpose/intention/whatever else you want to call it, known. That end goal needs to be in your mind all of the time to keep you motivated and working hard, even on the bad days.
  • Focus – Goals keep you focused and on track. This is especially true in the early days when you have a million-and-one ideas racing through your mind and you want to work on all of them. At. The. Same. Time. It’s really easy to branch off into a new project when your current one still needs work.
  • Growth – As I mentioned earlier in the post, you need goals to help your business grow. This kind of links to focus. How can your business grow if you’re working on a new idea every single day but never actually finishing one? How can your business grow if there’s no logical path to follow?
  • Your sanity – You also need them to keep you sane. After all, when you’re a solopreneur, it’s just you (it’s in the name really…the “solo” bit…). And, if you get burnt out then the business doesn’t function. It’s that simple really. 
  • Accountability and Gratification – When you work for yourself, there’s no scary boss or manager looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re getting s**t done! It’s all on you. So, by writing down your goals, you hold yourself accountable. If those goals don’t get met, it’s all on you! On the flip side, when they do get met, it’s all on you too! The feeling of being able to tick things off your list and smash your goals is AH.MAZ.ING! And it really helps to keep you motivated and working hard.

How NOT to Set Business Goals

It’s really easy to set goals and targets. But, more often than not, those goals are unrealistic and rather than motivating you to work harder, they actually leave you feeling frustrated and wanting to give up.

When I started out with my first blog, my goals were to write a new post each day, to reach 2,000 Twitter followers and have 1,000 subscribers. My first error here was not setting any time frame on achieving those goals so I had no deadline to work towards. My second error was setting goals that were too challenging.

I know that goals are meant to challenge you. To help you push yourself and to make you work harder. But, if you set goals that you consistently fail to achieve (because they are actually impossible to reach rather than through lack of trying) you soon become downbeat and feel defeated. I certainly felt like a failure the first day I didn’t write a new blog post. After a week of no new blog posts, I felt like giving up. But, needless to say, it didn’t actually matter.

I soon learnt how to plan and set goals that were challenging but actually achievable. I became a lot less frustrated and started to see real improvements. Now I’m super happy with my own blogging goals.

So, here’s how to set business goals the right way:

Before You Get Started

Setting goals is exciting. To me, the idea of finally having a plan in place and goals to work towards is thrilling (Hi, my name is Dani and I’m a nerd 👋) so it’s easy to get carried away and try to jump right in.

Sadly, that’s how I ended up setting crappy goals the first time around.

Take some time to think about each of the things listed below before you actually sit down to plan out your goals. Having clarity in your mind on things such as your “why” before you start will really help the whole process.

When it comes to sitting down and actually planning out those goals, make sure you find somewhere quiet to work, grab a huge cup of coffee and get rid of all distractions (I’m talking phone, emails, kids, husband…) and give the process all of your attention. I know that life gets in the way so, if you need to step away from setting your goals, that’s okay, come back to them later. Just don’t try to work on them whilst doing all of your other superhero work!

1. Know Your “Why”

Before you start setting any other goals, think about the main reason you started your business. Think about what you want to achieve.

Is it just a creative outlet? Do you want to make a little extra money alongside your day job? Is it a route to being able to quit your 9-5 and stay at home with your family?

Your “why” is essentially your end goal. It’s what you should be thinking about each time you make a decision and every time you set other business goals. If the goals you set don’t bring you closer to your “why” then they probably aren’t right for you or your business.

2. Know Your Skills and Your Limits

A slightly odd one? Not at all.

Without this sounding negative, if you want to be able to set realistic, achievable goals you need to know what skills and what limitations you have. 

This isn’t a case of selling yourself short or putting yourself down. It’s about being realistic. For example, if you work at your regular job for 8 hours a day, with an hour’s commute each way, you can’t possibly spend 8-10 hours a day on your blog. Well, it is physically possible but you won’t be able to maintain it! So, in this case, time would be one of the limitations you face and would need to be considered when you’re setting goals.

Knowing your skills works in a similar way. If you’re a social media genius, take this into account when setting your goals. Aim high and really test your skills. Likewise, if you know you need to learn a new skill to be able to complete a task, it’s going to take you a while to get to grips with it so bear that in mind when thinking about timescales on your goals.

3. Set Realistic Goals

I touched on this above Whilst it’s good to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone, your goals need to possible. And when I say possible, I mean that you can achieve them with a little hard work and determination

If you’re setting unrealistic goals, chances are, you won’t achieve them which will start the downward spiral of self-doubt. Most of us will stop working towards a goal when we believe we can’t achieve it.

The trick here is finding the right balance between “achievable” and “too easy”. If you want 2,000 Instagram followers within, say 6 months, set that as your goal. Don’t lower the target to 200 just because it’s more realistic if 2,000 is achievable with a bit of hard work. If you’re setting goals that are too easy, you won’t see much growth in your biz.

4. Think About the Big Picture

When it’s time to actually sit down and set business goals out on paper (or your screen), you want to start with the big picture.

You already have your “why” in mind, now it’s time to set your big-picture goals. These are the kind of goals that you want to achieve in the next year, 5 years, 10 years…not what you want to have done by the end of the week.

These big-picture goals will help you decide on your smaller goals and what to work on on a daily basis.

Here’s a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Income Goals – To make $50,000 in the next 12 months
  • Day Job Goals – To quit your 9-5 within the next 6 months and retire your husband/wife/partner/SO within 5 years.
  • Other Financial Goals  – To be debt free within 3 years
  • Order/Booking/Sales Goals – To sell 400 items per month by the end of next year/To have 3 clients booked per month.
  • Statistical/Growth Goals – To have 20,000 Instagram followers within 12 months. To have 100,000 unique pageviews per month. To have 5,000 email subscribers in the next 2 years.

5. Break Down Your Goals

Once you’ve set your main goals, break them down into monthly and weekly goals and then again into manageable steps. For example, if your big-picture goal is to grow your newsletter subscriptions by 5,000 in the next 12 months, you might want to break this down into smaller steps like this:

  1. Create a sign-up incentive by the end of week one
  2. Update your social media profiles to include links to your newsletter sign-up by the end of week two
  3. Review and relocate your sign-up boxes on your blog by the end of month 2
  4. Work on a newsletter content plan/schedule to ensure people don’t unsubscribe by the end of month 2
  5. Create a 5-Day Email Challenge within the first 6 months to increase subscribers
  6. Host one webinar within those 12 months to collect more email addresses.

Remember to bear in mind your skills and limitations when setting time frames as they will impact how long it takes you to complete certain tasks.

6. Write Your Goals Down

People who write their goals down are significantly more likely to stick to, and achieve those goals. Writing down your goals will firstly help you to remember them which is always useful! It will also help you stay focused when you’re struggling with motivation.

There’s no nicer feeling than physically ticking off things on a list and celebrating achieving your goals.

Personally, I’m a sucker for cute stationery so I like to write my goals out in swirly handwriting on pretty paper. The more practical way, however, is to have them in some sort of document on your computer or online so that you can access them whenever you need them. Having them “written down” digitally also means that you can go back and edit them really easily. I, on the other hand, end up re-writing my goals over and over again and tearing out half the pages of my notebook – not a very effective use of my time.

7. Make Them S.M.A.R.T

S.M.A.R.T is classic business language which is what I want to avoid on this blog – after all, if you wanted classic business advice, you’d be on the Government or some other generic business website. But “S.M.A.R.T” works, so we’ll go with it. It’s almost impossible to accomplish vague goals. I mean, if your goals are that vague, how would you even know whether they’d been achieved or not?

So, what does S.M.A.R.T stand for?

Specific

Measurable

Actionable

Realistic

Time sensitive

For each goal you set, run through each of the above. If you can’t apply one or more of those elements to your goal, it’s not specific enough and needs a little more work.

8. Track Your Progress and Reward Yourself

It’s great having goals but completely useless if you never refer back to them! This is where having them written down helps.

Tracking your progress against your goals will help you to see the positive actions being taken and is a great way to measure your blog’s growth and development. Sometimes, it’s easy to overlook the things you’ve achieved when there’s more work to be done (which, let’s face it, there always is in business!)

Measuring up against your goals will also help you to identify the areas that need more work. For example, you might be finding that your goals associated with growing your email list are being met fairly easily however, you’re struggling to get sales on your digital products. With this information, you’ll be able to shift your focus and maybe even re-evaluate and re-write some of your goals.

One useful tip here is to look at your goals and achievements more broadly too. Let’s say you’d set yourself a goal of 2,000 Twitter followers and 5,000 Instagram followers but what you actually achieved was 4,000 Twitter followers and 3,000 Instagram followers. Sure, you haven’t met your goal for Instagram followers but looking at social media following generally, you’ve absolutely smashed it!

And remember, no matter how small the win is, it’s still a win! Reward yourself for all of your hard work, whether you treat yourself to a new notebook or just take a bonus day off, make sure you celebrate somehow.

9. Don’t Worry if you Don’t Reach a Goal

Part of the frustration of goals comes from not achieving them. If you have set realistic, achievable goals but, for whatever reason, not been able to meet them this week/month, don’t be too hard on yourself. Yes, it is frustrating but don’t let it get to you! Take a deep breath and try again.

Ask yourself why those goals weren’t met and think about what you can do differently second, third or even fourth time around.

When I first started this blog, I set crazy goals and failed to meet any of them but I didn’t let it get to me. Okay, I did, I cried A LOT but I looked at what went wrong and set myself some new, more realistic goals. The point is, I didn’t give up.

10. Know When to Say “No”!

Okay, so this doesn’t really sound like something goal related but I’ll explain how it is. Your goal might be to make £500 per month which might be entirely realistic. However, if you already have a lot of other things going on in your life, something will have to give and you need to choose what that “thing” is.

You’ll need to prioritise and choose which of your goals are most important and which might need to go on the back burner for a little while. So, if your business is your sole source of income, creating new content or products and marketing them will be essential. Going back over your old blog posts and creating fancy new invoices can probably wait until you’re less busy! Likewise, if you’ve got paid work offers on the table, you should be focusing on them and saying “no” to those unpaid guest posts that are really cool but, ultimately, not going to pay the rent.

11. Make Time for Yourself

You’ve probably noticed that I say this a lot. But your happiness and mental well-being are essential.

Full stop.

It’s not just essential for running a business, it’s essential for you as a person.

Sometimes you will have deadlines that aren’t flexible. Especially when you have paying clients and an agreed delivery date. But sometimes your goals will be flexible. Aiming to have three new blog posts up this week but not feeling great? Take some time out. Want to add new products to your store but want to take a family vacation? It really doesn’t matter if you push those goals back a little.

The more you look after yourself, the better you’ll be able to work. Plus, it’s usually when you’re away from your desk that the best ideas come to you.

So, take some time to think about these things before you set your business goals and use the free blogging goals download available below.

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