It's time to dive back into business after the new year, so of course we had to talk about if and how you should set goals to grow your freelance business in 2022. In this episode, Louise shares her six-step process for setting goals that actually mean something to you (so you can actually achieve them!), plus her number one business goal for 2022. What do you have planned for your business in 2022?
"If you don’t make plans or set intentions about how you want your business to look or to evolve, it will just plod along in its default setting. Maybe that’s fine, but maybe you would like something a bit different? What could 2022 look like for you?"
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Louise Shanahan is a freelance health copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.
Happy new year freelance friends! I hope you’ve all had a lovely festive season, and you’ve enjoyed a little bit of a break over the last week or so, and the dreaded covid didn’t get in the way of your plans with family and friends too much. We are back! The holidays are but a distant memory and it’s time to dive back into business.
I don’t know about you, but I really love this time of year. It feels like a fresh start. Like a glorious new notebook with clean, empty pages, full of possibility. I know lots of people will say oh you shouldn’t bother about new year resolutions, everyone gives them up by February anyway. I know it’s not like the clock strikes 12 and you’re suddenly a productive, atomic habit-building machine. And especially given the state of 2020 and 2021, why would you tempt fate by making any plans? But I can’t help it. I always feel excited about the possibilities that lie ahead with a new year. There’s an energy that comes with having had some forced rest in December, going through the festive rituals, noticing that the days are starting to get longer and brighter again, and yeah I just always feel energised to jump into the next year. If you don’t make plans or set intentions about how you want your business to look or to evolve, it will just plod along in its default setting. Maybe that’s fine, but maybe you would like something a bit different? That process doesn’t have to happen at new year, of course, you can make plans and change plans and set goals at any time. But for me, it makes sense in January. November and December are always super busy months, so January feels like a good time to take stock of what’s been happening over the last year, and think about where I’d like to go next.
So for today’s episode, of course I had to talk about setting goals (or not) for your freelance business in 2022. I thought I’d share some of the questions I like to ask myself at the start of a new year, and I’ll share my number one business goal for 2022. I would love to hear about yours too, so do drop me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn or leave me a voice message at memo.fm/15.
Ok, I have six steps to follow here. It’s not difficult. Make yourself a cuppa and get a notepad out. You can do this in 30 minutes. You know I like to keep things simple and easy! Planning and goal-setting is helpful, but we don’t need to overcomplicate this.
Step 1 is to celebrate last year’s successes! If we’re thinking about setting goals or making plans for the next year, the obvious place to start is to look back over the previous year and take stock of what went well and what was a total shitshow. It’s so easy to keep pushing forwards always the time, but one thing I am trying to get better at is just pausing for a moment to look back and give myself a wee pat on the back for things that have gone well. So I encourage you to look back over the last year and find something to celebrate. Maybe you hit a massive financial milestone that as a baby freelancer you could never have imagined. That’s huge! Congratulations! You’ve created this business out of nowhere and look where you are now. You should be proud. If you’ve reached a personal milestone this year, you may not feel like sharing it all over the internet, but I encourage you to take a minute to feel that inner glow of satisfaction and pride at what you’ve built. Or maybe you worked with a dream client. Maybe you saw your work in the wild for the first time. Maybe you had steady leads coming in and finally broke free of the feast or famine freelancing rollercoaster. Maybe you found your people! Maybe you made some really amazing freelance friends this year, and you’ve been cheering each other on and sharing your ups and downs. Celebrate the teeny weeny things too. Like, you managed to take regular lunch breaks or you finally signed up with an accountant, or you set aside time each week to read some business books or do a course. When you work four yourself, your friends and family might not always really get what you do, and you don’t have a boss or a team to say well done when things go well, so we have to celebrate ourselves and each other. Let me do that for you now – well done! You’ve done an amazing job.
Step 2 is getting a bit more granular in your reflections on the last year. What went well? What went not so well? Make a list of everything you can think that you found fulfilling, or enjoyable, or easy or satisfying about your business this year. What were your favourite projects? What was fun? When did you feel like you were really in flow? Then do the same for the things that felt a bit sticky. What felt clunky or awkward. What were the biggest time sucks? Where did you feel frustration or resistance? What made you feel stressed out? As I say, don’t overthink it or judge it as your writing, just scribble it all down. This’ll help you figure out what you want to do more of and less of this year.
The next thing I do, step 3, is to look at these lists and narrow them down into things I’d like more or less of as a go forwards into the next year. When I look at the list of things in the happy face column, which do I really want more of? What do I want to keep doing? What do I want to build on? What would feel really amazing to do again?
And when I look at the sad face column, where can I cut things out? What should I be putting on my to-don’t list in 2022? Again, there’s no judgement. We’re just looking at what happened and where we can make things easier or better or more efficient or more satisfying in 2022.
Step 4 is to pick just one thing from each column to be your priority for next year. That’s it – one thing you want to do more of, and one thing you want to do less of. Wasn’t that easy?
You can have more if you like, but I tend to forget if I make a long list, so I just pick one from each column.
Personally, 2021 felt like both the longest and fastest year ever. So for me, the one thing to do more of and the one thing to do less of are two sides of the same coin. I want more time off. My ‘more of’ priority is to actually plan some proper chunks of time off. And my ‘less of’ priority is to stop saying yes to too many things. I have a huge issue with not wanting to let people down, so that means that when a client’s like hey, could you do this thing, my instinct is to say yes! and I shall do it right now! even if that’s not necessary or realistic or the client doesn’t expect it. So if I have committed to carving out some time off, I won’t be able to say yes to everything that comes along, and if I’ve committed to not saying yes to too many things or not telling myself I’ll do them immediately, I can remind myself to set some boundaries and set some realistic expectations when clients ask if I can take on a new project. This might sound really basic to you but it’s a trap I fall into a lot and I think it’ll make a huge difference to how I’m able to serve my clients, my earning potential, and of course how much I actually enjoy my work and my day to day life.
That leads nicely into step 5, which is thinking about the bigger picture. If we only base our future goals or plans on what happened in the past, that doesn’t leave any room for new ideas. So this is where you get to think big. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? What would make your business feel easy? What would you like to be looking back on this time next year?
Last night I watched 14 Peaks on Netflix. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about Nims Purja, a Nepali high-altitude mountaineer who set out to climb the 14 mountains higher than 8000m in record time, less than 7 months. The previous record was something like 7 years. Because people kept telling him his plan was impossible, he called it Project Possible. Now, we might not be climbing any mountains here, but we can come up with our own version of Project Possible. So what might that look like for you? What would you love to achieve this year? What could your business adventure be?
I encourage you to be ambitious when you think about what your business could evolve into over the next year. But if that’s not where you are right now – if 2021 has taken a toll, if life is hard, if you have other priorities, then be gentle with yourself. Maybe you’re happy with how things are and you don’t want to change anything at all. That’s fine too. You will know where you are on that spectrum and what feels right for you right now.
Another thing I want to mention here is that if you are thinking about specific goals, be clear about where they’ve come from and why you are setting them. It’s easy to hear about other people’s goals and think, oh, I better aim for that too. But maybe those six figure goals or 4-day week goals or creating a course and writing a book goals that everyone else talks about are not that important to you. You don’t know what the real story is with other people’s businesses, so while you might take inspiration from what other people are doing, keep your eyes on your own path.
And not to get too Simon Sinek on you, but you do need to know the why behind your goals. if you set a financial goal but you could care less about whether you meet it or not because it doesn’t represent a major change in your lifestyle and it’s just earning for earning’s sake, you won’t be motivated to work towards it. But if you have a really specific thing you’re working towards, and you can set business goals or habits or practices that will help you get there, then you’ll be far more likely to stick to them.
I guess what I’m saying is you want to create specific goals that support your vision, rather than arbitrarily picking some goals that sound exciting, but ultimately don’t align with what you really want deep down. Otherwise, when things get busy or stressful or something shiny and new comes along, your goals will fall by the wayside.
The final step is how we actually make all this happen. Whether it’s a big scary hairy goal or just a cheeky little habit you want to work into your business each week, you need a system to make it happen.
I think I’ve mentioned before that working with a business coach has really helped me to think about this this year. I worked with Kirsty Waite who has helped me figure out my vision for my business this year, and refine my services, and really unpick a lot of the mindset monkeys that were getting in the way. We had a conversation about my 2022 goals and like I said, my number 1 goal for 2022 is to have more time off. In practice, I’d like that to involve having 4-day weeks twice a month. Let’s be realistic here! So when Kirsty asked how I’d make that happen, I was like, I hadn’t thought about that. If I'm honest, I figured I'd just not book stuff in on Fridays and try to be a bit more focused on the other days and that would be that. And she was like you need a plan. You need systems and support to make that happen. What can be outsourced. What can you stop doing. Where can you create that space. So I have a few strategies now to help me actually make this goal a reality. Otherwise it’s too easy to just slip back into how I was working before.
So, I encourage you to think about what systems and support you need to have in place to help you make your 2022 goals a reality. And of course, I highly recommend also signing up for Kirsty’s newsletter or going to find her on Linkedin, where you can hear her business coaching advice first hand.
OK! Let’s recap those six steps:
1. Celebrate the wins from 2021
2. Make a list of everything that went well last year, and everything that was a bit of a headache
3. Narrow that list into a few things you want to do more of and a few things you want to do less of in 2022
4. Pick one thing from each list to prioritise
5. Think about your bigger vision and goals for your business, and make sure those priorities are supporting that vision
6. Identify the systems and support that you’ll need to have in place to make your new goals or habits a reality. You need systems to make your goals stick.
As I say, you don’t need to overthink this. Keep it simple. Try it for a month and see what happens. You can always change your mind later or change the way you do things if you find it’s not really working out. Push yourself, pay attention, be systematic, experiment, adapt.
So, what about you? What do you have planned for your business in 2022? Are you the kind of person that likes to crack open a new bullet journal and set some big ambitious goals for the year? Or maybe you just have a couple of ideas that you’d like to bring to life over the next few months. Maybe there are just a couple of small tweaks you want to make in your business to keep things ticking along nicely. Maybe you’ll just have a theme or a word to help you guide your decisions this year. What could be possible for you in 2022? I’ll leave you with that question. If you want to share your thoughts on this, send me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn or memo.fm/15.
I can’t wait to hear what you have planned. Until next time, happy freelancing!