My 10 Freelance Design Business Goals + Tips for Setting Yours

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Your design business will DIE without solid goals. April’s new post today is a must-read for any designer who hopes to get anywhere in business.

After April shared such a great personal experience about naming her design business (read here), I asked her to write more great content with personal stories and experience.

If you enjoy posts like this one, be sure to tweet, like, +1 and comment to show April your support. Enjoy!
-Preston

I hope you’re not tired of hearing about my freelance business just yet because today I’m going to share with you not only my first 10 business goals for Greer Genius, but also tips for how to develop and set your own freelance design business goals.

By now I’m sure you know that I purchased Preston’s ebook, From Passion to Profit, shortly after it was published in 2011.

The first chapter talks about setting business goals, but I wasn’t sure exactly what type of goals I needed to set, so I first thought about the criteria involved in setting good, attainable, measurable business (not design) goals.

Below, you’ll find my goal-setting criteria. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment!

My Goal-Setting Criteria

Be specific. Goals need to be specific so that you know when you’ve achieved them – and so that you can’t cut corners.

How do you measure “doing well” or “a lot of business?”

I knew my goals had to have specific, measurable details so that I could check them off (and set new goals!).

A healthy mix of short-term, long-term and ongoing. If I only set long-term goals, it’s easy for me to get discouraged.

If I only set short-term goals, I’m not really thinking far enough ahead to sustain a business.

Some people stop there, but I wanted ongoing goals too: something that could never really be checked off, but that would be a timeless bar of achievement I’ve set for my business now and in the future.

If I really want Greer Genius to be successful 5-10 years (and more!) down the road, I’d better start thinking now about how to get there, and how to stay on track when the going gets hectic.

Fulfill the following categories

  • Income Level: I have a standard of living I’d like to continue to pursue, and I need income to be able to sustain that lifestyle (I promise you, it’s not extravagant.).

    I needed to determine what “successful” meant to me right now in terms of dollars.

  • Acquiring New Business: I can’t grow my business without new clients, so I knew some of my goals needed to pertain to finding them.
  • Organization: I hate (HATE!) being the designer that is always behind, that others are always waiting on, that has to push back the deadline, that isn’t prepared.

    Whether its on client projects or my own internal administration, I’ve worked for two companies that operated on a last-minute (and subsequently high-stress) policy daily, and Greer Genius, to the best of my ability, isn’t going to operate like that.

    I needed some goals to quantify exactly how I am going to stay organized.

  • Good Business Policies: It sounds silly that I’d need a goal to prevent me from doing something I know isn’t a good idea, but how many times do you eat a third cookie when you know you shouldn’t?

    I needed a goal that locked me into never, not even once, letting good business practices slide.

  • Paying it Forward: No man is an island, and neither is a business. If you want your community to support you, you must support your community.

    I wanted at least one goal related to doing good for a cause, non-profit, or organization I believe in.

Be a little scary.

Yep, that’s right.

I wanted to write some goals that I was afraid might be a little bit far-fetched and out of reach. My goals can’t be too easy or I’ll never push myself to find that source of passive income, start up a blog, write an ebook, or learn how to program mobile apps.

Then I got to work.

Armed with my criteria, I sat down with my archaic tools – a pen and a notebook – and developed my goals for Greer Genius.

My 10 Business Goals for Greer Genius

  1. I will make $50,000 gross income in one year. (Long-term)
  2. No one client of mine will make up more than 20% of my income. (Ongoing)
  3. I will spend at least 12 hours a week marketing my business. (Ongoing)
    1. Originally, I started with 5 hours as a short-term goal. After talking with my business consultant and easily meeting this quota, I set a new goal. (You should really look into getting a mentor too.)
  4. I will devote up to 2 days (16 hours) of time per month to charity design. (Ongoing)
  5. I will average one new letter of interest/response for quote need per day. (Ongoing)
  6. I will earn $5,000 gross income in passive income in one year. (Long-term)
  7. I will keep my business money separate from my personal money, and my financial records will be in order and ready for my accountant for April 15. (Ongoing)
  8. I will have a business website/blog/portfolio with at least 1,000 monthly visitors on average. (Short-term in setting up website/blog/portfolio, ongoing in visitation)
    1. Originally, it was the short-term goal of finding my business name. Short-term – Achieved!
  9. I will never, ever do work without a contract or written agreement. (Ongoing)
  10. I will have an active client for over 5 years. (Long-term)

As you can see, I like ongoing goals.

Ones that I can continually measure Greer Genius against to see if I measure up to the standards I’ve set for my business.

These also function similar to short-term goals in that I follow many of them on a daily or weekly basis.

Also, I felt that these goals met my criteria. Number 7 probably ought to be 7a and 7b, so I cheated a little and shimmied two goals together.

Overall, though, I like how many compliment one another and form a foundation for Greer Genius’ success.

What do you think?

Do you have business goals of your own you’d like to share? Leave a comment on this post and share with me some of your goals for your design business.

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About April Greer

April is a go-to freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She is available for subcontracting and speaking engagements – visit Greer Genius for more information.

Comments

  1. Hey April,

    Great post! I’ve been looking into this kinda thing quite a fair bit recently, there is a lot to be said for setting goals to achieve in a time constraint, 10 big goals in 1 year for example. Apparently, this keeps you on track and makes you really push for it.

    I’m reading your list as maybe guidelines to abide by on a monthly basis? Something to strive towards on hitting often.
    The 4 hour work week has a section on Dream-lining which was a pretty fun thing to do, made me crank life up at least 45gears! Also helped me prioritise what would really matter to me and how to focus my time striving for these goals, once achieved, can write them off and stick something else in there, really great tool!

    Particularly liked No. 9, not working unless given a contract or written agreement is a great one to have!
    80/20 rules says your bound to get 80% off that 20% percent so will be interesting to see how this goal develops! I wonder if it would increase or decrease prosperity!?
    Talking about your goals is also suppose to decrease your ability to get them done, I’m curious if this extends to blogging about them?
    I don’t mean to criticise your post or goals/plans in any way, it just brought to light several questions I had always wanted to ask and thought I’d get some opinions on it!

    Cheers,

    Chris!

    • Chris,

      Yes, you hit the nail on the head. A lot of my business goals are the foundation of Greer Genius and how I want it to perform rather than achievements I can mark off. My brain really likes that type of challenge, so they work well for me.

      Definitely, making yearly goals is great for your business as well. I have goals for this year in addition to these goals – if you read Preston’s From Passion to Profit, the chapter is all about figuring out what you want your business to be, so I set more defining goals than annual goals. But annual goals are great, and I’ve got a set of those, too.

      I’m really intrigued that you’ve heard that talking about your goals decreases your ability to get them done! I’ve always heard the opposite – the more you keep them in your brain and the more people who know about them, the more likely you’ll be to reach them. I find telling people about my goals (and my business) unexpectedly turns into a new job, a new client, a new partnership, or a new mentor/friend/peer.

      It’s great that you poke and prod at my goals – explaining my reasoning really helps me think critically about why I set those goals and if they are good goals or not! (See Tyler’s comment below.)

      • April,
        Derek Sivers (Formerly of CDBaby.com) was the main source of the ‘talking about goals’ element. He has an amazing book/audiobook out, ‘Anything you Want’. Very, very down to earth, a tale of how he did it and his thoughts and feelings throughout, really quite a different approach to many books out there on how to prosper. Also check out this article on it, ‘http://sivers.org/zipit’.
        I’m sure with every rule there are the exceptions and if you have brought in more interest, projects and development then that is definitely a winning strategy! I know its definitely a fail point for me, talking about them genuinely does make me less likely to achieve them. I’d noticed when people started getting back to me with ‘Less Talk, More Do!’, I was a bit of a daydreamer I guess but working on 2012 being a good turning point for me in several areas!

        Thanks for your reply!
        Best Wishes,

        Chris

  2. All great tips, April!

    I usually only focus on financial goals for some reason. I forget that there’s more to it than just the money! Love how you’ve set measurable goals for marketing and your blog/site traffic. Very inspirational. Adding to my list now.

    All the best,
    Joe

    • Joe,

      Glad to get you thinking about other aspects of your business! Of course it always comes down to the financials, but I think setting goals about marketing, for example, gets me thinking in new and creative ways about the financials, if you get my drift. Pursuing goals about new avenues of income, marketing schemes, and networking tend to boost your financials without just thinking about money.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. I am curious why you don’t want any one client to be more than 20% of your business. With a goal of $50,000 that could be a $10,000 dollar website or the bill for a years worth of work for one client. Seems like that would be something you would be trying to get a few of each year, unless I guess you prefer shorter smaller projects for variety.

    • Tyler,

      Great question! I looked at this question from a totally different viewpoint.

      The reason I don’t want any one client to make up more than 20% of my business is that what if they go away? Then I’ve just lost 20% of my work, and 20% of my income. There are many reasons why we might part ways: the owner gets sick and everything is put on hold (happened to me), they go out of business, their budget gets tighter and they scale back their marketing, they sell their business and the new owners already have a designer, etc. etc. etc. I don’t want to put too many eggs in one basket and be dependent on one client to survive.

      Your comment about a $10K website or another large project got me to thinking. I certainly wouldn’t mind a $10K project, or that I’ve made 20% of my income (based on a $50K goal) in one fell swoop! So it would be okay to have a JOB that makes up 20% of my income because then I’m only expecting the income this one time.

      A very fine distinction, but do you understand what I’m trying to get at? It’s worth noting that I have a few steady sources of smaller jobs ($200 – $750), and the largest project I’ve ever worked on in terms of dollars paid $1,000. So maybe I need to look for some larger projects!!!

      Thanks for making me see things in a new light! I really appreciate your comment!

      • I look at my sources of income as recurring and one-off. I have several clients that I do multiple projects for during the year. Yet every once in a while, they might have a really large single project. I categorize that as a one-off job since they likely will not repeat it next year.

        Like you, I try to keep my recurring income diversified and not get all my eggs in one basket.

      • April, I think you’re wise not to rely too much on one client. I try not to do that either, and was very glad on a couple of occasions to have that policy. It kept things from being really scary when things would change and suddenly there was no work from that “big” client.

        Larger projects are good, too, as long as they are mostly in your comfort zone. Nothing wrong with pushing at the edges, though — how else will you grow if you don’t stretch now and then?

        • Margie:

          Yes, I agree about growing and pushing your boundaries!

          Partly I think my lack of large projects is due to the recession and economic struggles, and partly the projects that have come my way have been smaller projects ($200-$500) and medium projects ($500-$1000). Sometimes we’ve broken down large projects into a series of smaller ones…(identity, etc.).

          I think a large project would be fun to tackle, so hopefully I’ll run into one in the near future!

  4. Thank you for sharing your goals, April. I have similar goals.

    I also wanted to mention that MicroMentor.org is a good resource to find Mentors.

  5. Alfred Ingram says:

    Goals change as you get older. I’m 62 and I’d like to do half of my work for nonprofits and was well on my way to getting there when the bottom fell out of the economy. I was also doing about 20% of my work for local governments. They also have been forced into drastic cutbacks. My point is that one important goal should be to put away not just a retirement fund or even a rainy day fund, but a bottom fell out of my business fund.

    You have to self insure your own long term un and under – employment.

    • Alfred,

      Wonderful insight! None of my business goals deal with saving money for a rainy day, so I’m going to have to change that! I have personal goals for saving money (and investing), but I have been so swept up in getting going that I overlooked weathering the storm.

      Thanks for your input!

  6. This is such great advice, and perfect timing. I started freelancing almost two years ago, and in that time my “goals” have been nothing more than make some money and continue to improve my skills. This year I decided it was time to take my business to the next level, figure out what I wanted my company to represent, really improve my own branding, and establish a focused mission statement. Realizing that so much of my creative inspiration comes from the great outdoors and where I live, combined with my passion for the environment, I’ve decided I really want to focus on being a “green” company, and specialize by working with environmentally-conscious companies (all while not completely isolating the clients that may not consider themselves “green”, as I don’t want to limit my client base).

    While I’ve made some good progress with these changes so far, I still haven’t set any true goals, and reading your post opens my eyes to the disservice I’m doing to myself by not. So, thank you, and good luck achieving all of your goals.

    • Jason,

      Glad to help in your perfect time of need! Preston isn’t paying me to say this, I swear, but I found his book, From Passion to Profit, has been simply instrumental in my business’ founding.

      That’s great you’ve identified your target audience – sometimes that’s a challenge. I, too, love the great outdoors and the beauty nature has to offer as well as championing environmentally-conscious practices.

      You’re welcome, and best of luck to you too!

  7. April,

    You’ve got some very impressive goals there. You’re smart to write them down and even publish to the world. That will greatly boost your chance of achieving them. Congratulations!

    You may want to check out my goal setting website http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate.

  8. Thanks, April.
    I did set some goals and decided on some aspects of my life, just recently but did not set business goals, as specific as you. But will do so now.
    I found this video from Sharon Ann Lee to be very helpful as a first step.
    http://vimeo.com/30717796

    Best
    Achim

    • Achim,

      Hey, you’ve got to start somewhere! Just narrowing down which doors of opportunity seem like the ones you’d like to pursue is a good start. Good luck in setting your goals, and achieving them! And thanks for sharing the link.

  9. Very personal yet thought provoking. Almost marketable as some sort of textbook for Design Business Goals or something. Thanks for the valuable information April :)

    • Morgan & Me:

      Thank you so much for your kind comment! I hate to let the cat out of the bag too early, but I’ve begun writing an eBook regarding freelancing. My loose deadline is May 1st (2012). I hope you find it as thought-provoking and useful as my posts!

  10. Once again, you are brilliant, my child! Hugs and kisses, Mom

  11. Thanks for the post, seeing your goals made it much easier to get mine started.

  12. Just a heads-up: you’re using the word “compliment” — saying something nice about something — when you should be using “complement” — working well with something. BTW, by way of a compliment, I thank you for writing a great post!

  13. These are great tips but there is another article or two in there about how you actually achieve this. It is quite easy to establish business goals but much harder to fulfil them by keeping organised and focused. 12 hours a week on marketing is sensible but I personally have never ever managed to keep this up this consistently. Clients always come first and when your busy the marketing gets put on the backburner. Then suddenly when there is no work I frantically do the marketing. Time management and being consistent with my marketing has always been a weak point for me.

  14. oh.. and my terrible spelling.

  15. Excellent goals. I keep meaning to jot down mine as I seem to be going nowhere with my business.

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