Freelancers, It’s Okay to Edit Your Goals
Changing your target doesn’t mean you’ve failed
April 2019 was the best month of my entire freelance career.
I earned more from writing and editing than I’d previously thought possible. And my success during that month changed my reality — it helped me see that I could accomplish more than I knew. I could push my limits. The career path that I’d chosen (as a full-time freelancer) was actually viable.
But there was also this little nagging voice in the back of my head.
That voice filled me with doubt. Maybe this month was just an anomaly, not a sign of things to come. It wasn’t a success to celebrate; it was an impossible expectation I was setting for myself. The following year, when I looked at my LY results, this stellar April would be a mountain to climb. If I judged my success by how much I exceeded that number, then next April, I’d surely be a failure.
Fast forward to this April, and it looks like that little nagging voice may have been right.
A New Goal
We’re nearly two months into global lockdowns to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. The U.S. economy has contracted 4.8%. 30 million people have filed for unemployment. And even though there’s a lot of speculation and educated guessing about the economy right now, the consensus is more or less the same — it’s going to get worse.
So, two weeks into April 2020, I did the math. I wasn’t going to make my goal. Despite all the recession-proofing tasks I’d taken on to protect myself during the economic downturn, I was in a tough spot. I could cling to that massive goal — maybe the last two weeks would surprise me. Or, I could let that goal go and figure out a new game plan.
I let my original goal go.
I forecasted down 40%. It was a hard pill to swallow. My adjusted goal didn’t feel like a smart business decision — it seemed more like an admission of defeat. I wondered:
Was I doing everything I needed to do to make my month?
Was I using the current economic conditions as an excuse?
Or was this truly a result of greater market trends?
But there was a bright side. With my focus on the new goal, I pushed forward with zeal and finished the month up 4%. It wasn’t as much income as I originally hoped for, but it was still on par with an average month of earnings. I still had a steady stream of income from new and current clients, and I was still busy enough to fill up my days. By no means was I struggling.
While I did feel the effects of the global market downturn, I was able to find a silver lining. And I realized something about success that helped me in the moment and that will continue to help me in the future — it’s okay to edit my goals.
Editing Your Goals
I consider myself a writer, but I spend more time editing than writing. I tweak my own work, and I edit my clients’ work to tell the strongest stories possible. In its final form, it’s rare that a piece of my writing looks anything like its first draft. When I work on a project, there’s always an expectation that the body of work will evolve into something new and that its final shape will be its best shape.
The same goes for goals.
Goals are there to guide us, to help us pace our work and gauge our progress. They ensure we work with purpose instead of moving aimlessly through each month.
But we have to realize that they’re not set in stone. Missing a goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you need to recalibrate.
Editing your goals is important for a few key reasons:
You need to plan for the future: Reforecasting helps you anticipate when you’ll have the funds to send in payments, make purchases, or handle other financial obligations. If your goals aren’t updated to reflect your current month’s trend, you might not realize that you don’t have the cash flow to take care of your business.
You have cause to reflect: If you have to significantly reforecast (either up or down), this could mean you need to revisit your process for setting goals. Are you using the right information to produce these figures? Are you taking all the right data into account when you plan your month?
You still need motivation: It’s demotivating to spend the whole month looking at a goal that you know you won’t make. A new goal helps you reframe the month and renew your energy as you push toward a more attainable target.
How to Edit Your Goals
Editing your goals should involve analysis and critical thinking. Don’t just guess — this is your business, and the targets you set will have a measurable impact on your operations.
Take your entire year into account: The current month may be top of mind but widen your scope. Is this month the only one you’ve missed or are there others? What happened in those months, both in your business and in the market? And what disruptions or events can you anticipate for the rest of the year? As you assess this data, you’ll gain insights that will help you make more informed decisions for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Stay up to date on market conditions: Spend your time reading trusted sources and get the facts about the market. What are the current factors impacting your business? Which ones won’t affect you at all? The more information you have, the less you’ll panic and the more accurate your planning will be.
Look at the competition: Reforecasting isn’t only about the numbers. It’s also about taking steps to infuse your business with new energy. Is it just you who’s struggling or are other freelancers in your field struggling, too? If they aren’t, reach out and learn about what steps they’re taking to stay afloat. Their winning strategies could give you the insights you need to boost your projections.
Take a look at your message: The need to reforecast could indicate that you need to update your marketing. Is your message current, or have you been using the same descriptions and messaging for years? Maybe you just need to update your spiel and not necessarily your goals.
Get to work: Whether your duties are purely mathematical or strategic, you need to get going. Assess your available resources, create a detailed game plan, and take action. Be sure to set milestones and build in checks and balances to monitor your progress. You need to determine if your new goals are accurate or if more tweaking is needed.
Goals are useful and necessary tools, but just like the words on the page, they’re subject to change. Editing your goals doesn’t constitute failure; it just means readjustment. The goalposts may shift, but it’s all in service of your success and financial well-being. There’s no shame in that. You’re just following a new roadmap, which will ultimately lead to a healthier, more focused business strategy and a happier, more financially savvy you.