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How Freelancers Set Goals and Measure Success

April 21, 2022
by Mark Belosa 
Mark Belosa is a creative generalist who appreciates words written, spoken, and sung. He composed FLIP-ino, the official theme song of Freelancers in the Philippines, and also Awit Kay Ina, an award-winning song that is now being translated into various international and local languages. He's also building his own agency so he can create jobs and help more people.

Do you want to be a successful freelancer but don't know how to start?

Have you been freelancing for a while now, and yet you still feel that you're lacking, and not truly successful yet?

Don't worry. You're not alone. Whenever I ask some freelancer friends how they feel about their career, it's quite common to hear responses like:

"I feel like I'm still struggling to reach my goals."

"I'm not as successful as other freelancers."

"I'm not sure if you can consider me successful yet."

The truth is, no two professionals are the same. And there are many different ways we can define success, so in order for you to have clarity on how to measure your own success, you need to answer these basic questions first:

1. What does success mean to you?

2. Are you clear about where you want to be?

3. Do you know the hows and whys of your goal-setting?

As someone who has been freelancing for almost 8 years now, I've also struggled to try to find the answers to these questions myself. While I'm no guru or expert in this field, I can share a few tips and guidelines that I've found to be helpful in my journey. I hope you'll find them useful in your own freelancing career as well.

1. WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?

Whenever I tackle a problem, I always tend to start with a definition of terms. This is important because, in order to address specific issues, you need to first understand their context. As cliche as it sounds, the truth is, that understanding the problem is half the solution. If you're not clear about your definition of success, how can you truly say that you are already successful?

If you have pen and paper handy, try writing this word down and then think of your own definition for it:

SUCCESS

Don't rush the process. Think.

Think hard.

And then, think again.

So...

What did you come up with?

Earning 6 digits?

Being able to provide for your family?

Landing 3 to 5 premium clients?

Building an agency?

Supporting an important cause?

Or maybe success for you simply means living a comfortable and happy life?

Once you've determined what success truly means to you, the next step would be to define your goals.

2. ARE YOU CLEAR ABOUT WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?

This is very much related to the first question.

It can be rephrased as "Do you have specific goals?"

Life can give us so many options. There are many roads and destinations to choose from, but sometimes you need to pick one path over another. The worst thing that can happen to you is knowing that you do have different options but not acting upon any of them and getting stuck because you don't know which one is right for you.

I know it's not easy, but it's hard to tell whether you've arrived when you don't even know where you're supposed to be in the first place.

Setting clear goals means prioritizing what you want to achieve first and focusing your energies on one thing until you have reached it before trying out another.

This could mean giving up something good in order to get something better.

Here are some possible answers that can inspire you to come up with your own.

  • If you're just starting out on your journey as a freelancer, perhaps, your goal could be landing your first client or earning a certification. 
  • If you've been freelancing for a while now, perhaps yours is finding your niche or being able to close multiple clients.
  • If you've already achieved your financial goals, perhaps your next goal could be leaving an impact on your community or pursuing a project you're really passionate about.

I may be stating the obvious here or perhaps even repeating myself when I say this, but it's crucial to accept the fact that your definition of success may not be the same as other freelancers. Your goals may be different from other people, so there is no need to compare, especially if it only leads to depression or feelings of inadequacy.

Imagine yourself giving advice to a freelancer friend who is struggling with self-worth and being limited by feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. Can you see yourself reaching out to your friend and saying "You are enough and you have everything that you need to achieve the goals you've set for yourself?"

If so, then I encourage you to face the mirror right now and speak to yourself as you would to your friend.

"I am enough and I have everything that I need to achieve the goals I've set for myself."

Now say that again. And again. And again...

You see, there is no need to compare.

But it's important to be clear about the goals you want to achieve for yourself. Once you've tackled the WHAT, you can start navigating the WHY and HOW.

3. THE HOWs and WHYs of GOAL-SETTING

You've probably heard of SMART goals. It's a time-tested method that has worked very well for many businesses and individuals as it frames goals in a way that is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

However, according to international success coach Samantha Kris, a TedX speaker, and best-selling author, SMART goal-setting lacks the innate emotional connection to our innermost desires, our WHY, making it easy to put aside.

So she developed a proprietary method called REAL goal-setting which characterizes the kind of goal setting that's rooted in one's core values.  She used this method to earn herself five promotions in just five years, (doubling her salary in the process) and to write and self-publish her book Bossing Up in less than a year.

REAL is an acronym for the four essential characteristics of setting goals that matter:

R- Resonant

E- Empowering

A- Actionable

L- Lucrative

The goals you set must be a good match for you. (RESONANT) You need to connect your goals to why they are important to you.

If your goals don't make you feel good (EMPOWERING), they'll only get you so far, says Kris.

This means that by making a plan with steps that you can take right away (ACTIONABLE), your self-doubt won't have the chance to get in.

Finally, your goal needs to be profitable (LUCRATIVE). Kris says that you need to figure out what's in it for you. If you want to achieve a goal, it doesn't always have to be money-related. Instead, think about what you'll get out of achieving your goal.

In this way of setting goals, accountability is more important than keeping track of them. It's not just about getting to the finish line. It's about making progress, too! When you measure your success by how far you've come, failure doesn't seem so bad. With REAL goals, you're not just making a to-do list. You're making a new way of living.

You also see how much you could lose if you don't go for your goal, Samantha says. You're looking at your core values, your thoughts, and your emotions and using them to help you decide what to do next. The way you set your goal makes you more likely to keep it.

Samantha Kris currently is the Head of People and Culture at Goalcast, a media company that publishes inspirational stories that empower people to live the impossible. Check out her Ted Talk here.

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by Mark Belosa 
Mark Belosa is a creative generalist who appreciates words written, spoken, and sung. He composed FLIP-ino, the official theme song of Freelancers in the Philippines, and also Awit Kay Ina, an award-winning song that is now being translated into various international and local languages. He's also building his own agency so he can create jobs and help more people.

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4 comments on “How Freelancers Set Goals and Measure Success”

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