Every successful entrepreneur needs to set goals. Goals help you orient your efforts in the right direction so you get the most out of your creative business.
But many people shy away from setting goals because the process intimidates them or they are secretly afraid they won’t reach them.
Your business should be enjoyable. Follow these six steps to set achievable goals for your creative business that will actually motivate and excite you.
Step 1: Make A List Of What’s Important To You
The first step in setting achievable goals is to figure out what is most important to you in your creative business.
Take a few moments to imagine what the perfect business looks like to you. Don’t get hung up on the “how” right now, just think about what aspects sound the most amazing to you.
What would make your business an absolute dream to wake up to every day? Be as specific as possible.
Success looks different for everyone. For your business to be successful, you must set goals that motivate and excite you.
Here are a few examples of questions you can ask yourself when figuring out what is most important to you:
If you are an author, do you want to hit the best sellers’ lists?
As an Artist do you want your paintings hanging in a prestigious gallery?
Do you want your business to supplement your income?
Would you like to be able to spend a significant portion of each day working on your craft?
Do you want to be considered a leader in your field and host seminars and workshops?
There are no wrong answers at this stage.
And you can come up with as many items on this list as you want!
We will not jump straight into setting these monstrous goals just yet. This stage is all about visualizing and recognizing what you want from your business and what achievements are most important to you.
Write as many things as you can think of on a piece of paper. Don’t stop writing until you have a nice long list to mull over.
This list is essential to finding what will motivate you the most.
If you want to take this exercise a step further, write the list in “my business IS” statements instead of “my Business will be” statements. This subtle change prompts your brain to think of these statements as realistic possibilities.
Step 2: Narrow Down Your List
Now that you have a long list of desires for your creative business, it’s time to narrow it down. You want to find the handful of items that are realistic and most significant so you can turn those items into achievable goals.
First, cross off any items that are not within the realm of actual possibility.
Hint, you will probably not be the first person to sell your paintings on Mars, and you probably won’t inherit a private island with a magical unending supply of craft materials.
Those are fun to think about, but they won’t be much use to you after this step.
If you are unsure if a statement is realistic enough, ask yourself if you know of someone who has accomplished this already or something similar. You do not need to know them personally.
You may alter items on your list that come close to be more realistic to your business.
Then, take a few minutes to read each item out loud. Focus on how each statement makes you feel.
Which items make you feel excited?
Which ones, if any, make you feel apprehensive?
Which statements spark joy and which statements bring up negative feelings?
It may surprise you how your mind and body react to each statement. This step helps you identify which items are truly important.
Without this understanding, its easy to fall back on statements that you believe SHOULD be important to you. “Shoulds” are never as motivating or effective as true desires.
Finally, circle the top 2 or 3 statements that bring you the most joy and excitement.
Ignore the impulse to justify these statements. Just go with your gut.
Step 3: Focus On The WHYs
The next step to turning your desires into achievable goals is to analyze why you want each item on your list.
Now that you have narrowed the list down to 2 or 3 important statements, take those items and write each one down on a separate piece of paper.
Below the statement, I want you to write WHY that statement appeals to you.
Be as specific when describing your WHY as possible.
Once you have written your WHY’s, check each of your statements against your own values and the values from your business.
This is where your mission statement will come in handy. If you don’t have a mission statement yet, make sure you set aside time to write one.
For help on this, check out my blog post: The Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Creating A Better Business Plan and check out the “Purpose” Section.
Pay attention to how closely your desire WHY fits with your overall business WHY.
Sometimes we think we want something for our business – like, say, 100k Instagram followers – but when we delve into why, it has more to do with personal validation than succeeding in our business.
I’m not saying that wanting social media followers is wrong. There could be excellent reasons to put effort into growing your social media.
But it’s important to make sure that your business values align with the goals you set.
If your WHY for each statement does not align with the overall WHY of your business, then take a few minutes to reevaluate it.
Is there a way you can turn that statement into one that DOES align?
Or is there another statement on your list that still excites you and may be a better fit?
Instead of “I have 100k followers on Instagram” you could say “My Instagram engagement is at 50%”.
This works because engagement is much more lucrative on Instagram than silent followers, but the efforts that will bring you more engagement will also inevitably bring you more followers.
Instead of “I am famous for my books,” you could say “I am on the USA Today Bestsellers list and I have ‘Best Seller’ on my book covers.”
This works because being “famous” is vague and doesn’t specify how it will help your business, whereas achieving best seller status has specific benefits for you and future books you write.
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Step 4: Find the Path to Your Dreams
The next step to turning your desires into achievable goals is to figure out the path to success.
Now that you have 2-3 dream statements for your business that align with your mission statement and business values, you will analyze what it will take to make each dream statement a reality.
On your paper, below your WHY for each statement, write what would have to happen for your dream statement to become a reality.
This is the HOW.
In this section, really delve into the details of achieving each statement. Avoid saying things like “get lucky” or “get rich”.
Look at other people who have achieved this already, and what they had to do to get there. Include milestones they had to reach on the way.
If you honestly don’t know what it would take to achieve that dream statement, now is the time to search the internet. Odds are, someone out there has achieved this before and will have shared their experiences.
Also, note how long it usually takes to achieve each statement.
Most things worth having don’t show up overnight. What is a realistic time frame for your dream statement?
Understanding this time frame will help you determine if this statement is going to be a long-term goal or a short-term goal.
Step 5: Analyze the Time Required to Achieve Your Goals
Once you understand the path to reaching your dream statements, you can turn those statements into achievable goals.
At this point in the exercise, you should have 2 to 3 sheets of paper with one dream statement on each. The details below each statement include WHY you want to reach that dream and HOW other people have achieved it in the past.
Now, look at the expected time frame for achieving each statement.
How long do you expect it to take to achieve your dream statement?
How long has it taken others to achieve similar goals?
If the answer is longer than one year, then this is a long-term goal and you will need to break it up into shorter goals.
To do this, write all the milestones that you will need to reach, over time, to make that dream statement a reality. Make sure they are in chronological order.
Choose the one or two steps that come first and can be reached within one year.
Keep those goals that take less than one year achieve.
Next you will turn those goals into SMART goals.
Step 6: Set SMART Goals
Once you have a few goals that you can reach within a year, break each one down using the SMART method.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Goals set with the SMART method are far more likely to be reached.
Write on each statement sheet how that goal fits into each of these metrics. Use as much detail as possible.
S – Specific
Is your goal detailed in a way that you can actually visualize what it looks like?
Do you know who it will affect and where it will take place?
Gain clarity on the specifics of your goal by replacing vague words like “more” or “better” with actual numbers and details about what that goal looks like.
M – Measurable
How will you measure your progress for this goal?
What metrics will you need to follow in order to see results and know that you have succeeded?
Again, make sure your numbers and metrics are specific and that you have access to the information you will need to track those metrics.
If you don’t have the means to track your goals, find out what it will take to do so. You may need to download an app or install software to help you with this.
A – Achievable
What resources and skills will you need to achieve this goal?
Do you currently have those resources available to you or will you need to do some work to acquire them first?
Is this goal truly achievable for you in one year, or does it need to be broken down into smaller chunks?
If the goal is not achievable right now because you do not have everything you need to achieve it, then turn the acquisition of those skills and resources into a preliminary step and set that as your short-term goal instead.
R – Relevant
How relevant is this goal to the overall success of your business?
Does it interfere with the success of your other goals?
Exactly what benefits will this goal bring to your business?
You want to be more specific here than you were in the WHY section. Write down exactly what difference achieving your goal will make for your business. This will help keep you motivated during the process.
T – Timely
Exactly how long will it take you to achieve this goal?
How often will you check in on your progress to make sure you stay on track?
Where do you expect to be with your progress at each check-in point?
Make a plan for how you will check on the progress of your goal. Then think about what you will do if you achieve it on time, early, or late. Write this information down to reference later if you need to.
What To Do Now
After finishing this exercise, you should have 2 to 3 sheets of paper with one goal detailed on each one.
Write the final goal, or SMART version of each goal in big letters at the bottom of the sheet.
You can even write them out on a separate document that looks nicer to display, but keep the original papers somewhere that you can access them.
Pin up your goals on a bulletin board or stick them to the wall somewhere that you will see them regularly.
Then, pull out your favorite calendar tool or app and schedule your check-ins for each goal. Also highlight your Goal Achievement Date.
Set reminders for yourself so you don’t forget to do regular checkins on your progress and reward yourself for staying on track.
Congratulations!! You are now on the road to achieving fun and achievable goals for your creative business!
What are the top goals for your business this year? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
I love how clear and actionable these steps are–thank you for sharing! I especially appreciated your advice that we focus on the “why,” it really is an important step in focusing our efforts.
Thank you for your feedback! I’m so glad you found this post helpful.
Love this list! I always have trouble with timelines for my goals, so this is helpful.
Wow, awesome guide on how to set achievable goals.
The tip on setting SMART goals is well said. Couldn’t agree more.
I’ll definitely be implementing some of the tips you shared here in my business, thank you
I set yearly goals every year for my business
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