What Happens When You Set a Goal for Freelance Work


SMART goals help freelancers succeedHaving a goal for her freelance work helps Ginny Vachon, PhD focus on what’s most important. “When you are building a business, there is a lot of information that comes at you,” says the freelance medical writer and advisory board specialist. “Should you branch out? Should you improve your website? Should you go to more networking events? It goes on and on and on. Goals help you bin ideas quickly into the ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ and ‘maybe later’ piles.”

Ginny’s been setting goals since she started her freelance business, Principal Medvantage Writing, LLC in 2015, right after earning her PhD. Inspired by her dad, who is also an entrepreneur, Ginny’s been setting goals since college. “My father was always asking me to think about how my actions and priorities dovetail with the bigger picture of what I wanted my life to be like,” she says.

Most freelancers don’t have a role model like Ginny’s dad. But we can all set and work to achieve goal for our freelance work to get the clients we deserve in 2018.

It’s easier than you think.


A SMART goal can help you focus on what you need to do to wind up where you want to be. It’s:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound.

Setting a specific and attainable goal for your freelance work is really important. It’s easier to stick with and achieve a goal that’s specific because you have something concrete to work towards. And if your goal is too big, you’ll get discouraged and stop trying. So it has to be attainable.

These are NOT SMART goals for freelancers:

“Make more money.”

“Get more clients.”

These are SMART goals for freelancers:

“Make $20,000 more in 2018 than in 2017 by getting 3-4 new clients and more business from current clients.”

“Diversify my business by getting 4 to 6 new clients by December 31, 2018.”

Set Annual or 100-Day Goals

Annual goals work best for most freelancers. Some experts recommend 100-day goals. If you need to build your business fast and are motivated and ready to work hard, try 100-day goals.

My goal for 2018 is to update my marketing and get one more anchor client. Also called whales, anchor clients are extra-large clients that freelancers can count on for lots of steady, high-paying work. Learn more about anchor clients in Why Whales Help Freelancers Succeed.

One of Ginny’s 2018 goals is to get 1 new client and create more top-of-mind awareness among clients, prospects, and colleagues by developing resources to help clients who are hosting advisory boards and the medical writers supporting them.

Consider Stretch Goals

While your main goal must be attainable, you can also set one or two stretch goals—goals that seem to be beyond what you can accomplish. Ginny always does this. “I’ve surprised myself with how often I can actually meet them,” she says.

Getting one more anchor client is my stretch goal for 2018, because there’s no way I can know for sure that the clients I market to could become anchor clients.

Free Worksheet to Make 2018 Your Best Year Ever


Take Action on Your Goal for Freelance Work

Setting your goal isn’t enough to help you achieve the goal. You’re up to 3 times more likely to stick to your goal if you have a plan.

Break your goal down into small, easily achievable mini-goals and the actions you’ll take to achieve each mini-goal. Achieving your mini-goals helps you stay motivated to keep working toward your larger goal.

Set mini-goals for each quarter. If you are using 100-day goals, set monthly or 10-day mini goals, depending on how hard you’re willing to work.

See Mini-Goal Examples near the end of this post for 3 examples of quarterly mini-goals and actions to reach the mini-goals.

Write Your Goal for Freelance Work Down

Write (or type) “Make 2018 my best year in freelancing” and your goal on a sheet of paper. Put the paper where you’ll see it every day to remind yourself about what you plan to achieve in 2018.

People who write down their goals are 42% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t, according to research by Gail Matthews, PhD, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California. Other experts also talk about how writing down what you plan to do helps you commit to actually doing it.

Ginny uses idea cards, taped over her desk, to help keep her motivated to achieve her goals. These index cards have everything from phrases or sayings about what Ginny is grateful for to her “pie in the sky,” or stretch, goals.

When I started my business, I put a silver cup with a quote from Thomas Jefferson on my desk. The quote is:

“I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more I have of it.”

Twenty years later, the quote still inspires me and reminds me that if I want to succeed, I need to work hard.

Ginny also has a journal where she writes about her thoughts for the week. This helps her evaluate whether something that seems like a big deal at the time is something she needs to deal with or whether there are more important things for her to do.

The journal also helps Ginny develop goals for the next year. “Having the information from an entire year helps inform my goals,” she says. “I take my goals seriously, so I want them to be right.”

Keep Moving Forward

Ginny’s idea cards help her make progress in achieving her goal and mini-goals. She also stays healthy by working out every day, watches her diet, drinks plenty of water, and gets enough sleep.

If staying on track with your goals is hard for you, find an accountability buddy. Share your goal with another freelancer and check in with each other monthly.

Knowing that you’ll be talking to Joe next week about your progress will motivate you to make some. An accountability buddy can help you solve problems when things aren’t going so well, and celebrate successes with you.

Get Back on the Goal Wagon

Don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind on your goal and mini-goals.

Ginny “falls off the goal wagon” all of the time, usually when she lands a new client and is working too much, or when something happens in her family life or she’s not taking good enough care of herself.

Most freelancers do fall behind on goals. The key is to not give up and to continue moving forward, like Ginny does.

“If it’s just a bad week or a hectic time I let it go. If I feel like I might be starting up some bad habits, I pick one actionable thing I can do to get back on track (e.g., go to sleep at 9:30 PM and wake up at 5:30 AM for a week),” says Ginny.

When you fall behind on your goals, review what’s happening. Decide whether you need to:

  • Change your goal and/or mini goals
  • Work harder to achieve the goal and mini goals you set.

Review how you’re doing regularly:

  • At the end of ever quarter if you set an annual goal
  • Every 25 days if you set a 100-day goal.

Make a checklist of your mini-goals and actions from your plan. Every time you complete an action or a mini-goal, check it off. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will motivate you to keep working to achieve your goal.

Free Worksheet to Make 2018 Your Best Year Ever


Start Getting the Clients You Deserve Today

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win,” says Zig Ziglar, master salesman and motivational speaker.

Setting a SMART goal, with mini-goals and actions, is your plan for winning. Even if you don’t achieve everything that you set out to achieve, you’ll be preparing to win—and to start getting the great clients you deserve.

“Goals inform the direction and texture of your business and your life!,” says Ginny.

Mini-Goals Examples

Say that your 2018 goal is:

“Make $20,000 more in 2018 than in 2017 by getting 3-5 new clients.”

Here’s what your mini-goals and actions might look like for the first two quarters of 2018.

First quarter 2018:

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Research 60-100 new prospects, with a focus on [TYPE OF CLIENTS YOU WANT TO WORK WITH] in the [INDUSTRY] and start direct email campaign.
  • Actions to reach the quarterly mini-goal:
    • Monthly:
      • Research about 50 prospects
      • Prioritize prospects into 3 lists: hot prospects, routine prospects, and lukewarm prospects
    • March: Start direct email campaign:
      • Send about 5 direct emails per week to hot prospects
    • Late March: Review and assess progress toward goals

 Second quarter 2018:

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Continue direct email campaign to about 50 hot and lukewarm prospects and network with 5-10 key colleagues
  • Actions to reach the quarterly goal:
    • Weekly:
      • Send about 5 emails per week to hot prospects
      • Follow up with non-responders about 10 days after initial email
      • If still looking for more clients, start sending about 5 emails per week to routine prospects
    • April: Reach out to 5-10 colleagues who are good sources of referrals
    • Early June: Follow up with responders who haven’t hired me yet
    • Late June: Review and assess progress toward goals

Now you have a goal, and a plan to achieve it.

Ginny’s Mini-Goals

Goal: Get 1 new client and create more top-of-mind awareness by developing at least five pieces of content to help clients who are hosting advisory boards and the medical writers supporting them.

First quarter 2018

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Conduct market research on content needs and begin drafting content.
  • Actions to reach the quarterly mini-goal:
    • Interview 3 clients about the type of content that will be most relevant and helpful to them.
    • By the end of March: Craft 3 posts or other content.
    • Have 3 mentors/fellow writers review the content and provide feedback.

Second quarter 2018:

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Begin to publish content and get leads to prospective clients (prospects).
  • Actions to reach the quarterly goal:
    • By the end of April: After spending about 10 hours learning about the most effective publishing techniques on LinkedIn and how to drive traffic to my website, make a list of 3 concrete steps and carry them out.
    • Ask current clients for referrals.
    • Send content to prospects.


  • Send content to all prospective clients.

My Mini-Goals

Goal: Update my marketing and get 1 more anchor client.

First quarter 2018:

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Update content and develop lead magnet
  • Actions to reach quarterly goal:
    • Update web content to focus more on content marketing and the latest concepts in healthcare marketing
    • Update LinkedIn profile to focus more on content marketing and the latest concepts in healthcare marketing
    • Develop lead magnet

Second quarter 2018:

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Re-design website, adding lead magnet and video
  • Actions to reach quarterly goal:
    • Hire designer to update website
    • Develop video

Third quarter 2018:

I’m including my third quarter mini-goal and action because it’s going to take me that long to get to the second part of my goal: get one more anchor client.

  • Quarterly mini-goal:
    • Begin work to get 1 more anchor client
  • Actions to reach quarterly goal:
    • Develop prospect lists of 15-30 clients that could become anchor clients
    • Do direct email campaigns to attract those clients

 What is your goal for 2018? Let me know: themightymarketer@comcast.net.

Learn More About Goals

From the Mighty Marketer

Free Worksheet to Make 2018 Your Best Year Ever

Why Whales Help Freelancers Succeed

Other Resources

Here’s How Science Can Help You Stick to Your Goals, Happify Daily