Goals are a crucial part of any project, including running a freelance business. Without aims, objectives, or a clear purpose, running and growing your business can become a real challenge. No matter what you set out to do with your business, setting realistic goals will help you steer the way when it comes to strategy, planning, and decision-making.
Naturally, these goals will change and evolve over time. Your circumstances or interests might go in a different direction, or an opportunity might present itself that’s impossible to ignore.
You might even need to refocus the targets you set for the business because of the progress you make. For example, if you hit a target sooner than you had anticipated, you may be able to consider more ambitious aims in that particular area. On the flip side of this, struggling to meet a goal can help you identify where you need to invest in new skills, budget, or time.
The formal term for these goals in the world of business is Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
Here, we explore some general KPIs and business goals you should be setting, as well as how to measure them successfully.
What are macro and micro goals?
If you ever need to write a business plan, outlining the goals in your business is a key part of it. They can often be divided into ‘macro’ goals, and ‘micro’ goals.
‘Big picture’ macro goals are critical to the long-term success of your business. These include the bigger decisions and objectives that are going to take more time or money to achieve, such as:
- Ongoing client retention
- Increasing earnings from one year to the next
- Building a more sustainable and secure future for the business
Macro goals are usually set and reviewed on a less frequent basis, such as annually, bi-annually, as even as part of a five-year plan, for example.
On the other hand, micro goals are smaller, more achievable milestones that can be seen as quick(er) wins. These are aims that can be reached in the near(er) future, often with a less intensive investment of time and money.
Examples of micro goals could include things like increasing your social media following, setting out to capture more customer data, or immediate cost-saving exercises to improve cash flow.
Different types of freelance business goals
There are a whole host of different goals you can set for your business and many of them will depend on your individual circumstances.
If you’ve been working from home at your kitchen table for a long time, you might aim to start hiring a spot at your favourite co-working space a couple of times a week. Another target could be to clear your debts by the start of the following tax year.
Business goals are all about where you want to go and how you plan to get there. That said, there are some general types of goals and KPIs you should work towards to set your freelance business up for success.
Financial goal setting for freelancers
It goes without saying that you’ll want to set some financial goals for your freelance business. Below are some ideas to point you in the right direction.
- Revenue: Set clear goals for how much money (total income) you want to make by a set period of time, whether that’s per quarter or per year. This will help you work out the volume of sales you need to make to achieve that target.
- Net profit: Making lots of sales is one thing, but high costs can damage your ability to actually make a profit. Review your figures, and create a plan to achieve a certain amount of net profit once all the necessary deductions have been made and let this influence your strategy.
- Cost saving: Savings goals are key for businesses of any size or structure and can be managed on both macro and micro scales.
- Investment and funding: If you plan to invest your own money or secure funding for your business, add this to your financial objectives. It will help you understand what you want the funding for, and how you will use it (which any lender or investor will want to know too!).
Customer success and client retention
One of the other ways you can steer your business strategy and set performance-indicating goals is by monitoring customer success and retention.
This simply means setting a goal for how many clients or customers you want to acquire, and then setting additional aims around how you plan to work with them all, and retain them.
The goals that you set for taking on new customers will usually overlap with your marketing goals, for example. It might sound a bit corporate for one freelancer working alone, but the principle is still the same!
If you choose to execute a marketing strategy to promote your business and maintain an online presence, there are a number of marketing KPIs you can measure your digital performance against. Common marketing metrics include things like:
- The number of people who visit your website, profile, or page
- Click-through rates and conversion rates, to understand what actions people take on your page or profile
- Number of social media followers, and the volume of interactions on specific posts (which helps you understand what sort of content your audience likes!)
And many more! Under the marketing umbrella, you should also set yourself some networking-related goals. Think quality over quantity and only attend networking events, whether online or offline, that are truly going to boost your business in some way.
As a self-employed freelancer, your skillset is your business. You don’t have a workforce of staff with different expertise to diversify and expand your offering for you.
That’s why it’s so critically important, when you run a freelance business, to ensure personal professional development goals are high on your priority list.
How you go about this will depend entirely on what you do. Professional development for a freelance photographer, for example, looks a lot different from professional development as a private chef.
Whatever your niche, set goals for improving and expanding your skills on a regular basis – and stick to them. This will help you stay relevant and competitive – two essentials for growth and success.
It’s also important to consider personal goals outside of your working life. After all, you can only do your best work and optimise the potential of your freelance business if you’re a happy, healthy version of yourself.
Good examples of personal goals you could set include:
- Take up a new non-work-related hobby
- Spend more time with friends and family
- Pursue passions that get you outdoors and away from your screen or workshop more often
- Exercise regularly to improve both physical and mental wellness
- Plan a holiday or a break away from work to rejuvenate and reset
- If you’re feeling burnt out, put a plan in place to reduce stress and strain, such as figuring out how you could work fewer hours but still be productive, for example.
Personal goals like these will help you strike a good work-life balance and nurture your non-professional relationships too.
Measuring KPIs as a freelancer
Once you’ve set your goals, the next step is understanding how to monitor them. You need to keep track of goals and KPIs meticulously so you can use their progress or performance to inform your next move.
Here are some great ways to measure the success of your freelance business goals:
- Use your business plan to track your performance against your proposed timeline
- Client retention and how satisfied your customers are (qualitative), alongside how many new customers you acquire (quantitative)
- Profit, revenue, and your overall financial status
- Marketing metrics such as return on ad spend (ROAS), website traffic, or social media following
- Skills, qualifications, and certifications
- How happy, healthy, and productive you are as a professional freelancer
Find even more advice and guidance for freelancers in our info hub!