It’s a big moment when you finally give the middle finger to full-time employment and branch out on your own. Okay, even if you’re not so fed up with the corporate world you run away from it, there is an undeniable confidence and strength that comes from starting your own gig.

But with any new venture, responsibilities start to pile on that you didn’t anticipate. Now, you’re tasked with not only managing your assignments and relationships with editors, but you’re also an accountant. And you’re human resources, if you hire contractors or employees. You also are the visionary, a role that overworked, haywired solopreneurs often lose sight of. After all, when you’re succeeding, you’re busy, and it’s hard to take a moment and consider where you’d like to be in a year. Or the next five.

Set quarterly goals for your freelancing business.

While most companies require their staff to set quarterly goal markers, once there is no big boss implementing this requirement, it’s normal to forget the value of measurable aspirations.

As the CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur, Michael Dermer explains the alluring path of independence that begins with a few clients and grows into an affluent, flexible lifestyle is attractive. Yet, the actual act of being in business isn’t always so rosy. He shares most freelancers are schooled in doing work but not necessarily in having the long-term mentality to consider what’s next. This is a miss, since growth should always be top of mind. Having a business plan and specific objectives is step one.

And um, in case you didn’t realize — we’re already half-way through quarter one. So if you haven’t thought about what you want 2019 to bring you, here’s your wakeup call to lean in to your discomfort. Perhaps even, shift your mindset toward forward-thinking, too.

“In some cases, freelancers that relish being outside a corporate environment ignore the reality that this type of planning is essential. They might even say, ‘If I wanted to set goals and plan, I would have stayed in my corporate job.’’’ Dermer continues. “Setting goals — and other business planning — does not remove the ‘free’ in ‘freelancer.’ It actually enables it.”

"Setting goals - and other business planning - does not remove the 'free' in 'freelancer.' It actually enables it." - Michael Dermer, The Lonely Entrepreneur
Starting now — and yep, we mean ASAP — it’s time to really buckle down and make plans for this lap around the sun. Here, we get nitty-gritty about why it matters, along with some suggestions for what you can accomplish before quarter two:

Why goals matter.

While understanding your talent and being able to sell it is an invaluable skill, realizing there’s always room to improve is more vital. After all, Dermer reminds freelancers in an ever-changing world, there are more freelancers than ever, across not only every field, but each facet of content. They come from all over the world, and they propose intense competition if you aren’t staying on top of trends. “It is certainly understandable that many freelancers just ‘do the work,’ but given these dynamics, freelancers must set longer term career and personal goals if they expect to generate clients and do so at a rate that is worth their work,” he explains.

When you give attention to goal-setting and business planning, you set yourself apart from the congestion, and find ways to market yourself more profoundly. Say, this year, you want to add consultancy services instead of only being a journalist. You have to not only understand how to attract potential clients — but explain (in convincing detail) why you’re worth the investment.

“Every freelancer runs the risk of being obsolete, underpriced or replaced by better, faster, cheaper from around the world,” Dermer iterates. “There are some services that automate the SEO process for websites and are paid only as actual search and site results improve. Do we think that SEO freelance consultants should be paying attention and setting career and other goals to make sure their special craft will be around — and around at a fair price — in the years to come?”

Though quarter one is already on its way out (yikes!), there are key ways to set yourself up for success in the latter half of the year:

The three keys for setting your freelancing business up for success in the year.

1. Create a goals process.

Think about your former employer and what happened during review season. Perhaps you filled out a lengthy reflection questionnaire and then had a meeting with your manager. Maybe you exercised peer-reviews, and then met as a team to discuss next steps. You can take inspiration from places you used to work or by researching some of the practices of the most innovative companies around these days.

However you go about it, Dermer shares like any good business, having a process to map out a strategy is key. “Once per year, launch a process that has a kickoff meeting, regular meetings and an end date that results in career goals. In that process, you should include your talented friends and colleagues that might help contribute,” he recommends. “Bring them together into the process, such as contributing to the weekly meetings.”

As your team of one becomes a party of two, three, four and beyond, you can shift your approach to meet the demands of a small business. But getting started when you’re all by your bad self is still recommended, especially if you can rope together an army of friends, mentors and clients who will gladly give you the feedback you crave.

2. Think short- and long-term.

If you’re a writer, the chances that you’ve penned a piece about New Year’s resolutions is astoundingly high. Instead of merely submitting the story and moving on though, take the wisdom to heart and remember what advice you weaved into your article from experts. Setting overarching, future goals is important. But short-term objectives are often more impactful.

That’s why Dermer suggests thinking about your quarter-one goals as an opportunity to think as far ahead as 2021, and as close as March. This enables you to take micro steps that lead to bigger strides. “You may want to freelance at an hourly rate today, but might want a more scalable business where you put your knowledge into a learning platform. That would require different activities in the current year to both make money and make the investments for the future,” he explains.

One example might be deciding to have an automated invoicing system in place by March, and to hire a virtual assistant to help with research by May. But in 2022? You’d like to have a full-time staffer to handle much of the SEO work you do for non-bylined clients. Whatever the case, map out for today — and all of the tomorrows you’ll have as a boss lady (or dude).

3. Bring in people outside of freelancing.

“Right or wrong, many people view freelancing as a commodity. The perception is that you can find a competitive market for freelancers anywhere,” Dermer says.

But one of the ways to set career goals that are effective? Take advice from people who aren’t one-woman or one-man shows. And seek fodder from the way they handle companies to inform your own. “Many business models that have been used in one industry have been successfully applied in others,” he continues. “Did we ever think that Amazon would have a subscription service? These individuals help you be creative in your goal setting.”