Creatives are not exactly an organized bunch. Which sucks, because successful business need strategy, a plan to achieve goal. What if you could plan your success a year ahead? From finances to actionable steps: all you need to make your design business grow. It's time to make your own rules, and get paid for doing what you love! Check out the post, and download the Goal Setting Worksheet!

‘New Year goal setting’ is well known for being an activity where you make a wishful thinking list… and the forget about it. You like it because it somehow makes you feel accomplished (even though you haven’t really achieved anything).

The psychology behind it is very powerful though. And if you actually come through and work for your goals, that sense of accomplishment will become an unstoppable motivation source.

What if you decide to do same with your business?

What if you could actually set goals a year ahead, and work to achieve them?

What if there was a plan, so you could stop feeling like you work your ass off and see no result? Let’s face it: us creatives are very disorganised control freaks.

The real reason why you should set clear objectives in business is not to pursue a sense of triumph: it forces you to think what you want from your business, and the actions you need to take in order to succeed.

How to set goals

The reality is that we have limited everything: limited time, limited knowledge, limited resources. So when thinking about goals for your business, you really need to have a clear idea about what you want and why.

The key is to be realistic about your objectives.

If you want to make $100.000 per month when you are barely making $100, then that is not a realistic goal (it may be in the future!).

When setting your business goals, keep these factors in mind:

  • Income: yes, I would also love to make millions every year from design, but the truth is that I would be ecstatic to earn enough money so I don’t have to worry about it. To get to that number you need to sit down, take a hard look at your finances, and put some basic math into work to find how many 0s you need in your bank account.
  • Lifestyle: This is related to income in the sense that you should aim to live the way you want to live. Again, be reasonable about it. Remember that you are setting yearly goals, not life goals. If you live in a 1-bedroom flat, and want to expand to a 2-bedroom is one thing. If you want to expand to a 5000 square feet mansion in just 12 months is another (although if you do achieve this, I’d love to know how haha!)
  • Type of work: this is also very important when thinking about goals. There’s absolutely no reason why you should say yes to every project that comes at your door. What type of work do you like best? How do you like to work is also important: in an office? While traveling? Waking up at odd hours and pulling all-nighters? Remember that you are setting up your business for a whole year, and that includes the type of business life you want to carry.


If you have trouble thinking about how to set achievable business goals, the SMART way of thinking can be help. A SMART objective is:

  • Specific: well-defined and focused. “Obtain at least 5 paying clients per month” has more power than just “get more clients”.
  • Measurable: just like a sport competition, without numbers you can’t know who is winning. It is important to aim at a fixed number (monthly and yearly) so you can evaluate your progress.
  • Attainable: the word ‘realistic’ seems to be appearing quite a bit here, isn’t it? The truth behind it is that if you are serious about having a successful design business then you need to develop critical thinking about what you can and can’t do. Does this means you can’t ‘dream’ or innovate? Not at all! Just remember that goal setting is just the first step. Then comes the interesting part: how to make them a reality.
  • Relevant: get to know your market, and adapt your goals to its context. If you are dead set on creating hand-made gothic calligraphy business cards, but digital is all the rage; then it means that your goal is not relevant to the reality of the market.
  • Time-based: time frames are critical to get things done. It’s so easy to say ‘I need to get one more project’ and leave it at that… it opens the doors to Procrastination (dun dun dunnnn!). So yes, when setting your goals, be sure to tie them to a time frame as well.


What about Milestones?

Setting goals is the first step for getting your business on track. Once you know where to go, defining the path becomes much easier.

Now is time to think how you are going to make those goals a reality!

Entering: Milestones

Goals may seem unattainable if you look at them as a whole. The solution to that is to divide them in smaller, accomplishable steps. A milestone is just a way to mark an important achievement, a way of knowing how you are advancing regarding a particular objective.

For example:

Goal: Having 6 new clients in the first 2 quarters.

Milestone: getting the first 2 in 1 month.

Let’s make a Plan

Once you have listed all your milestones, is time to think in detail what actions you need to make for each one of them.

Personally, I like to set my plan like this:

Yearly Main goals ► Quarterly Milestones ► Monthly goals ► Weekly goals

When you devise your plan from bigger to smaller, then having a yearly business strategy becomes much easier.

Your plan should take into account different elements: finances, expenses, investments, monthly or quarterly income, amount of projects, ads, etc. Laying them out and assigning a timeframe to each one, will give you a blueprint of what your year will look like to achieve your main goals.

Keep in mind that this is a plan: you can’t really predict what’s going to happen in the next 12 months, so it may be that not everything goes accordingly. Be sure to pour some flexibility when you plan ahead!

But I want to Dream Big!

And that’s ok. In this particular post I’ve talked a lot about keeping it realistic for the purpose of creating a yearly plan.

Does this means there is no place for those big fat checks, flying in your private jet, and owning your own island? Not at all.

I think that you should always think in your long term goals, and create your yearly plan as yet another step closer to them.

Let me be clear here: you can achieve what you want if you are strategic about it. Big long-term goals are anything but easy, but that doesn’t male them impossible.

What are Your Goals?

I’d love to read about your Big Ass goals, and your objectives for the next 12 months. Share them in the comments!


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