Goal setting is challenging when you’re a freelancer

Whenever a new calendar year rolls around, everyone goes out of their way to set new goals and resolutions.

Even though I’m a firm believer that we should all always feel like we have an opportunity to set new goals and start working on something that matters to us, I do believe there is something fresh and clean about the first day of the year.

No, I don’t think it makes anyone’s goals better or more intentional. I just think that turning a new, fresh page can be cathartic in its own way.

Obviously, new year’s resolutions don’t have the best reputation. One report after another claim that the majority of resolutions are dropped and abandoned by the time February rolls around.

Maybe a cathartic feeling of January 1st isn’t that effective after all?

Here’s the thing though. I’m not writing this in December or January.

I’m writing this on June 11th. The year is 2019.

The reason I’m touching on this topic today is the setup and history of my own career at this exact point.

Two years ago, almost to the date, I left my then-job to pursue freelance writing. My then-job was an incredible learning experience, but it came with downsides that reflected on my mental health, which took me a very long time to grasp and come to terms with.

This job also wasn’t the path I wanted to develop through. I was working in product development. The product were online courses in digital marketing. So while I was surrounded and working with marketers, I wasn’t becoming one.

So I left.

Back to the topic of goals. At that time, my goals were big, but relatively simple:

  • Leave the job I don’t like
  • Place myself on the path to develop as a marketer (start freelancing, or get an in-house marketing job)
  • If freelancing: find enough paid work to replace my salary from my last job (as a starting goal)

Pretty straightforward, right?

Here’s the challenge that I know won’t make sense to many: I have reached all of these goals within months of realizing I need to leave my then-job.

Even before I left (heck, even before I handed in my 4-week notice), I’ve managed to find two paying clients who gave me recurring monthly projects that amounted just about to my pre-tax salary from the job I was at.

One, I found on a freelancing job board.

The other one found me because I wrote about the masterclass of theirs that I attended at a conference and subsequently wrote about.

I was thrilled—things started happening pretty fast!

Then, things took a turn.

My 4-week notice was almost over when my grandmother passed away. I live in Ireland, my family lives in Croatia, and she lived in Bosnia, which meant I now had to make a decision on whether I’ll leave Dublin earlier than planned to spend time with my family during this difficult time.

I did. With just 4 days left for me to work at a job that did more damage on me than I comprehended at the time, I booked the first flight the next morning and never returned to that job.

This means I was now self-employed but deeply grieving. It was a weird transition, I never got the closure at the job I was leaving, and I was spending extra time with my parents and brother as we navigated this new chapter as a family.

After some weeks or maybe even months went by, I finally felt like I fully transitioned into being a self-employed content marketer.

Then, the challenges of freelancing hit me over time. Marketing myself. Figuring out how to deal with a client I lost because they have no more budget for me. Uncovering and tweaking my process. Placing boundaries on my work schedule. Increasing my rates.

All of that took a while. I can confidently say, probably over a year. I dealt with imposter syndrome, just like most people in my position would (remember, I’m a freelance content marketer with zero in-house experience; have I just made up my job and am making it up as I go?).

But over time, I got over it. I connect with industry peers regularly, I soak up their knowledge and expertise, I ask questions, I give back whenever and however I can.

Over the past couple of months, however, I have noticed something. I started feeling more disconnected, even though I’m doing my best to stay connected with folks.

I started feeling stagnant. I’ve hit a revenue mark that didn’t think I would at this stage of my career, but I still don’t feel like I’ve made some crazy goal happen.

You know why? Because I’ve stopped setting goals that make sense for my career and my position.

Yes, I do set goals to remain connected, to stay organized, to be active and healthy. But it’s been a while since I’ve set goals to win a certain client, get published in a certain publication, land on a certain podcast… And it seems like it may be the reason I’m sometimes feeling unmotivated to complete a task or a project that would usually come easy to me.

Easier than for most people.

At the same time, I don’t want to place my happiness and contentment with my career into the hands of other people. I don’t want to need that external validation. Because external validation is outside of my control.

But what if I set goals that are under my control? What if I say that I’ll do a number of reach outs for dream (and I do mean DREAM) clients or dream publications and say that the only measurement is the stuff done on my part?

I can set a larger goal than that for a longer period, because some of that effort on my part is likely to result in something. But I’m afraid of making it that important.

In conclusion, I think I can’t see where I’m growing towards from here, and I’m ready to work on that, set milestones and visualize where I could be if I work on them.

Because goal setting isn’t a one-and-done thing we do in December, and I feel it’s something we need to talk about moreespecially if there’s no boss to tell us what to work towards. It’s different and special for each one of us based on where we are in our life and career, and I’m so grateful I’m finally seeing that after all this time.

Writing 200,000 words for my SaaS clients each year. You'd think I wouldn't have any words left for any other writing than that... I sure thought exactly that. This is where I prove myself (and possibly you) wrong. If you're into talking about failures as much as successes, you'll love it here. Thank you for joining the ride! 🔥

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Hi! 👋 I’m Marijana Kay. Welcome to my online journal on things I experience, test, and learn: self-employment, successes and failures, doing work that matters, personal development, productivity, and more.