Keys to setting effective business goals (MARC principle)

Freelancers can get caught up in the operation of their businesses and put off strategic goal setting. But even when business is looking up or you’re just starting out, the experts advise this isn’t actually something that can wait. Every freelancer should have a list of clearly defined business goals, even if it’s just making enough money to pay the bills.

Why are business goals important?

As Michelle Warren, a leadership coach who works with several entrepreneurs and freelancers, puts it, “If you don’t set goals, how do you know what you’re doing?”

Many small business owners have articulated a business plan of some kind for legal or technical purposes (such as for business loans etc.). For others, however, no such complex goal setting seems required. Yet according to Warren, having a list of goals from the outset actually provides important focus and a reason for self-employed individuals to rise and shine every morning. Indeed, entrepreneur Eartha Haines writes that business goals are critical for entrepreneurs to know what they have to focus on in order to succeed.

What kinds of goals should you set?

Every entrepreneur has (or should have) a goal related to income, even if it’s solely to help create a personal budget. As time progresses, additional goals may get added but even if the only goal a freelancer ever has is related to income, that’s okay according to Warren. Her advice: “Goals can be the big picture look of what you’d like to achieve and why you’re doing what you’re doing. I recommend brainstorming a list out first for the individual and then working with somebody, be it a mentor, be it a coach, be it a trusted friend or advisor, be it a spouse, somebody you can trust and somebody’s opinion you value and somebody who will really challenge you on your goals.” Too true: the third party can ask specific questions to make sure the goals you’ve written down are really the goals you’re trying to accomplish.

Setting goals with MARC

The world is full of acronyms, and here’s another one to help with setting goals: MARC. MARC refers to a technique that stands for Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Controllable. Basically, when setting a goal, it should match the MARC set of principles.
Here’s how it works: The goal should be clear so it can’t be misinterpreted down the road (measurable). It should be possible to complete the goal at some point (achievable). It should be doable based on your skills and talents (realistic). And it should be something you have influence over (controllable).
Goals can be simple or complex, few or plentiful in number, but they should always match up with the MARC principle. Some typical goals for freelancers might be:
• Earn $100000 per year in revenue
• Become the trusted advisor in my chosen field
• Expand my business into a new vertical market

Keep your goals handy

Putting your goals down in writing will allow you to pull them out and reread them when you need to remind yourself of your focus. Tack your list to your corkboard, your fridge, type into a document and store it on your laptop, make it your PC’s desktop background – whatever you do, write them down and store them somewhere that’s easily accessible (and then access them).

Every so often, revisit your goals to see how you’re progressing and to remind yourself of where you’re headed. And don’t forget that you can generate new business goals for yourself or modify the ones you have. What goals have helped you stay focused along the way?

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