Yes You know that old saying -- if you don't know where you're going, any path will get you there. That's what happens if you don't take the time to figure out what your goals are and WRITE them down. There's power in writing things down. Trust me, I'm a writer. I KNOW.
Figuring out your goals is probably one of the most important and one of the most overlooked steps for creative professionals starting their business. Ideally you should put together a business plan. However, I have yet to meet a creative professional (including myself) who has one. (In fact, if you do have a business plan, please contact me. I'd love to chat with you about it.) Second best is getting your goals down on paper. Here are some things to include.
- Your personal mission statement. What do you want to accomplish in your life? Not just as a creative professional, artist or writer, but as a person. Knowing your mission will make organizing your time much easier.
- Your creative or artistic goals -- both long-term and short-term. What do you want to accomplish in three months? Six months? This year? Five years from now?
- Your financial goals -- both long-term and short-term. Don't forget to write down how much money you want to make.
- Your plans for your business -- both long-term and short-term. Break it down the same as your creative or artistic goals -- three months, six months, one year and five years. Include a marketing plan as well. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just figure out who your target market is, where your target market is (i.e., local, regional, specific cities or national), and how you're going to reach your target market.
- Action steps for each goal, including the marketing plan. Break each goal into manageable steps, number each step and add a completion date. Make a separate copy of this and put it where you can incorporate these action steps into your daily activities.
Don't rush this process. In fact, you should make it a treat for yourself. Go on a retreat. Try and get away for at least a day if at all possible (a couple of days would be better yet). Go somewhere where you won't be interrupted (and that includes the cell phone). Allow yourself some quiet time to really think. If it helps, do some meditating or journaling during this time.
Don't worry about it being perfect either. This is a working document. Ideally you should review it every six months or a year and see where you are and what's changed.
Now, when I first started my business five years ago, I hadn't planned anything or written anything down.
This was a mistake.
Sure I had some vague notions in my head of where I wanted my business and my writing to go, but by not committing anything to paper, I didn't end up there. My first three years of my business I was busy and making money, but I wasn't getting anywhere near the vague notions dancing around in my head. Even more amazing, I couldn't figure out why.
So two years ago, I started a regular practice of writing down my goals and plan (much like the above). I do it twice a year, and you wouldn't believe the difference. Sure, my plans are far bigger than what I actually accomplish, and I've also found myself modifying and changing my action steps (the goals remain pretty constant, but how I attain those goals does change).
Best yet, I'm now seeing results. I'm accomplishing my goals.
Take the time to go through this process. The rewards are worth it.
Creativity Exercise -- Goal setting and creativity
If every year you find yourself setting goals and never making ANY strides toward reaching them, perhaps it's time to ask yourself why. Could it be they aren't YOUR goals but someone else's goals for you?
I don't care what the goal is -- stopping smoking, losing weight, starting an online business, writing that novel -- there's a reason it keeps climbing up, then falling off the goal list. And until you figure out WHY that goal is stuck in the never-never land of goal setting, you'll never actually pull it into reality.
Is it because you don't know where to start? Or is the project so big you're afraid to start? Or you're stuck somewhere in the middle and don't know what to do next?
Or is it because you really don't want to do it?
Okay, I'm probably dredging up all sorts of demons now, but truly, those demons need to be exorcised or they're constantly going to be standing between you and your goal.
What I suggest is to take some quiet time and do a little soul searching. Journaling and meditation are both excellent ways of opening up a dialogue between you and your muse. Your muse is an excellent resource for you. If you ask, it will tell you which goals really matter and really don't matter to you.
And, if it turns out that goal is something you don't want to do? Then stop putting it on your goal list. I mean it. Quit making yourself feel like a failure by constantly sticking it on that list.
What if the goal is something like quitting smoking? Something you know you have to do because it's hurting your health? Try this instead. Rather than making it your goal to quit smoking, make it your goal to figure out why you don't want to quit. And what you can do to help yourself become committed to quitting.
Whatever you do, don't make turn this exercise into a license to beat yourself up. Be nice to yourself. You're doing this to help, not hurt, yourself.