In the last blog posts I discussed the importance of having a marketing plan for your freelance translation business. But in order to create a successful marketing plan, we need to have some solid goals. In the business strategy and marketing world there is a great concept for creating good goals, called SMART goals. You have probably heard about them before, but just in case, the smart goals are: Specific – Measurable – Attainable – Realistic –Time bound. These criteria have been created to help you, and in this post I will try to show examples from a freelance translator’s point of view. Use them to define your goals and break them down into smaller goals, leading toward the bigger goal. By doing this it will become much easier to work towards your goals and actually attain them.
If you can make your goal specific, you have a greater chance of achieving it, since it becomes easier to understand and very tangible. To make a goal specific, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Who: Who is involved?
- What: What do I want to accomplish? Write it down
- Where: Is there a location for the goal, for example website, online, in your town, in another country
- When: Set a time frame.
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal. If you do not know why you want to achieve a goal, the goal is not important to you.
Example: Instead of saying “I want to get more clients in 2014”, you can make it more specific by changing it to: “In June am going to use LinkedIn to start following and create interactions with five companies that I would like to work with, in order to gain more clients in 2014. Or perhaps, in May I will contact 10 new agencies that seem like a good fit for me, based on their payment practices, specialization and location.
Make the goal measurable by finding criteria to measure. If you can measure your goal, you will see results and it is easier to continue working toward a specific goal. To determine if your goal is measurable, ask yourself some of the following questions:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
For example, in how many days, weeks months do I want to achieve the goal, how many companies will I contact, how much money do I want to earn? How much time will I set aside to collect data or contact a certain amount of potential clients? How many new clients do I want to get or how many new projects do I want?
If your goal is too unrealistic and difficult to attain from where you are today, you will not be motivated to work toward it. This is where breaking down a goal into smaller goals really helps. You can attain almost any goal if you break it down, plan your steps and establish a time frame for performing these steps. Goals that may have seemed unrealistic and unattainable eventually become attainable, not because you have set smaller goals, but because you can move toward them step by step and expand to match them.
You can distinguish an attainable goal by answering the following question:
- How can the goal be accomplished?
- Can I achieve this within a certain time, with the amount of resources I have?
For example, I would like to earn a million dollars a year and only work 20 hours a week, but I know that is not attainable, at least not based on the situation I have today. Instead I can focus on earning 80,000-100,000 dollars a year, by working 40 hours a week, of which perhaps 30-35 hours are hours I actually earn and the rest of the time I focus on marketing and administrative work. I can divide the clients into direct clients and agencies and determine how big of a share each category currently has and how big of a share they will have in a year.
For a goal to work for you it needs to be relevant for your own business. We are all different, and your goal should be one that furthers your business and that you are willing and motivated to work toward. If you set up a goal that you do not care so much about, or that you do not think is important for your business in the long run, you will not have much motivation to attain it.
If you can answer yes to the following questions you know it is a relevant goal for you:
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Does this match the work you want to be doing?
- Are you the right person to do it?
For example, a relevant goal for me would be to hire an accountant to outsource my tax and accounting, because I am not good at doing it myself and thus not motivated to do it. Accounting takes up too much of my time that I could have spent translating instead. If I only want to earn money I would also not care about goals that will not directly produce money, such as blogging, article writing, volunteering in associations etc., but for me these are goals I have to share my passion for my profession, give back to the profession and they are self-fulfilling, which increase my motivation to do tasks that directly bring income.
It is important that your goal is time-bound; otherwise it is too easy to put it off for later. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day work. Set a deadline and work backwards in small steps to create a time frame.
A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
- What can I do six months from now?
- What can I do six weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
For example, I usually plan for a year ahead, with long term general goals three to five years out, but then I break down the annual goals into monthly goals and sometimes even weekly tasks. Granted, I cannot always achieve all of them, and have to adjust the schedule and goals, but they motivate me to work on developing my business.
I hope these examples help. Take an hour or so to answer these questions for the goals you have. This will help you set better goals and you will see they will be much easier to reach. Good luck!
I am also curious how many of you have used this strategy to create goals? Please share! I have personally used them generally when setting up goals. I have defined a goal, and then tried to answer the questions to make it a better goal.
For more information and help to create a marketing plan and get your year started right, check out the Quick Start Guide – 8 steps to a marketing plan for translators.