There are maybe three things I occasionally miss about working in a corporate environment:
1. Free candy at the receptionist’s desk
2. Free bagels at every meeting (are you sensing a food-motivated theme here?)
3. Occasionally, just occasionally, I miss ELEMENTS of the structure.
Conventional big businesses don’t always have much going for them; I, personally, was miserable in a cubicled, fluorescently-lit world. But smart freelancers steal from the Big Guys and use their strategies for our own scrappy gain… and one element that we could afford to steal is corporate goal-setting.
Say what you will about corporations and their Evil Empire tactics, but most big companies are extremely good at identifying milestones and setting actionable schedules to achieve goals. That’s often how they became corporate overlords — by getting things done on a grand scale.
When you’re a little freelance fish in a big sea, it’s easy to feel like you’re unrelated to these big corporate sharks. But you can use their sharky tactics to get what you want… instead of floating aimlessly and trying not to get eaten.
The Not-Very-Complicated and Slightly Fun Way to Set Your Own Freelance Corporate Milestones
1. Sit down with a piece of paper – or, if you’re so inclined, a new Word document. Title it something like “My Very Serious Goals.”
2. Start with a wide scope. Where would you like to be within 5 years – or even 10? Be ambitious; why not? These are your “Long-Term Goals”; title them as such.
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3. Now, set out your goals for the next year. Try to keep them actionable and specific – and most importantly, WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. For instance, “get my novel published” is not the best objective; you can’t control whether or not a publisher will pick you up. “Send my novel out to ten potential publishers” is a much more achievable – and thus more satisfying – goal. Title these “Yearly Goals”.
4. Now plan out what you’ll do within the next three months – the next quarter – to make progress towards your yearly goal. Make sure to be specific about deadlines; for instance, our aspiring author might say, “Finish current draft of novel by January 30th; proof by February 30th; research ten publishers and prepare to mail by March 30th.”
5. On your calendar (or calendar app, you computer geek), make a “board meeting” for yourself in 3 months. This is a hard-and-fast date with yourself; commit to taking that hour to report on your progress. And NOW, get started on your plan!
6. In 3 months, it’s time for your board meeting! Make yourself a nice little snack and sit down with your goals for the last quarter. What worked? What didn’t? Are you closer to your yearly goal?
Honestly evaluate where the hiccups were, and what your strategies will be to deal with them next time. Then, set your milestones for the next quarter… and make a date for the next board meeting!
You don’t need to suffocate inside a suit and tie, slowly losing consciousness in a straight-laced office in order to make corporate strategies work for you. Instead, use the best of business-y goal-setting for good, in order to make YOUR life easier – and keep on swimming, you little freelance fish!
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.