Set yourself up to win: How to be a Master Creative Goal-setter


For freelance creatives, time is the most important resource. They are expected to be experts at juggling day jobs, side projects and clients, while at the same time consistently producing quality output and turning them in on time.

However, as more projects and assignments come in, it is easy to lose track of what has to be done and when. As tasks pile up on top of each other, it is even easier to feel defeated and overwhelmed by all these deadlines and requirements. And with the constant introduction of additional details, requests and revisions, it gets difficult to keep track of what has to be done before the next task can be accomplished. Before we know it, the entire project is delayed by days or weeks.

We at Black Books understand this: Meeting deadlines is just as important as meeting specifications and project requirements. In fact, they are part of any client or boss’s expectations. Thus, it is important to take steps to make sure that these deadlines are met.
But how can a freelance creative do that in the midst of a constantly changing workload? How does one keep up with and stay on top of all these projects and tasks?
The answer: By setting smarter goals.

How to make your goals ‘SMART’

The oft-cited acronym for “SMART” is still the classic go-to: Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. The acronym not only makes it easy to remember, it also makes it easy to adapt to anyone's professional set-up.

Here’s a recommended Freelancer’s Twist: Set goals that are Straightforward, Manageable, Action-Oriented, Results-based, and Time-framed. More than sharing the same "SMART” acronym, this also works because it gives the freelancer clear directions on what steps to take to get the job done and done well.


Have you taken a look at your current workload lately? This is the first step to identifying your own SMART goals.

After setting goals, break them down into achievable tasks. Set yourself up to win, and use these small victories to move the project forward and motivate yourself. Take a look at your Smart Goal and identify the next steps.

Questions to ask include: What has to be done ahead of which task? What is the best way to go about these series of tasks? To determine this, you can also take a look at the different task difficulties and decide whether to do all of the easier tasks first or take on the difficult tasks first to get them out of the way.

Tips for weekend workers

As freelancers, we usually have free reign over our own workflow. However, this also means that we must figure out how best to structure our workflow in order to maximize our time and energy. For example, alongside scheduling tasks, we must also schedule breaks into our everyday workflow to serve as "recurring recharge points". We must also try to determine how much time we have for a specific task, given the deadline and task difficulty. Try to space out your work as much as possible within the days provided for a specific task.

Freelancer Tip: “If you need to get anything done, write it down. Anything that isn’t written is bound to be forgotten.”

Sometimes, we have to work on weekends. Try to set relatively low weekend targets that are not overwhelming. For instance, for a relatively easy set of tasks, you can afford to just finish between 5–10% of the total target for the week over Saturday and Sunday.

For weekdays, try to work with your hard deadlines and structure your production days around them. For example, if a deadline falls on a Thursday, devote the days leading up to that exclusively to production, and schedule client calls and other meetings after the deadline, if necessary.  

Another key learning is that if anything needs to get done, it is necessary to write it down. Anything that isn’t written is bound to be forgotten. Oaper and pen are particularly effective tools in this regard—the act of writing it down longhand makes things more memorable. You should try it yourself.

Final takeaway

To get our jobs done, we must set goals—not just any goal, but smart ones. Smart goals help us figure out how to maximize time and be more productive. When we are more productive, we produce better work that meets specifications and deadlines. Not only does this get us paid (hopefully), this work ethic also establishes our brand as reliable and dependable artists who can be counted on to deliver as expected.

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