Reaching your goals

This time of year, in the calm and silent days between Christmas Eve and New Year, I spend some of the days evaluating the year that has gone and thinking about the goals for the year to come. Not the usual personal New Year’s resolutions like doing more exercise in the gym and completing a marathon. No, the goals for the parts of my businesses where I’m the product.

In my primary business, a software company, I’m merely the owner and manager – not the product itself. In that company we have – my business partner and I – several months ago decided the budgets for the next fiscal year. They are, like any other year, higher for the year to come, than for the year that has passed. That’s how we push our limits and move forward, like most other companies.

In my other businesses, where I’m closer to being the product, as the author of websites, articles, photos and other kinds of digital products, it’s no different. You need goals to push you further, but without a sales team to take care of it, you need to figure out what to do where.

Being present online, being exposed, is important to me – and to my income – as being seen is what makes my products being found and sold. Being exposed is also what gives me new contacts, involvement in new projects and events, and – in the end – more exposure.

The list of goals

First of all, I have a list of all my different websites, blogs, services and profiles. I have around 60 of those that I care about, and for each one I decide what should be my goals for the next year. The goals are of course very different as is the nature of the different online presences. For Facebook and Google+ it could be goals about how many posts I do per day or per month per profile and business page. For other services it’s the number of page impressions per month and for others, and the most important ones, the revenue they generate each month either through sales or advertising.

It’s important to figure out what’s actually a relevant measure for each of these online presences. For sites like Facebook and Google+ it would be tempting to use the number of contacts and followers as a simple goal. Despite the fact that having followers is pretty important for your posts to be read, those numbers aren’t in fact that interesting. What’s interesting is how many times you can make a contact click on one of your posts and go to the website to read more. I see the number of posts, their relevance to the audience and the resulting number of click-throughs as more important than just a high number of potentially unengaged followers.

So my goals are primarily the number of articles written, the number of photos made, the number of posts on each social media site, the number of monthly page impressions on my websites and, of course, the revenue on the sites, where I make my money.

2014 was a bad year. Even with roughly a million page impressions each month I was doing bad in every aspect of my online presence. I didn’t stick to the plan and had to use too much time on the ups and downs (mostly ups, fortunately) of my primary business.

Being realistic about your goals is important. They can be ambitious of course, and they should, but making unrealistic goals will only make you give up, when you after the first month is lacking three weeks behind your plan. It’s easy to sit here in the quiet of the holidays and imagine, that I could easily write an interesting article each day. But realistic, when we’re back at everyday work, is 3 hours of article writing possible every day? No way. Doing one per week on average per site is even pushing the limits too far. Your goals should be accompanied by an estimate of how many hours the goal will require per week or per month so you can see if that would even be possible to fit into your everyday schedule.

The plan

Goals are good, but they are worthless without a plan for how to get there. You could of course just hope to be exposed by a Youtube-celebrity, and get famous instantly. Or you could be realistic and realize, that you won’t get anywhere without doing some hard work. Looking at website and sales statistics should give you an idea of what worked well and what didn’t in the previous years, so you know both where you can do better and what you should do more of. That’s the first part.

Then make a list of improvements you could do. Not a list of ideas for posts, articles, photos etc – that’s a list you should work on every day throughout the year. No, a list of more important improvements. Should you create new sites, start a newsletter, make a new design, split things into different brands, work with a new vendor and sales channel, and who should you try to get involved with that could move you further. What ebooks should you work on, and what other products can you make with what you already have.

In my case I’ve put on some ideas for making photo sessions more efficient and what could be done to increase the number of usable photos per studio hour.

If you’re thinking about expanding your line of work into new and unknown territory that should of couse also be put on this list. Then you don’t just need to put THAT on the list, but also the requirements implied by this. Maybe that’s not limited to the year to come. Major changes could easily require more than a year. I’m planning, for instance, to extend my photographic work which will require me to find a much larger studio. That’s on my list, but not necessarily completed in 2015. Before doing so, I actually have to make sure, as thorough as can be done, that this investment, and higher monthly expenditure, will be worth it and that it can attract enough customers to pay the bills.

Finally, and for me important, you should make a list of obstacles. Not so much the obvious ones that you often can’t do much about, like that the day is too short. More the kind of small – and often mental – obstacles, that prevent you from doing what your goals require. In my case it’s often repeating tedious work, like managing photo reviews and model releases. That’s a kind of task, that I automated as much as possible some years ago, as it was draining my energy to do other things. This year I’ve put distractions on my list. Not to remind me about distractions, but to remind me that I need tools to help remind me every day of the activities, I need to take care of, to fulfill the plan and reach the goals.

I’m done with defining my goals now. Are you?

Happy New Year!

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