If you have taken the plunge and started freelancing, you may be unsure of how to get going or the freelance goals you need to establish to reach your own freelance success. It’s always tough starting any new ventures, but with some goal planning – it can be done! 

When I set out to build my freelance writing business, I knew I needed to set my freelance goals and create a system. Goals are what drive our business ventures and personal life, but they never really end. They just evolve into the next venture or level that we want to reach.

However, how we go about setting, pursuing, and meeting goals as freelancers is just as important. 

One popular method to reach our goals is the SMART goal-setting system. I learned about the SMART system during my MBA program and quickly used it to complete my degree and start my freelance business. I created a system to break down my freelance goals into manageable chunks, making them easier to achieve. 


There is also a newer concept called identity-based goals that James Clear talks about in his Atomic Habits bestselling book. Many will also argue that identity-based goals can be more effective for long-term results as it focuses on your internal sense of identity and growth.

The identify-based approach focuses on aligning our goals with our identity and core values so we don’t have to rely on constant (and sometimes tiring) motivation to achieve our goals.

In this post, you will learn about the differences between SMART goals and identity-based goals, some examples, and how to create them in a tailored manner so you can implement them in your journey.

The purpose is to help you set yourself up and stay motivated throughout the process.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through any links, at no extra cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more information.

Exploring SMART and Identity-Based Goals

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. The main purpose is to help break down large goals into smaller, clear, and tangible chunks that are realistically achieved within a specific timeframe.

Let’s break it down further:

  • Specific: Goals should be clear and exact so there is no confusion as to what you want or need to accomplish.
  • Measurable: You need to keep track of your progress toward the goal in a tangible way.
  • Achievable: Your goals should be ambitious but not so much that they become unrealistic.
  • Realistic: Make sure your goals are challenging yet attainable with the resources you currently have at the moment.
  • Time-bound: You need to have a deadline to track your progress, it also helps you to monitor the goals until you can check them off your to-do list.

The benefit of SMART goals is that they help you focus on what matters most, so you can direct your efforts toward something specific while avoiding getting sidetracked or feeling overwhelmed.

They also help you to create a vision of the future and allow you to see what is possible and how you can get there. By having a clear vision, you can create an action plan and evaluate your progress.

Examples of SMART Freelance Goals

Freelancers can use SMART goals to create achievable objectives, such as “Write two blog posts per week”, “Find 3 new clients this month” or “Earn X amount of money by the end of the year.” These goals should be tailored to your individual goals and should be measurable to track progress.

Let’s continue to break down one of the examples: “Earn X amount of money by the end of the year.” You will need to establish the X amount you want. For the sake of this example, let’s say it is $30,000.

You would need to break this amount down by month, and then by week. You will also need to consider your monthly expenses so they don’t count toward the $30,000/year goal. The next step is to establish your rates and whether you will charge by word count or by the project.

When you have these in hand, you can proceed with what I like to call client marketing (finding clients). It could be cold pitching, applying for freelance jobs on job boards, or finding high-paying clients on Upwork. Follow through with client marketing, complete the assignments, and receive compensation.

I understand that the breakdown seems extensive, but it also helps you see at which stage of the process you are getting stuck in, and where you need additional support so you can adjust accordingly.

Maybe it is how to set your rates, or how to improve your cold pitching email templates. You get the idea. By knowing where you’re struggling, you can focus on that area to improve and achieve the overall goal.

Some other examples of SMART freelance goals could include the following:

  • Setting a goal to write one article per week to grow your writing samples.
  • If you have a blog, maybe you want to increase website traffic by 10% over the course of three months.
  • Reach out to five potential clients each week with tailored emails. 
  • Increase weekly freelance writing income by 25% within 6 months.
  • Complete a minimum of five new writing projects per month.
  • Create and maintain a portfolio of 12 published pieces in 3 months.
  • Research and pitch 10 new leads for fresh content each week.
  • Reduce turnaround times for client projects to 48 hours.
  • Reach out to 3 new clients per month, even when your docket is full, to secure future work.
  • Participate in a minimum of 2 online writing courses each quarter.
  • Develop and maintain an active presence on at least two social media platforms.
  • Increase visibility by guest blogging on 5 industry websites over 6 months.

These examples of freelance goals are specific and measurable, so you can track progress and measure success more easily.

In summary, SMART goals are an effective way of goal setting that allows for clarity and focus when it comes to reaching your freelance goals. With clearly defined goals in place, you can create a plan, stay motivated, and keep track of your progress with ease.

What are Identity-Based Goals?

Identity-based goals are goals that align with your individual values and beliefs, as opposed to goals that focus solely on tangible outcomes or results.

These goals may not have a clear end result in mind and can take longer to achieve too since it is based on making changes to your own behavior.

However, they are often more meaningful because they allow you to stay true to yourself and prioritize what is important to you.

When you set goals based on your individual beliefs and values, it can help you stay better motivated throughout the process.

You can do so by doing self-reflection exercises like meditation or journaling. It may also give you a greater sense of control over your freelance goals and journey and be flexible and adjust when needed.

I’m still on the journey of practicing identity-based goals, but some examples of these types of goals could include the following:

  • Develop a better work/life balance (for example, work 20 hours a week)
  • Learn a new skill that will help my freelance business (for example, copywriting skills like email marketing
  • Take more risks to reach my goals (for example, applying for positions even if you believe you don’t qualify for them).

Overall, identity-based goals are beneficial for freelancers because they allow for greater self-reflection practices and growth throughout the process.

When you focus on goals based on your individual values, you can prioritize what is important to you while staying true to yourself and staying motivated.

To learn, you can read this excerpt from the Atomic Habits book by James Clear, his writing is top notch and he explains it beautifully: How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good.

How to Create Goals Tailored to your Freelance Goals

Determine What Success Means to You

Before you set your freelance goals, it is important to identify what success looks like to you. It involves taking some time to reflect on your individual goals, core values, and motivations as a freelancer.

It is about finding your ‘why’, the one thing that will make you keep moving forward. Maybe it is financial stability, maybe it is to leave your 9-5, or maybe it is to give you the ability to travel more.

Whatever it is, defining what success is to you and finding your why can help you reach answers objectively and maintain relevant goals.

Identify your Goals and Prioritize Them Accordingly 

After determining your why and what freelance success looks like to you, you can now identify goals and prioritize them according to importance.

That way you can focus on the goals you want to reach first (or must reach first) and give yourself a timeline/deadline to complete them.

Just remember, goals can always be adjusted as needed so don’t be afraid of change if required.

Set SMART Freelance Goals 

Once you identify and prioritize your goals, start using the SMART framework to break down the steps needed to achieve each one. It will also help you measure progress and track them more objectively.

Keeping track also helps determine where you went wrong, and how to improve those areas so it doesn’t happen again.

Incorporate Identity-Based Goals 

In addition to setting goals based on tangible results, why not incorporate goals based on your values and beliefs? Maybe this way it can provide you with a greater sense of motivation.


Creating, planning, and executing your freelance goals is what drives you to move forward and grow your business.

Ultimately, both SMART and identity-based goals can be effective tools you can use to set and achieve your freelance goals.

It is up to you to determine which approach works best depending on your current situation. I hope this helps you in your freelance journey!

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