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Best Goals Ever in 2021

It's January, and you know what that means; you join a gym with a promise to work out enough to sport the body of your dreams by summertime, and you create goals and objectives for your small business.

I wanted to write this blog entry quickly, because both of those noble plans often disappear as quickly as the Christmas decorations are striped from the front yard. That's ok of course, looking like a bikini model may not be all that important to you, but taking time to create sound goals and objectives can really make a difference in the way you run your creative business all year.

It's best to start with definitions, because if you ask 10 people what a goal is, you'll likely get 11 answers. So let's just agree now that any goal we create must be specific, measurable, achievable, and time sensitive. It's specific, but not too specific, but not too loose either. If the goal is too general, it's really a vision, and if it's too specific, then it's likely an objective or an activity.

Here's the hierarchy then, for you visual learners out there.

If we can agree on these definitions, then the goal writing process is pretty straight forward. You can start at the most general with the vision, and work to the most specific. That's usually where I start, but I have also turned everything around and started with the specific outcomes I desire, and work my way backward in designing my goals. But either way, I think all four of these elements must be present to have a framework that actually works in practice.

What then is a Vision Statement, and how is that different from a Mission Statement? The vision is the ultimate place you want your business to be. The Mission Statement is an action statement that describes what the Vision does. I hope that makes sense. If not, there are SO many great descriptions out there on the internet. Microsoft had the vision when they began: "A computer on every desk and in every home". Mine is simple: "Earn a living from my art". So my mission statement then is "Create a successful creative business that sells and promotes my art".

It's also important not to go crazy. If you have four to six goals, that's plenty. When I have had nine or ten goals, I get too confused or I start emphasizing my list more than the actual activities. Don't do that. I worked for an organization that had a wonderfully designed planning document, and we found ourselves in planning meetings that were more concerned with the production of the document than the work it represented. At the end of the year we had a lovely report, but no one felt particularly connected to the successes we had achieved.

I also take a moment to review my budget from the previous year. Nothing is a clearer indicator of what my values are as is how I actually spend my money. I look to see if there are any inconsistencies, and see if my budget actually reflects my mission and vision. If my vision is to sell art, and I've spent the bulk of my money on travel, there may be a disconnect. If I spend a huge amount of money on art supplies, and zero dollars on advertising, is there a disconnect? It's not a long process, nor is it overly precise, but I sit Bogdan down every year and we review how we spent last year's money before we write a single goal for the new year.

Something else I've learned is that goals should be strategic, not operational. What I mean is that when I first started my art business, I always included a goal that read something like: "Maintain detailed and accurate financial records". After a couple of years I began to realize how silly that was. Of course I'm going to keep accurate records. I have to as part of my accounting responsibilities.... so I dropped that from my goals list from then on. While it may have reflected my concern about getting the accounting records right, I was listing a goal that was totally operational, and part of the everyday business of business. Writing strategic goals make them much more interesting, more transformative, and much more meaningful throughout the year. Once one of my new strategic goals becomes operational, I'll move it off the list as well.

How then do we start to write our goals? Take a look at your vision or mission statement, and think of say five elements that would be needed to make that vision a reality. Don't worry that you don't know everything, or that you might get those categories wrong. These are your goals, and here's the secret no one tells you. You can change them at any time. They're fixable and flexible. Any business that has survived the Covid19 devastation will have altered, updated, or thrown out their original goals for the year. No one is going to know, and no one is going to check. Don't let perfect get in the way of good. Write them down. Studies have shown that the act of writing things down helps a lot with remembering them. Besides, if. you're like me, ten minutes after I think of a great idea, I have absolutely no recollection of what that magnificent idea was.

I also believe very strongly that we have to take into consideration that as creative businesses, we have to approach metrics in a different way. I want and need to track my progress, but the traditional business measures may not fully apply to my entrepreneurial, fine art business. I did a whole video on that topic last year if you'd like to take a look. My conclusion was to find 5 measures of success for me, and to incorporate them into my annual goals. Those five characteristics are Fearlessness, Authenticity, Dedication, Skill, Fame. So I'll take that list and create the following goals for this new year.

Fearlessness: Initiate 3 projects that make you uncomfortable, that enhance your marketing.

Dedication: Create and implement a system for tracking completed projects through the year.

Skills:  Complete 6 projects that enhance and improve my artistic skills.

Authenticity:  Create a measure to track how authenticity factors into every project undertaken.

Fame: Undertake 5 strategies to become more well known in the art world.

Now that I have my goals, I can go under each and devise specific objectives that will lead me to each goal, and under each objective, list the activities that will complete each objective.

And when that's all done. The angels will sing, and all will be right with the world. I will have my goals ready to guide me all year long, and I can use them, adjust them, and build another successful year of my creative career... at least until I start the whole process again next December. Have a great New Year!

Free GiveAway! Anyone interested in a template of my annual budget tracking spreadsheet? Sign up below and I'll send you a copy and a subscription to my monthly newsletter. I have been working with this template for years.  I hope it will be as useful to you as it is to me.  Click Here


John Bishop Fine Art's "Conversations for Freelance Creatives" is a weekly blog/vlog that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. His work can be seen online, or at his studio at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, Studio 108, in Houston.

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