As the calendar turns over, people often turn their thoughts to what they want to achieve in the new year. What do you want to achieve this year? What do you want to accomplish in your creative business this year? When I meet with a new client, I always start with a conversation about goals. I want to know what my client wants from their creative business. And I want to make sure they understand that they have the freedom to explore what is important to them. Over several years of working with large businesses, small businesses, and creative entrepreneurs, I’ve learned that everyone has unique aspirations for their business and those aspirations make for unique goals. I’ve also found that those goals fit into four categories. I use the categories as prompts to help creative entrepreneurs unearth what’s important to them
Your creative business is, well, a business. So starting with business goals makes sense. Business goals are goals that relate to the operation of your business.
Financial goals are the obvious business goals. Do you have a target for your sales for next year? Or are you looking to reduce your expenses? When clients talk about financial goals, I talk a lot about profit as a goal.
But not all business goals are financial goals. Do you want to open a brick and mortar location? Or expand to an additional one? Those would be business goals. What about increasing your capacity by hiring employees or contractors? Do you want to create a new product line or source of revenue? Business goals.
Whatever the goal, it needs to apply to you. A student in one of my workshops had retired and was pursing his dream to build a woodworking business. When we got to the subject of goals, he shared that his goal for his business was to make $200 a month selling his woodworking products. I asked, as I always do: Why that goal? He told the class he had worked it out with his wife and that $200 a month meant that it wasn’t a hobby. It doesn’t get more relevant than that!
Creative businesses differ from other businesses in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that they are deeply personal. You are your business and your business is you. So you need to consider your personal goals and your business goals when you plan for your future.
One of my early coaching clients is a very successful maternity and newborn photographer. When she started her business, she had a young child at home. She wanted to build a photography business, but she also wanted to spend time with her young son. One of her goals was to spend a certain number of hours at home, with her son.
What do you want in your life? I want to settle down and live on a beach somewhere. Do you have a place you want to live? Do you want to travel more? Do you want to make sure you have time in your life for your family or to exercise or to practice mindfulness? Understanding your personal goals and considering them in your goals for your creative business will help you find a balance. You need not sacrifice one to have the other. You may need to put one ahead of the other at certain times, but you can work to achieve them both.
But this isn’t just any business and you aren’t just any person. You are a creative person. You are an artist. You have things you want to do with your art. What do you achieve creatively in the next year? Do you want to explore a new medium or learn a new technique? Do you want to experiment with a new subject or theme? Are their artists with whom you want to collaborate? These are just a few of the examples of artistic goals. You will have your own and they will be as distinctive as your art.
Most of the artists I speak with have creative goals. They know what they want to be doing with their art; where they want to be taking it. Often the challenge is is narrowing down all the creative possibilities to one or two key goals. There are a lot of different things that you can be doing with your art and with your business. To make progress, you need to focus on the one or two things that are most important to you.
The more that I work with younger creatives, the more that I am struck by their desire to impact the world. They don’t just want a successful business; they want a successful business that has a purpose beyond financial success or their own personal achievements. They want to have a purpose. This is limited to just young creatives nor to creatives. Many businesses are trying to have an impact.
Do you have one? Is there a change you want to see in the world and that you will devote your time and energy and resources to making it happen? Is there a cause you want to support with your time, your energies, or your resources? Is there a message you want to communicate to your community or worldwide?
Not all creative businesses will have impact goals. But if you have a cause to support or a message to communicate or a problem to solve, you can and should incorporate that desire into your goals for your business.
Although I write about these categories as if they are distinct, the lines between them often blur. As a photographer, I have a goal of having a solo exhibition. Is that a creative goal? It speaks to the quality of my work represents a creative milestone. Is it a business goal? A solo exhibition would represent an important sales opportunity and is a stepping stone to other potential sales. Is it a personal goal? It would be a significant personal achievement. Does it matter? Not really. The four categories of goals aren’t distinct buckets you need to fill. They are areas for you to look to find the goals that matter to you and that make sense for your creative business. If you have no impact goals, don’t force one. If you aren’t sure if a goal is personal or creative, just write it down.
But write it down. Start off with an idea of where you want to go in your creative business is the first step in ensuring that you get there.
What are goals? What do you want to accomplish in the next year? Share them in the comments below.