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How to set targets for your small business (and how a copywriter can help)

It’s 2022, and I’ve just done my first Q1 of my small business life. I’ve learned a lot. Mostly, I’ve met my targets (kinda) but not the way I thought I would, and I’ve got more targets to set for Q2. I’m more than happy to share with you:

  1. What it means to set a target for your business

  2. How to set targets for your business

  3. How to make sure you meet your targets

  4. What happens if you don’t meet your business targets?

  5. How to have a successful next quarter

At the end, I’ll share my Q1 target reflections with you… even the ones I messed up.

(Q1, by the way, means the first quarter. The year is split into four, three months in each section, and they’re labelled Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4. Jan to March is Q1, April to June is Q2, July to September is Q3, and October to December is Q4. You might have already known that, but if you didn’t, no judgement here. We all learn something sometimes.)

What it means to set a target for your business

In running your business, you have dreams and ambitions. They might be tied to financial success, such as a particular day rate, a monthly amount, or a yearly amount. It could be a sales target, or a certain award you’d like to win, or to get a number of downloads on your product or podcast. Perhaps it’s achieving a specific lifestyle or working in another country. Whatever your goals are, they aren’t going to happen by themselves.

You have to make them happen.

Which is annoying, tbh. It would be so much easier if you could get what you wanted just by really wanting it, but you gotsta to do work.

Setting targets for your business is a way to make sure you’re aiming in the right direction to achieve your ambitions. When you’re in the middle of day- to- day business running of your business it’s ridiculously easy for the days and weeks to slip by without you taking a step towards your goals.

This is where setting a target for your business comes in. Without a target, how do you know what you’re aiming for?

How to set targets for your business

This one is going to require to you put a few hours aside and get deep with yourself. Perhaps grab a cuppa and a few biscuits. Turn your phone off and get away from your desk.

Step 1: think big picture. Let your imagination go wild. Be audacious. What do you want? Not need, or “should have”. What do you want? From your life, your business, your lifestyle, your finances, your clients. Write your wants down. Be careful now, your mind may try to undermine your dreams here. For example, you might think “I want to earn £50k per year”, and then you might immediately think, “oh no, I’ll never do that. I’ll aim for £35k”. No, friend. Don’t do that to yourself. Write ‘I want to earn £50k per year’ on your paper.

Your targets may be about creating something, or living somewhere, or working with someone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you “should” have, say, a podcast, or a course, or an eBook, just because other people do. Focus on you, and what you want.

Step 2: when do you want to achieve these things? Some of your ambitions might be something you want in the next 12 months, or in the next 5 years. Adding a time to your target is essential, because that’s what will keep you motivated and dictate your baby- steps.

Step 3: spend some time thinking about how you’ll know when you’ve achieved your target. Your target needs to have a tangible thing, like a certain number in your bank account, or a plane ticket in your hand, or a website that you’ve pressed publish on. How are you going to celebrate if you don’t know when it’s done?

Step 4: now break it down into manageable baby- steps.

Here’s one example.

  • So, if you want to earn £50k per year by the end of the year, what does that look like monthly? That’s around £4200 per month.

  • How much are you earning now, and how much extra do you need to earn to hit the monthly amount? Let’s say it’s an additional £2k.

  • How will you find this extra amount? You’ll need to up your day rate, brush up your marketing, and find more clients.

  • When will you raise your day rate? And where will you find these extra clients? Every three months you’ll up your day rate by, say, £20. And, you’re going to pitch to new clients every week.

  • How will you fix your marketing? A new blog every week, make a content plan and put time in your calendar each week to achieve this.

  • How many clients will you pitch to per week? 5 potential clients per week.

This means, your targets are: By the end of Q1, I will have pitched to 60 new clients (5 per week), I will have a content plan and blogging schedule, and I will have upped my day rate from £330, to £350. See?

Here’s another example.

  • Let’s say you want to sell 400 products a month. What does that look like monthly? That 100 per week.

  • How many are you selling now, and how many extra do you need to sell per month? Let’s say it’s an additional 300.

  • How will you sell this extra amount? You’ll need to find more wholesalers, go to more markets, and update your marketing.

  • How will you find more wholesalers? Cold pitching- 5 per week.

  • Which extra markets will you go to? Two extra ones per month, The Tobacco Factory and Frome Makers Market.

  • How will you improve your marketing? Update your web copy/ blogs. One blog per week.

This means, your targets are: By the end of Q1, I will have pitched to 60 potential wholesalers (5 per week), and I will have gone to 6 additional markets, and I will have used a copywriter to re-write my website for me, and to write 12 blogs. Easy.

You can follow these steps for whatever your targets are. Take the big goal and reduce it into manageable chunks.

How to make sure you meet your targets

If your targets are bitesize, they should be achievable. When you reflect on your targets at the end of the quarter, you’ll need to be honest with yourself (more of this later) and think carefully if you didn’t meet your targets.

The best way to meet your targets is to keep yourself accountable. Make a business buddy you trust, share your targets with them, and keep them updated with how you’re getting on.

Always make your targets visible to you. Print them and stick them next to your desk, make them your desktop background, have them as reminders in your calendars. Don’t allow yourself to forget what you’re aiming for.

Be reflective, and honest. If you’re struggling to meet your targets, is there something you could change?

Keep your end goal, the big audacious thing you’re aiming for, in your mind. Can you find an image to represent your goal and keep it somewhere you’ll regularly look? It’ll keep you motivated to know what you’re going to achieve. It’ll keep you going when the imposter syndrome creeps in.

What happens if you don’t meet your business targets?

It’s the end of the quarter and you’ve made it! You absolutely will have achieved many things this quarter and your first job is to celebrate that. Write a list of all the things you’ve achieved and celebrate yourself for your wins. Share it on social media. Acknowledge yourself!

Now, let’s get uncomfortable. What didn’t you do? It’s really tempting to look away from the areas you’ve stumbled on, and to think about moving on, get on to the next quarter and think about your endless ‘to do’ list. But. If we don’t look carefully about where we’ve succeeded and where we haven’t, we don’t grow and learn.

If you have not achieved your targets, it might be because:

  • You’ve lost track of your goal

  • You got too busy

  • You prioritised your client work rather than your own business

  • You let self- doubt and imposter syndrome affect you

  • You gave up (think carefully about why?)

  • Your targets were too hard to keep on top of- perhaps your baby- steps were too ambitious?

  • You got discouraged because you didn’t have quick wins

  • You actually don’t want that big goal you thought you did

  • Something else?

Firstly, don’t beat yourself up if it hasn’t gone to plan. These things happen. Negative self- talk isn’t going to change that. Try to clearly see where it’s gone wrong and make a plan for the next quarter.

How to have a successful next quarter

There are lots of things you can do to maintain your success, or to turn it around if its all gone a bit wrong. Try making your targets even smaller. It’s ok to be gentle with yourself and find smaller wins to keep going. Publicly discuss your targets, if you feel comfortable to, or find a coach or mentor to give you support. This is especially helpful if you’re not achieving what you want, but you’re not sure why. A coach or a mentor can help you unlock your mindset struggles.

The big one, where possible, is to outsource things you are struggling with. That might be paying a copywriter (like me!) to do your blogging for you, or working with a Virtual Assistant to get your admin done so you have time to blog. For example, this quarter I’ve spent a lot of time getting stressed with my website, and I’ve decided in Q3 I’m going to work with a web designer to create me a whole new (functioning! Accessible!) shiny one.

My Q1 did NOT go to plan…

Here’s where I get a tiny bit vulnerable.

Let me tell you my targets:

I’m really proud of what I achieved this month, and I’m not sure where I could have worked harder. In January I wrote over 20,000 words for clients. Two clients had 8000 each! I love my digital products and the feedback so far has been super positive. I battled with tech (my downfall!) to get my portfolio on my website (… well, half of it) and I launched my newsletter (… er, yesterday). I charged my highest day rate ever. I’ve invested in a mentoring group and some useful software. This was something I was putting off, but a business isn’t going to grow without investment, and for me investing in myself and my business is essential.

Reflecting on why I haven’t achieved everything I aimed to do, there are some clear things I could have done differently. For one, I could have not caught Covid/ a horrible virus. That was a big mistake. It knocked me off my feet for a whole month, and while I’m much better now, five weeks later, I’m not 100%. I also can clearly see that I was aiming to do too much. How did I think I was going to do all of that, AND work for my lovely clients? I was over ambitious.

Here's a little honesty… I frequently undermined myself on the marketing front. Call it imposter syndrome, call it The Fear, call it whatever, but I’d be reluctant to post, or to “put myself out there”. I feel comfortable on Instagram, and I definitely need to break out of my comfort zone for Q2 (I’m looking at you LinkedIn). This is probably why I didn’t get two retainer clients and three new clients not four. I got in my own way.

There’s no negativity for me on any of this by the way- I’m a work in progress and so is my business. I absolutely love that I can try again next quarter and push myself. I’ll achieve my audacious business dreams one way or another!

If you’re interested in making some investments (smaller, or larger!) in your business, or if I can help you achieve your targets for Q2, please do get in touch. I’d love nothing more than to help you reach your audacious business dreams.

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