As you set sail on your new adventures as a nomad, you might feel liberated by your newfound freedom. Perhaps you are a full 12 hours ahead of your clients, working during their off-hours with minimal interruption. Or, maybe you’ve scheduled your projects in waves of sprints, balancing two weeks of intense work with two weeks of vacation each month. Regardless of the structure (or lack thereof) you’ve established in your new life, it’s critically important to keep your career and your career goals on track.
Traditional corporate settings usually reinforce the idea of goal-setting via annual performance review cycles and regular check-ins with a manager. But how are you supposed to ensure you’re growing and improving as a professional when you’re a team of one? As is the case with many aspects of your life as a freelancer, the buck ultimately stops with you.
This article is designed to provide a framework for goal-setting that will help you move along your chosen career path as you trek around the world.
Determine your ‘North Star’
If you’ve opted to pursue a nomadic lifestyle, chances are you’re the type of person who knows what they want out of life. You likely value work/life balance, personal health and happiness, and quality of life above things like financial gains and title increases. Knowing your own values is important as you approach goal-setting in your career because it helps you set parameters for your work life relative to your personal ambitions.
The first step to goal-setting as a freelancer is to shift your mindset to think of yourself as a business of one. As the founder, CEO and CFO of your own business, it’s only natural that you need a create a business plan. What does your business stand for, and what are you setting out to do? These questions will ultimately help you determine your North Star.
Think about what it is you want your business to accomplish in its simplest terms. Some examples:
- “I want to help startups differentiate themselves through breakthrough AI.”
- “My mission is to help brands be more relevant to their audiences by creating content that offers tangible value.”
- “I want to build things that fundamentally change the way people view Industry X.”
Set a North Star. Think about what it is you want your business to accomplish in its simplest terms.
Set your standards sky-high
Thinking about potential work opportunities in the context of your journey to your personal North Star will help you separate the things that will pay the bills and fulfill you from those that you simply take on to shore up some cash until your next trip. In addition to vetting based on your North Star, you might also and it helpful to create a simple scoring system for vetting partners and opportunities.
- People: Do you respect the potential partners? Are they ethical and trustworthy? Will you enjoy working with them?
- Product: Do you believe in the product or company overall? Are they building something that inspires you, or are they hawking something you don’t exactly believe in? Are you inspired by what they’re building?
- Project: What are the associated tasks of the opportunity? Will they push you or bore you? Keep in mind that a little pain can mean growth, and just because you’re an independent worker doesn’t mean it’s best to take the easy route.
Gut check opportunities that come your way as a nomad with these simple criteria. You’ll be surprised at how it changes the way you view potential clients and projects.
“If you don’t have an accountant already, begin your search by asking your friends or fellow independent workers for a recommendation. Chances are, someone will have a great resource they can recommend, and you’ll save the time researching to make sure the accountant is competent and reliable. You can also search reviews on Yelp and browse the website for the American Association of Certified Public Accountants (aicpa.org).”
Katie Perry, Brooklyn, NY
Be a proactive goal-setter
Anyone who has traveled will relate to the speed at which time passes when you’re away from home. As a digital nomad, you might wake up one day and wonder where the past six weeks have gone. Setting monthly, quarterly and yearly goals will help you hold yourself accountable.
Goal-setting can be as simple as creating a running Google Doc or Asana project to keep you on task. The first step is the most important of all: write them down! For each goal, be sure to indicate how you plan to measure success. For example:
Bad goal: “I want to get more clients.”
Good goal: “I want to double my number of recurring clients by Date X.”
Bad goal: “I want to make more money.”
Good goal: “I want to increase monthly revenue by 30 percent by expanding business offerings into social media and content.”
Bad goal: “I want to get more local business.”
Good goal: “Work on Spanish fluency and begin networking with local business owners to vet future opportunities. Set up three coffee meetings by Date X.”
The final step is holding yourself accountable. Set recurring calendar invites to check in on your goals, and don’t be afraid to adjust them along the way. Reward yourself when you reach a goal, and then set a new one to keep on striving.
Get tips on being a digital nomad from digital nomads in our free eBook ‘Anywhere’.