The nuts and bolts of setting financial goals in your business

This year, for the first time since I started my business in 2019, I set financial goals that feel good to me. Goals that make sense to me.

I’ve always loved setting goals. Recently, though, I realised that I tend to set only goals that I know for sure I can reach. I try to avoid setting goals without knowing that I can achieve them. Enter my difficulty setting goals for my business, especially financial goals. But this year, it feels different.

In this post, I’ll share with you how I set financial goals in my business in the past, and how I’ve done this differently this year (and why this feels so much better).

If you want to work through creating a money framework for your business that’s rooted in your time and energy, my quarterly guide is a great place to start.  It’s available to paid subscribers of my newsletter: find out more about the guide and how to subscribe here.

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Dreaming up numbers: how I used to set financial goals

I first set financial goals for my business in the spring of 2020. Before that time I had been doing mainly local workshops and just finding my feet in my business. As I pivoted to an online, international business, I enrolled in a small business programme. It was really useful in many ways and laid the foundation for challenging some money stories I didn’t even know I had.

I know that I put together a spreadsheet or made some notes about my financial goals at that time, but I can’t find them anymore—which is indicative of how useful those goals were for me. It’s not that the support I got in the programme wasn’t useful. I just had no idea what was feasible, what I wanted to charge, or how to go about it. I heard a lot of talk online about going big with your goals: a lot of visioning and manifesting was floating around on Instagram at that time, and although it didn’t sit right with me, I felt like I had to set big money goals. The goals meant nothing to me, and even though I don’t know what they were anymore, I know that I didn’t reach them.

In late 2020 and early 2021, I tried again. This time I used a template that was shared in the mastermind I was (and still am) part of at that time. Looking at that template now, I see that I still had no idea how to set goals, what kind of goals I needed or wanted, what felt remotely feasible, or anything.

I don’t know where those numbers in blue sections come from. I’m fairly sure that I basically plucked them out of thin air. It sounded really cool to make this kind of money. I also don’t know why there are two columns saying ‘annually’ and ‘monthly’: I certainly didn’t make that money in 2021. Not only did I set goals that meant nothing to me—because they weren’t founded in my life and reality—I also used a spreadsheet that didn’t work for me.

Although sharing this spreadsheet with you now feels a little awkward and cringey, I also feel a lot of compassion with the me who created it. 

In the early years of my business I just didn’t know what kind of goals I could or should set. I was still quite a bit invested in the idea, or the hope, that there were certain formats to follow and if I did, I’d have this whole business-thing figured out. I hadn’t yet really discovered my own path yet.

Not only did I set goals that meant nothing to me—because they weren’t founded in my life and reality—I also used a spreadsheet that didn’t work for me.

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Setting financial goals rooted in time, energy and actual numbers

Looking back, there were a couple of reasons why I struggled setting financial goals, let alone achieving them.

I had no idea how to go about them and what to aim for. I was using rules and templates that worked for other people but that didn’t fit with how my brain worked. And even when I did base my financial goals more or less on what I wanted or needed to earn if I scaled back at my part-time teaching job, I never took into account my time and energy needs.

Much financial advice for business owners and freelancers starts with knowing what you need to earn and then setting your prices accordingly. This advice misses out on a key element: the time and energy you have available to actually do the work. You can set really great financial goals, but if you burn yourself out or have to be working much more than you can or want to, they’re useless. Rooting my prices and my goals in my time and energy has been huge for me this year (and no, this is not my secret for a 6-figure business 😅).

Once you know how much time and energy you can spend on your business, what you need to make and what prices you therefore have to set, you can set financial goals. Of course, there’s absolutely no need to set these goals at all if you don’t want to, but as I’m growing my business to make a certain amount of money a year by 2024, I find goals helpful as markers along the way.

I still struggle with not being able to control the outcome of my goals. One of the ways in which running my own business challenges me is through uncertainty of various kinds. Not having control about how much money I make is one of them. I can write a newsletter twice a month, I can write bonus posts and guides for paid subscribers, but I can’t control how many people become a paid subscriber.

I can share about my 1:1 mentoring and do really great work with the clients that I’ve currently got, but I can’t make people sign up (nor would I want to make them, obviously).

This lack of control is one of the biggest things that annoyed me about social media, but as far as financial goals for my business go, I’m just going to have to sit with it. What helps is knowing that I’ve set goals that are founded on something. That while they feel ambitious, I didn’t set them because other people set goals like this. They make sense to me.

If I want to scale back my part-time job by August 2024, I had about seventeen months to go to get to a place where I made up the difference when I set my goals. I ended up simply dividing my final goal into a halfway goal and into a quarter goal, assuming that if I could make those and keep on growing my business, I’d make my final goal too.

You can set really great financial goals, but if you burn yourself out or have to be working much more than you can or want to, they’re useless.

In a future post for paid subscribers I’ll most likely go into the exact numbers (I don’t feel comfortable as yet doing so now and probably won’t ever without a paywall).

If you struggle setting financial goals, or want to go about it differently, my first advice would be to create something—a spreadsheet, a page in a notebook, a word document, whatever—that works for you. Try to keep it as simple as possible. I have a page in my Notion where I keep track of how I got to these goals, and the calculations they’re based on. It’s very much a system that works for me.

In case you’re curious, this link will take you to a (blank! 😅) copy of the spreadsheet I currently use.

I’d also invite you to also set other goals for your business. Goals that feel exciting and good and goals that vary in size: for instance, launching paid subscriptions is one of the goals on my 2023 list, as is giving at least 3 workshops in communities this year, and working with more 1:1 clients than I did last year. The first of these is a goal that I can control, and I definitely still need some of those thrown in.
I can’t guarantee whether I’ll make these goals, but they’re my goals. They’re rooted in my available time and energy, and they feel good to me.

If my newsletters and free resources resonate with you, I might just be the right mentor for you. I don’t believe in 10-step-plans, or get rich quick schemes. I do believe that it is possible to create and run a business that fits you and your life: your values and rhythms, your strengths and passions. I strongly believe that you don’t need to do all the things, or be on all the channels to make your business work. 

I’m here to help you feel more supported in your business. I’m here to give you the confidence to run your business from that place of deep inner knowing inside of you, offering my signature blend of mindset shifts and practical steps.

An experiment

Take a moment to think or journal about these questions:

  • How do your financial goals make you feel? What have you based them on?
  • If your goals don’t sit right, why is that? Are they someone else’s goals? Are there money stories underneath them that you need to deal with? (see December’s free quarterly guide on dealing with money stories and more).
  • Does the system you use to track money and goals work for you? If not, what do you need to make it work (a different system; notes to yourself explaining it)?

I’d love to know which of these strategies to feel more supported in your business you’ve tried, and which you’re going to try out. I’d love to know!

Please feel free to share it with business friends, in your newsletter or on social media. 💛

I’d love to support you in all phases of your business. Providing clarity, focus and next steps is something that my clients tell me I’m really good at. If you’re curious about how we can work together through 1:1 mentoring, check out what I offer or send me an email–no strings attached. I have payment plans available, and flexible options for mentoring calls (30 or 60 minutes).

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