A freelance career in the creative arts
A freelance career in the creative arts

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1 Planning your next steps

This is a good point to pause and work out what you need to do next in your journey to becoming a freelancer. For example, you might want to investigate the small business support in your local area or perhaps you’re ready to register with HMRC as a sole trader. Whatever you decide your next steps are, you will need to set yourself some specific goals.

The legs of a person wearing jeans and trainers walking up steps.

When you are setting yourself goals, it is important to make sure they are SMART. That means:

  • S = Specific – is your goal specific and clear?

  • M = Measurable – how will you measure your success?

  • A = Achievable – is your goal attainable, do you have the ability to achieve it?

  • R = Realistic – is your goal realistic in your context? Will it fit with other priorities in your life?

  • T = Time bound – make sure you give yourself a deadline for achieving your goal.

Depending on what resource you use, you may see different words, e.g. ‘agreed’ instead of ‘achievable’ or ‘relevant’ replacing ‘realistic’. The version of SMART used in this course has been chosen due to its relevance to freelancers building a solo business.

This Goal Setting tool [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   takes you through the SMART process and helps you to write down and plan your goals.

Tables 1 and 2 show another way of breaking down each goal using two different scenarios.

Table 1 Scenario A

Goal To identify small business support organisations available in my local area and arrange a meeting.

Current status:

  • a.Experience
  • b.Knowledge
  • c.Skills
  • a.I have no experience of accessing this type of support
  • b.I know from Week 3 that there are organisations called Growth Hubs throughout the UK
  • c.I have the research skills needed to use search engines.
Development/training/knowledge needed to reach my goal I need to identify the right organisations and find out how to make an appointment.
Action plan

Research the options:

  • use a search engine to find out if there’s a Growth Hub in my region
  • look at their website to see what they offer
  • call or visit their premises to discuss how they can help me
  • make an appointment.
Outcome There is a Growth Hub in my area, and they can support my specific needs. I have had an initial appointment and enrolled on a subsidised small business start-up course.
Evaluation I’ve learned a lot about the various types of support available to me and I’ve joined a network of other creative freelancers. I feel more supported and confident about my plans.
Next step To attend the start-up course at the beginning of May and register with HMRC as a sole trader straight afterwards.

Table 2 Scenario B

Goal To find appropriate funding for the event that I’m planning.

Current status:

  • a.Experience
  • b.Knowledge
  • c.Skills
  • a.I have experience of planning events, but I haven’t had to look for funding
  • b.I know which type of venue I’d like to use and how the event will look and feel, and I have an idea of the types of organisations that might be interested
  • c.I have good negotiating skills developed in previous roles and I’m confident that I can communicate my vision clearly.
Development/training/knowledge needed to reach my goal I need to increase my knowledge of potential funders and learn how best to approach them.
Action plan
  • Write a project outline for the event and start contacting venues to understand appetite.
  • Explore funding organisations online using the relevant resources outlined in Week 6.
  • Start with public funding as this will be a community event.
  • Identify local small business support services and obtain their advice on where to look for funding. They may have access to subscription only funding databases.
Outcome I have met with staff at several venues and made three provisional bookings. I have generated a list of relevant funding organisations and reviewed their application processes. I’ve secured support from the local small business support service to help me with my grant applications.
Evaluation I feel confident that there will be funding available for my event and supported in making applications.
Next step Make two funding applications by April.

These examples are of relatively short term goals that will move you forward with your immediate plans, but you also need to be thinking about longer term goals, such as what you want your business to achieve. In Week 2, Activity 5 you considered your goals for your business, so you may want to work on those in a bit more detail in this week’s first activity.

Activity 1 Achieving your goals

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

Now it’s your turn! Use the template below to set your goals and work through your next steps. These could be short or longer-term goals depending on where you are with your thinking and planning. If you have an alternative format you’d prefer to use, please do. You could also use the Goal Setting tool to make sure your goals are SMART.

Table 3 Setting goals

1 2 3
Goal
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Current status:

a) Experience

b) Knowledge

c) Skills

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Development/training/knowledge needed to reach my goal
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Action plan
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Outcome
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Evaluation
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Next step (include dates)
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Words: 0
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Discussion

If you have identified more than one goal, prioritise your plans. Are they sequential or can you do them all at once? Make sure you don’t take on too much – if you don’t achieve all your goals within the allotted time, this can be a negative experience.

You should now have a set of SMART goals, and an action plan for achieving them. In the next section, you’ll look at the importance of clearly articulating your goals in a business plan.

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