Goal-setting for creative workers and artists
Goal setting isn’t hard and it doesn’t have to be complicated. And I promise, setting goals WILL have a profound impact on your creative practice and the way you do business. 
Words by Samantha Morris

If you’ve been to ANY personal development kinda training, at all, you will have heard about the importance of goal setting. But let’s be frank, it’s one of those things that most creative workers relegate to the bottom of the to-do list. 

Goal setting isn’t hard and it doesn’t have to be complicated. And I promise, setting goals WILL have a profound impact on your creative practice and the way you do business. 

How to set goals

I like to use three very straight forward rules when I mentor people who are setting goals. Organisational psychologist David Van Rooy also uses them for goal setting in his book ‘Trajectory’. 

The three main rules to goal setting are:

  1. Any goal is better than no goal
  2. A specific goal is better than a broad goal, and
  3. A hard and specific goal is better than an easy goal.

Van Rooy then goes on to explain his process for actually defining your goals, and I like these the most.

  • Firstly, think big, that is, don’t sell yourself short by setting small goals. Define a big ultimate goal that’s a major accomplishment you want to achieve.
  • Secondly, act small. That means, you must define the series of small milestones you set that you will hit along the way. I like to refer to this in my own work as a critical timepath because in most of what I do there’s a definite order the work needs to take place in and I know if I get it all done, on time and in the right order, my goals will be achieved. It’s never failed me.
  • Finally, move quick. Put a timeline in place and follow it. Timelines always increase the likelihood of your goal being achieved. 

What types of goals should you set as an artist?

It’s all well and good to know that goals are important, and even how to improve them, but if you’re new to documenting your goals, or perhaps you’ve got vague goals but have never documented then, where do you start? 

For creative workers, one methodology is to break your goals into themes, that is, the areas of your life, work or business that need attention or improvement. 

Consider the following:

  • Administration + finance. Grants and awards, bookkeeping, BAS and GST, financial management, record-keeping. How’s that working out for you? Any improvements required? 
  • Creative practice + project development. What are you working on? When will it be finished? What major creative goals are you working towards? Do you have all the tools you need to continue your creative work? Who’s missing from your team? What ideas do you have for sustainability and ongoing development of your work? 
  • Marketing (including social media). How’s your public presence? How could it be improved? What about entering or applying for festivals, competitions, exhibitions or awards? Do these entry dates need to be documented? Have you received any press or media attention lately? Do you need to? What will that look like? 
  • Portfolio and assets. Are your media assets in order, do you have an up-to-date bio, press photo and public assets? Do you have a physical or digital portfolio? Do any of these assets need attention, updating or focus? Have you documented all of your creative projects for future reference? 
  • Sales, bookings + commissions. How are you going to gain future work? How are you connecting with clients and following up interest in your work? How are you ensuring your business is financially sustainable and growing it? 
  • Training and development. What professional development do you need to undertake? What networks are you part of and how are you pro-actively networking with other people? Do you need a mentor? New skills? Upgrading of existing skills? 

General goal setting tips

  • Documenting small milestones along your journey to achieving your goal shows you just how much you’ve achieved (especially during those moments where you feel burned out and under-appreciated.
  • You don’t need to write your goals down in a document if that’s not the way your brain processes administrative information. Get creative. Make a short film, animate it or turn it into a vision board or another piece of art. You’re in charge of your goals and they need to be meaningful to you, no-one else. 
  • Review your goals regularly. It’s totally OK for goals to be fluid. Question why you’re doing what you’re doing all the time, and make sure when you’re busy that that busy-ness is actually helping you work towards a goal
  • Let your goals reflect your creativity but make sure you can create concrete steps to be taken.
  • Share your success. When you’ve achieved a milestone, let people know. 
  • Ask for help – friends, fans, peers, networks, consultants. 
  • When in doubt, think SMART. This is an age-old goal-setting tactic. Making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. S.M.A.R.T. 
    • Specific means knowing what you will do and how
    • Measurable means you’ve thought about precise ways you will measure your goal and the journey towards it
    • Attainable means you can actually visualise the path you’ll take to achieve the goal
    • Realistic means you can actually visualise the results. That the goal is actually possible, and 
    • Timebound means that you’ve thought about the timeline you’ll stick to to reach your achievement.