Celebrate Small Wins: Stay Motivated While Working Towards Your Big Goals
The early stages of building a freelance career can be a rocky road. You’re battling a crippling fear of failure all while trying to grow your client list, deliver quality work, and pay the bills. It’s easy when you’re in the thick of it all — the “fog of war” as I prefer to call it — to get lost and lose track of the big picture. After all, you started to work for yourself so you could take back your freedom, work on something you truly love to do, and tap into a level of happiness you never had access to before, right?
I’ve found in my career as a self-employed freelancer and entrepreneur that it’s just as important to acknowledge and celebrate the “small wins” as it is to celebrate achieving a large goal. The reason for this approach is simply because it can take a long time to achieve your “big goal”, and you can lose focus and inspiration if you don’t reward yourself along the way.
Each day you work toward your big goal should be considered a success! You’re doing something now that directly affects your success later.
For example, let’s say you’ve set a large goal for yourself, such as making $100,000 as a freelancer. $100,000 is a lot of money, therefore it might be overwhelming for you to think of how you’ll actually achieve the goal. Instead of getting caught up in how you’re going to make such a large sum of money, break it into smaller, more digestible, milestones and celebrate when you’ve passed that milestone. Instead of wondering how you’ll make $100,000, focus on getting to the halfway mark, or the quarter mark; it’s a lot easier to figure out how to make $25,000. Celebrating these small wins will give you the inspiration and the energy to move forward.
Here’s an even better example: Let’s say your big dream goal is to be a self-employed freelance web designer by this time next year, but today you’re an employee at a less-than-desirable job, zero freelance clients and no design experience (read freelancing from scratch: how to start with no experience). There are a lot of steps between you and your goal of self-employment. This can be overwhelming, because your goal may seem completely out of sight and unattainable. But you know what? There are not many steps between you and your first client. There are even less steps between you and designing your very first website, or learning to code. (Seriously, you can learn HTML & CSS in less than 12 hours.)
Instead of waiting to celebrate your victory of self-employment in one year from now, why not celebrate when you learn to code? Or when you’ve been paid for your very first web design project (even if the payment was in the form of an iPad mini)?
What’s an appropriate celebration?
It’s really up to you! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t suggest taking first-class trips around the world when you learn how to properly save a Photoshop document. A celebration is simply an official acknowledgement that you’ve achieved something important. It could be as small as buying your favourite bottle of wine, taking the afternoon off (if you’re able to), or going out to dinner. For example, last summer I had two of my online courses featured on a very popular website. I was told there was the potential I could make a sizeable sum of money on the sales, but it wasn’t guaranteed, and I wouldn’t see the money for a few months. After months of anticipation, I finally received the deposit in my PayPal account, and it was well worth the wait.
To celebrate, I took my wife to Cibo, one of our favourite Italian restaurants in Calgary, and we ordered anything we wanted, no holds barred. As crazy as this sounds, our order was very simple:
- Margherita Pizza
- Chicken Carbonara Pasta
- Glass of Wine
- Can of San Pellegrino
- Italian Donuts for Dessert
The total cost? $60! We celebrated one of my “small wins” with a luxurious dining experience that didn’t break the bank. I celebrate my small wins on a regular basis — although, the celebrations don’t always come in the form of a $60 Italian Feast. Sometimes I’ll just bike down to the lake and go paddleboarding for a couple hours, take in the sunshine, and enjoy the freedom I’ve been able to achieve.
You’ve got a lot to celebrate between now and your ultimate goal. Learning to celebrate your small wins will help to keep you on track, and give you the inspiration you need to keep your “eye on the prize”.
What is your “big goal” this year? How can you break that big goal down into smaller, bite sized milestones? Have you celebrated any small wins so far this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!
Yours in celebration,
This is the fourth entry in a ten-part series called “Hacking a Freelance Web Design Career”. Last week, we explored making your first $500 as a web designer. In the coming weeks, we’ll be diving into some common questions and concerns regarding freelancing, and how you can build a sustainable and successful freelance career. Are you ready to start building your freelance career? Enroll in my free 60-day email course: “Cultivate a Successful Freelance Career”.