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.

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Each day you work toward your big goal should be considered a success! You’re doing something now that directly affects your success later.

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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,

Brad


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”.

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  • florin

    Hello, Brad! I have another little question that comes up into my mind before I start my own wordpress customized theme. Sould I create first the bootstrap markup/static website and then translate it into wordpress child theme or should I start by doing both in the same time to create the theme ?

  • florin

    Hey Brad! I am an intermediate level web designer & web developer. I built 5 official websites for hotels and not only, until now(2 years experience). But I have an uncertainty.

    Should I use an already coded template like http://themes.semicolonweb.com/html/canvas/ for building the next websites? I already did 1 website with that great template and it saved me a good amount of time. My fear is that without that template, I don’t have excellent skill for coding components like navbar, footer, making a page element to stay on the page in the position I want, etc.

    I’m almost always copying code snippets from the net, let’s say not coding from scratch.

    My thought is: hey, you’re using a template, you’re not a real web designer/developer. I was thinking to only use bootstrap + wordpress, but if I use that CANVAS template( it already has lots of bootstrap components coded, css and javascript for almost any situation ) it would save me even more time.

    What do you say, Brad, what should I do? Thank you !

    • Awesome question, florin!

      I am 150% for using techniques and strategies to save me time. If I can deliver the same value to my client in half the time, then I will most likely go that route.

      That being said, while I most definitely have used pre-built themes for my clients, sometimes it’s not worth it. Pre-built themes are notoriously bloated with tons of features and code that slow down load time, and can be frustrating for you and your client (and the visitors)!

      I’ve definitely went the pre-built theme route, thinking it’d save me tons of time, and it’s ended up biting me in the butt for a number of reasons:

      1) bloated, takes too long to load during development and once live
      2) client wanted features that were outside of the themes capabilities
      3) ended up spending more time on hacking the theme apart to deliver what the client originally wanted

      Recently, my team and I and Brightside decided to build a totally custom WordPress website for a client, and we thanked ourselves for it! We originally considered going a pre-built theme route, but because of our past experiences, we decided to charge the client more money to build them a totally custom theme. It was worth it! The code is lightweight, the dashboard is exactly what we want it to be, and the client is very happy.

      To bring it back to your question, if you use a pre-built theme for a client site, that doesn’t make you LESS of a web developer — it just means you’re an entrepreneur, thinking of efficient ways to deliver value.

      That being said, there are far too many people out there charging their clients money for “web development services” who can’t code a site to save their life. I can sleep at night when I use a pre-built theme for a client, because if I decide to go that route, I know it’s the best option for them — not because I don’t have the ability to build a custom site.

      My suggestion to you? Don’t be too hard on yourself, but I’d dedicate some serious time to learning the craft so you can make an honest decision as to which option is better: Pre-built theme, or Custom solution.

      CodeCollege.ca is a great start 😉

      • florin

        Thank you very much, Brad! It’s a great feeling to receive a reply from an expert in your domain, when you’re in uncertain situations… I already bought 2 courses from you !

      • My pleasure 🙂 Thanks for taking my courses.

  • Thanks for this tip. Sometimes we forget to stay positive.

    • You’re welcome 🙂 And thanks for taking the time to read the post.

  • Kamrul Hasan

    Thanks Brad. Its really a good post. After reading your post I went out with my friend and enjoyed the evening.
    All the best.

  • I love the optimistic look this article gives, and I like your mindset Brad! Thanks for sharing!

  • Great post. I was often thinking about my ultimate goal without realizing the small one i achieved everyday.
    I can change my onset now to be more self satisfying.
    Thanks

    • Glad to shed some light on your “small wins”!

  • Hi Brad, wasn’t good at codding but after your course on code a responsive website with bootstrap,I did two sites and outsourced for a back end programmer.Now after taking your course on code dynamic websites with php am in the last step of finishing my first site with a complete php cms.I must post it in your site as a testimonial for your free resources. Good job friend.

    • Thanks for reading! Glad you’ve found value in my courses 🙂

  • Thanks, the whole freelancing series has been very good. Much appreciated.

  • Tom

    Great post Brad,
    I think this is the best way to approach goals. I know I’ve used a similar one before when I wanted to lose a few pounds before going to Brazil to meet my wife’s family for the first time (nerve racking!!) and i would do 2lb goals to lose a total of around 15lbs. I would slice them up to 2 per week and keep myself accountable by doing a weekly weigh in and keeping track of my exercise routine and diet. I ended up losing over 20lbs in about 50 days from this approach. Now, of course I got there and ate like a pig, but that’s a whole different story hahah

    • Haha, that’s a great story, Tom! Thanks for sharing.

  • (holly molly I just closed the tab before publishing and lost my 4 paragraph comment… will do a TL;DR)

    After many years of doing some single web and not pursuing this career I have been inspired by your decisions and, just today, I’m starting a new career doing what I have been doing to survive when I didn’t have a “real” job.

    My first project is to renew the web site of a Pharmacy (a big one) and try to make a decent living out of it.

    My short time goal is to acquire the skills needed to be self sufficient (I’m no designer so I think I’ll keep outsourcing that) and become proficient at front-end development. In the mean time I intend to get all the paid work that I can but will do some easy simple webs for friends and family to build a portfolio. Long time idea will be setting up a business in which we provide all needed for online presence to companies. Online Marketing, web, social media and whatever the future brings us. No money goals, just conceptual goals. I guess once it’s rolling it’ll be easier to set up realistic income goals.

    Thanks for your inspiration!

    • (Ouch, I hate when that happens!)

      Congratulations on starting your new career today! I’m happy to hear you have some excellent goals, and a strategy in place to help you get to where you want to be.

      Best of luck on your new career, and I hope to hear of your successes in the near future 🙂
      Brad

      • Well starting your courses made me realise how much of this stuff I already knew, I needed to organise my thoughts and order my previous knowledge. Let’s hope I’m here to stay for a long time.

      • Thanks for reading!

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START A FREELANCING BUSINESS. GET MORE CLIENTS. BUILD A LIFE ON YOUR OWN TERMS.

  • Daily actionable lessons
  • Define your freelance niche
  • How to start from scratch
  • How to charge higer rates
  • Where to find your first 3 paying clients
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I respect your privacy. No spam. No fluff. Just quality content. Unsubscribe anytime.
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