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3 Steps For Setting (and Completing) Goals in Your Creative Business – Part 1

Setting and completing business goals for creatives

One of the topics that comes up over and over again as I talk with other business owners is that they have big dreams but don’t necessarily know how to achieve them, or are overwhelmed with what action to take first.  Many are amazing at their craft but have no idea how to run the business side of marketing, developing a brand, accounting, or organization.  Have you ever caught yourself thinking any of the statements below?

  • I want to feel like I own my work instead of my work owning me.
  • I want to quit my current job and be a full-time _________.
  • How do I start my own business?
  • Maybe this will be the year my business explodes in growth and I can finally buy _______!
  • I would love to have the type of business that ____ (insert the name of your favorite business owner) has!
  • Where do I start in getting clients?
  • How do I keep the clients I have?
  • Why do I feel like I get stuck in so much office busywork and never quite have time to get everything done and on to what I really want to do?

If we are honest I would venture to guess that all of us can identify with some of the statements above at different times, I know I can!

As creatives our greatest strength can also be our greatest challenge – our creative brains.

When we are in sync with our creative self we become a dynamic powerhouse of ideas and energy.   I don’t know about you, but that feeling is one of the biggest motivators in running my own business.  When we get out of sync with ourselves the power of our unharnessed creative brain can feel like it runs us.


I used to get totally overwhelmed when I would try to set and execute business goals.  I didn’t know where to start, how to start, or most importantly, how to finish!  After a lot of trial and error I realized I was making it all too complicated and found a system that totally changed my effectiveness in setting and completing goals – create, organize, execute.  We’re going to spend the next 3 days diving deeper into each of these steps.  Personally I find it easiest to retain information when I know the direction that we’re going, so for those of you that are the same (or the type that cheat…er….skip to the end of a novel first) below is a graphic of the entire process that we’ll be walking through!  Come back on day 3 for a link to a printableof the graphic below! 3steps-to-setting-business-goals

Ready to get started?  Print out the handout if you’d like to work along!


1. Schedule time

What time of day are you most creative? I used to try and force my creativity into normal working hours but after many years I realized that my creative rhythm doesn’t answer to 9 to 5 schedules.  For me it is early mornings before my husband and daughter get up when my brain feels rested and refreshed and I’m brimming with creative energy.  Since the birth of our daughter I’ve moved my office back to my home.  I get up a little after 5 am and head to a nearby coffeeshop for a few hours to work.  Starting early in the morning means that I haven’t used up all my creative energy on a day of challenging projects for clients, balancing a budget, or wrangling a 2 year old.  OK, for those of you who are still stuck onthe fact that I get up before the sun, go back and re-read that sentence with your preferred time in it!  (Yes, my night owl friend, I heard you gasp!)   One of my clients who is a dance teacher finds her best creativity is right after lunch when her kids are napping.  For my sister who is a doctoral piano student, her best hours of creativity are between midnight and 4 am.  With the time difference between us I often laugh that my alarm is going off just as her head hits the pillow!  My husband who works in IT often finds that he works best at 10 pm at night – which is after I’ve gone to bed!  We all have optimal hours and they may even change day to day, the goal for this exercise is to find what yours are, and use them to invest in your business today.

2. Brainstorm

Get a blank sheet of paper, your favorite pen, tell your inner critic who tries to keep your dreams to manageable size to go and take a break, and start to brainstorm.   Brainstorming is about tuning in to those spontaneous thoughts and creative ideas that flow through your head, and not only writing them down but pushing on the boundaries of comfort zones and current ideas.  If the ideas that start coming seem impractical or too big don’t dismiss them, write them down.  If your mind keeps drifting to other things that need to get done start a list on another sheet of paper and keep going.  I find that mind mapping is an effective way of brainstorming for me (more on that in a future article) but whatever your preferred method the more that you practice the easier it will become.  I have found on many occasions that the ideas that seem to be the most impossible or too big of a dream often lead me to discover what direction I really want to go in a way that my conscious mind wasn’t aware of. The key is to write without editing first.  There is a reason they call it a brainstorm!  Creativity is often a much more spatial and lateral than a linear process.  Embrace that.  You can format the layout, edit wording, or erase things later, your goal is to get what you have in your head out on paper!

3. Make a list

I love lists.  Short lists, long lists, color coded highlighted lists.  Lists on paper napkins, notebooks, random scraps of paper tucked in whatever book I’m reading, Word documents, Gmail Tasks that pop up with calendar reminders…

Yes, I guess you could say I’m a list nerd.  And I’m totally OK with that.

I love the satisfaction of crossing completed items off and I have been known to add an item to my list that I’ve already done just for the visual effect of one more check mark.

Making a list means that you are setting a goal, and setting a goal is the first step towards completing it.

Now that you have a brainstorm of ideas on paper, step back and see if you can take each of them and condense it to a short phrase.  While I love brainstorming with actual paper and pen, when I get to the list stage I transfer it to digital form on my laptop so that it’s easier to move things around, change wording or deadlines, or add to the list as more ideas come up.  In the next two days as we explore organizing and executing our lists (yes, I’m practicing what I preach right along with you!) you may be surprised at how your list evolves!  I’d love to hear from you as you go through the first worksheet below:



  • What is your best time of day for creativity?  When do you feel least creative?
  • As you brainstorm, are you surprised by some of the creative ideas that seemed to pop in your head?
  • What were some of the items on your list that were new ideas to you?

Come back later this week when we’ll talk about organizing your list and I’ll share how a shift in the way my husband and I approached mowing our lawn led to a huge change in running our business!

All the best,

6 thoughts on “3 Steps For Setting (and Completing) Goals in Your Creative Business – Part 1

  1. Thanks Allison. Now’s the perfect time for me to pause and tap into creative possibilities in my life. Cannot wait to hear about how the shift in thinking towards business took place with you and hubby. Love Di xxxx

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