- Setting goals is important, but you need to create you goals from a starting place. A SWOT can help you understand where you are at to make goal setting easier.
- A SWOT analysis can help you make decisions both personally and professionally.
- A SWOT analysis and SMART goal-setting frameworks are different, but both essential in achieiving the success you desire.
The Importance of Goal-Setting
The appeal of freelancing for many is being your own boss. There’s nobody standing over your shoulder, telling you what—and what not—to work on. You don’t have to attend a terse, heavy-handed meeting when you don’t meet your quota, worried sick that you’re going to get fired. All of that is your responsibility. It’s bliss, or is it?
Because of its flexibility, some people don’t understand that freelancing is actually a business. So they end up going with the flow instead of setting business goals and making plans that’ll help them scale.
If you want to be successful at anything, be it work, school, hobbies, relationships, or general self-improvement, you need to set effective goals. These goals serve as the launching pad for every action you take and the criteria you use to measure success.
As a freelancer, goals:
- Give you clarity on what you want to achieve and the direction you want your business to go.
- Ensure that you produce high-quality work that meets the needs of your clients.
- Help you improve your knowledge and hone your industry-related skills.
- Give you a sense of confidence, empowerment, and motivation (when you achieve them).
- Help you measure your success and growth.
Personal SWOT Framework: How Do You Write A SWOT Analysis For Yourself?
During the 1960s and 1970s, Albert Humphrey, an American business and management consultant, worked at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where he produced SOFT analysis, the team planning method we now know as SWOT analysis.
In 1982, Heinz Weihrich, Professor of Management at the University of San Francisco, took the SWOT analysis concept a step further by devising a 2×2 matrix for situational analysis. Weihrich placed Strengths and Weaknesses at the top of the matrix, indicating internal factors that organizations have control over. At the bottom row, he put Opportunities and Threats, which are external threats that organizations have limited to no control over.
In its simplest form, the SWOT matrix is a color-coded, four-quadrant table that looks like this:
Before using this quadrant, first set a goal. Do you want to close more deals or take on more responsibility with existing clients? Are you looking to transition into a full-time role or scale your business? Do you want to transition to a new industry?
Once you specify your goal, you can start filling out each quadrant. As you do, try to see yourself from the perspective of a colleague and be objective about your answers to the questions you’ll need to ask yourself (and others).
Your strengths are traits and skills that set you apart from other people in your industry. For example, if you’re an agency consultant who has started and scaled an agency in the past, your real-life experience sets you apart from other agency consultants who only have a business degree. If you’ve won awards or gotten any certifications in your field, those are strengths, too.
To figure out your strengths, ask yourself these questions:
- In what areas do I naturally excel?
- What are my natural-born gifts/talents?
- What knowledge-based skills have I worked to develop? Think in terms of languages, digital skills, and other technical skills.
- What soft skills do I have? Think about skills like teamwork, reliability, and leadership.
- What advantages do I have that others don’t (e.g., skills, education, certifications, training, internships, or connections)?
- What personal resources do I have at my disposal?
- What do other people, especially my clients, see as my strengths?
- What achievements am I most proud of?
- What are my biggest successes? And what characteristics do I possess that made those achievements possible?
- What positive personality traits do I have? Think: friendly, honest, patient, diplomatic, empathetic, etc.
If you’re having trouble figuring out your strengths, turn to a colleague, friend, or family member you trust to help you out.
Weaknesses refer to the areas you need to improve on so they won’t hinder your career growth. As you list your weaknesses, keep in mind that the purpose of this part of the SWOT analysis isn’t to make you feel bad or insecure about yourself. Instead, it’s to help you figure out what you should focus on to improve your personal growth.
The SWOT analysis is for your eyes only, so you can be as honest and open as you want without fear of judgment. Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out what your weaknesses are:
- What are my negative work habits? Think: lateness, disorganization, and affected by stress.
- What aspects of my education and/or skills training are weak?
- What tasks do I avoid because I’m not confident in my ability to do them?
- What do people, especially my clients, think are my weaknesses?
- Do I have any personality traits that can cause career setbacks (for example, public speaking)?
- What personal traits do I think could use some improvement?
In the Opportunities section of the SWOT table, you’ll fill in the external factors you can leverage to move ahead in your business. “Moving ahead” in freelancing can mean different things, including finding new clients, raising your rates, offering new services, or pivoting to a new industry altogether.
Depending on your goal for the SWOT analysis, you can find opportunities in different places. For example, if your goal is to look for new clients, you can look at opportunities on social media or the connections you already have.
Here are some questions to help you find some opportunities:
- What is the current state of my economy?
- What new technology in my industry do I have to learn?
- Is my industry growing? If yes, how can leverage the current market to grow my business?
- Is there a full-time role at the company I work at that I could fill?
- Are there any services my clients need? How can I create an opportunity by offering a solution?
- Are there services my competitors are failing to offer? How can I take advantage of this situation?
- Is there a new project your client is starting that you can contribute to?
- What new opportunities will I have if I improve a few of my weaknesses?
- Do I know anyone who works with a dream client of mine? Can they introduce me to the client or hiring manager?
- What potential jobs or clients will I have access to if I get a specific certification compared to another?
- What kinds of courses am I good at?
- Do I know anyone who has taken a course or degree I am interested in taking? Can they tell me about their experience?
Threats are external factors that can reduce your chances of achieving your goals. When thinking of threats, consider factors that keep you from moving forward, as well as the people in your immediate environment that amplify their effects. For example, if you found it hard to save money in college, it might be difficult for you to grow financially, no matter how much money you make.
Here are some questions to help you discover your threats:
- What obstacles do I currently face at work?
- Are any other freelancers in my industry competing with me for projects or jobs for which I am best suited?
- Is the demand for my services changing?
- Could any of my weaknesses lead to threats, if other freelancers take advantage of them?
- Does emerging technology threaten my position?
- Is there anyone in my life who exacerbates or encourages my weaknesses?
- What is the biggest external hindrance to my goals?
Using Your Personal SWOT Analysis: What Do Your Answers Mean?
Once you’ve filled out all four quadrants of the SWOT table, you need to follow through on the information in the table. A SWOT analysis is not a laundry list—each element identified can be utilized to help you scale your business.
This process, however, will require you to closely regard your SWOT analysis and ask yourself even more questions that’ll help you make good decisions:
1. Consider your natural priorities
- Am I making the most of my strengths?
- Are there any ‘quick wins’ I can implement right away?
- What can I start (or stop) doing immediately that’ll make a positive change?
- Are there any weaknesses or character deficits I need to fix before taking any major actions?
2. Match your strengths with your opportunities
- What opportunities can I take advantage of as I am right now (with my existing strengths)?
- How will I prioritize the right opportunities for me, in terms of getting quick wins and playing the long game?
3. Gauge how your weaknesses relate to your threats
- Does the weakness quadrant highlight any vulnerabilities I wasn’t aware of?
- Do my weaknesses outweigh my strengths?
- Which of my weaknesses can become threats to my growth as a freelancer?
- Is there any weakness I can turn into an opportunity?
Reflecting on your SWOT analysis should give you a thorough understanding of where you’re at and how you can progress. Sometimes, you may come up with more questions than answers. That’s okay—simply take a break and revisit your analysis later. You may need to run through loops several times before the path you should take becomes clear.
Personal Swot Analysis Example
Let’s take a look at a SWOT analysis in action.
Take Jennifer, as an example. Jennifer is a freelance writer who’s having trouble landing high-quality B2B SaaS clients and scaling her business. She’s trying to figure out why this is happening, the opportunities that are open to her, and how she can take advantage of them.
Here’s her SWOT analysis:
After outlining her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, Jennifer realized that to scale her business, there were three viable options to take:
- Since she knew how to build links and her clients were looking for outreach specialists, she could start offering link-building services along with her writing services.
- She doesn’t know much about building content strategies, but she could take free courses on the topic and offer content strategy services to clients who need them.
- She could ask her connections to introduce her to potential clients.
Now, it’s up to Jennifer to decide what path to take first. She could get her connections to introduce her to clients who may need her writing services. With time, she could add link-building/outreach to her other services.
As she serves clients in the capacity of a writer and link builder, she could spend a few hours each day learning how to build content strategies. And when she’s mastered that, she could offer it along with writing and link-building. This way, Jennifer won’t only get more clients, but she’ll be able to charge more for her services, thus scaling her freelance business.
SWOT Goals vs. SMART Goal-Setting Techniques
Just like we saw in the example above, a SWOT analysis doesn’t end when you fill out all four quadrants. Instead, you’ll need to use the information in the SWOT table to set goals that’ll take your freelance business to the next level. The SMART goal-setting technique ensures that you’re setting the right goals for your business.
SMART goals aren’t the same as a SWOT analysis. On one hand, SMART, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, ensures that you’re setting strategic and sensible goals for your business. On the flip side, a SWOT analysis is a deep dive into the factors that determine the current state of your business and show you what to do to scale your business’ future. These two, however, work in tandem.
Once you’re done with your SWOT analysis, here’s how to implement the SMART goal-setting technique:
For a goal to be effective, it needs to be specific. You need to clearly define what you want to accomplish and the steps you’ll need to take to accomplish it.
Taking Jennifer’s business into account, her specific goal could be: “I want to get more B2B SaaS clients for my business by pitching prospects who may be interested in my writing and link-building services.”
Once you’ve specified a goal, quantifying it makes it easier to track your progress and know when you’ve achieved that goal.
Jennifer wants to get more B2B SaaS clients for her business—but just how many clients does she need? She also wants to pitch prospects, but where exactly will she find these prospects?
To make Jennifer’s goal more impactful, she should include measurable benchmarks like this: “My goal is to get three new B2B SaaS clients for my writing and link-building business by finding and pitching prospects who are interested in my services on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and email.”
Next, ask yourself: “Is this goal something I can actually accomplish?”
Lofty goals are enthralling: They give you a high that can propel you to work hard. But at the same time, you may not always accomplish these goals, which can make you feel as though all the time you spent working is wasted. To prevent undue disappointment, ensure that your goals are things you can actually accomplish.
Jennifer realizes that she’s a one-woman team, and finding and pitching clients through three platforms might mean biting off more than she can chew. So she decides to focus only on LinkedIn and email for now.
The goal now becomes: “To get three new B2B SaaS clients for my writing and link-building business by finding and pitching prospects who are interested in my services via LinkedIn and email.”
Here, think about the “why” of your goal. Why are you setting this goal and how does it contribute to the growth of your freelance business?
Jennifer knows that LinkedIn is a dedicated social platform for business professionals, so there’s a huge likelihood that her ideal clients are active on the platform. This makes it easier for her to find them, strike up a conversation, and get hired. With this in mind, she adds more context to her goal.
Here’s what it looks like now: “My goal is to get three new B2B SaaS clients for my writing and link-building business by finding and pitching prospects who are interested in my services via LinkedIn and email. Since LinkedIn is a platform for business professionals, it’ll be easier to find my ideal clients, send them emails, and get hired.”
To properly measure your progress, you need to set a date by which you want to achieve your goal. When will you start making moves to accomplish your objectives? What time do you realistically expect to achieve your goals?
SMART goals should have time-related parameters, so you’ll know to stay within a specified time frame.
When Jennifer adds dates or timeframes, her SMART goal is complete. Here’s what that looks like: “My goal is to get three new B2B SaaS clients for my writing and link-building business by the end of Q3 of 2023. I’ll do this by finding and pitching prospects who are interested in my services via LinkedIn and email, which will start in July 2023. Because LinkedIn is a platform for business professionals, it’ll be easier to find my ideal clients, send them emails, and get hired.”
Knowing how to set SMART goals from the information in your SWOT table gives you clarity on what you want to achieve. This approach eliminates guesswork, aids time management, and helps you track progress and identify missed milestones.
Use Your SWOT Analysis to Set SMART Goals for Your Freelance Business
Using a SWOT analysis as a freelancer can help you make informed decisions for your business based on your internal capabilities and external environment. These decisions, or goals, provide the clarity and motivation you need to make a positive change and grow your freelance business. These goals also give you a way to evaluate your progress and ensure that you’re on the right track.
If you’re serious about scaling your freelance business, Millo is where you should be. The team at Millo publishes articles, guides, podcast episodes, and even courses that give you insider information on how to take your business to the next level.
In fact, Millo has a newsletter called “Freelance Fire”, with over 100,000 subscribers—all freelancers just like you—where the team shares tips and advice on how to build a freelance business that gives you autonomy, flexibility, freedom, and fulfillment.
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