When someone asks me if I do other forms of photography besides interiors and still life, I'd always respond, seemingly joking that I shoot interiors because I don't like people. It may not look like it, but I am such an introvert. In large groups, I am a mess and no more than a wallflower Unless I get into a situation that goes against my vision, I can really stand for my ideas. (split personality?). Really, as an introvert, I could never have imagined that I would be someone that inspires and encourages people to start with interior photography and give them the directions to build and grow their business and brand.

But it turns out that I love it as long as I can keep my groups small, really small. (5 students, maximum!) Probably not the best way to grow rich but I love the interaction, the personal, coaching, approach That is my strength.

What does this have to do with goal setting? Well, everything! My business has a clear vision, guidelines, and personal values: By knowing them, I can align my goals with those guidelines.

That does not mean that my business model cannot change; actually, it is always evolving. Otherwise, I will not grow, and without growth, I'd probably get bored. And boredom is killing, right?

I have created a workbook you can download to start your planning the New Year; you can fill it out on your computer or print it.

Business goals and planning workbook

Step 1: Write down your vision and core values.

The first step towards proper planning is to write down your vision and core values, preferably literally, with a pen and paper.

To give you a few ideas, here are mine:

My current Vision

  • I help real estate agents to market their properties in the best possible way by creating realistic and honest photography that sells houses, reflects their brand and attract clients to choose the realtor's business to sell their home.
  • I help people with a personal and personalized approach.
  • I want to bring the “Real” back in real estate photography. No phony blue skies, no HDR, no flash, just natural light and therefore:
  • I help others grow their business by adding interior photography with natural light to their services, teaching them how to change their mindset from being a photographer to being an entrepreneur that offers photography as a product and creating a strong brand with a unique voice.
  • I teach courses to help my students intentionally, that doesn't end when they finish the course. My students keep access to me because it is most likely that they need help when they start implementing what they have learned.

My core values

I got a list with core values, and after a lot of deliberation I ended up with:

  • Curiosity
  • Knowledge
  • Challenge
  • Honesty
  • Strength
  • Innovation

But now that I look at it like it, I can bring my values back to two: Honesty and Innovation. Why? Because for Innovation you need: curiosity, strength, challenge, and knowledge. Ultimately, it is all about sincerity and progress. Those are the two values I can align all my decisions along.

Your vision and core values

So before you start planning the next year: Think about your vision, your guidelines, and your values. In short: What is important to you?

Write them down in a notebook, planner, in Evernote or print it out and hang it on the wall. Make sure you always keep them on hand.

Step 2: Your long-term vision

I know, it is quite hard to see where you will be in one year, let alone in five years. But if you do not know where you want to be in the long term as an entrepreneur, it is difficult to set goals to grow, because you have no apparent motive to achieve anything. Again, let's take a look at my long-term vision to give you some ideas. I have set my long-term vision in 8 years, with two teens in high school right now, I have to consider them with the plans my husband, and I have for our future.

  • My husband and I live in Italy and organize retreats for photographers to grow their photography business with interior, lifestyle and still life photography.
  • I create interior photography, still life and lifestyle photography for magazines and brands.
  • I create online photography and business courses with the same personal approach and attention as my off-line courses to intentionally help others.

Those goals are not easy, I don't even know if I will ever be able to reach all three of them, but at least I know where I am heading. When goals are easy you don't need to work towards them, you can just do it right now.

What is your long-term vision?

A good goal needs to challenge you, even scare the hell out of you (like moving to Italy in 8 years!).

Step 3: What to do to achieve your long-term vision

As you have noticed, my long-term goals are not aligned with my current vision. Right now; I aim to help real estate agents, my marketing is aligned with that view. To achieve my goals in 8 years, I need to adapt my marketing and my photography. Besides, there are undoubtedly skills that I need to develop further. That's fine. Business is not static, but my guidelines and values are, that is who I am and why people choose me!

The in-person courses I teach are for a Dutch speaking audience. It is hard to move to Italy and organize retreats in the Tuscany hills and still reach that Dutch audience in-person. I need to change my current courses to an online program but with the same approach as my off-line courses.

And to be honest: At this point, I have no idea of how to make that possible.

But I do know that I need to write, create video's and translate my books!

With the conversion of my courses from the domain nicoletgroen.com to Picture & Space, making this website bilingual and the accreditation of the Home Staging and Real Estate Photography course by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, I have already taken the first steps.

Where do you stand in about 5-10 years?

It is your turn: How will your life be different from in five to ten years? What will you have accomplished? Who are you serving? Where do you live? Do you have employees? How much revenue will you create? Write down your dreams even though it now might seem completely unfeasible. And remember: It must be something challenging! What steps should you take in the coming years to achieve your goals?

Step 4. Choose your primary goal for next year

To work towards your long-term vision, you need to choose one primary goal to work on during the next year that will help you to achieve your dreams. Your long-term vision is still too far out, too abstract. If you are going to focus on the long-term, you probably get stuck, and in the meantime, you have a company to run and earn money.

The primary goal gives you something right now that will direct your actions, something to focus.

How do you know if it is the right goal?

It has to be aligned with your long-term vision. It has to take a lot of actions to fall into place to reach it. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to reach it within six months and it certainly must excite you enough to take action.

What is my Primary Goal?

While it is tempting to directly pursue one of my long-term goals and focus on magazines, it is not the best choice at this stage. The most important way to replace my current source of income in the future is to give more courses. Setting up my online program is my primary goal.

I can't stop working for the majority of my real estate clients all of a sudden. My realtors give me enough assignments to generate a decent basic income for my family and me. And not unimportant: even after 11 I still have fun working in the field! But if I really want to go to Tuscany, my online program will eventually have to replace that revenue.

So my primary goal for next years: 25 enrollments in my online course.

What is your primary goal?

Make it a SMART goal; Specific, measurable, acceptable, realistic and time-phased. You need to take a lot of steps to achieve it, but it can be done.

Step 5: Set your quarterly goals

Now that you have set your primary goal for the next 12 months, you need to break it down into quarterly goals. I have broken my primary goals in several quarterly goals:

By the end of Q1

  • I have finished writing my new book
  • I have written half of the course content
  • It has become customary to write two blogs per month

Towards the end of Q2

  • Are my four books translated into English and they are at the printer.
  • I send 1 newsletter per month
  • I start the pre-registration for the online course.

By the end of Q3

  • The course content is completed
  • I have given two beta courses
  • Are the points that have emerged from the beta courses implemented

By the end of Q4

  • I have 2000 subscribers on my mailing list
  • I have 25 applications for my online program
  • I wrote 26 blogs

Of course, I will continue to do Home Staging, real estate photography, and classes. I plan these courses, but, except for the occasional promotion, preparation, reviewing homework assignments, sending documents and printing certificates, I do not have the need to create separate goals: It is the “normal” work in my company. With my quarterly goals, I work on the growth of my company.

What are your quarterly goals?

See where I'm going? Can you break down your primary goal into doable quarterly goals too? I think so!

Download your free Business Goals and Planning Workbook to set your goals and reach them!Click To Tweet

Step 6: Divide your quarterly goals into monthly projects

Now we can have the quarterly goals set up, we can start planning monthly projects. What do you have to do to achieve those goals? Let' take as an example my first quarterly goal:

By the end of Q1

  • I have finished writing my new book
  • I have written half of the course content
  • It has become customary to write two blogs per month

Projects that I have to carry out to finish my book

  • Determine topics and layout
  • Rewrite part of my first book toward colleagues
  • Do research for the other parts
  • Writing texts
  • Search for imagery
  • Design the book

To finish half of the course content I have to:

  • Choose the platform in which I want to give the course
  • Determine the outline
  • Translate all existing texts into English
  • Create video intros for the first four modules

To write two blogs per month, it is necessary to:

  • Choose 26 topics for the various categories
  • Create a well-organized content calendar
  • Write 6 texts
  • Translate 6 texts into English
  • Search for images
  • Create graphics
  • Publish in WordPress
  • Schedule the blogs on social media
  • Check Google Analytics on a weekly basis and keep track of the numbers in a spreadsheet.

Determine what Actions are and what are Standards

If you read through the above, you will notice many things I have to do once: All the steps in the first two projects. Of course, if the class is running, the content must remain up-to-date, but it will never be routine. These points are all Actions.

To achieve my third goal, I have two Actions: Choose 26 topics to write this year and create a well-organized content calendar. Those are also one-off tasks, at least, for this year.

All other points are recurring actions: Standards It is important to determine for each project what one-off actions are and which are the things that you will continue to do. You have to take these Standards into account during the rest of the year because they will become part of your routine.

Convert your quarter goals to actions and standards

Based on the above example, can you convert your quarter goals into actions and decide which ones are actions and standards?

Step 7: What do you need to achieve your primary goal?

Now we are looking at the resources you already have where you have to invest in. Most of my things are readily available: My blog platform is all set and bilingual. I use the Social Warfare plugin so that people can easily share my posts. To plan my social media, I use Missinglettrfor LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, Tailwind for Pinterest and Later for Instagram. Newsletters are sent with MailerLite.

For research, I use the Airstory Chrome extension. Writing English texts? I can't live without Grammarly. For graphic design I use Adobe Illustrator and Indesign; I have the full Creative Cloud subscription.

What am I missing: A webinar platform, software to record instruction videos. The necessary knowledge to set up an online community for my students, I have to invest in a course. And finally: I need time! I need to decide not to take up any graphic design or web design for clients anymore and to no longer accept copy-writing assignments. After all, that work is no longer in line with my long-term vision. It will reduce my revenue the coming year, but to eventually grow it is essential to free up time and to say no against the things that won't help me reach my goals.

What do you already have at home and what else do you need?

What do you already have? What do you already have? Do you need to create systems, automate processes, create an email list, join an active local network? Do you, like me, have to say no to certain types of clients, or is it perhaps time to hire staff? Do you lack the necessary knowledge?

Write down everything you already have, often it is more than you think. And then make a list of things you need to invest in.

Step 8. Where do you set your goals and how do you keep track of them?

Although I use BusyCal in combination with BusyContacts, Apple's native Calendar and Contacts on steroids and Notion for projects, I missed something to slow down, think and write. Two years ago I bought a paper planner for the first time since the start of my company. Last year I discovered the Goal Digger planner by MiGoals, an Australian company that fortunately ships worldwide. In this planner, I can not just schedule my daily appointments, but also all my goals, my weekly reflections, and ideas.

Goal Digger Planner

The Goal Digger planner is not the cheapest planner but I love it, and so does my husband who was very wary about using a paper planner. If you purchase it via this link, you get a 20% discount, and it costs about € 42/ $ 45, including shipping. Do not be alarmed by the dollar prices, the value of the Australian dollar is much lower than the US dollar. I get nothing extra for this except for a 20% discount on my next order, but I have already received it.

Every weekend, usually on Saturday morning while enjoying a latte, a bowl of fruit and a croissant at my favorite café Local and I review the past week and I take my planner and schedule all my tasks and projects for the coming week. Both my daily work and long-term goals. Obviously, I need that quiet time to look ahead.

Step 9. Celebrate your achievements!

Very important: Celebrate every goal you have achieved, not just your primary goal but also the quarter goals and every significant action you finish. Make a list of things that reward you for your hard work, that really does not have to be substantial. A latte macchiato in your favorite café, eating out, a new book, finally going to the cinema again. You can be proud of yourself and have to take the time to realize so made a step forward towards your long-term vision!

Keep in mind that not everything works.

I wish completing projects was as easy as taking an afternoon to jot down everything on a piece of paper. I have to confess something: My goals for last year were almost the same as the ones above! For the first 3 months, I was well on track until the IAHSP Europe conference threw a spanner in the works. Well, at least… I decided to move my planning forward because I, entirely unexpected, became inspired to apply for the IAHSP accreditation of my Dutch course and I had to adjust my plans to reach that goal.

What did I achieve for my long-term vision:

  • The Picture & Space website is now bilingual and set up Woo Commerce.
  • My real estate photography has been expanded with the Home Staging module
  • My in-person Home Staging and Real Estate Photography class is accredited by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals!

Life happens

Unfortunately, many people have a tendency, me too, not to finish their goals once they make a mistake. Let's face it: How many people start the new year with resolutions? And many of those resolutions hold until the end of January? Very very little. Why? They made a mistake to eat an entire bar of chocolate or couldn't resist smoking a cigarette after day 5. What happens: People focus on their mistakes and, feel unsuccessful: See: I can't do it, I am a failure so I'll better stop the whole thing. But, when you learn to focus on those five days that it went well and accept you once took the wrong turn and, think: Wow, I've been doing it for five days, so I showed that I can do it. Yesterday things did not go well, but today I'm not starting over: I move on!

Life happens! By setting clear goals, you give yourself a grip. But don't be too strict to yourself. Sometimes things happen, everybody makes mistakes. But as long as you focus on the things that went well, you will be able to move forward after that small set back.

Want to really tackle your Goals?

Last year I took the Goal Setting & Planning to Grow your Standout Business class by Tara Gentile at CreativeLive. Going through that class, you will see many similarities with my method. Tara goes deeper into it and leads you through the whole process. It really helped me a lot to get more clarity about where I want to go as an entrepreneur and as a person and how to achieve it.

Do not forget to download your workbook:

This blog post is an updated version of the guest post I wrote last for Live Snap Love.

Several products on this page contain affiliate links. All the affiliate links are from products I use myself and therefore can wholeheartedly recommend.  By using the links on this page, I get a small percentage of the purchase price so I can continue to write valuable content. It doesn’t cost you anything. Actually, in some cases, it gives you a discount. If you don’t like to use these links, that’s fine! You can buy your gear anywhere you like, no hard feelings.

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