Whether you’ve started an ecommerce business or you’re trying to make money as a freelance consultant, all online entrepreneurs have the same vision: create a web presence, grow that web presence, attract paying customers, and continue to scale as you make more money. Obviously, these people share a common goal—making money and becoming successful—but goals should be more than a vague vision of the distant future.
If you want to be successful, you need to have better, more powerful goals driving you—but what does it take to make a “good” goal, and why do so many entrepreneurs fail at this process?
Top Goal Mistakes
These are some of the most common goal-based mistakes online entrepreneurs make:
- Having a vague or unmeasurable goal. You’ve likely heard of the SMART criteria for goals, which is a helpful acronym that describes the “ideal” goal. The problem is, the adjectives represented by the letters in the acronym seem to change based on who’s reciting them. Still, almost every variation implies that goals need to be both specific and measurable. Having a goal that’s vague (like “become successful” or “get rich”) provides you with no concrete direction, and having a goal that can’t be measured means you’ll never know for sure if you’ve reached it or not.
- Failing to set milestones or break goals down. As millionaire Tim Sykes illustrates, it’s not enough to have one distant goal staring at you—you need to break that goal down into smaller, more short-term, achievable milestones. Otherwise, you won’t see yourself making progress, and you won’t have steps to move forward with. For example, if you set a goal of achieving a million dollars in revenue, you’ll find yourself hard-pressed to concretely measure progress. If you break that goal down into smaller revenue targets and actionable steps to get there, you’ll be able to make more iterative, visible progress.
- Not documenting your goals. Are your goals just in your head? That means they might change over time gradually, without your notice, or they may end up disappearing entirely. Studies show that people who write down their goals, or document them in some way, are more likely to achieve them; this may be a correlational effect (documenting a goal implies a degree of seriousness about it), but either way, writing your goal down can help you maintain focus.
- Failing to hold yourself accountable to your goals. What’s going to happen if you don’t achieve your goal? Part of the goal-making process should involve establishing a degree of accountability. You don’t necessarily have to punish yourself if you don’t achieve your goal, but you should be forced to acknowledge that failure. This will help you stay motivated and incentivize your achievements. This could be as simple as announcing your goal to your close friends and family members, or higher stakes, such as making a promise to an investor.
- Being too ambitious. It’s good to set challenging goals, but if you create a goal that’s practically unachievable, you’ll end up frustrating yourself, and you may not make as much progress as you otherwise could. Being too ambitious when setting your goals can work against you, so try to keep your visions grounded in reality.
- Not challenging yourself enough. On the other side of the fence, it’s possible you aren’t challenging yourself enough with your goals. As James Clear illustrates, if you set a goal and achieve it easily, your motivation could disappear. Your goals shouldn’t be simple or easy to achieve, so your job is to find a goal that strikes a balance between challenge and achievability.
- Neglecting to set a timeline. All your goals should be tied to some kind of timeline. Yes, you’re hoping to get 10,000 monthly visitors for your site, but by when? You want three strong clients, but what’s your deadline for getting them? Without a timeline, you’ll be meandering—possibly toward your goal, but with no clear steps and no motivation to complete those steps in a set amount of time. Strive to create long-term goals that unfold over a series of months, or even years, but also short-term goals that become relevant in days or weeks.
Why Goals Matter in the First Place
You may see these mistakes and wonder why goal setting is so important to begin with. Goals provide you with direction; they hold you accountable and give you a measuring stick for success. Without them, you could wander aimlessly, possibly doing good things or improving yourself, but with no framework and no end points.
As you continue or begin your journey as an online entrepreneur, recheck your goals and how they’re affecting your performance—a better goal structure could be exactly what you need to see better results.