How to Set Realistic Goals as a Small Business Owner

realistic goal setting

Let’s be honest, most of us, even as business owners, either don’t set goals for our businesses or don’t achieve the goals we’re focusing on.

I’m not pointing the finger at you, it’s not your fault. We didn’t learn about effective goal setting in school and while living in a chaotic world, it can be hard to focus on something like goal setting when you have bills to pay and mouths to feed. 

It’s easy to overlook goal setting because it doesn’t come across as essential for your business to function, but if you want your business to grow (and who doesn’t), goal setting can play a powerful role in doing that.

What is Goal Setting?

Goal setting. 

Some of us love it, some of us have never done it, and some of us feel setting goals is like an uphill battle (that’s me). But to be honest, most of us don’t know what goal setting actually is.

Goal setting is the development of an action plan. Essentially, you’re building an actionable strategy for you to reach your business and personal goals. 

For example, let’s say you want to gain 2 clients for your business – that would be your goal. Now, goal setting is determining that you want to gain 2 clients and mapping out how you’re going to gain those clients.

Now, do you need to set goals? No, you don’t. But goal setting certainly helps your business because you’re making the intentional decision to work towards something.

You know what goal setting is, but how do you create realistic goals for yourself? Now, the fun part. Okay, it’s not going to be that fun, but once you start seeing the results, you’ll fall in love with goal setting.

Step #1: Is your business a side hustle or full-time business?

Once you answer this question, you’ll have the foundation on which you’ll start setting goals for your business. Is your business something you’re investing all your time in or is it a side hustle?

You may want to keep your side hustle a side hustle, which is completely fine. But your goals will be different in comparison to someone who has a full-time business or wants their side hustle to become one. 

While we are talking about goal setting for your business, you may want to think about setting goals for your personal life as well, because the two are intertwined. By understanding your business and personal goals, you’ll be able to create clear boundaries and set realistic goals for yourself.

Step #2: Where are you now?

To set goals for yourself, you need to know where you are at this moment with your business. For this post, you’ll want to grab a piece of paper or open a word doc on your computer.

At the top of the page, you’ll want to write down: 

For example, let’s say I have a dog walking business. At the moment, I have 12 clients I work with 5 days per week. I invest 11 hours per week into your business, and I make $3600 per month. 

Now personally, I work out 3 times a week, and I see my friends every weekend. So that’s where I’m at with both my business and personal life at this moment.

So all that information will be at the top of your page.

Step #3: Look at the goal

Now, at the bottom of the page, you want to write down your goals.

You can make your goals for the end of the year, or quarterly, or monthly. To help you create the right goals for your business, use SMART goals.

SMART goals stand for:

Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific. If it isn’t, you won’t be able to truly focus on it. 

A specific goal can look something like this: I want to gain 2 clients by the end of the month/quarter/year. I want to gain 500 Instagram followers by the end of the month/quarter/year.

Measurable: Your goal should be measurable. A measurable goal should answer these questions: How much? How many? How will I know I accomplished my goal?

Achievable: Your goal should be realistic in order to achieve it.

Ask yourself: How will I accomplish this goal? How realistic is this goal based on constraints like time and finances?

Relevant: Does this goal matter to you? Does it align with your overall vision?

Ask yourself: Does it seem worthwhile? Does it match my vision? Is it the right time?

Time-bound: every goal needs a deadline to work towards. Ask yourself: when should this goal be completed? What can I do today? In six weeks? In six months?

Using the SMART goals method can help you create goals that you’ll achieve in the given time frame. 

For your goals, using the SMART goal method, you’ll want to include:

For this example, I’m going to stick with annual goals. For the end of the year, I would like to have 14 clients, make $4000 per month, work a maximum of 14 hours per week.

Personally, I would like to read a book every month, work out 5 times per week, and see my family on a weekly basis. 

These goals may look easy to set, but they’re not. You want to find a balance between setting realistic goals for yourself, and also giving yourself a little challenge. So, you need to ask yourself if those goals are achievable.

Now you have “where you are now” at the top of the sheet, and your goals for the year or every quarter at the bottom. You know your starting point and the end, now it’s time to put the steps in place on how you’re going to achieve them. 

Step #4 Work backwards from your goal

In the middle of your page, whether you’re using a piece of paper or a word doc, draw out a monthly or quarterly calendar to help you visualize how you’re going to achieve those goals. 

In the middle of your page, whether you’re using a piece of paper or a word doc,  draw out a monthly or quarterly calendar to help you visualize how you’re going to achieve those goals. 

So, when do I want to gain another client for my dog-walking business? This is where I need to be realistic. The month of May might be a great month to gain a client because it’s before the summer holiday and people will need someone to walk their dogs. Maybe I’ll add another client in November before the Christmas holidays. 

Now I have an idea of when I will gain these two clients and can work towards it.

You can either get a goal planner or use a journal or create a calendar on excel or google Calendar to take the rough plan of your goals from your sheet and break them down even further. 

With your list of goals, number them from 1 to whatever. 

As I said, my goals are:

  1. To gain 2 clients
  2. Increase my income to $4000 per month
  3. Work a maximum of 14 hours per week
  4. See my family on a weekly basis
  5. Work out five times per week

Every week, you should write down how you’re going to accomplish your goals.

For example, next week, I’m going to invite my family over for dinner – that helps me work towards seeing my family weekly.

To gain a new client by May, this week, I’ll place some ads on Facebook and at local dog parks about my dog walking services. The following week, I’ll offer a discounted dog walking service for clients who recommend me. 

You can make it even more detailed and break it down by day. So, for example, to make a Facebook ad, on Monday I will write the ad and post it on Facebook. On Tuesday, I’ll create a flyer and make prints. On Wednesday, I’ll walk around to several dog parks and post my flyers.

With these steps in place, I’ll eventually be able to reach my goals. 

To achieve your goals, you should be working on them daily and have in mind the steps you’re taking to accomplish them.  

It’s important to note that what you didn’t see in this video are goals like, I want to make a billion dollars or become famous. Those goals are not realistic to put on yourself. 

Also, there was no goal on here that said “I want to be happier.” Set factual goals for yourself, goals that are measurable, not emotionally based. The odds are, if you’re able to complete your goals, you will make more money or you will feel happier. 

Over to You

This type of goal setting is intense, but it works. The first time you do this, it’ll take some time and you may procrastinate, but once you see it working, you’ll continue to use this method.

All you need to do is take the first step.


The information provided on this page is for information, educational, and/or editorial purposes only. It is not intended to indicate any affiliation between Tailor Brands and any other brand or logo identified on this page.

Natasha Ivanovic is a Vancouver-born creative writer that started her writing career as a freelancer while studying for her Master’s in Investigative Psychology. On the weekends, she writes short stories for her blog, TheLonelySerb, and cuddles with her bulldog, Bob.