3 things to measure when you’re just starting out

If you’re trying to grow your business you need to have some measurements to direct your focus.

You don’t need advanced degrees in accounting, mathematics, or computer science to monitor your business. But you do need to start somewhere.

Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

I’m trying to lose weight. A common theme for many of us.

In the past I’ve subscribed to the whole notion of not weighing myself and focusing on how I feel, and look. The idea is if you feel great and like the way you look the numbers on the scale don’t matter.

It’s not a bad idea, until you go months and then years feeling tired and thinking you look like you could lose some weight.

When I don’t measure my weight I keep slipping up. Getting heavy and feeling gross.

When I do measure my weight, and record it, the goal is on my mind all day. I’m skipping that extra cookie because I know I’ll be recording my weight tomorrow and I want it to be lower than today.

It’s a simple notion, but one I feel is incredibly powerful for growing your business and not just shrinking your waist.

I think that creatives are hesitant to measure many aspects of their business because it starts to feel regimented. Like me and my weight, they want to focus on their work and how they feel about it more than trying to monitor hard numbers.

One of the big lures of working for yourself is no more corporate mandated status reports. You’re the boss, you don’t need to write a weekly update to share with the team.

But you do.

If you own a business you need to record your income so you can file your taxes. Sure, you could roll it up quarterly so you only needed to think about it four times a year, but that won’t help you grow.

After I released my first book I looked at the KDP sales reports every day. It was frustrating to see that 0 over and over again. So I stopped and decided I’d start tracking sales when I had some.

Unfortunately I also stopped researching “how to sell a book” and lost focus on my goal of making a living as an author.

This memory got me to thinking about what I would measure if I was just starting out. I came up with the following three things.

  1. Hours worked — I currently measure my daily word count as well as my hours worked. I can imagine that for painters, photographers, or crafters it’s tough to measure how much you did on a given day. But you can measure hours. And I don’t count daydreaming hours. When you sit down to work set a timer and focus for the duration of the timer. Then record how much time you spent working.
  2. Sales per day — Even if it’s zero, record your sales every day. Let it serve as a reminder of what you’re working towards and incentive to learn about selling. When it becomes non-zero and you are trying other tactics you’ll be in the habit of tracking data so it will be easier to identify what works and what doesn’t.
  3. Expenses — A successful business earns more than it spends. If you don’t know how much you spend every day you won’t know how much you need to earn to break even. You might think you aren’t spending any money every day, but you’re probably wrong. If you have a website and pay for web hosting, an email management platform or any other annual expenses (rent, PO Box, licenses, permits etc.) take the number and divide it by 365. This is how much you spend every day. It’s another way tp light a fire under your butt. you already committed to the daily expense, better go out and earn some money to cover it.

You don’t need elaborate systems to track this data. A simple spread sheet with four columns — date, hours, sales, expense — is a place to start.

Commit to filling it in at a specific time every day and soon it will become a habit. Once you have the habit of measuring parts of your business you’ll be able to come up with new metrics to track.

When you’re consistently measuring your business you’ll be able to identify areas to work on that will drive growth.

If you’re a blogger, photographer, vlogger, Etsy seller, Instagram personality, etc. Or if you want to be any of these things, I think we can work together to grow and improve out business.

Every Tuesday I post something aimed at Clever people who are trying to grow a creative business. On Thursdays I post for people who are ready to start a creative business and are looking for some guidance and support.

So subscribe to the Clever Journal to follow along.

Originally published at clevercooperative.com on September 11, 2018.