We’re obsessed with how many likes we get on social media posts or how many views our videos received.
We are consumed by “getting” more followers and subscribers.
But do numbers equal success?
No, of course not. But they are an easy way to measure what is working well and what might need a little tweaking.
This month in the Art Biz Success community, we're looking into measuring success.
What do you measure?
How do you measure?
Do the numbers tell a story?
Most importantly, you have to know what success means to you before you can discern any insights in the measuring step. Numbers will never be helpful until there is meaning behind them.
I've said before that I believe success is measured by the progress you make, not by comparing yourself to others. Check out The Art Biz Podcast episodes #32 (Success Is Complicated) and #71 (Goals for Artists) for more about that.
This new episode gives you a framework.
Music by Wildermiss
Being Authentic in Your Business
One thing is for sure. You'll never feel successful if you aren't happy in the work you're doing and true to yourself—no matter what the numbers say. (1:26)
By way of example, a few years back I was making more money than I ever imagined I could. I had a fantastic coach, whom I learned a great deal from and still love and respect. But I was implementing HER formula for success. After awhile, it started feeling icky and I stopped enjoying the work.
I didn't feel successful because the formula for success was handed to me by someone else. I had lost my way. In order to get back on track, I had to blow it all up.
I decided to stop doing what had become unpalatable. I can't enjoy every aspect of my business, just as you can’t, but I felt I had to enjoy 90% of it. And I had to regain pride in my work—pride I had lost.
Why in the world have your own business if you don't enjoy it?! It's So. Much. Work. Might as well go get a job somewhere else because it will be a heckuva lot easier than running a profitable art business.
While my gross income is down from when it was at its peak, so are my expenses. A LOT. I enjoy my business more because I can be more creative. No more formulas unless I'm the one devising them.
Measuring success for me still involves numbers. Business, by its very definition, assumes you aim for profit, and you have to keep an eye on numbers to stay in business and to grow your business. (3:37)
Numbers can be defeating. I won't lie. My ego took a bit of a blow when my revenue dropped so much, but they (my ego and the revenue) have rebounded. This is gratifying because I'm writing my own playbook for success.
Monthly Report for Your Art Business
While it’s difficult to confront low numbers in any category, I insist that it’s absolutely necessary when you want to grow—as a person and as a business.
For many years, I had a simple Word document that I used to record my numbers. I made a bunch of copies and kept them in a 3-ring binder. At the beginning of a new month, I completed the form with the previous month’s results.
My business grew by 25-40% every year, and I attribute much of that growth to this tracking procedure.
I didn’t do it when I felt like it. I committed to tracking the numbers every month, and you can easily implement a version of it for your art business.
Capturing your numbers forces you to be realistic about where you are instead of ignoring any weak areas. It also challenges you to make up for any lost ground.
If you have an unsatisfactory number in one area, you can do something about it rather than accepting it.
The point of the process is to make it work for you, not to adopt a template from someone else’s art business that has nothing to do with your own. Here are some ideas to get you started on your monthly business report.
Download this next section in this handy PDF – – >
Art Business Big Picture
In the first part of your report, you want to take the temperature. Consider things that might not be measurable, but are worth noting in order to track business growth.
What was really good about the month?
What do you consider your biggest accomplishments for the month?
What didn’t go so well?
What did you learn?
Next, go straight to the money.
Money in Your Art Business
What were your gross sales for the month?
What were the sources of income that contributed to those gross sales? To give you an idea of what I mean, check out episode 18 with Helen Hiebert, where we have a terrific conversation about multiple income sources.
Year-to-date income and then a comparison of it to the previous year’s YTD income.
What were your total expenses? And then what is your net income (gross income minus expenses)?
Now … try to make sense of these numbers. Do you have any insights about this month's income? Do you see any trends or notice anything to be concerned about? (5:38)
What is on your plate for next month that will help bring in revenue?
Connections Made in Your Art Business
Cool connections you made:
Did you meet any curators, gallerists, consultants, designers, arts administrators, artists, or art collectors? (6:53)Personal contact you made with individuals on your list:
Who was especially nice or helpful?
Who left multiple comments on your blog or shared a few of your Facebook posts?
Who sent you a complimentary letter or email?
Who helped you hang your show or offered a resource for you?
Looking at the above, what insights do you have?
What did you enjoy most about making these connections?
Promoting Your Art
Number of followers on <social media site of choice>:
Top posts on that platform and any insights:
Repeat as often as necessary for each social platform you use.
Number of people on your email list:
Emails sent to your list:
Press releases written:
Articles, posts, or podcasts featuring your art:
Blog posts or articles written:
Online sales venues added:
Most visited page on your website:
What insights do you have when you look at the above numbers? Remember, you’re trying to find meaning. (8:30)
What part of promoting your art did you enjoy most this past month?
This should get you started on your monthly report for tracking business growth.
MentionedEpisode 32 — Success is Complicated Episode 71 — Goals for Artists Episode 18 — Transform Your Creative Ideas into Multiple Income Streams with Helen Hiebert
Alyson Stanfield Quotes
“Numbers will never be helpful until there is meaning behind them.”
“Success is measured by the progress you make, not by comparing yourself to others.”
“You'll never feel successful if you aren't happy in the work you're doing and true to yourself—no matter what the numbers say.”
“The point of this process is to make it work for you.”
On the Art Biz Podcast in February 2021
Here are three interviews that elaborate on the measuring success theme. (10:22)
In episode #75 I talk with Simonne Roy about her quiet gallery. Last year, like so many of us, Simonne's biggest money-maker was canceled. Rather than giving in to the defeat, she devised a way to make up the income, reward her local audience, and enjoy the process. It was a big success. The numbers don't lie.
Romy Owens is my guest for episode #76. Romy gave herself a big challenge to make and gift a large-scale sculpture and community gathering spot to her hometown of Enid, Oklahoma. She raised more than $250,000.
For episode #77, I talk with Trudy Rice. Trudy has been a long-time client who is brilliant with the business side of her art. We will discuss an email delivery service she uses that has dramatically increased her followers, sales, and subscribers. Of course she knows this because she's tracking.
Watch for those throughout the month. And please tell me how you measure success or how you track your numbers.
Music by Wildermiss
This post was originally published on February 25, 2016. It has been updated and supplemented with a podcast episode, with original comments left intact.