The Art Biz ep. 74: Creating a Monthly Report for Your Art Business

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.

 Ego is not the only light 36 x 48 x 2 inches mixed media art on board chance and ego © Caroline Rufo
©Caroline Rufo, Ego is Not the Only Light. Mixed media on board, 36 x 48 x 2 inches.

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.

Listen Now

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.

Winter Solstice oil and acrylic on canvas painting sky series blue cream 16 x 30 inches© Danielle Hatherley
©Danielle Hatherley, Winter Solstice. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 16 x 30 inches.

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.

Alyson's Monthly Reports | Art Biz Success
Big fat notebook of my monthly business reports from 2004 to 2012.

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.

< While the accompanying download is no longer available, everything you need to conduct a thorough business report is below. >

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.

we begin again to live a myth acrylic and ink on panel painting with truth printed 24 x 49 inches © John Long
©John Long, we begin again to live a myth. Acrylic and ink on panel, 24 x 48 inches.

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

Upon such introspection beach scene oil painting on canvas of adult standing child seated playing in sand 48 x 36 inches © Judy Steffens
©Judy Steffens, Upon Such Introspection. Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 x 1.5 inches.

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?

Live art events attended (online or in person):
Number of students in your classes and workshops:
Exhibitions entered or proposed, or opportunities applied for:
Licensing contracts added:

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:
Open rate:
Click-through rate:

Get Unstuck Paper sculpture of black woman from magazine 11 x 7.75 x .25 inches © Erika Norris
©Erika Norris, Get Unstuck. Paper-based sculpture, 11 x 7.75 x .25 inches.

Press releases written:
Articles, posts, or podcasts featuring your art:
Blog posts or articles written:

Online sales venues added:
Videos created:

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.


Episode 32 — Success is Complicated

Episode 71 — Goals for Artists

Episode 18 — Transform Your Creative Ideas into Multiple Income Streams with Helen Hiebert

Seaside still life Orr's island Maine 8 x 12 inches © Beth Whitney watercolor painting beach
©Beth Whitney, Seaside Still Life. Watercolor on paper, 8 x 12 inches.

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.

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.

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16 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 74: Creating a Monthly Report for Your Art Business”

  1. My progress tracking has several components – a paper journal, a monthly digital “tasks done” list, and several spreadsheets.
    These are the numbers I track:
    – Income and profit
    – Inquiries and sales
    – Newsletter subscribers
    – Social media followers
    – Website traffic and conversions
    – Newsletter open rates and clicks
    I don’t track and compare YTD, that’s a good idea.

    Other than that, I review my journal and notes to gauge how much work I got done, what part was neglected, what remained unfinished etc. I write notes on what I can improve in my approach to work the following month. I’m constantly tweaking the “how” of getting things done.

  2. This is such helpful information. It’s one thing to refine our skills as an artist but taking on the business aspect is like starting a second career. I will use this and other insights from your blog to be a better artist in business. Thank you too Alyson, for sharing my artwork today. 🙂

  3. Self taught and new in the art scene trying to make a career, I devour every article I can! And I absolutely love all your articles. It’s not easy constantly working on not just my technique but also the business side of it. It’s definitely a full time job and then some. I have seen some growth in my paintings and business in the past year! I will be adding this monthly list to my regular business routine. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Allyson this is great, I just really beginning to get serious about actually receiving cash for my art. Self taught and have a long way to go but I did create a Facebook page just for my art and even have fans. I will use this as a base to see how far I grow.

  5. Good advice, and a good reminder for me to keep up on the business side of things. I’m one to get caught up in creating, and stocking galleries, and forget to pay attention to how sales or spending are going and then spend too much time back-tracking to get caught up. I’ll work on implementing these as they apply to what I do and hope for the best, thanks … love your tips and advice! All my best, Aaron

  6. Thanks that helps me a lot 🙂 I have one question: I’m often asking myself:” I’m ready enough to contact this gallery ?” which means: ” I’m good enough !!!”
    So when do I know that I’m at a certain level to contact big galleries?

    1. Agnes: Not sure what you mean by “big”, but this is a process I teach in my Art Biz Accelerator. I would say if you have to ask, you are not ready. And that networking will get you further than cold contact.

  7. Thanks for this, Alyson! I especially like that you included things like cool connections along with the numbers side of things. Keeping track of everything more consistently is one of my goals this year.

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