Let’s start by making one thing really clear: there’s nothing wrong with working towards an income increase, nor is there anything wrong with using income inclines as a marker of your success as a freelance or self-employed creative.
That said, context matters, and so too does your very personal definition of success. Sure, to some, a successful business does look like one that’s generating significant income. But, to others, success may look more like location independence or time freedom. Ultimately, success is completely subjective – and there’s more than one way to measure it.
6 alternative measures of success (that aren’t income)
Let’s not pretend that finances and being properly remunerated for your work aren’t important. However, instead of measuring success by income, which lacks context, you could look specifically at the profit (which is income minus taxes, operating costs and expenses).
Ask yourself – does your profit feel fair for your work output? And, does it offer you the quality of life you want? If you answered yes to either, regardless of the actual number, congrats! If you answered no – that’s OK. Take a look at your running costs and expenses – are there any areas you can reign in? And, also, take a look at your current fees. Is it time you increased your pricing? If so, sign up to my mailing list for 7 weeks of free guidance on what you can include in your fee as a freelance or self-employed creative.
2. Client and customer satisfaction
Are you receiving great feedback? Sparkling reviews? Repeat orders? That’s a sure-fire sign that you’re doing something right.
A key element of running a sustainable creative business is building relationships – building trust, and laying a foundation that encourages clients and customers to not only return to you and your business again and again, but also to recommend your products or services to their peers, too.
So, if repeat business and client/customer satisfaction is important to you, consider referring to that as a measure of success.
3. Increased sales, commissions, or enquiries
Monitoring sales, commissions, or enquiries as a method of measuring progress could make sense for you if your goal is to increase awareness of your business and generate more sales, too.
Be mindful, though, that – as with every method of measuring success – tracking sales numbers, for example, doesn’t provide full context. You may choose to raise your prices and accept fewer commissions, for example, in which case this won’t be a reliable method of tracking progress.
Monitoring enquiries, however, can be helpful for providing insights into your marketing strategy and success – and tells you that there’s interest in what you have to offer.
For many, a main motivator for going freelance or becoming self-employed in the first place is the opportunity to work more flexibly and gain more time freedom.
If freedom is a core value of yours, reflect on how content you are with how you spend your time, how often you work, and how satisfied you are with your work/life balance. Feeling happy with your time distribution and fulfilled by your personal life is a great indicator that your business is a success.
5. Ever-increasing skills and knowledge
Despite what some Insta-famous “coaches” may have you believe, running a creative business isn’t solely about ticking off financial milestones and material goals. It’s also about gaining knowledge, expanding on your skillset, and continuously learning about your industry and being a business owner.
If you’re constantly challenging yourself, growing, and evolving, then you’re on track. Consider treating yourself to a journal (I like Mal Paper’s Daily Goal Setter Planner) to help you track your lessons and learnings.
6. Personal satisfaction
If loving what you do for work isn’t important to you – that’s totally OK. However, I’d hazard a guess that most people who get into creative careers do so because they’re passionate about their craft, and genuinely enjoy creating (it can be a rough industry to be in if you don’t).
That said, if you find your work genuinely fulfilling or rewarding, consider your biz a resounding success.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out these 7 ways to set boundaries as a self-employed or freelance creative.