3 Simple Metrics You Need to Track

3 Simple Metrics You Need to Track

“What gets measured gets done.” 

Someone, somewhere, at some time, said this. Or a version of this. I’m not quite sure.

Either way, this is a good quote, especially for creatives.

For most creatives, like me, the notion of measuring aspects of your work…you know, like metrics, analytics, data, etc.—is extremely uninspiring.  I can think of a zillion other things I’d rather do than track data.

However, it is necessary. If you want to grow a healthy, thriving creative business or career, you need to be tracking certain aspects of your work. If not, you’re essentially on a journey without a map or any reference points to guide your next step.

The good news is that there’s only a handful of metrics you need to be tracking diligently. Sure, there are other important bits of data to keep your eye on, but these three measures are the most critical for us creatives.


The three metrics you need to be tracking are:


  1. Sales-Generating Activities

This metric is all about generating new business. 

Ask yourself: “What are the key things I am doing regularly to earn new clients and book more work?”

This could be asking for referrals, making connections on LinkedIn, updating your portfolio, posting new material on social media, even cold calling, knocking on doors, or posting on job boards. Whatever action you need to take to drum up more work is a sales-generating activity.

How will you measure this? This is a mostly manual measure. I encourage you to keep a simple spreadsheet where you tally up your daily sales generating activities. Set yourself a daily or weekly goal, and try to hit your goal. If you choose the right sales generating activities, and track them diligently, you should begin to book more business. If you have a CRM, you can likely track these activities using features of the platform.


  1. Your Time

This metric is about making sure the business you generate is profitable.

Ask yourself: “Is the amount of time I’m putting toward this work worth the cost my customer is paying?”

If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with time-tracking. I wrote a whole blog about it here, so check it out if you want to learn more about my obsession. In short, for creatives, your time is money. If you’re not tracking your time you will have no idea how profitable or unprofitable your business is. You will also have no idea if your pricing is right, if you’re leaving money on the table, or if you could be spending your time doing more valuable things.

How will you measure this? I recommend using a time-tracking app. I personally use Harvest, although there are plenty others. Find one that allows you to track different types of tasks, so you can get a holistic idea of where you’re spending your time.


  1. Customer Satisfaction

This metric is about ensuring you’re doing a good job.

Ask yourself: “Are my customers happy with their experience?”

A common business term is “net promoter score” – in other words, how likely are your customers to tell their friends and family about you?

If you do a killer job, people will be busting at the seams to tell others about their great experience. And if you do a terrible job, people will scream from the rooftops to warn others to avoid you like the plague.

You need to have an idea of your customer satisfaction, or net promoter score, to know if you’re on the right track. If your satisfaction is high, keep doing the same thing. If your satisfaction is low, then determine what needs to be fixed.

How will you measure this? Again, this is mostly manual. If you work closely with your clients, I would survey them – informally or formally – after you finish the job. Make it easy on them and just ask a few questions to gauge how happy or not happy they were. You can set up a simple online form, send them the link, and collect data that way. If you have a business where people can post online reviews, this is also a good metric to look at.

You may need to get creative, but your customer satisfaction is a critical measure you need to keep an eye on.


Although there are lots of other kinds of data you could be tracking, it’s important not to get overwhelmed and give up. Start small. Start with these three:

Track your sales-generating activities.

Track your time.

Track your customer satisfaction.

If you watch these three numbers, you’ll be well informed to continue growing an awesome creative business. You’ll have reference points on your journey to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

6 Reasons to Join a Peer Community

6 Reasons to Join a Peer Community

There are at least two times that my peer community saved my business.

In 2013, after leaving my job to start my creative business, I found myself hopelessly alone. After years of working with a team, under a boss, and for a company, I was suddenly working all by myself.

Although the freedom was thrilling at first, soon the loneliness became crippling. My business began to stagnate, because I was stagnant. I remember some days where I would sit in front of my computer and watch stupid YouTube videos for hours and hours, wasting time, neglecting my work, and feeling miserable.

Then, I joined a peer community group. I had heard about Atlanta’s Plywood People before…they were a local organization that supported start-ups with resources, events, mentorship and…community groups. I was told about a new group called “Layers” and decided to give it a shot. 

The local legend Jeff Shinabarger was our group leader. Around the table were 5 to 7 folks who ran small but growing businesses (some creative, some not). We met monthly at the original Plywood People office in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood. We ate chicken biscuits, drank coffee, and discussed our businesses. We worked on our business and we worked on ourselves. We grew and our businesses grew.

To be honest, I probably would have given up on being an entrepreneur if it hadn’t been for that group. That was the first time this community saved my business.


Now, the second time my peer community group saved my business was far more tactical.

After years of doing my business relatively the same way, Jeff suggested I try something different. “Have you ever thought about doing your sketching remotely, like through a computer screen?”

For context, my business The Sketch Effect draws at corporate events and meetings. Up until this point, we sketched on foam core or paper using markers while physically on-site at an event.

Jeff’s suggestion was to consider doing this sketching…virtually. Perhaps the day might come when people are meeting less together physically, and meeting together more virtually, over a platform like zoom.

What a great idea! I took this seed of an idea and ran with it.

Soon the term “RemoteNotes” was conjured up. My team and I began to innovate around this potential new product idea. We made investments…we bought our team iPads and Apple Pencils, we developed training around digital drawing, we began to play with live streaming our sketching, and we got familiar with Zoom and other virtual meeting software.

This was all in 2019. For more context, in 2019 we sketched for over 200 in-person client events, meetings and conferences…and perhaps only 2 “virtual” meetings.

Then, 2020 happened. And the rest is history.

COVID hit, the world went virtual overnight, in-person meetings and events ceased entirely…but our team was ready! The groundwork had already been laid. We had the team equipped with the tools and training and the subject-matter knowledge to go to market with our “brand new” virtual event sketching service.

“RemoteNotes” went from this novel, perhaps silly idea to being our biggest source of revenue in 2020, and the reason our business was able to survive such a disruptive and disastrous year.


In short, these are two times where my membership in my peer community group saved my business (although I’m sure there are many more).

To summarize, any creative who is doing their own thing—whether as a freelancer, solopreneur or entrepreneur—MUST get into some kind of peer community.

My financial investment in my Plywood Layers group wasn’t much, but the value was tremendous. Like I said, it saved my business.


When you join a peer community or community group, there are six huge payoffs:


  1. Relationships – working for yourself can be incredibly lonely. Even if you’re an introvert, you still need relationships. Humans are communal creatures, and without a tribe you will get lost in the wilderness. A peer group will immediately connect you with others, in similar situations, to foster that social and relational health. Friends and team-mates matter. You can only “go it alone” for so long. 
  1. Connectionswhen you’re in a group, you get connected not only to the immediate group, but to others the group members are connected to. This is called networking. Yeah, “networking” conjures up unpleasant images of sitting at a bar and having awkward small talk with strangers you don’t care about. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about real, authentic networks that will open doors to new clients, partners and collaborators. Networking is critical to growing a successful small business, and joining a peer group is a no-brainer way to make authentic networking happen organically.
  1. EncouragementWorking for yourself can also be incredibly discouraging at times. The bad days feel really Unpleasant news becomes the worst news. You need a team around you to encourage you and keep you grounded when things get hard. You also need a team around you to celebrate with you when things are awesome.
  1. AccountabilityWhen you’re in a group, the group will want to know if you’ve followed through on your commitments. They’ll make sure you’re keeping your word. They’ll push you and challenge you. All of this is critical to staying sharp, doing your work, and following through.
  1. New Ideas – Similar to my “RemoteNotes” story above, being in a peer community will force you to consider new ideas and fresh perspectives. It’s easy to get stuck doing things the same way and thinking the same thoughts about your work. A peer community will inject new thinking and fresh ideas into the mix…and it might just save your business.
  1. Mentorship – Finally, depending on the group, you will be exposed to amazing mentorship and coaching. Coaches aren’t just for athletes. Everyone needs a coach to help them grow and reach their full potential.


I couldn’t recommend peer community groups more. If you’re in the Atlanta area, definitely check out Plywood People and learn about their group options.

Wherever you are (unless it’s, say, the Falkland islands), there is probably a peer community group to plug into.

Do the research, make the investment, and join a group. Future you and your business will thank you.

Client Multiplication: 4 Steps to Turn One Customer into More

Client Multiplication: 4 Steps to Turn One Customer into More

For a creative freelancer or entrepreneur, landing your first client matters. That’s obvious. However, what matters more is whether you can land your second, third, or fourth client. Or whether you can re-book that first client.

Why? Three reasons:

Reason #1. Almost anyone can land their first client, customer or paying job. Someone, somewhere can eventually be convinced to give you money for your thing. It’s bound to happen.

Reason #2. Earning a second client, or repeat work from the first client, proves that the first client wasn’t just a fluke. A second, third or fourth paying customer shows that the first paying customer didn’t make a mistake. It shows that your product or service can go the distance.

Reason #3. The second or third client is what gets the snowball rolling. As you gain more clients, the momentum behind your business increases.

Here’s the deal: Your first client matters, but your second client matters more.


So, how do you go about turning one client into many clients? Here is a simple four-step process for after you’ve done the work:

  1. Ask your first client for referrals. Most customers know other people like them who might also be interested in your work. So, ask for their names!

You can either ask the first client for direct referrals (via simple email introduction) or indirect (by giving you some names or email addresses for you to follow-up on). Make it simple and ask for just two to five people who could benefit from your work.


  1. Publish what you did for your first client. Assuming the work is not confidential, tell as many people possible about what you did for the first client.

Put it on social media. Feature it in your portfolio. Tell others about the problem the client had and how you solved it. Be clear and concise. Brag on yourself, sure, but mostly tell about how you addressed your first client’s needs and made their world better.

Make the client seem like the hero of the story…you were just there to help get them to their happy ending. You might even consider asking the client for a testimonial, which brings us to step three…


  1. Ask your first client for a public endorsement. After you’ve published a “case study” of what you did for the first client, ask him or her to publicaly endorse it.

This could be as simple as asking them to re-share on their social media networks (LinkedIn is great for this), writing an online review, or doing a formal testimonial.

If you feel comfortable with this, you ask for testimonial before the case study and make it the focal point of the case study.


  1. Ask your first client for more Finally, the easiest way to turn one client into many clients is to simply ask the first client to work with you again.

One helpful way to ease into this is to begin by asking for feedback on how you did. If the feedback is positive, then this becomes a natural segue to suggest working together again.


Did you notice a theme with most of these steps? So much depends on your willingness to ask.

If you don’t ask, it probably won’t happen.

So, summon the courage, and ASK.


Finally, I’ll leave you with two crucial “pre-steps” to make all these steps actually work. In order for the “four steps to turn one customer into more customers” to be successful, you must, and I mean MUST, have already done these two things.

Must must must MUST!


  • Have done a killer job
  • Been likeable and friendly in the process


It’s as simple as that. 

Do amazing work.

Be pleasant to work with.

If you do these two things, your first client (and future clients) will bend over backwards to help you earn MORE clients.

The Three W’s of Promotional Clarity

The Three W’s of Promotional Clarity

One of the biggest issues creative freelancers or entrepreneurs face is that our services are often confusing. Way too confusing. 

Think about it: when you buy a sandwich, you know what you get. It’s meat (hopefully tasty meat) between two buns with some other stuff added in.

But what about when you hire a designer? Or an illustrator? Or a branding agency? Or an animator?

Creative goods and services can be confusing…but they shouldn’t be.

As storytelling and marketing guru Donald Miller says:

“If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

On other words, if what you’re selling is confusing to buyers, you lose those buyers. They’ll go with a product or service that is easier to understand.

Clarity sells. People buy things they understand. Creatives need to learn this.

There’s three easy ways to immediately add clarity to branding, promotional and marketing messaging. I call this “The Three W’s of Promotional Clarity”.


  1. Clearly define WHAT you’re offering. 

This is your “product”. Think about what your product is and try to pin it down with absolute clarity: 

  • Be specific and concise, yet thorough and complete. Don’t leave anything important out, but edit out anything that is unnecessary or confusing.
  • Consider creating “packages”—this is a great way to “box in” an intangible creative service.
  • Design a process to create and deliver the product. Make this process part of the product. Talk about it a lot. By giving your product a series of “steps”, it will make it more understandable to potential customers


  1. Clearly define WHO you’re offering it to.

This is your “target market.” You might think you’re selling to everyone, but you aren’t. You have an ideal buyer…the person who is yearning to throw cash at you for your work. So, define who they are:

  • Do they fit a certain demographic profile? Age, gender, life stage, etc.?
  • Are they individuals or businesses?
  • Where do they live and where will you find them?

The better you understand who your target buyer is, the better you’ll be able to craft marketing messages and deliver sales content that is relevant to them.

Which brings us to the third W…


  1. Clearly define WHY it makes their lives better.

This is your “value proposition”. For a quick primer on value props, check out my earlier blog post. To summarize, you need to define why your product or service makes your customers lives better. How it helps them win. How it helps them achieve their wildest hopes and dreams…just kidding, but seriously. How does your product:

  • Address a pain point or meet a need?
  • Increase their status among their peers? Or among their coworkers? Or to their potential customers?
  • Help them achieve their goals?


As Donald Miller says, “If you confuse, you’ll lose.” So, if you’re clear, you’ll win. 

Creatives—especially creatives—need to put forth the hard work to clarify their goods and services. Although it’s hard work, it’ll pay off in a big way.

Don’t sabotage your amazing creative work by hiding it under a shroud of confusion.

Take your clearly defined product to your clearly defined customers and tell them, clearly, why it’ll make their lives better.

Delegation for Dummies (Like Me)

Delegation for Dummies (Like Me)

It was nearly four years before I got someone to help me with invoicing. Four long years doing something that I was terrible at, didn’t enjoy, and wasn’t worth my time.

What a dummy I was!

I was “living the dream”…but spending way too much time doing things I didn’t like.

Perhaps you’ve heard this before:

“If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Sure, it sounds great on a Tweet and looks good on some motivational Instagram post, but this is a total lie.

Even people who do what they love for a living will tell you that sometimes it just feels like work. No matter what, you can’t avoid some of the “worky” stuff. There will always be taxes, deadlines to meet, problems that pop up, annoying clients or customers, forms to fill out, and more.

However, there are some very easy ways to cut down on the “worky” stuff, especially as it relates to creative jobs, careers and businesses.

One secret is delegation.

Now, delegation is just a fancy word for “asking someone else to help you with a task.” It’s no more complex than that.

Creatives need to begin thinking about delegation as soon as possible. Your time is your most precious and limited resource, and delegation is how you spend your time doing the things that matter most.

Delegation isn’t just something that CEOs and managers at big companies do.

Anyone can delegate.

As your creative business grows, you can begin to delegate to partners, collaborators, contractors, and eventually interns, part-time employees and finally full-time employees.

For most freelancers and solopreneurs, delegation usually means paying someone to do something. If you’re worried about the cost, think about it the opportunity cost:

“Is it worth my time to do [this thing I don’t like/am not good at/or anyone could do] when I could be doing [this thing I like/am awesome at/or uniquely I can do]?

Here’s a simple guide to delegation:

  • Can someone else do this task? If yes, consider delegating it.
  • Am I bad at this task? If yes, consider delegating it.
  • Do I hate doing this kind of task? If yes, consider delegating it.
  • Is this task going to take up too much time? If yes, consider delegating it.

How can you, as a creative, delegate effectively? Here are some examples:

  • Tax preparation – There are tons of people and companies who are willing and able to help you with your taxes.
  • Doing paperwork (like setting up a business entity, like an LLC) – There are plenty of accountants, websites and law firms who can do this for you in no time (and for cheaper than you might realize).
  • Creative work you’re not great at – For me, it’s video editing. Whenever we make a marketing or sales video for The Sketch Effect that uses live action footage and editing, I delegate this to a few trusted video editing partners.
  • Creative work that you’re good at…but might not be worth your time – If you’re an amazing animator, but are spending too much time doing sound editing, you might consider paying a friend to do it.


Here’s some real talk:

One of my biggest regrets was not delegating certain things sooner. 

I mentioned invoicing earlier, but there are countless of other things I held on to for far too long.

As soon as I delegated a few key parts of my creative business, the business began to explode in growth. Why? I was spending more of my time on what matters, and less of my time on things I wasn’t great at or passionate about.

Don’t be a dummy and wait too long to delegate. Delegate as soon as you reasonably can. Delegate something today.


What is one thing you can delegate to someone else today?