Tracking Your Numbers for Career Progress

When you are ready to be proactive instead of reactive in your art career, look at the naked truth about where you are now.

You improve your chances for big business growth when you track your numbers, which isn’t always a pleasant task.

Cathleen Savage watercolor of seashells

©Cathleen Savage, Seashells 3. Watercolor, 21 x 27 inches. Used with permission.

While it’s difficult to confront low numbers in any category, I insist that it’s absolutely necessary when you want to expand.

Your Monthly Business Checkup

For many years at Art Biz Coach, I had a simple Word document that I used to record my numbers. I made a bunch of copies and kept them in a notebook. 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 as a result! I contribute much of that growth to this tracking procedure.

I didn’t do it when I felt like it. I committed to doing it every month.

I called it my Monthly Business Checkup, 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. Use the category examples below as a starting point and adjust to your needs.

Big Picture

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?

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?

Jamie Lee Hoffer encaustic representing The Gathering

©2015 Jamie Lee Hoffer, The Gathering. Encaustic, oil stick, India ink, alcohol ink, 48 x 60 inches. Used with permission.

Money for the Month

Income for month:

Breakdown (sources) of income:

Income YTD (Year to Date):

Income YTD compared to previous year’s income YTD:
This is always a good number to watch: How are you doing this year compared to the same time last year? Accounting software like QuickBooks can pull up reports with a click of the mouse.

Major expenses:

Exhibitions entered or opportunities sought:
These might include the exhibition proposals you submitted or residencies and grants you applied for. For non-exhibiting artists, this category might be used for licensing contracts and online sales venues.

Live art events attended:
This doesn’t have to be limited to openings, but can include any of your art outings. You always learn something and have the opportunity to meet people when you get out.

Videos created:

Blog posts or articles written:

Connections for the Month

Cool connections made while out and about:
Did you meet any curators, gallerists, arts administrators, artists, or art collectors?

Personal contact you made with individuals on your list:
Your best results will come about through the personal touch rather than mass postings. How are you reaching out to the people who have been supportive of you?

Regarding the categories below, I believe that quantity is never as important as quality. However, it’s hard to measure quality and easier to aim for quantity, especially in the beginning. You’ve got to start somewhere!

Number of people on email list:

Description of emails sent to list:

Nancy Angelini Crawford image of keeping an eye on London

©Nancy Angelini Crawford, Keeping an Eye on London. Oil, 16 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Number of fans on Facebook:

Important connections added to Facebook friends:

Post that got the most shares on Facebook:

  • Day of week it was posted:
  • Time of day it was posted:

Number of connections on LinkedIn:

Important connections added to LinkedIn:

Number of followers on Instagram:

Post that got the most comments or likes on Instagram:

  • Day of week it was posted:
  • Time of day it was posted:

Number of followers on Twitter:

Post that got the most comments or retweets on Twitter:

  • Day of week it was posted:
  • Time of day it was posted:

Number of followers on YouTube:

Video that received the most views:

Number of followers on Pinterest:

Number of pins or names of new boards added to Pinterest:

Number of students in online classes:

Number of students in live classes and workshops:

Your Turn

How do you track your progress?

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15 comments to Tracking Your Numbers for Career Progress

  • 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.

  • Jeannie Rose

    This is fantastic advice. I can see how this really helps to focus on productivity and priorities.

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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!

  • Karen Palmer

    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.

  • 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

  • Agnès Robnin

    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?

    • 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.

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