It took me a while to learn how to look at my business from the mindset of a CEO, rather than an artisan at her craft. When I finally found this perspective, I started making real money. Seriously. People say that and I used to think they were just trying to sound profound, but it’s true. When you take on the role of a business owner, you see things you ignored before and make decisions informed by both the emotional, passionate side of it as well as the logical side – which always makes for better decisions.
But you’re running a business and your head is spinning with all the things you’re supposed to do. How do you know what’s “thinking like a business owner” and what’s just you, in the thick of it, desperately trying to make money?
That’s what prompted me to write this post, and hopefully future posts as well (if my own CEO side doesn’t fail me). I don’t want to just tell you to look at your business from an aerial view. What the H does that mean?! I want to give you particular, step by step actions to take and guide you as much as I possibly can.
So today, I’m writing about an exercise that feels ridiculous but gives you the background knowledge you HAVE TO HAVE in order to operate like a CEO (and not let your artist side get pushed away either!).
What is a Monthly Review?
It’s a moment to reflect on what you’ve done in a month, what worked and what didn’t, and make some plans for the future with this knowledge at your back.
It’s pretty hard to do a monthly review if you don’t know what you were trying to accomplish that month. Without a goal (or multiple goals), you’re just looking at a bunch of numbers. They mean nothing. So it doesn’t matter if your month is almost over or if you feel like you’re “late” in setting the goal, go ahead and set one right now so you have something to review at the end of the month.
Good goals for this type of project are specific and tangible – so the easiest way to ensure your goal will make sense in your monthly review is to pick a goal with a number: 10 new email subscribers, 50 new Facebook Likes, $500 dollars in revenue, etc. Your goal should be something you can see yourself accomplishing, even if it’s scary, but not something you would definitely achieve without even working toward it. So your goal isn’t “make a C or better in art class on my report card” because of course you’re going to rock that class without even trying! Your goal should push you a little.
If you don’t want to be lost trying to assess whether you achieved your goals, you should have ways to track basic numbers. I suggest installing Google Analytics to track the traffic to your site, using your email marketing provider (or setting up a goal within Google Analytics) to track your email signups, and using your bank account’s online banking option to track your sales. If you are getting fancy, you might also need accounting software to track which types of art sold the most (landscapes or portraiture, watercolor or pastels, originals or prints, etc.) or other analytical tools. Just make sure that you have something for every sort of goal you’ve written down.
Of course, you want to take action on those goals. This is part of your business practice, part of operating like a CEO. You want to do things throughout each week that will take you closer to your goal. It helps to make a list of ideas when you set your goal. For instance, if my goal were “100 new email subscribers”, I might list out some ways to get new email subscribers:
– hold a contest on social media to win a free print
– ask the galleries carrying my work to include one of my business cards when they wrap up the piece
– ask ArtHound to feature my work
– pitch Home & Garden magazine
– put my business cards on the bulletin boards at local hot spots for my target market
– teach an art class at the local art supply store
And more, more, more ideas! List as many as you can think of and add to the list whenever a new idea pops in your head. That makes implementation easier, because you can just pick something on the list and make it happen, rather than fretting over how you might get those next 20 subscribers.
When the month ends, you want to do the actual review. Look over the important numbers and ask yourself questions to determine how you’re doing in your business.
– Did you achieve Goal A?
– Did you achieve Goal B?
– What actions were most helpful, directly and by the numbers, in achieving this goal?
– How much money came in?
– How much money did you spend?
– What was your net (the difference between income and expenses)?
– Do you have any in-process sales? How much could they bring in?
– Where did most of your website traffic come from?
– Where did most of your email signups come from?
– Were there any areas you put effort into that did not bear fruit?
– What day made the most money? Was there anything happening that caused that success?
– What has felt wonderful this month?
– What has felt icky?
– What feelings do you need to feel the most next month?
– What changes are pulling at you to be made?
– What are you most proud of this month?
– Is there anything that didn’t work out, but you’re going to keep at it because it matters that much to you?
– What goals can you set that will help you feel how you want to feel next month?
– What actions can you take to reach those goals?
– What actions can you take to make the changes happen that you feel need to be made?
– What can you do again that worked really well this past month?
– What’s on your “No List” because you put effort into it, and it didn’t work out?
– Do you have a revenue goal?
– Break down how many sales need to happen each week to hit your revenue goal.
– Break down your other goals into smaller benchmarks as well.
Write all of this down and keep it so you can reflect next month on whether things are going better or worse than the previous month. I like to keep all 12 months so I can do a yearly review and look back on all the previous months, seeing areas for improvement and celebrating wins.
My subscribers also get a copy of my Monthly Artist Planner for tracking during the month so some of the work is done before you sit down for the Monthly Review. To get a copy, along with a bunch of other great resources you can download if they interest you, just sign up here.
Putting It Behind You
While I’m not inclined to do it, I know a lot of artists who find some comfort and enjoyment in creating small rituals around finishing up their Review. Their intention is usually to leave behind the negative emotions of the month and come at the new month with a readiness and even eagerness. Ideas for this include:
– writing all the negative things down and then burning the paper
– saying a prayer to lift away these past experiences and pain
– meditating and clearing your mind of everything so you can start fresh
– crying in the bathtub with a carton of ice cream, letting the wallowing dim the bad feelings
– writing down all the good things that happened and celebrating so you don’t dwell on the bad
– creating. and airing your feelings through your creative process
– writing a letter to yourself to work through the negative thoughts
– talking through the negative thoughts aloud
– going for a run (or other intense exercise)
– gathering together other business-owning pals (artists or not) to share your pain and laugh about it together
Your first monthly review usually takes a little over an hour to do, but once you’ve gotten used to them they can be quick as a lick – 30 minutes, tops. So you definitely have time to sit down and be CEO for one day out of the month to ensure the other 29-ish days go impeccably well. You’ll find this practice gives you all the background information you need to know about your art business in order to make decisions like whether or not to do an art fair, if all that time spent on Twitter is worth it, and if you’re close enough to start planning when to quit your day job. Get all that power and stronger revenue to boot!