Measurements for Freelancers - Part 1: Finding What Matters

You’re wondering how you should set up the metrics for your freelancing/consulting solo business.

Some of these metrics are on your list. Are they helpful?

  • Website visitors, conversions rate for your contact form.
  • Revenues, Expenses, Profits
  • Number of clients
  • Ad click-through rate
  • Number of followers, newsletter subscribers
  • Number of retweets, likes, mentions

I could add some more, like the number of new clients through referrals, the satisfaction rate of new clients, the number of new leads per month, your effective hourly rate…

Personally, I keep an eye on profits. I check out the number of newsletter subscribers. I notice retweets, likes and mentions. None of my websites have trackers for now.

But I don’t track any of those things with any rigor, because to me most of these miss the important part. And the important part is hard to measure.

Missing the Important Part

Rodney Mullen, the famous Freestyle Skateboarder recalls his rise to fame in this video, how he won the big championships in his category, and how it came a point where he felt he was missing something important. Rodney realized that after winning championships and fame, he was now stuck defending his title. He was no longer creating.

He had climbed the metrics, but he had missed the important part.

Jerry Seinfeld found the trick to avoid that trap. The popular stand-up comic was once asked why he kept working despite the money, the cars, and the fame. His answer: “I fell in love with the work”. Every day he sets aside some time to write jokes. He doesn’t have to write jokes during that time, but he can’t do anything else.

For Rodney and Jerry, the important part is about a habit of creating, and they’re more interested in tracking whether they keep creating, measuring their inputs.

What’s Important is Not Easily Measurable

Clayton Christensen, the same who popularized the Jobs-to-be-done theory, wrote a book called How Will You Measure Your Life. In it, he recalls noticing a key similarity between the big corporations that fail after rising to the top, and people whose life fell apart after apparently doing all the right things.

For Clayton, the parallel is clear: neither the big corporation nor the person set out to fail. Both took the right decision at mostly every turn, they optimized the dials of their future with care and reason.

The trap they fell into: they only did what they could measure. They didn’t invest where there was no apparent benefit. The corporation reduced risks, measured what they could and optimized the metrics. The person invested where things had a measurable pay-off: career, fun, money, recognition. Until the big corporation found out there was a small upstart swallowing their market. Until the person cheated on his spouse, strained his relationships.

And so his advice was clear: focus on things you can’t easily measure, and that you know are important.

I took that advice to heart for my life, and for my freelancing business.

A Few Things I Find Important

For my freelance business, I’m not tracking results much (besides profits), but I am taking these inputs very seriously:

  • Am I keeping my commitments? Am I saying no to things I shouldn’t commit to?
  • Have I been writing an article every week?
  • Am I creating work that makes me scared, that triggers what Steven Pressfield in the War of Art calls “The Resistance”?
  • Am I creating value for my clients? Am I doing the hard work of discovering the real value for my clients, at the cost of not working with them if I can’t discover the value?. Am I delivering on my clients’ job-to-be-done?
  • Am I true to my values? Am I working with people that don’t express my counter-values?
  • Am I working for clients that I’d recommend to others?
  • Am I rewriting my thoughts to see things as they really are?

So how does that look like day-to-day? When do I track these things? How did I transition to have these guide rails implemented in my work?

I’ll share more about that in the next article.

Stay Sharp!


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