Happy Wednesday! I’m back from WordCamp Jacksonville which was a complete blast. As I continue to speak at different events and learn more about the industry, I’ve really found that I have grown so much in the past ten years. It seems like more of a “duh” moment but when you’re in your career, you don’t really look back to see how much you’ve actually grown. Eleven years ago, I didn’t know what PHP was. I hadn’t touched a brush pen. I could identify typefaces but only knew them as fonts. Listing the amount of knowledge I’ve learned from experience and personal studies as a self-taught designer and developer has allowed me to know where I stand among my peers and what I can offer my clients. Today, I want to talk more about tracking growth and progress and why it’s important to do so.
The Price of Experience
When I started out designing and developing as a freelancer years ago, I often had challenges charging people for work. I felt inexperienced. I didn’t see the value I was offering. I wanted to use the skills I was learning to create things. I was up all night constantly creating for what would be the equivalent of working for pennies. If someone sent me $100, I felt like I had really accomplished something. Spoiler alert: there are no instances in which I would take on any client projects in 2016 for $100.
With time, David and I really had to research pricing and understand the true value of what we were offering. We are offering countless hours of practice, self-learning, and creating results that we are doing every single day. The analogy of not questioning your electrician to wire lighting in your home really allowed us to value the experience we had. With understanding how we’ve built experience, we were able to raise our prices. As the years have come and go, we have raised our prices to match what we believe is the true value of the experience we offer our clients. We never question the rates we have and are confident in what we have to offer. Without really having a system in place to track growth and progress, that wouldn’t be possible.
Tracking Personal Growth
Being self-taught is valuable to us because we understand that we will never stop learning. I do honestly think had I gone the traditional route for this career, I would be overwhelmed at the amount of change that has happened in only a decade. Industry standards change rapidly, tools and systems evolve, and your learning curve has to be quick. Anyone who works in the tech space understands the time spent on keeping up allows you to place value on yourself. There are several ways that I am able to see how far I’ve progressed as a creative entrepreneur:
- Keeping an active portfolio. While I have a portfolio here and on Sevenality, I primarily use Dribbble to showcase my in-progress work. I love to look back at some of my old Dribbble shots and see how far I’ve come as designer and developer. If you are growing and progressing, seeing some of your old work can even being cringe-worthy. This is all for the best and it should encourage you to keep enhancing your skills.
- Having an updated resume. I know as entrepreneurs we really don’t think about having a resume. You’re not really applying for jobs so you don’t really use it. With the power of LinkedIn, I am able to keep my resume up-to-date on my latest skills, accomplishments, and projects. It’s easy to keep it updated. I don’t use LinkedIn daily but having an account as made me realize how much I’ve grown in my career. It also allows for others to weigh in on my growth which is an invaluable resource.
- Tracking your journey. This blog is where I track my journey. I am able to look back at posts from only a few years ago and see how much I’ve grown. Blogging is powerful to creatives in so many ways. You don’t have to make a public space such as this but having somewhere that allows you to utilize your skills regularly can be a huge help in personal development.
Tracking Business Growth
I really believe in knowing your personal career developments help you understand where your business is going. In the past, I always questioned our pricing and approach because I wasn’t confident. Now that I can use the methods above to physically see where I’ve come from, it allows me to have confidence in what value I have to our business. Putting in methods to track our business growth has now allowed us to see the value in our business. Your business also experiences growth even in the smallest ways. Here are some ways to really track the growth of your business both short-term and long-term.
- Using the Braid Creative chalkboard method. I first heard of this from the Being Boss podcast where Kathleen shared about the chalkboard method. I won’t go into too many details because you should really listen/read for yourself. The idea is just having a visual place where you can set goals and over-time fill those empty spaces with clients and projects. We started implementing this as a monthly visual for our business and it’s really helped us target our business’s growth. It has really worked out well for us in the first quarter of 2016 and we’ve seen incredible growth from our 2015 Q1 numbers.
- Forecasting Your Growth Projections. I am not an expert by no means but this is something I learned in high school economics. It’s so important to look back at your sales trends from previous quarters and years to project what direction your business is going in. Do you spend money more around a certain time of year? Do you have more clients in the spring than the fall? You should be going over the numbers at least once a month to know where you’re standing. Setting target goals for each quarter also allows you to active keep track on how things are going. I know the business side of owning a creative business isn’t always fun but it really helps you continue to grow.
- Track Milestones. You should have systems in place to know when big things have happened for your company. When were you founded? When did you get your first client? When did you make a certain amount? Just being mindful of those small things can help you see the growth in your business. Your business should always be evolving and over time, you can be able to look back see how far you’ve come.
How are you tracking your growth and process? Share any ideas you’re using below!