Recently I attended a small-business conference in D.C. where one of the speakers, who was an accountant, addressed the topic of legitimizing one’s business via documentation so that one can build up a record of one’s business and its growth. This sounded like an awesome idea and possibly a tool I could use to help build my business if created and used properly. I’ve been doing a lot of business reading and have gotten into the habit off goal making and working to make more solid plans on attaining my business goals. After hearing this gentlemen’s speech I came back to the studio and put together what I call my ‘Business Growth’ binder and have started to use it to establish my goals for the year, each month, and each week, as well as monitoring my progression towards those goals and how my business actually grows each week/month.
I decided to implement this monitoring system because first and foremost this type of self-analysis ensures that I am always moving towards my goals. It allows me to check my heading and then if I have strayed off course a bit it allows me to see the course correction I need to make. This has also helped me to break down my larger yearly goals into smaller more manageable pieces and put them within a time frame; making the bigger picture clearer. Also, in John Maxwell’s book ‘How Successful People Think’ he talked about the importance of setting aside a consistent time to think and mediate on one’s plans, business, and issues that the business may be facing. This growth-binder has helped to give a defined context to the time I spend critically thinking about what I need to do to grow my business/life and has helped to also direct my thoughts by showing me the areas I need to work on developing. This practice of documenting my progression and plans also works to keep my dream before my eyes constantly (it’s written on every page in one form or another) lest I forget it and helps to keep that fire of desire burning. By keeping this binder it also forces me to write down not only my goals, but also my plans to reach them and writing down one’s goals, dreams, and plans always helps to give them more substance and life.
The creation of this business binder also stems from my desire to operate my freelance illustration more as a business vs. merely a hobby. So at the time I was also seeking out various ways other artists had monitored (on paper) their own businesses. As for how I use it in practice, inside I created these sheets:
-Yearly Goal Sheet (1st page so that I see it and remind myself of these every time I open the binder)
-A couple sheets of motivational notes and business tips I thought were important enough to review that I have collected from conferences and reading
-Monthly Goals Sheet (I write down the goals for each month of the year)
-Monthly Progression Sheet (record what I actually accomplished for any given month)
-Weekly Goal Sheets (To do list for the weeks of each month to reach that month’s goals)
-Weekly Progression Sheet (record what I actually accomplished over the week)
-Monthly review sheet: a list of questions I created from a couple different illustration business books that help me to analyze my illustration business and really see where I may need to focus more in the future
I now set aside quiet alone time to think (critically) and reflect on my business actions and plans. I sit down for a couple hours on the first of each month to look at the past month and plan for the new month and then sit down for an hour or so every Sunday to do the same on a week by week basis. So far this practice has really helped to keep me productive and has begun to also serve as a motivational tool because I can see my progression towards my dreams more clearly now. I think this practice of documentation will work well for me because I am academically minded by nature and I have always created to do lists (a practice I inherited from my grandfather). The binder format just helped to organize them and put them within the constant context of my goals so that they could be monitored and structured together. (It’s all about the big picture.)
So I do highly recommend some form of written progression-monitoring whether that be in a more loose form like a journal or a more structured system like a binder of forms. Either way it is a means to an end, a tool I am using to build my business and to be more productive by showing myself where I need to focus my efforts so that I can reach my dreams. I just started really using this system a couple weeks ago and will be sure to report back some time in the future after I have had a chance to really use it and see how it grows and/or changes in the months to come.
I hope you all have a great week and will see you again next week with some new art!