My Favorite Ways to Measure Success That Aren't Money-Focused

June 15, 2021

A photo of a mantle over a fireplace with bottles and a book on the mantle and a mirror on the wall

We all start our businesses to make money. Success, especially within capitalism, is based on money. However, in the more creative industries, there's a lot more to success than just hitting $10k months or 6-figures (whatever that means). Self-defined success means a lot to me. So many small business owners don't make a million dollars and feel less than. In reality, you can define what your business is to you and how it matters to the world around you.

Don't get me wrong. Money opens doors and opportunities. But most small business owners see a huge fluctuation in their income month to month for years. So how can you gauge success for yourself so you know if you're on the right path? Here are my 6 favorite ways to look at it!

01. Dream Projects

When you first start your business, you kinda say yes to just about any potential client. You're figuring out who you love to work with and gaining experience and income. For the first 3 years I was in business, I was in this phase. This is when a lot of business owners become burnt out and I was definitely there. I was working with so many people but no one was booking custom websites which was my favorite projects to create. Even though I wasn't hitting huge numbers, I realized I had reached my own level of success when I had booked 3 months in a row of only custom website projects. Once you're booking dream projects that make you excited to work in your business each day, you know that you're getting to do more of what you love.

02. Joy & Fulfillment

Even when you're doing what you love, there can be really hard days and moments. I was noticing because of how burnt out I was that I was so sad when I worked. Success felt so far away and I didn't know if I could be a business owner for the long haul. Have you ever felt like that? Once I was booking more aligned projects, I was finding myself excited to work on a Monday morning. I knew I had hit a new level of success when I was feeling excited in my business. But even bigger than that, I was feeling fuller as a person. I knew the impact I was having with my clients and how I was helping them pursue their dreams and goals.

03. Ideal Lifestyle

When we start our businesses, we have an ideal lifestyle in mind. For me, I wanted time freedom to make my own schedule and take off from work whenever I needed or wanted to. Being able to have balance and only work when I wanted was a huge goal for me and while it took over 3 years to achieve, I hit that milestone in 2017. That was the year I was able to take my first sabbatical. I took off for 2 weeks in December to recharge and enjoy the holidays and since then I've taken almost 10 weeks off each year! I'm still able to hit my goals but spend ample time with my friends and family. It's what I always wished for.

04. Creative Freedom

When you're taking on any project you can in the beginning of your journey, you also are taking on clients and projects that aren't exactly allowing you to flex your creativity. I first niched by only offering Showit and tripled my income in one year! But I also noticed when I booked custom clients, I could really push myself to create more unique websites and I enjoyed working with clients even more. I loved that I got to try new things and my clients trusted me.

05. Supportive Network

I was extremely lucky to start my business in 2014. The community over competition movement was just taking off and I became friends with so many amazing small business owners. I found mentors and coaches who genuinely wanted to see my succeed. I have been able to grow my team and having a group of people around me that was to see December Oak flourish has been one of the most fulfilling parts of my business. I love that when I look around, others see my as successful because of the high quality group of creatives in my business and life.

06. Supporting Your Passion

This mark of success touches on income but through a new angle. Like I mentioned, wanting to make more money in your business is totally normal and good! But when is enough enough? I kept earning more income, slowly but surely, each year my business was open but I always felt like it wasn't the amount I wanted. Once I hit a nice balance of ideal clients and less each year, I noticed paying my monthly expenses was easier and way less stressful. I truly felt most proud of myself when I realized I was able to support my passion creating websites and contribute to my family's income. No matter the number, which was nowhere near $100k for the year, was enough for me.

With these milestones in mind, do you have a successful business? I bet you do and you're closer than you think if you're a brand new business owner!

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