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How To Measure Success as a Creative Business Person

At Patreon, we talk often about the tools we’re building to help your creative membership business thrive. Our goal is to streamline the process so that you can convert your superfans into paying patrons and gain financial success and stability by doing what you love. But success comes in many forms, and if we only aim for dollar amounts, we might miss other truly positive and impactful wins along the way. We believe it’s crucial to seek out success across a few different categories, so you can celebrate every win to keep up momentum and bolster your confidence when you hit a bad day or rut.

A note on clarity: we believe you can only feel successful if you know what it is you want to accomplish. Clarity around your creative work, goals, and process will help get you there. We’ve included some prompts to help you get clear on what success looks life for you, so grab a piece of paper, and write out your goals as you go.

So, what are the categories of success? We’ve identified four:

  • Big Picture Success: your lofty goals, big dreams, and ultimate accomplishments
  • By-The-Numbers: what you need to earn or acquire to get closer to your Big Picture
  • Success in Doing: everyday efforts that propel your business forward
  • Success in Being: everyday efforts that keep you going as a human and creator

Big Picture Success

We know creators come to Patreon because they’re ready to monetize their creative work, or foster a loyal community, or both. When starting a Patreon membership business, we encourage creators to have clarity around what they want to achieve on the platform, and often ask: what does success look like to you?

We’re talking “big picture” success, like, what’s the biggest thing you can imagine right now?

While these goals may not be immediately attainable, being clear will help you stay focused on your journey, and will motivate you to keep showing up for the work. The best part? You can change them, build on them, or scrap them as you see fit.

When we ask creators what their goals are, the answers are usually as broad as they are specific; here are some examples:

  • I want to make $5,000/month.
  • I want to be able to finance my next album.
  • I want to be able to quit my day job and focus on my creative work.
  • I want to start my own production company.

Take Action: Write down your Big Picture goal(s). What’s the dollar amount you want monthly? What’s the audience size you seek? What will these things empower you to do? Get clear on what big picture success looks like to you: where will you work, and with whom? What new freedom and responsibilities will you have? Add as many details as you can, which will make it feel more real and exciting. Your future self will appreciate having something optimistic and hopeful to read when you inevitably hit an obstacle and feel defeated.

Clarity and honesty are tools; use them here.

Success By-The-Numbers

Most creators on Patreon achieve the success they seek over time; after days, weeks, months (and sometimes years) of diligent and persistent work. It’s extremely rare that big picture goals are hit on launch day, which is why it’s imperative to identify mini goals, and celebrate successful outcomes along the journey. As a business, we look at our goals by years, quarters, and months, and suggest creators take a similar approach. It’s possible that your big picture goals might be the same as your goal for the year; you might be saying to yourself “this time next year, I’ll quit my day job and focus only on my creative work.” That’s great! Now you just have to break it down into what that means from an income/patron perspective.

For example, let’s say a creator wants to make $5,000/month and have at least 1,000 patrons within a year so they can quit their day job.

Success for them might look like this:

  • Year End: $5K/month and 1K patrons averaging $5/month in payments
  • Quarterly: Grow monthly income by $1,250 and gain ~334 new patrons
  • Monthly: Grow monthly income by $418 and gain ~84 new patrons

Which means, starting from zero, their monthly targets might look like this:

  • Month 1: $418 and 84 patrons
  • Month 2: $836 and 168 patrons
  • Month 3: $1,254 and 252 patrons
  • Month 4: $1,672 and 336 patrons
  • Month 5: $2,090 and 420 patrons
  • Month 6: $2,508 and 504 patrons
  • Month 7: $2,926 and 588 patrons
  • Month 8: $3,344 and 672 patrons
  • Month 9: $3,762 and 756 patrons
  • Month 10: $4,180 and 840 patrons
  • Month 11: $4,598 and 924 patrons
  • Month 12: $5,016 and 1,008 patrons

Is it scary to see what numbers you need to hit in order to reach your big picture goal? It certainly can be. Sometimes seeing the numbers can be horrifying, or, worse, numbing. We know this isn’t how every creative business mind works, so if this level of detail throws you off, you can skip it now and come back when you’re ready. That said, we encourage you to not be put off by numbers, but embrace your goals as a surmountable challenge. Keep in mind that business ebbs and flows; some months you could exceed your goal, some months you may fall short. Celebrate the wins! Celebrate growth of any kind, and reflect on your Big Picture Success goal to keep pressing onward.

Take Action: Write down your business goals (income and patron) for the year, then break it into quarterly and monthly chunks. Try not to be overwhelmed, but look at this as an opportunity. You want 1,000 new patrons? You don’t have to get them all TODAY. You can aim for 10 or 20 a week, and build. You got this, and knowing what your milestones are will help you stay focused.

Success In Doing

Now that we have the numbers out of the way, let’s talk about what a less formal success metric looks like: the success in doing the thing. You want to earn X amount of money and/or Y amount of patrons? Nothing’s going to happen if you don’t do your work, the work you were put on this planet to do. We encourage creators to find success in their personal productivity. You said you were going to put out a weekly podcast, and you put one out again this week? That’s a win! Celebrate that. Did you commit to sending out merch to your patrons this month? Revel in the success of having patrons paying for your products, and bask in the glory of accomplishment once you’ve fulfilled their benefits.

Celebrate showing up and delivering.

In all the hustle of acquiring and retaining patrons and making money, sometimes we forget that it’s often the everyday actions that build on each other to make the biggest impact. It’s important to look at the day, week, or month and acknowledge what you do to keep your business going.

Here are common things you can accomplish and celebrate being successful at every day, week, and beyond:

  • Creating your work (Did you work on your art, podcast, writing, music, video, etc. today? WIN.)
  • Engaging with your audience (Did you message superfans or respond to comments online? WIN.)
  • Following through on your marketing plan (Did you send your newsletter or post on social? WIN.)
  • Taking care of business stuff (Did you return emails? Open a business-only bank account? WIN.)

Take Action: Write a “Done” list, instead of a “To Do” list. At the end of day or week, jot down the things you accomplished that moved your business in the right direction. We can get so bogged down but the daily-ness of life, jumping from one responsibility to the next commitment, it’s easy to gloss over or forget just how much we accomplished. Write down all you did, and celebrate the crap out of yourself for showing up.

Sometimes success lies in simply not giving up.

Success In Being

It’s obvious when you’ve hit your Big Picture or By-The-Number goals; it can be easy to look back at your week and give yourself a high-five for doing what you said you’d do. What’s harder to track are the invisible successes we experience day in and day out. Good decisions, better choices, all of these matter, too. These are the tiny actions you make in your personal life in an effort to keep going as a creator and human. Sometimes, especially when business is frustrating or life in general is hard, these wins are what carry us through. We encourage you to recognize the work you’re doing, often unconsciously, to keep at it.

Some common actions that keep you going as a creator and human:

  • Creating your work (Did you make something that satisfies your soul, if not for money or fame or glory? That’s still a win.)
  • Encouraging yourself to be inspired (Did you listen to something that moved you or visit a place that fills up your creative tank? Win!)
  • Practicing self-care, love, and acceptance (Did you eat, sleep, exercise, meditate, or shower today? WIN.)
  • Showing up for your loved ones (Did you make contact with other beings that make you feel good? Mega win.)

Take Action: Write down a few things that fuel you as a human and creator, things you enjoy and take pleasure in. Write down tasks, actions, and experiences that are “easy” and accessible to you. Maybe some are free, some cost some money, some take five minutes, and some take 50. Write down things you can do alone, with others, in your own home, or in favorite locations. Refer to this list when you feel unproductive or otherwise depleted. Add to it when you find new ways that benefit you soul and psyche.

We know living a creative life can be a heady endeavor, and that running a creative membership business can be a lot of work. We also believe there are so many avenues of success, and know you are capable of accessing any of them. We love being part of your journey, and look forward to witnessing you reaching your goals. Go get ‘em.