The Freelance Creative

4 Freelancer Metrics for Measuring Your Success

Which freelance metric will signal your success?

In corporate environments, employees measure their financial success by raises, bonuses, and promotions. Freelancers rarely, if ever, get that sort of feedback from their clients. So, how do you measure financial success in a freelance career?

The following financial metrics allow me to evaluate my progress without comparing myself to other writers or average statistics, which may not be reliable or relatable to my freelance business.

Freelancer Metric #1: Annual income

Freelancing is notorious for its income variability. In more than 20 years, I’ve earned less than $1,000 in some months, more than $10,000 in others, and every amount in between. These wide fluctuations make my monthly income, as a raw number, a relatively poor measure of my success.

A better measure is annual income. While this metric may also fluctuate from year to year, an upward trend line over time means I’m earning more and becoming more successful based on this KPI.

Tips to boost your annual income:

Freelancer Metric #2: Hourly rate

Most of my clients pay flat fees rather than hourly rates. Flat fees make it difficult to compare earnings for one project to earnings for another. To make that comparison more useful, I track how much time I spend completing each project and convert my per-project fees into hourly rates.

You can use a time-tracker app or digital spreadsheet for this purpose. Whatever your preference, list your current projects and update the tracker weekly. When I complete a project, I divide my fee by the number of hours I worked on it. Over 20 years, I’ve calculated hourly rates for my projects from less than $30 to more than $200—a very wide range.

Tips to increase your hourly rate:

Freelancer Metric #3: Pitch acceptance ratio

The more time I spend pitching ideas to clients, the less time I spend on work that generates income. To measure the effectiveness of the time I invest in pitching, I monitor the percentage of my pitches that each client accepts.

Over time, my per-client pitch acceptance ratios have varied from more than 90 percent to zero. When I see a low ratio for a particular client, I know my offerings do not match the client’s needs at this time. When I see a high ratio, I can pitch more to that client with confidence.

Tips to improve your pitch acceptance ratio:

Freelancer Metric #4: Client turnover

Keeping the same clients over time is more efficient time-wise than prospecting for new ones and getting up to speed on their voice and style. Over 20 years, some of my clients have given me only a few assignments. Others have assigned work to me every month for a decade or more. One is silver; the other is gold.

Having too few clients lowers my productivity, but having too many can be challenging for me to manage. Over time, my ideal number has varied from five or six to nine or ten, depending on how many hours I want to work and how much work my clients assign to me.

Tips to establish your ideal number of clients:

Tips to keep your clients:

The bottom line: beyond metrics

With an MBA as well as my bachelor’s degree in English, my metrics tend to focus on money, but money isn’t everything. Other factors I consider include my stress level, my work-life balance, and whether I have healthy relationships with my editors. Sometimes, money is my priority. Other times, I prioritize other qualities of my working life.

So, are you successful? The metrics you choose to track and the results you produce over time will tell you the answer.

How do you measure success in your career? Compare notes and tips with other freelancers by subscribing to The Freelance Creative.

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