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Are you in the dark with data? 
It will surprise you. For many years now I was caught in the cycle of look for work/do the work and was busy enough entrenched in that cycle that I didn’t pay close attention to some very important data. It took me stepping away from my daily activities as Creative Director at my own company for a single day to really clue in to the fact that we could be doing better.

I imagine if you’re a freelancer or run a small design agency, you might very well be doing the same thing as I was. You’re busy, you’re covering expenses, and you’re making a little bit of a profit. Good, right? Well …

Where is your business coming from?
I don’t mean just where are you finding clients, but how much of your monthly business is coming from new clients and how much of it is coming from existing clients? This one was a real recent eye-opener for me. When we stopped making awesome design for a day and instead spent that day pouring over data about our business, we were actually kind of shocked to learn that over 70% of our business comes from either existing clients or clients we’ve done business with previously. All I could think of was, how did I not notice this before? 

I’m sure some of you can relate. You get wrapped up in getting projects done, interfacing with clients, getting proposals out, following up with prospective clients, and the myriad other things a freelancer or small agency director is involved in. I’m here to tell you now, break the cycle and make time at least once a month to do a review of where your business is coming from. Once you do, you can do further analysis such as which clients are adding the most to your bottom line, how much you’re making on on-going work (such as website maintenance you do on a retainer), what percentage of your current profits are from brand new clients, etc.

Take it in steps. 
Take this fact-finding mission a step further and gather some hard data on what type of projects you’re doing the most (web, graphic, seo, etc.). This can lead to other eye-openers such as discovering you’ve been doing a lot of work in a particular niche (for us it was websites for lawyers, consultants and natural health practitioners – odd mix, I know) or for a particular type of client. This type of information can show you a clear picture of areas of your business that really are doing well, areas that need help, markets you need to be exploring more, and it can potentially change your focus all together.

If you can get a handle on this type of fact-finding and data review you can break the cycle of look for work/do the work and start to really energize and move your business forward.