Grow Your Handmade Business: Benchmarks

The following is an excerpt from Kari Chapin’s new book, Grow Your Handmade Business. This fantastic guide has tons of excellent advice for starting and maintaining your business — and also features our very own Tara Gentile as well as many other much-loved entrepreneurs. Enjoy this chapter, and make sure you read to the end to find out how you can win your own copy of Kari’s book!

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Setting benchmarks is a good way to define what success looks like to you, and is an important step in the business-planning process. Success doesn’t always mean that you have accomplished everything you set out to do. It can look and feel like anything you want. Sometimes, if I just get two paragraphs written, I feel successful. Success can be fluid and changeable if that works for you. For me, if I feel good about what I’ve done during the day, with how I’ve spent my time, I feel successful. And that can go a long way.

Measuring Your Success

How do you measure your success? Since it has a lot to do with your intentions and goals, only you can decide what success looks like to you and your business. I’d like you to take your journal and look at one of your favorite intentions. (Perhaps it’s something like quitting your day job and working for yourself within the next year.) Now work on the goals underneath that intention, and then break a few of your goals down into tasks. If you complete a few of the tasks, you have come that much closer to reaching the goal, and you’re that much closer to realizing the intention, which means you’re being successful.

Another way to measure your success is to determine how you want to feel. Take some time and make a list of the feelings you want to experience from your business. Your list may look something like this:

  • Free
  • Self-reliant
  • Happy
  • Secure
  • Abundant
  • Creative
  • Exuberant
  • Accomplished

Check in with yourself from time to time. Is your business making you feel how you want to feel, which is to say, fulfilled? If so, you’re achieving your personal definition of success. Congratulations! If not, figure out why. What could you do to improve the state of your feelings?

From the Creative Collective

I focus on results. I think about the money, credibility, relief, excitement, or pride that I’m going to achieve or feel when I’m back on track. It’s not enough to think about the end goal; I need to be able to touch and taste every bit of the result. Once I do that, accomplishing things becomes easy.
Tara Gentile

I have a yearly financial goal that I work into my spreadsheets on a monthly and annual basis (related to how far away I am to that target), and I came to that number by figuring what’s realistic to hit and raising it about 20 percent. That way I have something to reach for while still believing it’s not gonna take a parallel universe or a lottery win to get me to that number.
Michelle Ward

Think Ahead

While you’re busy making that list of feelings, spend some time thinking about where you’d like your business to be in six months from now, one year from now, and then five years from now. I know. These are age-old questions, asked in many job interviews and by parents the world over, but there is a good purpose behind them. Thinking ahead will keep your planning muscles in shape. Once you take a good look at your long-term plans, you’ll see some intentions and goals take shape. Reviewing these monthly or quarterly or even yearly will help you know if you’re on track.

It’s important to measure your success because it’s necessary to know what’s working and what isn’t. If you have been pursuing a line, a project, or a service but you’re just not getting the results you want, it’s definitely time to reevaluate.

What Does Success Look Like?

Say one of your ultimate intentions is to become a gazillionaire. You want to be filthy, stinking rich. So you have an intention that looks like this:

I want to be a GAZILLIONAIRE!

Just because that gazillion dollars isn’t in your pocket right now, or likely won’t be even a year from now, doesn’t mean you aren’t successful. But ponder this: The more reasonable and easily attainable the financial goals you set for yourself are, the more successful you’ll be. For example, if your intention is to increase your profit by 15 percent over the next three months rather than, say, doubling it, chances are you’ll feel better about the direction your business is heading, and the boost you get when your intention is manifested will be huge.

From the Creative Collective

My plans for my business are almost completely driven by objectives. I believe in setting really spacious goals that allow for victory in “failure” and flexibility in “destination.” I create objectives around income, influence, experience, and personal freedom. I come up with goals by just concentrating on what I really want. Generating goals based on personal desire but grounded in community value will help you find the motivation you need to execute them.
Tara Gentile


Think about what success means to you. Really, really think about it. In your journal, write up a personal definition that you can return to again and again if you need or want to.

Likewise, think about what failure looks like to you. What would have to happen for you to feel like your business was failing? Write that down, too. If you ever feel like things are way off track, look back on your personal definition of failure. Compare it to what you’re going through. Chances are, according to your very own definition, your business is not failing.

Calculating Success One Step at a Time

Consider some areas of your business that can offer easily calculable success. As always, when trying out something new, you can make things easier on yourself by starting small. Setting small benchmarks, little check-in points, can assist you when you’re deciding if you’re on track or not.

Remember how I mentioned starting at the end, figuring where you want to be, and then working your way backward to the beginning? Let’s put that exercise into practice by imagining where you want to end up and then work backward to get there. We’ll use social media as an example. Let’s say you want to improve your social media connections, which ties into your marketing and sales. Specifically, you want to increase your followers on Twitter by a thousand people. So imagine that you’re already there, and then work backward toward where you actually are right now. By retracing your steps, so to speak, you’ll discover what you need to do to get to where you want to go.

Specific Steps

Here are some specific steps you can take, using social media as an example:

By the end of the year, I will increase my Twitter audience by 1,000 people.


  • Connect further with like-minded businesspeople by responding to their tweets more.
  • Post useful and relevant content.
  • Post links to my best blog posts.
  • Add a tweet button to my website so that others can tweet links from my site with ease.


  • Ask a pal how they installed the tweet button on their website.
  • Follow the links others tweet, and retweet the best ones, as time permits.
  • When I’m reading new blogs, look for people’s Twitter links.
  • Connect more with people who follow me.
  • Respond to strangers when they communicate with me.

How Success Will Be Measured
Record my current number of followers, and increase the number by 25 percent every three months. I’ll notate my calendar as a reminder.

See? You set an intention and some goals, and then listed some doable tasks. Since you notated your calendar to check in with your intention in three months’ time, you can decide then if your tasks are really helping you reach your goals. After three months, you could decide that your intention was too ambitious for the amount of time you spend reaching out through social media. Or you may have already added those thousand Twitter followers. If so, you know that your intention has been met and so you are ready to set a new one.

From the Creative Collective

I’m usually focused on growth. How can I reach X number of subscribers to my blog, how can I hit X number of sales, and so on. I look at what’s possible, based on past statistics, then try to push myself to go a bit further.
Nicole Balch

I set fresh intentions, raise my financial threshold, and revisit my service structures whenever I’ve hit a leaden blockade, either energetically or revenue-wise. During my first year as a full-time entrepreneur, I had to stop and recalibrate several times. Trial and error is a fussy, messy business. But that’s the nature of creating something out of nothing. Intelligent experimentation. These days things are ticking along much more elegantly. I’m no longer in perpetual “launch mode.” I feel grounded and graceful in my business. I suspect I’ll spruce up my master plan in six months or so. Or whenever I get hit with a bolt of brilliance that changes everything, all over again.
Alexandra Franzen

Periodic Checkups

Periodically checking in on your progress is essential to your success. At regular intervals, look over your business plan, see what areas you’d like to monitor closely, and decide how you’d like to assess your progress.

Oftentimes people make things hard on themselves by reviewing things just once or twice a year or when things are going poorly. But if you set aside time to review your business plan every couple of months, you may well avoid some heartache and some pitfalls because you’ll be able to notice details and kinks before they become problems. Conversely, you’ll pick up on things that are working well that you may not have noticed, and maybe your next big idea will come from tracking your stats.

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Win a copy of this book!

One randomly chosen reader will receive a free copy of Grow Your Handmade Business by Kari Chapin. Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered! Winner will be announced on Friday, December 7, 2012 by 5:00 pm EST.

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