“You can’t improve anything unless you can measure it.”
I’m not exactly sure who this quote should be attributed to, but I heard it recently and I absolutely love it. It’s a simple explanation for why it’s important to create metrics in order to be able to judge if you’re making any progress toward whatever goals you’re pursuing in work or life.
In thinking about this, I realized that most comedians really don’t have any metrics on which to judge the progress of their career. Too often, they just rely on a gut feeling to determine whether or not their career is advancing – and that’s likely one of the reasons comedians get so frustrated with the current state of their career.
Without a clear way to assess whether your efforts are getting you anywhere, it’s easy to feel stuck in a rut and not know what to do next to improve your situation.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Comedy certainly isn’t a science, but I believe there are some concrete metrics you can identify to judge how your career is progressing on a monthly basis if you want. And, I think these are just as valid no matter what form of comedy you practice – stand up, sketch, videos, writing, etc. – and no matter where you’re at in your career (from beginners to established artists).
Here’s the 10 questions I think you should ask yourself to figure out if it’s been a successful month – and ideally you’d like to see these numbers increase over time:
1. How many times did you perform?
Stage time is crucial for comedians and it’s extremely easy to keep track of as a metric. The more you perform, the better.
2. How many people saw you perform?
Not only should you strive to perform more often, but it’s also important to perform in front of more people because that translates into more opportunities to grow your fanbase.
3. Of the people who saw you perform, how many connected to you after the show by joining your email list (or connecting to you on social media)?
Doing a great show in front of a bunch of people that loved you is meaningless unless you have a connection to them for future shows and material. You should also judge this number as a percentage (Remember my 10% goal?), because it’s possible to perform for fewer people in a month but increase the percentage that connect to you.
4. How many interactions did you have with individual fans?
I don’t mean how many new Twitter or Facebook fans did you get, but rather how many did you have a one-on-one interaction with. These conversations (which can happen online or offline) are vital to building relationships with your “true fans,” the people who will feel like the know you and want to support and spread the word about you to others. They are your evangelists and they matter – a lot.
5. How many interactions did you have with members of the comedy industry?
It’s equally important to have individual interactions with people in the comedy business – agents, managers, bookers, club owners, etc. These interactions don’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t be) you begging for work, but rather genuine interactions where you get to know these people and (even better) provide value to them in some way.
6. How many interactions did you have with other comedians?
There’s lots of benefit to be had from networking with other comedians and that’s why this is an important metric. The more comedians you interact with (in a positive way), the more opportunities will come your way to cross-promote, work together, and learn.
7. How many things did you create?
This is a broad one and can include everything from new material, to videos, to blog posts, to individual tweets and more. Every single thing you create and share with the world has the potential to further your career – you’re in the business of creating and therefore the amount of stuff you create is worth measuring.
8. How many times were your creations shared?
If you’re posting content online, are people sharing it online? Are people spreading the word about your upcoming live shows? It’s one thing to please your existing fans, but it’s another to please them enough that they spread the word about you. That kind of fan response is worth measuring.
9. How many things did you try that you had never tried before?
Not only do you need to be creating, but you also need to be taking chances and pushing the envelope with your own work. Experimentation in all forms is important and you’ll likely be surprised at what comes of it. By using this as a metric, you’ll force yourself to continue exploring what’s possible in your career and will avoid getting stagnant.
10. How many times did you fail?
This may seem like a negative metric, but here’s the twist – I think the higher this number is, the better. Failure is important because it means you’re taking chances and you’re going after things – even if they may be temporarily out of your reach. Plus, you’ll learn important lessons from your failures, so embrace them.
Those are the 10 metrics I think you should track as a means of judging your career progress, but I’m sure you’ve got many of your own and I’d love to hear about them. Please share your thoughts in the comments below…