Content writing businesses are businesses like any other. If you’re operating one you’ll need to keep track of key performance indicators (KPIs) to learn if you’re improving. But what metrics should you track as a writer? After all, it’s difficult to know if the quality of your work is improving by looking at the work itself because “quality” isn’t a quantitative metric.
The specific metrics that you track will depend on what your goals are and why you started a content writing business in the first place. In this article I’ll go through some of the main metrics you should be keeping track of based on what you hope to get out of content writing. Continue reading below to learn more.
Your Business Goals
People start writing content for very different reasons. But they can generally be divided into two categories: finance and passion. The passion people don’t really care if they’re making money or being efficient. They just love to write. This article isn’t really for them. Instead, this piece is for the “money people” who, while they enjoy writing, write primarily to make extra income.
Regardless of whether you wish to make writing your new career or hope to use it simply as a side job to supplement your income, the metrics you track should center around:
The Business of Content Writing: Productivity
Productivity in this context measures your overall output. In other words, how many words and projects can you knock out in a day, a week, a month, or a year? As a rule, the more words you write the more money you’ll make.
At the beginning of your content writing business you’ll quickly notice that your peak output is significantly lower than what you thought it might be. At least, that was my experience. This is because writing is a mentally draining exercise. It takes a lot of work to put pen to paper and write something that someone else may want to read.
So if you thought you were going to jump in and write for 10 hours per day at max output, you probably have to adjust your expectations a little bit. After three months of solid practice, if I’m writing something relatively simple that doesn’t require research I can write approximately 1500 words per hour for four hours. At that point I burn out and have difficulty writing any more.
The reason I know this is because I keep track of two things every single time I write for a client: hours worked and words written. I use a timetracker called Harvest to track which clients I’m working for and what projects I’m working on at any given moment.
I track my word count using my project management app (I happen to use Trello) so at any given time I can establish how many words I was able to crank out during a particular time period.
The Business of Content Writing: Efficiency
Efficiency is a simple metric for content writers. You just divide your words/projects completed by your hours worked. The number you get back is your words/projects per hour. Easy peasy.
The Business of Content Writing: Profitability
Measures of profitability can get a little more complicated than measures of productivity and efficiency. But it’s a good idea to get at least a basic idea of how profitable you are on a regular basis.
To keep track of this metric, you’ll need to measure and record your per-word or per-project rate (which is probably different for each client) and multiply it by words completed for that client.
The Easy Way To Track Content Writing Metrics
In a series of future articles, I’ll go into much more detail regarding how I track my writing metrics, but for a beginner the following method will suffice. It has the benefit of being extremely simple, which allows you to focus on writing and finding clients.
To get started, create a spreadsheet in your favorite spreadsheet program (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.). At the top, create the following three columns:
Every single time you sit down at the computer to write content for your business, keep track of the preceding three metrics. Count the words you wrote, the hours you spent, and the revenue you earned (calculated manually by multiplying the words you wrote by your per-word rate). Each row should correspond to a single session for single client. If you work on two different clients’ projects in the same session, separate out each client on a new row.
This is all you’ll need at the beginning of your content writing business, but you’ll need at least this much detail. Failing to keep any kind of track of your metrics makes it impossible to tell if you’re improving your efficiency, productivity, or profitability over time.
The preceding is a very simple primer on the sort of metrics you’ll need to keep track of as you grow your content writing business. It’s far from a complete description of the kind of project management and business administration you’ll need to carry out to be successful at a later stage but, at the beginning, this is all you’ll need. You should be focusing on writing and client acquisition at this stage anyway, not developing an intricate operations strategy.
In a later series of articles, I’ll show you how I apply core principles of business administration to manage my own productivity. I’ll also show you how you can apply them to your own content writing business, adapting them as needed. Luckily, because content writing is so well-suited to just about any working professional (as we discussed in this previous article about the best side jobs for professionals), you’ll find it simple to apply some basic business concepts as you go along.