Measuring Success or Just Keeping Score?

Measuring success?
Measuring success?

How do you measure success in your side hustle? Are you really measuring success or just keeping score?

There are so many measurements available for a photography business, or any online business for that matter. Page views, post likes, number of followers; the list goes on and on. You can spend all day looking at these statistics, but are they really helping your business?


Keeping Score

Keeping score
Keeping score

I think tracking the number of followers, page likes, and so forth that you have is just keeping score. It doesn’t matter except in a very general way.

For example, I currently have 393 page likes on my Facebook page Traingeek Images. What does that really mean? How does that help me?

In a very general sense it means that potentially 393 people could see a post I make there. The reality is that less than 50% of those people will normally see a post I make, and only a handful will actually click “like” on it. Facebook’s filtering algorithms try to present the most interesting content, and unless it gets engagement early, hardly anyone sees them. It’s only when a post goes viral, or least gets engagement, that it gets seen by more people… like this one.

At best Facebook page likes are a general sense of how many people you could reach.

The same goes for Instagram. I currently have 1,874 followers (a thousand more than last month!). How does that help me?

It means more photo likes – I average 150-200 per photo now – but that doesn’t really help my business. It might help my ego, but it doesn’t put cash in my pocket.


How Do You Define Success?

Before we talk about measuring success, we first have to define it. Success means different things to different people. A quick Google search gives three definitions:

  1. The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
  2. The attainment of popularity or profit.
  3. A person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.

The common theme here is the attainment of a goal. You have to know where you want to go before you can measure whether you’re getting there.

I listed my goals at the bottom of my last post. You’ll see that page likes or follower counts are not in that list.

If you’re interested in doing sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, then follower counts will be important to you, because you’ll need a minimum number of followers before you’ll attract advertisers.

Like many people, I believe goals should be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Use those SMART attributes to define your goals.


Measuring Success

Once you’ve defined your goals, you can measure your progress against them.

Let’s take my first goal, gross income of $1,200 for the year. To date I’ve received about $40, with another $80 or so pending, so I have to step it up if I’m going to achieve my goal. NEEDS WORK.

The second goal: stock photography income of $50/month. This month I’ve made USD $6.58 or about CAD $9.20, so I’m on my way. Given that I started stock in late November, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress here. ON TARGET.

You get the idea.

I do track numbers like Facebook page likes, web page views, and Instagram followers for my own interest. They are great for exposure but don’t lead directly to income, so they’re not part of my goals and they aren’t measures of success for me.

I’ll report on my progress toward my goals later this spring.


2015 Summary

2015 summary
2015 Summary

Here’s a summary of my photography side hustle for 2015.

I think it was a good year. I didn’t achieve all of my goals, but I had some good successes and I’m building a good foundation for success in 2016 and beyond.

Let’s dig into some details.

Starting Goals

My main goals for 2015 were:

  • Achieve a gross income of $1,000
  • Get into stock photography
  • Start doing photography jobs (weddings, portraits, events, whatever)

How’d I Do?

I did not achieve my gross income goal. You’ll see below that my gross income was $778.98. It was an ambitious goal, as my 2014 gross income was $427.52, so I did achieve a significant increase but not as much as I’d hoped.

I did get into stock photography, with some small success to date, so we’ll call that a win.

I did one photography job – I was one of the several photographers at the Manitoba Marathon and earned a decent income for my 6 hours of work. Another win.



I had a gross income of $778.98, which includes some American income converted to Canadian at the exchange rate at the time. I record income on a cash basis, meaning I only count it as income when I receive it.

Here’s where the income came from:

I stopped running AdSense on my main blog (Confessions of a Train Geek) in May and that certainly affected the income from that. I decided that I’d rather solicit ads from companies and people I believe in rather than run random ads on my main blog. I’m still using AdSense on several niche sites. I probably will stop those once I get my next payout but I haven’t 100% decided on that yet. It’s not a lot of income.



In 2015 I had expenses of $412.03, broken down as follows:

  • Web site expenses: 54% (hosting with, name renewals, acquisition of this site’s name)
  • Photography expenses: 5% (Lightroom presets)
  • Advertising: 10% (Facebook ads for products)
  • Training: 2% (eBook for stock photography)
  • Software: 30% (monthly Adobe Creative Cloud payments)

My expenses were up in 2015 due to the Creative Cloud subscription (a good value, in my opinion) as well as the Facebook ads. I’ll be writing about my ad experience soon.

At the end of 2015 I paid my web hosting fees 24 months in advance to obtain a 24% discount. It didn’t get paid until 2016 so it doesn’t appear in my 2015 expenses. I believe this is a good investment to bring my expenses down.


Net Income

My net income was $366.95, which is 47% of the gross income (good) and more than twice my 2014 net income (great). I’m happy with that but I want to improve it for 2016.


Goals for 2016

Here are my 2016 goals:

  • Gross income of $1,200
  • Stock photography income of $50/month by end of year
  • Net income of $700
  • 2 paid work for hire gigs
  • Write and publish one eBook

Let’s get started!