Should You Share Revenue Numbers?

Should You Share Your Revenue Numbers?

My wife was editing my Annual Review yesterday and asked me if I wanted to keep the statement about our income in 2013. I didn’t share an exact number, but did say that our income tripled from what it was in 2012. I told her I don’t mind sharing that since it was vague and just keep it in. I couldn’t think of any reasons not to share.

Amanda’s question made me wonder what shaped my thinking and why I like it when people share details about their revenue. I enjoy when individuals like Pat Flynn and Lindsay over at Pinch of Yum share their income because they are super detailed and interesting.

When you work in a corporation it’s an unwritten rule to never discuss annual salary with your peers. When I first started freelancing I felt the corporate rule carried over because it was difficult to find out what people charged for their services and what kind of income a ‘successful’ freelance web developer made.

Real numbers show what is possible

In 2011 I was listening to Brian Casel and Dave Yankowiak interview Sarah J. Bray on an episode of Freelance Jam. Sarah said something that I still remember:

“…to talk numbers, because nobody ever talks numbers, we have to make $12K / month to pay the bills.”

Sarah was talking about how much her small company needed to make per month to pay their bills and the part time workers she employed. It was refreshing to hear someone say that ‘nobody talks numbers’ because I felt the same way! At the time that minimum was an astronomical amount to me because I was killing myself working tons of hours to make less than half of that amount per month. Just knowing that it was possible to bill that much or more per month helped me know there was a better way of doing things.

A year later Pippin Williamson published his 2012 Year in Review which included sales numbers for his commercial plugins. I was making the transition from services to products during this time and this post showed what is possible with selling commercial plugins. A little more of the veil of pricing and revenue was being lifted.

More recently Curtis McHale shared several posts about becoming a ‘6 Figure WordPress Consultant’. I’m not freelancing much anymore, but Curtis’ examples are very valuable to anyone getting started freelancing.

Real numbers help motivate

At the beginning of Financial Peace University the entire class is asked to share two numbers anonymously: Total number of open credit cards, and total amount of non-mortgage debt. The sum of these numbers were shared during the second class, and then recalculated and shared at the last class. This exercise was to help motivate people by showing the progress made in just two months.

When we were working our Debt Snowball we blogged our debt numbers. This served partly as motivation to us because I never wanted to blog about an increase in total debt. Plus, we hope it will help others to know what’s possible when you focus. There is power in the feeling of “They did it, so I can too!”

Numbers aren’t the whole story

One thing numbers don’t tell is the amount of effort it took to get there. Did the person work 80 hour weeks? Did they call in a favor from a high-profile friend? Did most of the revenue come from one large sale that probably won’t happen again?

Numbers let you know what is possible, but also beg for supporting information in order to not be reduced to a vanity metric. If your expenses equal or exceed your gross revenue then you’re not making any money and might be going out of business.

Tom Ewer recently stopped sharing his income reports stating:

“I believe that the more money I make, the less relevant my earnings become to people who are just starting out.”

I understand why he feels this way. When the revenue numbers get really big it’s difficult for someone who is getting started to relate.

When revenue numbers are shared on a podcast like Mixergy and are in the millions per year it’s cool to hear, but I can’t relate. I’m not yet convinced I can reach the millions per year level because I haven’t sustained the hundreds of thousands per year level yet. Revenue numbers are like boulders in a river: close to where you are at they seem attainable, far away you are just going to get wet.

That being said, I still think that there is a place for transparency and publically sharing details about revenue. I plan on continuing to share some details about revenue of microbusiness I’ll be working on.

How about you? Do you share revenue numbers?