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How Do You Define Freelance Writing Success?

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writing successOver in the 5 Buck Forum one of the hot topics is how to define the success of a freelance writer.

It more or less got started when Lori Widmer talked about how intimidating a goal of say, $100,000.00 can be to a new writer. She also mentioned that some of those earning that much and more may appear to be, as she said in post called This Writing Job, Not That Writing Job, “… holding themselves  above their peers.” As you might expect, she doesn’t like that at all!

As I mused on the topic I realized that writers new to freelancing may indeed be intimidated by those of us who have been in the game long enough to be called successful. With blogging, those of us who do blog, we’ve become much more visible.

I’ve discovered that some new writers are afraid to approach me, and others I presume. I doubt it’s totally about what they think my income is as much as the fact that if you google me I seem to be everywhere. Or they know I’ve ghostwritten and published books and they look at my coaching rate and are sure I don’t have any time for them at all.

And while it’s true I don’t have a tonof extra time, others have found me approachable, sensing that how much money or how little they make means little to me. More than a few have hired me to coach them.

Like many, I truly believe everyone should define success the way they want to define it, paying no attention to what others may say or believe.

I’m really in Cathy Miller’s camp. She recently wrote Make Your Success Personal just that – goals are personal and should be. I totally agree and I suspect Lori does too.

In fact Lori states “… I’d much rather talk about now is the quality part of your career.”

Sure, when I set goals, part of what I do is decide how much I want to make, but my goals also include my own Vision, friends, family, my cat, gardening, exercise, donations I want to make, hanging out with friends and family – all sorts of things that are not driven by money.

For example, I have a friend who actually is a darn good writer, but she doesn’t like writing much. For years she’s wanted to return to raising goats! And now she is. She has a small farm in rural Oregon and she’s raising not only goats, but chickens and having an absolute ball planting a huge variety of food crops.

When she talks about cleaning out the barn, or I realize that the goats have to be milked daily, I’m really grateful I love to write. She, however, takes great joy in everything she’s doing and I can only celebrate that her goals are so much different than mine and she’s achieving them, just as I tend to achieve the goals I set.

My suggestion is you define your goals exactly the way you want them. If that means a six or seven figure income, great – go for it. If your goal is to write something you get paid for, that works too – you can repeat that often and up your rate if that’s what you want. If you want to combine your writing with travel or you want to write in the mornings and varnish boats in the afternoon, set your goals exactly there. In fact, I did that for a number of years and enjoyed almost every minute.

And if someone somehow implies you should be making $100,000 with your writing or you’re not a real writer, ignore them completely. You don’t want to play the game like they do – you want to play the writing game the way you want to.

What’s your take? How do you define success? Has your definition of success changed? Has anyone made you feel less than? Let’s talk about it in comments.


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Celestine Chua

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Thank you for the shout-out, Anne,

    You know my freelance career is shorter than more than a few of the Forum’s members (although I can’t believe it’s going on 6 years).I think your blog was the 1st I discovered. Sure am glad I wasn’t intimidated. 😉 Actually, impressed is a better term.

    I hope every writer searches his or her heart and discovers what true success is – according to their terms.

    • Cathy, I’m glad you weren’t intimidated… I love the relationship we’ve developed.

  • You know where I stand already. 🙂

    I define success in having a strong business that continues to grow. Also, a large part of that success — probably the most important aspect — is pleasing the clients. If I don’t please them, what’s the point?

    Maybe I’m just too stubborn or confident, but I’ve not allowed anyone to make me feel less than I am with writing. I know I’m good. At first when I started this career, knowing I was good and conveying that to a client seemed like a huge gulf I couldn’t cross. I was intimidated to some degree by some clients, but I quickly learned not to allow that and to stand firm on my boundaries.

    I remember one writer tried that with me in a writing group from a few decades ago. While he tried to make me seem stupid, he ended up looking like a fool (and not being invited back) because he was so transparent in his diminishing of my work.

    • Of course I know where you stand! And I remember being intimidated by clients too… I had better luck with writing groups than you did… I’ll bet his looked dumb!

      • His was a fishing column in the local newspaper. So yes, he looked really dumb talking down to me so much. 🙂

        • Yes, I would not want to take you on about fishing!

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