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How Do You Define Writing Success?

freelance writing successWhen you’re a freelance writer you get to define your own success. How you define it is totally up to you. Consider my own success definitions over time.

Way back when I was first submitting unsolicited manuscripts to magazines, my first definition of success was, believe it or not, rejection letters. I knew that getting rejected meant I’d actually completed the process of writing and submitting. Those first couple of rejections went on my bedroom wall – wish I’d kept ’em.

Next, not surprisingly, my next goal was to sell one an article to a magazine and get paid for it. After awhile, that happened to. It was, I think, a humorous essay to an Apple computer magazine that hasn’t been in existence for a very long time. But that sale made me officially a published writer – a real success in my mind.


Meanwhile I’d gotten a technical writing job which meant I was writing for a living – not freelancing, but writing.

A couple of things happened during that job that were really good for me. I got moved from the tech writing department to the editorial staff of the magazine, ProFiles – the magazine of all things for KayPro computers. (Goddess I date myself!) Now I was writing for a magazine full time.

Working on the magazine was the first time I’d actually worked around other writers. I discovered I was, for whatever reason, a faster writer than most. At first I thought it was a fluke, but after a while I checked with the editor and he confirmed my suspicion. Normally my speed worked in my favor and he actually agreed to let me do freelance work on the side provided I kept it mostly a secret. Of course, there was the time he came to me saying something like “Anne, re-read this one; I think you did it too fast.” He was right, it was a mess, but easy enough to fix.

The other thing that happened was an agent wandered in looking for people who could write third party software manuals, a big deal back then. I quickly formed a small group, me, a hardware guy and a software guy and we ended up with four contracts, four advances and writing two books before the other two were canceled.

It wasn’t all success there. When the editor quit and I applied word came down that the owner considered me too “wacky” to fulfill the gig. Looking back, I’m not even sure how he knew who I was. I also strongly suspect he couldn’t imagine a woman in that position.

My next success was editing another magazine, The Open Gate a publication of Terry Cole Whitaker’s ministry in San Diego. Again, I was making my living writing. That magazine won a Maggie Award – a success by any standard. That job also led to my first ghostwriting gig.


And so it’s gone for me. And I’ll bet I’m not alone.

I’ve defined writing success in all sorts of ways and still do.

How do you define your freelance  success?

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • I’ve been freelancing for a short period of time. My successes are the short films, eBooks, and teleplay I wrote. I never thought I’d write books and screenplays but I did. I haven’t sold my teleplay — but I will!
    Rebecca recently posted..Does Your Blog Make You Gag?My Profile

    • Anne

      Yes, I’m sure you will.

  • Great journey. 🙂

    Success is when I can wake up and do what I love doing, get paid for it, and move into new areas, building on the successes I’ve already seen.

    I think I’m there, but I’m not sure success isn’t an evolving journey.
    Lori recently posted..Why I’ll Always Be a GirlMy Profile

    • Anne

      I’m totally sure success is an ever evolving journey… day by day, even moment by moment when I’m paying attention.

  • Wow, I’m amazed at your perseverance. I hope you are now enjoying the fruits of your labor. For me, success is not defined by how much money I make on each freelance wriitng gig — but on how I’ve added my client’s follower base with stuff I write, get a good PR for my client’s site, and get people buzzing about it on the web. I think success for me, then, is having engaged readers that led to the success of my clients’ biz. So, more success to you, me, and all the freelance writers out there!
    Issa recently posted..Should You Spy on Your Freelance Workers?My Profile

    • Anne

      That’s certainly a worthy definition too. I have an overall purpose or mission: To be of service and have fun.

  • I love the journey, Anne. Since I have not been freelancing as long, my success is a bit of a shorter list.

    My 1st client was my last Corporate employer (still a client!). So, starting small, the 1st success was to get work from them in a freelancing capacity. It was official-I was a freelancer! 🙂

    My next success was getting a client through my own marketing efforts. Believe it or not, it was actually a Craigslist ad, and I am happy to report that they, too, are still a client.

    My next success was making it through the 1st year! From there, I would say it was landing my 1st big gig that paid what I felt my services were really worth. I finally am STARTING to learn to work smarter.

    Oh, and another success–is building my writing community–love you guys! 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Client Documentation Trumps Lazy Little DevilMy Profile

    • Anne

      Nice way to make the transition.

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