Diana Kelly Levey

Freelancers Share Their Definitions of Success

laptop wine outside

May 28, 2019

Success meant different things to me at different stages in my writing and publishing career. I once thought I wanted to be an Editor-in-Chief of a magazine, but, after a few years of working at magazines in my 20s, I saw the time and personal sacrifice that entailed and I decided that wasn’t my definition of success anymore. (Fast forward, I’ve been the freelance Editor-in-Chief for a few Centennial Publishing magazines in the past year.)

I surveyed a few freelance writing friends to learn about how they define success because it’s different for all of us and can change throughout our careers.

Freelancers Share What “Success” Means to Them

Here’s what they have to say about what freelance writing success means to them at this time in their lives and careers. (More on my definitions of success at the end of this freelance writing blog.)

“My definition of success has definitely changed in my seven years freelancing, and it continues to do so. At first, it was being able to pay the bills. Then, it was writing for X or Y publication or being more prolific than the other people I needlessly compared myself to, thanks in part to social media. I’ve gotten to the place where I am becoming more confident in my own worth as a person, irrespective of bylines and Facebook likes, and I am able to turn down projects while still being secure financially. So, right now, I’m beginning to see success as living a lifestyle that makes me happy. I’m giving more thought to what I want my day to day to look like, what fills me up, and working to intentional focus my energy on the things that make me feel like, ‘this is me.'” – K. Aleisha Fetters, writer, editor, personal trainer

“At this stage in my career, success means freedom on a couple of levels: (i) being able to pick and choose the projects I work on; and (ii) being able to work my way towards financial freedom. I’ve always wanted the option of retirement at 55; that’s 3 years away for me. While I likely won’t get there, I see it on the horizon. That means a stress-free retirement, which I’m totally looking forward to and if Social Security is still there – that’s gravy.” –Yuwanda Black, Publisher, InkwellEditorial.com

“At this stage in my career, success is all about how closely I adhere to my ‘designed’ life. When I left my last in-house writing role to pursue my own business, I did it for a number of reasons including having the freedom to work on my own writing throughout the workday in between blocks of client work. I knew this would enable me to ride out waves of inspiration in a new way. So, for me, spending my time proactively, as opposed to reactively, is one practice I associate with success (and happiness).” – Laura Vrcek, Brand Journalist

“At this stage of my career, success means happiness. Up until this point, I’ve placed a strong emphasis on building my resume and ensuring that each and every step I took up the ladder was a meaningful one that was worthwhile. I don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made throughout my career—even the ones where I was particularly unhappy working at a certain place or in a certain environment—because I learned very important tenets along the way. At this point, with the knowledge I’ve amassed, success in my career means happiness. It is more important for me to be happy at the end of a long and hard-earned day that to be taking ‘another step up the ladder.'”– Jenn Sinrich, Freelance Journalist, Writer, Content Strategist

“Success means doing what I love to do (writing) while learning new things and continuing to be challenged.” –Sheryl Kraft, Freelance Journalist

“Family is my biggest priority right now. That means finding ways to maximize my time to be able to spend time with my 4-year-old and husband. Success at this point means taking on less (yet lucrative) assignments so that I’m not spending 10 hours a day behind my computer. I’m also adamant about not working weekends, so success means being able to make sure my schedule means taking at least 2 days off a week without sacrificing my income goals.” –Sarah Li Cain, Multimedia Content Creator

“Success means making money doing what I love. When I take on a new project, my first thought is, ‘Do I want to do this work?’ My second thought is, ‘What am I going to learn?’ And finally, ‘Is it worth my time?’ It helps to have those questions in my head—it keeps me happy, and that’s how I measure success.”  Melanie Mannarino, Editor, Writer, Content Strategist

(Don’t make these 3 time-management mistakes freelancers make.)

“Since I started freelancing one year ago, my idea of ‘success’ has evolved and changed. Obviously, being able to pay my bills and make a living as a freelance writer is a ‘success’ in my book, and I’m proud to have achieved that. However, I heard this quote from Marianne Williamson recently, which is what I’m striving for now: “Success means going to sleep at night knowing your skills and talents were used in a way that served others.” To work toward this definition of success, I’ve begun writing more personal pieces about my life experiences and struggles in addition to third-person researched pieces. I’ve really enjoyed getting feedback from people from all over the world telling me how my words have resonated them. This is extremely rewarding, even if it’s not as financially profitable as other types of writing!” –Locke Hughes, Freelance Writer

“Success at this point in my career means meeting my financial goals. It’s still early in my freelance career, and I feel I need to prove to myself that my first complete fiscal year wasn’t a fluke and that my success so far will last.”  Brittany Risher, Digital Strategist, Editor, Writer

(Here are some of the most common freelance writing FAQs I get asked–like if freelancers work in their pajamas all day.)

For me, success means being able to earn an annual salary as a freelance writer, editor, content marketer (of at least $70,000 but usually aiming for a six-figure freelance salary), as well as enjoy the balance and flexibility that this career allows. That means some weeks I’m working 20 hours, others I’m working 50 or 60, and most weeks I’m working about 30 or so. (How many hours do freelancers work each week?) It means I can take some days off in the middle of the week when my husband is off, enjoy a long lunch outside on a gorgeous day, and see friends and family while having enough money to pay bills, taxes, contribute to a 401K, while building up a savings and going on trips.

What does success mean to you?

Check a previous post where freelance writers shared their summer goals.

If you want to become a successful freelance writer, follow these 10 lessons in my freelance writing online course on Teachable.

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