The majority of us, whether consciously or subconsciously, are striving to achieve some form of Success in our lives. Now there are no lack of dictionary definitions of “Success” out there for this 7 letter word. A few include:
But if we all take some time to review what success actually means to us and what we want from our working lives then we might find it doesn’t (have to) match the archetypal clichés in society. The archetypal perception is that success is something status led that is achieved through sacrificing your personal life in order to commit hundreds of hours to earning tons of cash in a ‘kill or be killed’ business environment. All very 1980’s Wall Street if you ask me. I think shows like The Apprentice / Dragons Den, along with business dinosaurs like Donald Trump, also have a lot to answer for.
I thought it would be interesting to hear how people who have quit the rat race, define success. So I went and sourced a range of Freelancers who very kindly gave their personal definitions of SUCCESS. This may help give clarity to those who currently struggle to define their own goals. I certainly find them humbling but I will let you decide:
Krystian Szastok – Freelance SEO Consultant in Croydon (but from Poland)
“For me success is directly related to my independence, freedom and satisfaction I get from work.
The more value I provide, the more satisfaction I feel.
The more money my business makes, the more independence and freedom I experience.
These were my main reasons behind stating on my own in the first place, so I remind myself every day about why I’m doing this! Because being successful comes at a price.
If it was easy, everyone would do it!”
Katy Ratican – Freelance Copywriter in Manchester
“When I started freelancing full-time, success meant being able to pay the bills.
Now, a year on, it means having the confidence to turn down projects that I just know aren’t going to make me happy.
In the coming months, I intend to take some regular days out to work on a not-for-profit side project, so I guess you could say that’s a sign of freelance success too”
Elliot Morrow – Copywriter and Content Creator in Manchester
“Success is all about your personal achievements and how they rank alongside the expectations you set yourself. I’ve never been money-driven (otherwise I’d dodge freelancing and get a full-time job) and I never expect to be. I’m effort-driven. I find success in working hard and helping other people find success.
My continuous goal is to add value to the lives of the people I work with by doing my job the best I can. No matter what personal situation I’m in, whether living in an expensive house or sleeping on my friends couch, as long as I’m working hard and doing what I love to do, I’ll always feel successful.”
Femke van Schoonhoven – Digital Designer in Amsterdam
“Success for me is Flexibility & Freedom. I feel like we’re still expected to do the 9–5, a concept that was developed hundreds of years ago when the circumstances of life were different. Success to me looks like having the freedom and flexibility to do what I want, when I want and where I want without financial pressure – whether that be working, traveling or spending time with friends and family. No more 9-5 Monday to Fridays, but just living life by my own rules and making my own mark in this world – whether that takes 20, 40 or 80 hours a week to do so.
To me work is life and life is work – it’s all one continuum and I plan to enjoy every moment of it.”
Ken Westgaard – Email Relationship Builder in Norway
“Success for me is being able to spend more time with my family and working because I love what I do. When my kids grow up I want to be able to help them in a way that my parents couldn’t. Money is not my idea of success. Sure it’s a part of it all, but it’s not what drives me.
Thankfully I keep getting closer to this goal 🙂 “
Fiona Scuiller – Certified Translator and Interpreter in Germany
“It would be easy to define success as a purely financial matter, but most of us need more than that to sustain our motivation and to be satisfied with our freelancing life. Being successful, to me, means having enough (interesting) work to keep me busy and pay the bills (and a holiday from time to time!), but also to be recognised and appreciated as a professional by customers and colleagues alike.
As an interpreter, I tend to get very direct feedback about how things are going, but this isn’t the case when I’m translating, as my work tends to disappear into the digital ether.
Working with customers who value my work and feeling I have contributed to theirs is what gives me a real sense of achievement.”
Matt Willmott – Web Designer & Developer in Hemel Hempstead
“As a sufferer of anxiety, I found it very difficult to find work that didn’t just make me more ill over time. So in 2013 I became self-employed through a government scheme, without being prepared at all but just wanting to be happier.
Success for me was, and still is, being able to pay rent and have a buffer for emergencies. This was setting my sights purposefully low as to not have a breakdown and branding myself a failure if I didn’t make £20,000+ per year.
Nowadays my targets are much higher, but I still believe just covering the basics should be classed as a success, and everything beyond that a huge bonus.”
Emily Rose – Freelance Social Media Guru in Southport
“Having recently taken the leap of faith to go freelance (while still working full time) my success is probably different from others. Success currently can be defined as being able to go to networking events and gaining clients who have either been recommended or have seen my Facebook page. To be able to reach the ultimate definition of success I need to keep working hard and build my client base by attending events. I want potential clients to get to know me and see how passionate I am whilst learning about their businesses. I love to meet people from all walks of life and will constantly strive to delivery them the most value.
Everyone has their own own versions of success and at the moment, going it alone and taking on the big world of freelancing is mine.”
Alex Hardy – Freelance Designer & Developer in Manchester
“The main reason I went freelance (besides the challenge), was the arrival of my boy. I wanted to have flexibility in my work life so I could be a dad who says ‘yes’ rather than ‘sorry, I’ve got to work’. People ask you “are you sure you want to take the risk?”, but I think having responsibilities keeps my head on straight. I have to make a success of it, but success doesn’t mean making megabucks. It’s actually liberating to decide how much is enough and work to that.
At the same time it helps me conduct myself like a professional, rather than a guy in his spare room with nothing better to do than work.
I enjoy it, too :)”
Katy Carlisle – Squarespace Web Designer in the Peak District
“In some of my previous jobs, success was measured in relation to whether targets were achieved, and I do think that having goals is important; however for me, it’s possible to have success even if you fall slightly short. I’m a finalist for the Freelancer of the Year awards, which is insanely cool. My goal is to win but I’d still feel successful even if that doesn’t happen. It’s about knowing that I’ve given it my best. With my work I feel that a project is a success when the clients are happy and the website is making a real difference to their aims.
Beyond my work as a freelancer, success is about balance and all the different areas of my life working together.”
Steve Folland – Freelance Video Creator & Podcaster in Hertfordshire
“For me it’s in the balance of work and play.
If my clients are happy, if I’m creatively stimulated and proud of my work, if I’m pushing forward, not treading water, and if I’m able to do all of that whilst taking care of my kids and being genuinely ‘present’ with them… then, right now, for me that’s success.
If I’m doing too much of either at the expense of the other then I’ve failed.
Of course I feel successful if I’ve hit my financial goals for the month. But, likewise, If I’ve made 4x more than I needed to and done that at the expense of my family, then what success is that?”
Lucy Kirkness – SEO & Digital Marketing Consultant in Brighton
“I think of success as a mindset, rather than a destination. Much like happiness.
Success to me is knowing that I’ve done my best in achieving what I’m capable of, professionally and personally. “Achieving what I’m capable of” may refer to financial achievements, a healthy work life balance, or stepping out of my comfort zone and growing as a result.
In fact, success to me is probably these three things combined, while maintaining a certain level of enthusiasm for what I do and a sense of worth.”
Adrian Bentley – Ideas Man For Hire in Manchester
“I wouldn’t admit it, but if you’d asked me 20 years ago, the pathetic truth was I measured success in pay rises, Paul Smith suits and flashy motors.
Back then, I had more than my fair share of that stuff. But none of it made me happy. So, if you accept happiness = success… I was spectacularly unsuccessful.
These days, I own one half decent suit, drive a working-class-Vauxhall* (*according to my pal Dan, the Merc driver) and I’ve never been happier!
I’m blessed with the freedom to choose who I work with, and who I don’t. I’ve got the flexibility to, pretty much, work when I want. Plus, I’m lucky enough to earn a fair whack for the privilege, so money isn’t a worry. For me, that’s success.”
Emma Knowles – Cartoon Illustrator in Manchester
“I once drove myself into the ground by overworking to pay for things I didn’t need and worrying too much about how others perceived me. Coming out of the other side, I now see how utterly pointless that was. Time is the only thing that any amount of money can’t buy, so those that use it to confidently pursue their own goals & passions (whilst comfortably keeping a roof over their head), are successful in my eyes.
I also think a healthy work/life balance defines success too, as is being someone who is happy to share knowledge and help others when they need it.”
Jordan Wilson – Director at Mount Digital in Manchester
“Success to me looks like a sustainable, profitable business that delivers mutually rewarding campaigns and projects; providing excellent results for clients whilst maintaining strong, transparent relationships.
Being able to enjoy your work, provide great results and to be rewarded for all of it is the greatest success available, in my opinion.”
Maija Ziga – Freelance Graphic Designer in Manchester (but from Latvia)
“Success to me is having the ability to wake up in the morning and go to bed with a smile on my face knowing I am doing work / living the lifestyle that I’m passionate about. To me success doesn’t have an end to it but better outcome each time. It still can be a bit of an adventure with its own ups and downs, and dead ends. Every now and then it takes me back to square one but it would be stupid to give up when something goes wrong. That’s the beauty of design journey.
Success is a chance to do what I love.”
Ian Anderson Gray – Co-Founder of Seriously Social in Manchester
“Last year I took a day off to think about what my life goals were. It’s something I’d recommend everyone does at least a couple of times a year. I asked myself what my goals were and then asking the all important “WHY?”! Initially, my thoughts on success were to do with “growing my business” and “increasing my revenue”. That then moved on to “having freedom to choose clients”, “having freedom to work the way I want” and “being able to take time off”. And then to “being able to enjoy time with my friends and family” and “being able to bless others through what I do”.
If I could sum up my definition of success in one word, it would be Freedom.”
Emma Cossey – Career & Life Coach in Berkshire
“Success for me is being able to earn a decent living doing something I love, while still having time to spend with family and other interests, especially since becoming a (freelancing) mum. Income is an important part, because it gives you more options and freedom, but earning six figures (a cliched number thrown around a lot at the moment) by doing something you don’t enjoy means you’re not necessarily happy – and what is success if you’re unhappy? Recognition and respect also help, but I’m not sure you can feel really successful just based on how others view you. If you do that, you’ll never feel like you’ve reached success as you’ll constantly be chasing approval.
Essentially, you need to work out what would make you happy – that’s success.”
Pritesh Patel – Freelance Digital Marketing Consultant in Milton Keynes
“I put my vision of success into 3 focused categories. 1) Financials 2) Knowledge 3) Happiness.
It all comes down to how effectively you use your time.In my first year in business, I worked so solidly hard to the point where I had neglected categories 2 and 3 – learning new things and being happy. Money alone wasn’t why I had started my own business, nor was it my vision of success. It was a part, but not sole.
So I had to fine tune my time and my priorities.
It’s taken 3 years to get to a point where I think I have the balance just right between work/financials, time for personal activities and opportunities to build my knowledge.
I am more happy now than I was 3 years ago – success!!
Heather Catherine Orr – Freelance Marketing Copywriter in California
“For me, success has 3 main aspects: health, wealth and relationships. Being able to maximize my physical and spiritual vitality, feel fulfilled in my profession, and maintain a strong connection with my loved ones, friends and work partners is key to achieving it.
Having a more organic work/life schedule that allows me to travel and enjoy my interests outside of work is not bad either.”
Ryan Gibson – Freelance Digital Marketing Consultant in Leeds
“Success to me is living a life you want to live. Commonly success is attributed to the rich and famous but for me that’s someone who fails to understand what real success is.
I view success in that your work and your life walk hand in hand into the sunset. Work/Life balance doesn’t exist; strive for work/life solidarity. If you can achieve that then that is what success looks like.
I used to commute over 2 and a half hours a day which made me miserable. Now I can pretty much work around my daughter and be part of her life development. All this while financially supporting the family & working with clients/a business which I love. Your life is relatively short and your time with loved ones is too.
Success shouldn’t be just used to describe those who are financially successful; it should also include those who find the right blend and lead a happy, fruitful life. “
Lauren Dibben – Freelance Experiential Marketing Producer in Liverpool (but from America)
“Success for me is being able to step away from my work at the end of the day knowing I have done the ABSOLUTE best job possible for my client. I love the look of surprise and delight when presenting a client with a great idea or an innovative business solution. I also like to take time to fill, what I call, my “think tank.” This includes visiting museums, watching Ted Talks online, seeing what kind of work my colleagues are up to, and attending networking events. This allows me to have a well-rounded view of what’s going on in advertising and technology so I can service my clients with new and innovative ideas.
If I feel like I have accomplished this, then I am a happy camper.”
Matt Davies – Search Marketing Specialist in Chorlton
“In my 9 years of agency life, my idea of success was completely client-focussed. Of course, when you’re freelancing you don’t really have that luxury, as you have your own business to attend to as well.
Initially my idea of success was to simply earn enough that I could afford to support the business, myself and my family.
But at the same time as building up your business, you can’t afford to be any less focussed on your clients. You should take as much, if not more pride in delivering good work to happy clients as in winning new business.
So long as I deliver on both fronts, while also maintaining a good work/life balance, I’ll feel successful.”
Anjlee Bhatt – Freelance Creative Director in Manchester
“The road to success is paved with coffee…no, but seriously, when I was little my father always quoted Dickens:
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
When you earn a living by providing a service to others, your success is defined by their happiness and well-being, which is worth measuring not only in pounds, shillings and pence, but more in terms of smiles, thanks and referrals.
There is nothing better than knowing your efforts are appreciated and you have made a positive impact in someone’s life, especially if you are getting paid to do something you love.”
Col Skinner (Me) – Freelance Digital Consultant in Manchester
“On realising that whatever my full time role, I couldn’t invoice happiness or rebate time, I decided to take control of my working life to source more of these limited elements. For myself, success is forging a business that fulfils my ambitions, motivations and values, whilst allowing me to do the things in my life worth doing. Those things I wouldn’t have the time, freedom or finances for if I’d stuck to a full time employment. Meeting and getting to know people with real substance (like this lot above) is also part of it.I am not ashamed to say that my definition of success doesn’t involve status, increased turnover or selling up in 5 years time.
For me, it all boils down to shaking off those shackles of society (pause for dramatic effect) and regaining control of my time.”
You, and no one else, are the one that sets or defines what success looks like. Don’t fall for the cliché trappings of a successful life. Aim for goals that matter and make a difference to you or those around you. I will leave you with this great quote by Anne Sweeney:
Thank you to all the lovely folks above who took the time to contribute to this piece. Without you it would literally just be and who cares about that.
Liked this post? Well then you are in luck as I also created this post >> 15 Freelancers Reveal How They Regain Their Motivation
Have you got a definition of success you would like to share? Comment below.