It used to be writers had a pretty standard measurement of success – get published. Then the standards rose and it became – get published and be able to make a living. One FWJ reader’s comment made me stop and think about where the standards are now. I recently wrote on whether having a niche was necessary and a commenter remarked she had never heard of a six figure writer who didn’t have a niche or two.
What stood out to me is “six figure writer.” Now, before I get started, let’s not think this is a low self-esteem post. I am not trying to tell writers to lower their expectations. I would love it if every writer in the world that worked hard and maximized their opportunities would become a six-figure (plus!) writer. I guess my question is “Is that the only measurement of success?”
Is an established, respected writer who makes $60,000, $75,000+ any less successful than the writer who breaks into the upper tier of prolific writers? Should a writer who makes $25,000 – $30,000, can pay their bills, pick their days to work and spend time doing whatever they want feel less accomplished than the blogger whose single tweet earns them hundreds of dollars?
Writers should be careful in how they let others define their success. Right now the trend is six figures, somewhere down the line the billion dollar writer club may be the buzz. And yes, I said that with a straight face.
When we take an honest look at the writing world, not everyone is going to make the big bucks. Not everyone has the opportunity, the drive or even the desire and you know what? That’s okay.
Geographically most writers are likely not going to need $500,000 a year to live comfortably. And what about writers who are in a two-income household?
Never stop striving for success. Never stop looking for an opportunity to break out, but never let anyone else make you feel that where you are is somehow less than. Instead, create your own, Wendy Writer or Bob Blogger success guideline. Ask yourself:
- Am I happy?
- What did I imagine life would be like as a freelance writer? Have I achieved that dream? Do I want to or have my expectations and life situation changed?
- What do I need to earn in order to live a life that includes not only the necessities, but the nicey-nice things I like to have?
- Realistically, what would it take to hit six figures and beyond? Am I willing to take those steps?
- What credentials, publications or benchmarks would I like to achieve regardless of monetary compensation?
And so on. I’ve been writing professionally in various forms for over 10 years and throughout that time I’ve had very lean and very lucrative years. One of the greatest things I’ve learned, besides the random factoid: people overuse the word ‘that,’ is true success is never all financial. It’s reputation, experiences, opportunities and choice as well. If you let other people or popular ideas determine your success you’ll forever chase the bar others set for you instead of setting them for yourself. So, instead of worrying about being six-figure earning writer, we should focus on a six-figure life. A life of abundance and longevity.
How do you define success for yourself as a writer? How do you determine your earning needs and potential?