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How Do You Define Success?

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou


What does this number mean? Any guesses? Have you seen it before?

This is the question copywriter Steve Slaunwhite asked at the beginning of his PWAC seminar last week in Toronto. His presentation was on how to become a six-figure freelancer. The number above is how much income you need to earn every week to make $100,000 in a year. Actually, in 48 weeks – meaning in addition to earning six figures, you’ll get four weeks of vacation.

The problem with this idea of hitting six figures, Steve explained, is that it is placed in the same category as writing a best-selling novel or becoming a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist. But it shouldn’t be.

“I think it’s a very achievable goal to make six figures as a freelance writer,” he told the audience.

And just like that, he had captured our interest.

But wait… success isn’t defined by how much money you make.

While the idea of achieving a six-figure salary is certainly appealing to me, what resonated even more in Steve’s talk was how he talked about success. “Pay is just one part of it,” he said. “Money is important, but it’s not the whole picture.”

I’m now in my third week as a full-time freelancer, and I can already attest to this. I mean, sure, I’m riding on the momentum of a new start to a new year and the freedom of officially becoming my own boss, but I couldn’t be happier. I’m working with my own clients, writing about what I want to write about, creating my own opportunities to network, and connecting with people who are already having a big impact on my career.

These are all essential details in my personal definition of success.

During the seminar, Steve talked about how important it is to have your own definition of success. If you don’t, “you start following someone else’s,” he said. He shared a chart that he uses to track his progress in achieving his definition of success. He fills it out every Friday morning, ranking his advancement in each of the categories he outlined for himself.

One of these categories may include a dollar sign. But the others can cover an array of different areas, such as:

  1. Freedom to choose my own hours.
  2. Working with clients with a shared passion.
  3. Having the opportunity to work on my novel.
  4. Making connections with people who inspire me.
  5. Trying something new every week.
  6. Spending quality time with my family.
  7. Having time to workout and prepare healthy meals.

Every one of these priorities has a place on my own success chart, along with some others I haven’t mentioned. And so far, I’ve been able to check off most of these items each week.

I think we tend to be too hard on ourselves when it comes to rating our success. Often, we are distracted by comparisons to our peers, rather than focusing on what’s important to us. So I challenge you to make your own success chart, and track your progress. Maybe you’ll decide it’s time to make some changes. Or maybe you’ll find you’re on the right path.

How do you define success? I dare you to share a few of your own priorities in the comments below.


Charlotte Ottaway

Charlotte is the founder of Web of Words. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners create real human connections online through blogging and social media. Her work has been published in Maclean's, Canadian Business, Zoomer, The Globe and Mail, The Huffington Post Canada and other Canadian publications. Better known by family and friends as Carly, she currently resides in Newmarket with her husband and fur-babe. To learn more, check out her portfolio at and follow her on Twitter @charlottaway.

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