Success for dummies

September 14th, 2007

OK, so now you know that I like to dabble in short-term contract work once every few years. Some call it temping, others call it permatemping, still others call it seasonal work. I call it Putting Myself Back In The 9-to-5 Marketplace Every So Often To See Just How Much Job Responsibility And Corporate Clout I Can Command, While Earning A Pretty Penny To Boot. Not only does this experience make me more marketable as a freelancer, it helps pad my savings account so that I can run off later and freelance for a slightly less lucrative industry — say, perhaps, maybe, oh, I dunno, book publishing.

Evidently one Amazon reviewer, who I believe is a lawyer and an accountant, considers my on-again-off-again romance with these short-lived temp stints proof that I’m a less-than-successful solo worker. This reviewer seems to think success equals nothing more than ensnaring a corner office (which I actually have at my contract job — and what a lovely view of the parking lot it is!), a company car (does a company laptop count? if so, check), and a fat salary (ahem; you don’t think I’m going to work for the man for peanuts, do you?).

I write this not to refute ESQ/CPA Guy’s review. That would be dumb. Without differences of opinion, reviews would be useless. I write this because this reviewer’s definition of success struck me as so narrow. What’s successful for me may not be successful for you (and clearly won’t be successful for ESQ/CPA Guy).

So after reading this lovely post on Boss Lady about succeeding on your own terms, I thought I’d list my own ingredients for a what I consider a “successful career” here:

  • Having the flexibility and autonomy to work when, where, and how I want (in other words, at home, wearing this, listening to this, with my dog at my feet, and a midday break for a rousing game of fetch in the backyard)
  • Asking for the rate I know I’m worth and getting it
  • Knowing my bills will always be paid and that a fat vacation involving a 14-hour plane ride is not entirely out of the question
  • Writing for household-name companies, publications, and websites
  • Writing for the audience I want to write for
  • Receiving high praise, referrals, and repeat business from clients and editors
  • Receiving awards or grants for my work
  • Working on the projects I believe in, with the people I want to work with
  • Working on projects that are so enjoyable I forget I’m actually working
  • Working on projects that make a difference in someone’s life and just might even help someone in need

Now how about you? How do you spell s-u-c-c-e-s-s?

Entry Filed under: Money honey,She's the boss,This freelance life

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. green3  |  September 14th, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    Look at the heading on my blog. It reads, “Don’t take anyone else’s definition of success as your own.” I also have it taped to my desk so I read it every single day. This could have been the headline for your blog post today!

  • 2. Toni  |  September 15th, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Success for me will be (cause I ain’t quite there yet!): taking calculated risks to achieve personal fufillment, landing a job where I get to write and empower people economically, getting out of debt, purchasing an adorable townhouse someplace with good weather and a Borders nearby, having enough money to meet my needs and provide extras, and being recognized for my contributions. I like how defining our own success gives us a checklist that we can come back to when others try to force us to accept theirs!

  • 3. Eliza Amos  |  September 15th, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    I have been thinking for weeks now that I need to write a manifesto for my working life. This is a great reminder, and a great starting point too. Thanks for outlining!

    And as for reviewers … bah. Don’t let the b*stards wear you down.

  • 4. Monica  |  September 17th, 2007 at 9:22 am

    Before I start, let me say that I have been a corporate drone all my working years. Since the late 80′s to be exact.

    I came during the years where corporations would have meetings in various locations where you got to travel and have other perks. But being 1st generation in my famlily to go to college (more about that later) and get a job where $17,000 to start was real money, there were a lot of errors made on my part. So let’s skip all my work years and get to the part I want to discuss.

    I went back to work after being on hiatus after the WTC attacks (worked across the street). Prior to 9/11 I had a job that paid me $60,000 a year working as a specialist in the tech suport division. I was so proud of myself. I had worked hard to get out of the administrative assistant pool and had made the right contacts, performed well on my job (got great reviews) everything went well. Then of course one day changed everything.

    In an instant, you realize tha everything and everyone you love can be gone. And if you are human, it should change you for the better.

    I worked at a major Fortune 500 company that brought back it’s employees by masking the smell of human flesh and airplane fuel by having popcorn carts in the lobby, amid all of the christmas decorations (I kid you not). After 4 years of this (1 year temping 3 years permanent) I had enough. I was going to work hating every minute of it. I paid off every bit of debt i owed through the years, mind you $33,000 worth.

    What bothered me was that here I was, @ age 41…with no husband nor kids, I had worked all my life at jobs I hated and was still unhappy. It was now or never.

    I quit my job two months ago because seriously, I was on my way to hurting somebody. I am currently in school to finish my bachelor’s degree (did pretty well without one, but I wanted to complete something that was important to me, plus you cannot get a receptionist job w/o a college degree, experience means nothing anymore).

    I used to read your blog at the job, so I knew you said to pad the bank account. Well, thanks for the tip. Unfortunately, I could have saved more. Being in debt limits your choices, I agree with you, pay it off first.

    I have enough savings for 8 months of expenses. I am registered to take the Women Who Launch Event next month here in NYC (interested in starting my own business) . I’m planning on taking a temp job next month just to pad a little more–but see, temp positions are just that, temporary. Some of these companies try to bully you into staying and accepting a job so they can stay afloat. You as a temp have the power to choose your work style. After all their making money off of you as well.

    I do miss my benefits, although I’m looking into “affordable” policies. There is a way to try to afford this, which means I will have to work harder for myself. Key word: MYSELF.

    But let me say this; I’ve never been happier Everyone says I look great, I’m happy to get out of bed every morning. And I intend to put everything into my life the second time around. I deserve to be happy with MY choice of work. I’m just sorry that I did not realize it sooner.

    How do I spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S? Not taking anyone else’s s**t and still be able to pay my bills w/o having to resort to taking prozac.

    You rock honey!, screw ESQ/CPA…

  • 5. Mara  |  September 17th, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Personally, I define success as an overall happiness in all aspects of your life. I know may of you may think that I’m looking through rose-colored glasses right now but in order to achieve this happiness, I truly believe that you have to get rid of what is making you UNhappy. If that means a personal relationship that is going “no-where” to a job that is not utilizing your skills effectively.
    Bottom line…it all starts with you.

  • 6. Michelle Goodman  |  September 17th, 2007 at 10:53 am

    these are all such great comments. thanks, everyone. i love the life-changing-events factor; thanks for sharing that tough story, monica. keep ‘em coming. (oh, and no worries re the silly review. it illustrated a good point, that’s all…)

  • 7. Gwynneth  |  October 6th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    I know this is an older post but I had to comment anyway. The title of Esq/CPA says it all – “I’m a box checker and am successful because I did what society told me to do in order to achieve happiness. I must believe this because if I question why I followed society’s dictates, then I have to question the value of these titles as well as myself.”

    It’s interesting how FT workers look at contractors – almost pitying them for their perceived scrabbling for another project “bone”. In my contracting, I see so many sad, angry and frustrated people who can’t see beyond the treadmill and frankly, I look at FT workers and pity them because they have to endure long commutes, boring meetings, endless deadlines and performance reviews year after year after year in the same place.

    I do the 3-4 months on with contracting and 1-2 months off for writing/research/travel. Contracting gives me the freedom to: NOT have to work for the oh-so-many average to poor managers we’ve all endured over the years; NOT have to compromise my precious time off; NOT have to delegate my creativity to stolen snippets of time here and there on the weekends…I make 1/2 what I did when I had a FT slot but am 2x as happy which actually makes me pretty darn wealthy in the scheme of life.

  • 8. Michelle Goodman  |  October 7th, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    gwynneth, i’m so glad you commented on this. i’ve met those miserable full timers of which you speak. also, way to make GREAT use of the contracting system. you GO!

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Who I am

Hi, my name's Michelle Goodman and I've been freelancing since 1992. I'm author of My So-Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Read my full bio here.

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