It’s easy to compare ourselves to others in our field, as well as those outside of it: copywriters with beautiful websites, social media influencers who look like their life is out of a photoshoot (hint: what you’re looking at is a photoshoot), and that not-really-friend from high school who failed at math, but appears to be making big dollars working for an investment company.
I’ve heard numerous copywriters who are just starting say things like, “I’m behind” or “I am slow!” Behind what? Slow compared to who or what? And why is slow a bad thing?
When you’re focused on your career and taking steps toward what success means for you, you’re exactly where you need to be.
OK, now that we’re clear on the fact that you’re in the right place, it’s time to focus on getting where you want to go next.
Defining what copywriting success looks like for you is the first step to knowing where you want to go (and, I’d argue, the key to having a healthy relationship with your learning and, afterward, your career). If you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?
When you haven’t defined what success looks like for yourself, looking at all those forms of “success” leads to a lot of spiraling—and not a lot of progress toward your goals.
When I say “define what success looks like for yourself,” I mean literally that: get out a piece of paper or pull up a blank Word document.
Block out those thoughts about friends and family and what they think about your new career and how they measure your success (or what they will think when you tell them). The thoughts about copywriters who tout $25,000 months. The thoughts about copywriters who JUST started and are finding clients even though you’ve been working at it for months longer than them.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Where do I want to work?
- How many hours a week do I want to work?
- Do I need/want to make a particular annual salary?
- What clients do I want to work with?
- What projects do I want to work on?
Write your answers down. And then write down your “why.” If you want to make six figures, have a Lead Copywriter or Creative Director job title, or work 20 hours a week, great! But why is that? Is it to have more money to take a vacation? More time to spend with family? A combination of factors? These answers will provide insights you need to form your definition of success.
And your “why” is what will sustain you when then initial motivation wears off.
Go over your answers and cross out any items that you felt like you had to include because another copywriter is doing it.
Go back through again and consider if there are any factors you wrote down that you don’t feel as strongly about as the others.
For example, maybe you want to work from home, but you’re also excited about working from an office. Or maybe you’d like to work with clients in the travel space, but are open to the types of clients you work with—at least out the gate. As you gain more and more experience, you may have a clearer idea of the clients and projects you do (and don’t) like to work on.
These may not be part of your definition. You want the things you feel most strongly about to make up your definition of success.
Once you have the elements that make up your definition of success, combine it into a statement. If I want to work 20 hours a week from home, it may look something like this: “Success means working part-time from my home so more of my time is spent with my family and pursuing my education, and less of my time is spent raging at rush-hour traffic.”
Pin that to your desktop or write it on a sticky note you attach to your desk. Now, consider the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.
Read More: 6 Habits of Successful Copywriters
It’s easy to get distracted by other people who you think are “making it” and “successful.” But the image we project into the world is only one piece of the actual story.
The truth is, it’s hard to know if they’re successful by the standard you’re imposing on them. Do you know their income? Their happiness? Their work-life balance?
And frankly, none of it matters. What does matter is spending time focusing on your goals, not someone else’s. Working on your goals is what’s going to get you to where you want to go. And that requires figuring out where it is you want to go in the first place.
By defining your success—and revisiting your definition every so often to make sure it aligns with your goals—you’ll be able to look at others’ success and say, “Good for them!” Or at the very least know that just because you’re going a different direction or taking a different route doesn’t make you any less successful.
Your turn! How do you define success? Share your thoughts in the comments below!