Simultaneously Penniless and Rich

By Jake Poinier
get rich writingIn response to my previous post, “Taxes Don’t Lie,” V.R. writes: “Won’t disagree with you on importance of metrics and measurements for the self-employed. As a freelancer myself, I had to go back and read the blog twice to make sure the entire context of your message could be categorized as ‘financial’ success. Of course it was and I calmed down. Had you attempted to speak to a ‘success’ in general, I was going to challenge your notion that the only measurements that matter are income, expenses and savings. I believe a lot of freelancers measure their success more unconventionally; perhaps by hours spent at work (or rather hours spent with their family), number of press mentions, awards and accolades, mental and physical health, number of countries visited — you know, the things that causes one to transition from corporate life to freelance life. The freelancers I know are simultaneously penniless and rich!”

V.R. wanted me to ensure that he got credit for that phrase — “simultaneously penniless and rich” — so credit is duly noted. (As it happens, it fits in with my philosophy that you should Write Like You’re Rich.) More important, his point expands nicely on what I was getting at: Measuring the financial health of your freelance business can be accomplished easily at tax time, but it’s by no means a comprehensive measurement of your overall success.

All that said, measuring success is highly individual — including those items V.R. enumerated above, and many others. The metric changes over the course of your freelance career — I don’t have the same goals as I did in 1999. Back then, it was pure survival, as the “penniless” part of the equation was all too true. Today, while I might be “rich” by third-world standards, my true wealth comes from the people, experiences and opportunities from freelancing that simply wouldn’t exist if I were still in the 9-5 corporate grind.

In the comments, what’s your favorite non-financial measure of success?

Jake Poinier can be found at or @DrFreelance.