We all love our family and friends. But sometimes they can be really frustrating to a freelance writer. If you’ve been freelancing for any length of time, this will probably be more comedy than anything else because you know it’s true. But regardless of whether you’re just now starting out or you’ve been freelancing for awhile, I hope some of these tips will help you.
Friends and family are very often locked into the 8-5 mindset. By this I mean that they see work as getting up early, dealing with traffic, clocking in, working from 8 to 5 with an hour for lunch, doing what an employer tells them to do, wrestling traffic back home, and repeating it Monday through Friday.
When you say “I’m so excited, I finally quit my job and I’m now a freelance writer,” what your friends hear is “I had a mental breakdown, quit my job, and now I’m unemployed. And in my spare time I write.”
It sounds sarcastic, but I promise you there will be at least one person you know that reacts as though this is what you’ve said. There are many ways that people express their “you don’t work” mentality, which I go into in my e-book, but here’s a breakdown of the top 3 and quick ways to handle them.
Verbally Rude or Condescending
This shouldn’t happen often, but I have heard horror stories from other freelance writers about people who have flat out said things to them like:
- “Since you don’t work now, are you free during the day to hang out?”
- “Are you interviewing for any real jobs, or just doing the writing thing?”
- “You should really be looking for a job.”
- “So what do you do, just sit around and write all day? Must be nice.”
I’m sure that some of these things were said as a half-joke, but the other half of that statement is what they really think. It’s hard to hear, it’s rude, and it comes from ignorance. You do work during the day, and you know that, but you need to find a way to tell them that, as well. If your family or friends are making rude comments to you about your work as a freelancer, you can do a few things, including:
- Tell them nicely that you are, in fact, a professional freelancer and you earn money for what you write.
- Ask them if they would like to see what you do during the day. (This actually helps sometimes.)
- Change the subject. You don’t have to get into a confrontation, but you don’t have to take that kind of attitude, either.
Hearing rude comments from others hasn’t happened that much to me, but most of the verbal things people can say point to one of the other, more subtle ways that people act towards freelancers that basically confirm what they think without actually saying it. So in a way, this point is a catch-all for the other things you might come across.
Demanding Your Time During Work
This is one that gets me every time. I really don’t understand it. Since you work from home now, there will be people who suddenly feel as though you are never busy and can make time for them any time it’s convenient for them.
Whether it’s your roommate walking into your work area and striking up a casual conversation, people asking you to hang out with them during the day (and then not understanding why you say no), or random drop-by’s to your home or apartment, people will begin to act as though you have nothing to do.
I think this comes from the mindset that “real work is done at an office”. You need to make sure that your friends and family are aware that they should operate under the assumption that you work, at least, between 8 and 5. Yes, we work crazy hours as a freelancer, but we shouldn’t expect people to just never see us or talk to us again. We should still have lives. You need to cut it off at some point and go outside. It’s easy to become a workaholic as a freelancer. But at the very minimum, you should have 8 to 9 uninterrupted hours a day where you can focus on your job. Whatever those are, express it to your friends, family, and social media friends so people know why they may not hear back from you.
Offers for Job Applications
This one is, to me, probably the most irritating. I try not to let it show, because I know that people do this out of a good place, they aren’t trying to be rude. But it is.
You may, on occasion, get someone who says things like “Hey I heard about this great job opening and thought of you,” or “I hear they’re having a job fair on Friday, have you thought about going?” Or maybe they’ll send you links to jobs that they think “sound like you”.
In my book, this is worse than someone coming out and saying “You don’t work,” because it’s not only assuming that but then trying to get you to go “back to work”.
People don’t always understand that freelancing is working, and to be honest we as freelancers don’t often help that image. That’s another post for another day, but just as a side note, when someone says “What do you do?” your response should not be “Well, I get up at 11:00, there are these sites I go on, people need some articles written, and yeah you know, I write, annnd…”
Your response should be “I’m professional freelance writer, so I provide written content on a wide range of subjects for clients who request it.” or something like that. Make yourself sound professional. Because you are.
Okay back on track. If someone offers you information on a “real job”, first you should just repress the desire to smack them. That won’t get you anywhere.
After that, what I normally do is just say “Oh, I really appreciate you thinking of me, but I have a job. If I ever decide to change careers, though, I’ll let you know.” With a smile.
It’s hard, but it’s the most civil way of handling it. If they keep sending you information after that, you might need to have a more heart to heart talk with them, explaining what you do, that you actually work, that you earn an income, and that your job is just as “real” as anyone else’s.
In short, you need to ensure that you communicate with those you love so they understand where you’re coming from. We live in a corporate world. Most of my clients are corporate clients. So I understand that people often think that if you work from home you’re not “employed”.
But at the same time, they need to respect that your job is just as valuable and valid as other jobs and treat it accordingly.
There are many tips and tricks for conveying what you do, what you need, and what your boundaries are that I go over in my upcoming e-book. But for now, hopefully these tips have helped. 🙂
Have any of you had experiences with people that fit one of the above descriptions?