Working as a freelance writer makes life equal parts challenging and exciting.
You may keep strange hours. You may have to navigate periods of too much work — and the dry spells that sometimes follow.
The one thing you need most is the support of those around you. But sometimes they just don’t get it.
Here are the comments I’ve heard from people who don’t understand freelancing — and the responses I’ve used to help them get it.
1. “If you had a real job, you’d understand.”
For people who equate the word “job” with working 9-5, the world of freelance writers is baffling.
You see the late nights, early mornings, and weekend work. They picture you napping during the day and binge-watching Netflix.
Comments like these are hurtful, no doubt. But they’re often said because of a true lack of understanding (or even a little tinge of jealousy), and not out of spite. Knowing this can help to lessen the sting.
Instead of throwing a jab back, try educating the person about what life is really like for freelance writers. When they toss an, “If you had a real job” your way, you can say,
“Actually, I’ve got deadlines to meet and clients counting on me just like you do. Every morning I get up at 7:30, answer e-mails from clients, spend some time brainstorming story ideas, put together pitches for magazines, and scout out potential new clients.
“I break around noon for lunch, probably like you do when you’re at work, then I get back to it and spend time writing and revising copy, meeting with clients in person or on the phone, and sending invoices. It’s a real job — I’m just doing it in my home.”
2. “What do you do all day?”
This may come from a friend who has the day off and wants you to join them somewhere. Or it could be an honest question from a family member who just isn’t thinking about the implications of their words.
Instead of laughing off the remark or rolling your eyes, try saying something like this:
“I usually start my day by answering e-mails from clients. Then I spend the rest of the morning working on new projects, whether it’s writing an article for a magazine or handling copy for a client’s brochure.
“In the afternoon, I’ll work on pitching new clients or invoicing so I can keep the work coming in when I’ve wrapped up my current projects. Sometimes, I’ll have a meeting with a potential new client or a call with an existing one. I typically work until 5:30 or so, and may do some more work in the evening depending on deadlines.”
It’s easy for someone to understand what a doctor or a teacher does when they head into work, but they may need more details to fully appreciate the workflow of a freelance writer. By hearing exactly what a day looks like for you, they’ll understand it’s not just about lounging around in your sweats.
3. “Could you watch kids/do an errand for me?”
You know the quality of your work suffers when you divert attention away from writing projects to child care or household chores, but this may not be apparent to others.
Explain to your family that your workday is like anyone else’s, even if it happens at home:
“It wouldn’t be a good idea if I showed up to your school or workplace with a load of laundry that needs folding, right? These chores wait until you come home, so you can concentrate during the day.
“I’d appreciate it if it could be the same for me. My work suffers when I’m trying to multitask, and I want to make sure I keep my clients happy by giving them 100 percent of my attention.”
Whatever you do, keep your cool — and remember, the only one who really has to understand the freelance lifestyle is you. If friends and family don’t get it, find a writer community where you can share your concerns.
How do you respond to misconceptions about freelancing? Tell us in the comments below.