Thanksgiving is this week (for all my American peeps) and that means lots of family, catching up, and possibly being cornered by that one relative rudely wondering when you’ll be getting a “real” job.
November and December are likely packed with family gatherings and unfortunately this will happen to many of you. In between bites of mashed potatoes and passing the cranberries, that smarty pants relative of yours is going to slyly (or not so slyly) bring up your job.
What are you doing about insurance?
How do you advertise? (always love to shock them by saying “I don’t.”)
Are you paying your quarterly taxes?
How do you get clients?
They’ll wonder at the challenging economy and note that it’s easier to buy a house/start a family/take time off with a full-time job. And of course offer up a friend or two to help you find work.
Sometimes these are completely genuine questions and sometimes what they really mean is…
How can you possibly make enough money to support yourself (your family) from making crafts / drawing all day / writing stories / designing blogs (what is a blog exactly??) How can little you and your little business survive at all??
And so, I know it’s very tempting to take a big gulp of wine and tell them how sorry you are that they only get three days off for the holiday before they return to the same soul-sucking for the next 30 years. But we freelancers can understand that working online on the couch all day in our pjs (no? just me?) can be a little confusing to those born and bred on the college > career > marriage > family life path. So here are a few slightly more tactful ways to tell them you’re kicking ass…
Explain what you actually do
When I moved away from Michigan multiple people asked me what I would be doing for work and if I had a job lined up in San Diego. And after a blank stare, I reminded them that I work from home as a web designer and my job goes where ever I go.
Whether you’re working on your next novel or prepping for a gallery show of your photography, sometimes people need to hear how you spend your time in “real job” terms. I’m a solopreneur that helps women grow badass businesses through blogging doesn’t really make sense to people who aren’t working online.
And blogging – we all know this is mega confusing in general. You write about your life for strangers on the internet…and you get paid??? You may have to add that you sell advertising like a magazine or newspaper, that you work with brands – you know how Ellen works with CoverGirl…preeeetty much like that, and that you sell digital products like ebooks.
Share what you do on a daily basis
Because, DUH, your job is still full-time even if you don’t trudge to an office 9 to 5 every day. Yes, I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, but my job still includes a to-do list that could fill more than 40 hours each week. When I’m not designing and coding client websites, I’m bookkeeping, writing sales copy, writing blog posts, creating graphics, Skyping with clients, running live web chats, running an online community, doing research, shooting photos, updating social media, and loads of emailing.
So, if you spend a portion of your day illustrating book covers, you may have to clue them in to the other daily tasks that help keep the income flowing. Because you’re not just hanging out drawing, you’re running a business.
Show off your work
When I started freelancing, I was kind of weirded out to share my online space with people I knew in real life. When people would find their way to my site it felt like they’d discovered some deep dark secret even though they almost always told me it was pretty cool. But now, my personal Facebook is linked to my business Facebook page, so my job is no longer a mystery.
Most of us have an online portfolio or a shop full of products, which is direct proof that you are in fact making money from this “little” online venture of yours.
Tell them about your plans for next year
Maybe you’ll be traveling to a big blogger conference, have already lined up three clients, are planning a month-long sabbatical, or are re-designing your website – whatever it is, knowing you have a plan for the coming year will put any concerned relative at ease. Sharing your future goals shows not only that your business is growing, but that (of course!) you have enough business sense to plan ahead.
Share your expertise
Sharing internet statistics, info on social media, or web design trends is a great way for us bloggers and designers to squash the situation by dropping a little knowledge. We’re not just making pretty graphics, we’re researching ways to be more productive and make websites convert better.
So, what part of your job can you talk about for hours? What sort of information can you dig up to make yourself sound like a mega smarty pants? The Buffer blog, Forbes, and Inc. are all excellent places to find statistics that will shut up any office-bound relative real quick!
And the best way to shut them up…
I make more money than I ever did at my corporate job ::big smile::
Or my brother’s favorite, “Don’t worry about it.” Because really, you don’t have to justify or explain your fantastic freelance lifestyle anyway!
Even if you leave the conversation and they still don’t get it, remember, freelancing and self-employment has exploded over the past few years and now, because of the internet, working for yourself isn’t as risky as it used to be. You can explain and explain, but they may still think the safety of the 9 to 5 is best.
Also it’s entirely possibly that they are 100% impressed with your self-employed life and your badass business sense and their negativity actually comes from the fact that they can’t or don’t think they would be able to create their own business and live the freelance life. They might just be unleashing insecurities or a little jealousy, so don’t take it personally!