How Do You Explain Freelancing to Your Family?

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Freelancing is one of those things that can quickly make it sound like you’re being lazy. Sometimes, people who say they’re freelancers aren’t actively looking for work or “freelance” as a kind of hobby.

This does a disservice to those of us who do work from home as a career. If you’re someone looking to make a career out of freelancing, then you’re probably used to people telling you it’s not a real job. Since you work unusual hours, people may think you’re never actually working or that you’re not making much money. Worst of all, they may try to take advantage of your time, saying you’re “never busy anyway.”

Freelancing can be summed up by’s definition:

Also, freelance.
Also, freelancer. a person who works as a writer, designer, performer, or the like, selling work or services by the hour, day, job, etc., rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer.

The only difference between what you do and what a person in a 9-to-5 job does is that you work for various clients and charge per hour, day, or per job. That means that even though you work from home, that doesn’t mean you have time to take care of other people’s kids, run errands or even do more housework. A job is a job, after all, even if you have a more flexible schedule.

One of my freelancing colleagues once wrote that a family member asserted that she should have plenty of time to babysit because she was at home. The problem with that assertion is that talking about freelancing as if it takes up none of your time devalues it. Freelancing is not equivalent to jobless. Freelancing is not equal to broke or poor.

So, how can you get people to better understand the effort and time you put into your job?

Have a schedule for friends and family

This schedule can be as loose or strict as you want, but stick to it. For example, If you like to work from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. and then again from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., make that known. Those are the times you’re unavailable. Don’t answer phone calls, don’t respond to messages on Facebook or other social media. This is your work time, and you need to keep that schedule in place for your sanity. You can even go as far as to leave a voicemail message stating, “Hello! You’ve reached ____. My available hours are ___ to ____. Please call back or leave a message.”

Don’t be afraid to correct those who devalue your work

If someone says, “Oh, you work from home, so I guess you won’t be able to afford this trip,” there is no reason not to correct that individual. You can be polite, but be firm. “I work from home, but it is a job I support myself with. I would like to go.” Or, if you don’t want to go, simply state, “I work from home and make enough for the trip, but I’d rather not spend my money on it this time.”

For people who assert that you have plenty of time, a simple, “I’d love to, but I work around __ to ___ hours a day on these days: __, ___,___,__, and ____.”

For instance, I had someone ask me if I wanted to go to a bar (which I don’t enjoy). In a slightly backhanded comment, the person assumed the reason I didn’t want to go was because I didn’t have enough money and didn’t have a job that could support hobbies or other activities. Being as straightforward as I am about my work, I said I wasn’t interested in drinking and was saving up for a large vacation (One that individual likely couldn’t afford at her low-paying 9-to-5). She told me that would take a while to save for, and I told her only two months. That gave her a rough idea that I made well and enough to go to the bar, but I was refusing because I didn’t want to. It was also slightly passive aggressive, which I sometimes encourage if someone simply is not taking a hint and is acting rudely toward you.  

Tell Them Your Salary…Sometimes

I don’t advise this often, but for certain family members, I think that knowing your salary can help. In my case, I think that my parents would worry if I was not able to support myself with a freelance career, so I don’t have a problem telling them how much I’m making. It encourages acceptance of the path I’m taking to support myself, and it reassures those who are interested that I am making enough to survive on my own and even to thrive on my own.

Now, I wouldn’t tell someone my salary if I didn’t know them well. I would be wary about giving them an estimate of what I can make for the sole reason that some people do like to use others for their own personal gain. Tread lightly if you do decide to talk about salaries. (Example: I tend to talk in hourly wages. I won’t take work on a project if I’m paid less than $20 an hour in most cases. That is open enough that people won’t know what I am making per hour and don’t know how much I’m working. Since $20 is my minimum, it’s fair to say that most of my work is well above that point!)

These are just a few ways to help others understand your freelancing career. What tips do you have to help people understand what you do?


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