Freelance Writers: How Other People Perceive Us

Today’s topic for discussion at the Freelance Writing Jobs Facebook Group is  how our family, friends and neighbors perceive us. It’s interesting because no matter how hard we work, there are some who feel that because we have no regular employer, we don’t actually have a job. Often times, having flexibility sometimes means people doubt you work very hard. It also means some folks feel you’re available any time of the day or night.

I remember receiving a very innocent email from my son’s teacher asking me to come in and help with a classroom event because she knows I’m always home and available to help. Part of me is happy to be available to participate in school when I’m needed because that’s very important.  However, part of me also thought, “but wait, just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m always available.”

It’s all in how others perceive us.

My mother worked at home as an instructional designer. She had a flexible schedule but still had a deadline oriented job. She knows exactly what it’s like to work full time from home because she did it herself. On the other hand, my mother in law, knows I do some work at home, but she wonders why I don’t have more time for cleaning. I jokingly ask my husband if he runs a vacuum during his lunch hour and why I should be expected to do the same, but the truth is, when you work at home people don’t understand why you don’t dust every day or why a bed might be unmade from time to time.

It’s how others perceive the work at home lifestyle.

I’m happy to be there to help my son with school work, be a class mom or den mom or just have afternoons in the park. Sometimes though, I wish my flexibility didn’t give certain others the impression that I don’t work at all. I think it’s one of the reasons I keep a schedule. Having set “office hours” helps others to respect my time more.  Still, there are some who can’t grasp the difference between “stay at home” and “work at home.”

What are your thoughts on freelancing and how others perceive us? Is this ever an issue for you?


11 responses
  1. Jenn Avatar

    I definitely get that from some people, though I talk about my work (and how hard I work) so much that I think people do realize just how much of a “job” freelancing is (and a more stressful and uncertain one than a regular 8-5).

    I used to get a lot of invites for coffee and requests to go do things during my workday from friends, but I’ve learned to manage that by setting aside basically the equivalent of a lunch hour in which I can have a weekly coffee date with my closest friend, and that’s it.

    My main problem is that volunteer work can so easily be rationalized as fodder for a story, or networking, or a resume builder, that it can easily eat up your marketing/job search/writing time. That, and the pressure to take care of household tasks during the day while working at home (it’s some weird hardwired sense of maternal obligation, I swear). Oftentimes I leave the house to get work done, just to avoid the visual reminder of the baskets of laundry or cluttered kitchen counters.

  2. Claire Wagner Avatar

    Here’s some more bad news. My kids grew up – mostly – with me working from home. They are 22 and 20 and still call me at all hours of the day needing favors, information, etc. Same for my family, including my husband. I keep wondering when I’m going to stop answering the phone while I’m working. I set myself up for this!

    1. sally Avatar

      I finally put what I thought was a clever and humorous but serious sign on my door indicating which issues were valid/worth bothering me for. The sign stated degrees of how busy I was associated with how much my office door was open. So…. door wide open= come on in. Door half-closed= I’m very busy so if it isn’t urgent, please wait. Closed=do not knock unless there we have loose livestock, a fire, someone’s arm is severed and hanging by a vein. I really wrote that, and they still didn’t take me seriously until I stopped making dinner.

  3. Tina Avatar

    Funny thing is that I constantly have issues with this. My boyfriend is always telling me that I never take any time for myself and that I try to work entirely too much while pretty much everyone else in my life says the exact opposite. We even got a wonderful email from his mother (who has worked from home for over 20 years) last week about how I am a capable adult without children so there is no excuse for me trying to work from home. What difference does it make if I have children if I am working and making money? I am only 23 she should be glad I don’t have babies that I cannot support because according to her I make no money!
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..Inspirational Quote =-.

    1. Sherene Avatar

      Lordy, your b-friend better be a great one for you to put up with comments like that from his mom, lol.

  4. Barbara Avatar

    This is a bit of an issue for me. My husband is fully supportive of my freelancing career, but nonetheless frequently makes errand-running requests of me that he wouldn’t have made were I still practicing law. But he’s getting pretty used to hearing, “No, I have to work.” As for others…I used to feel self-conscious about working from home and would always blather on about how busy I was to emphasize the fact that I was working. These days, I’ve got a toddler and baby in addition to my writing career, and I find I worry a lot less about how I am perceived: I am too tired to care. That said, if someone refers to me as a SAHM, I am sure to correct them. (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a SAHM, but I am a WAHM.)
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Do You Workshop? A Writer Conference/Workshop Round-up =-.

  5. allena Avatar

    I worry that, since I am ALWAYS available and OFTEN in the schools, yet I am quite financially secure, I worry people think I’m spoiled, when in reality I grew up in total poverty and worked my @ss off to never be there again.
    .-= allena´s last blog ..Guard Your Finances: Earn and KEEP Your Freelance Writing Money =-.

  6. SatuR Avatar

    Friends and relatives are constantly asking me to babysit (I don’t have kids, I work from home = I must be lonely and have nothing to do, or something like that), help them out with various things and errands or just come and spend the day with the kids/go shopping/go to the beach for the day etc. One friend especially keeps telling me to “we could use some help with the kids, and you can work here too, what’s the problem?”. I guess the problem is, if I work, I work. If I take time to help out a friend, I take that time out to help the friend and that is time off work. But of course if I take an afternoon off, I’ll have to make up for those lost working hours (and lost money) sometime (like early Sunday morning). My solution: I now have office hours and I am not available for anything other than work during those hours.
    .-= SatuR´s last blog ..India Travel Tips: India Travel Health =-.

  7. Imogen Avatar

    The hardest part for me right now is separating my Skype contacts into a business account and another, personal, one.

    I am overseas, and all of my lovely Australian-based folk chit-chat with me via Skype when I am in the middle of my work-day here in the local timezone and need to keep Skype open for client contact.

    I know it works well for them – it is evening there and their work-day is done. And yes, because I work at home, my ‘workday’ is perceived to be vague, or non-existent! Especially when I am staring into space and look totally inactive. I will never convince anyone that this is when the real work is happening. 🙂
    .-= Imogen´s last blog ..Gmail is my homeboy =-.

  8. Wurzzlexxx Avatar

    What I find most irritating is that Job Centres do not seem to be very flexible where those trying to set out as freelance writers. After all, work is work, whatever you are trying to seek therefore they should be allowing the likes such as myself a little more freedom

  9. CeciAnn Avatar

    You are in very good company. Eudora Welty had her typewriter and paper set up at a front window. She would be staring into space working out a scene in her head, dialogue, something. And someone would stroll by and start to chat, on and on at times. Occasionally people commented about how she obviously wasn’t doing anything, just sitting there, doing nothing.

    I just loved that.
    .-= CeciAnn´s last blog ..Paris Tales–Part I =-.

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