I love the alternative nature of my career as a freelance writer. I love being able to take a vacation day without clearing it with anyone. I love working in comfy clothes with a blanket draped over my lap. I love the creativity, independence, and sense of ownership my off-the-beaten-path career affords me.
But, I don’t love the constant comments and questions I receive when I tell people what I do. And if you have an unconventional career path, you probably know exactly what I mean.
It’s 2018, and we’re living in the age of digital influencers, gig economy-embracers, and people who are more inspired than ever to create their dream jobs. Despite this, many 9-to-5 workers just don’t get it – and they don’t always say the right things to those of with non-traditional work setups. That needs to change: Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives deserve to be taken seriously. And we definitely don’t deserve to hear any of the following.
1. “So what do you really want to do?”
It’s never okay when you ask anyone this question, whether it’s your waitress, your bartender, your friend with an unconventional career. Why? Because it implies that whatever he or she is doing at the moment isn’t worth wanting. I constantly have people asking me what kind of job I’d like to get, and they don’t seem to believe me when I tell them I’m totally happy with my freelance career.
2. “Are you working these days?”
I get this question SO OFTEN even though I’ve worked consistently since I finished graduate school five-and-a-half years ago. Maybe people don’t mean to suggest I wasn’t working the last time I told them about my freelance career, but that’s definitely the vibe I get.
3. “Wow, I would never get anything done if I worked from home.”
Um, you don’t really have a choice? I heard this one so often when I held a work-from-home staff position. My answer to this? “Well, my boss wouldn’t exactly be cool with it if I missed a deadline because I got distracted by the TV, so that helps.”
4. “You’re so lucky you don’t have to go to work.”
You’re right, I am lucky. I’m lucky to have a talent, a solid work ethic, and a willingness to chart my own path. I’m lucky to have a husband who supports my creative career and offers a safety net in case the very unstable industry I work in throws me a curveball. I’m lucky I work in a field where being your own boss is a viable option. But make no mistake: This is hard work, despite the fact that I can make my own schedule and work from my couch.
5. “Oh, so you’re between jobs.”
Do some people pick up hustles or entrepreneurial pursuits while job hunting? Sure. But it’s rude to assume we’re all waiting for 9-to-5 opportunities to come along. I’ve turned down a lot of job offers in favor of the freelance life. Because guess what? It is a full-time job.
6. “What are you working on these days?”
A fairly innocuous question, but a really tough one to answer. It would probably be easier for someone with an unconventional career to explain what he or she isn’t working on; multitasking is a major part of what we do. As a freelance writer, I’m constantly juggling projects, pitching editors, invoicing clients, accounting for my earnings, managing an editorial calendar, and so much more. Explaining what I’ve been working on is exhausting and, frankly, probably not that interesting for the person who asked.
7. “So how’s housewife life?”
There is NOTHING wrong with being a housewife, and so many people who do it full-time are rock stars. But here’s the thing: Calling me a housewife diminishes the career I’ve worked really hard to build. And I have to wonder if anyone would ever ask a man with an unconventional work-from-home career what being a “house husband” is like.
8. “Wait…so who exactly do you work for then?”
I work for myself! Freelancing is, above all else, entrepreneurial. Technically, my work is evaluated and used by my clients, so they have a lot of say in how I do my job. But at the end of the day, I’m my own boss. And that feels pretty awesome.
9. “So you’re surviving but not thriving.”
Yes, someone actually said this to me once. Those of us with unconventional careers don’t necessarily have the usual benchmarks of success (like certain salaries, bonuses, or promotions), but that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing well. And of course, there’s the classic. Let’s all say it together now…
10. “How do you make money?”
If your work takes you off the beaten path, chances are you’ve heard this question. A lot. I mean, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this…well, that would be how I make money. Instead, I do it the way everyone else does: By working hard. And if you have a friend who is rocking a nontraditional career path, that’s how he or she is making it work as well. We may not have super early mornings, long commutes, bosses watching over our shoulders, dress codes or uncomfortable desk chairs – but we have hustle. And that ought to be respected.