It seems that practically no conversation, whether with a new acquaintance or someone I haven’t seen since forever, sidesteps the question of employment. The, “So, what do you do?” is, in my opinion, a somewhat rude question to ask in the first place. Rather than being put on the spot like that, such a topic should just naturally (and eventually) come up in conversation.
I’ve generally gotten two responses when I say that I freelance. First, I get “Oh! That’s so cool!”, followed by question like, “Exactly what is it that you do?” I’ve learned to keep my answers brief and general for most people, since those outside of the freelancing world politely zone out if I discuss the virtues of quality assurance and freelance writing NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements).
Secondly, I get the slightly bemused, “Oh, well, is it lucrative?” reaction. Again, I say that I pay my bills, but these are the sorts of people who think that I’m either incredibly privileged to just be freelancing to my heart’s desire, or too lazy to get a “real” job (for the record, I’m neither).
If you, my fellow freelancers, have encountered adversity in the face of public opinion about our chosen careers, don’t be discouraged. Note that as time goes on, and the economy becomes more precarious, freelancing doesn’t quite seem to have the reputation that it used to. Not that you need reminding, but here are some reasons to proudly freelance:
- It teaches self-discipline like nothing else. It’s one thing to have a structured 9 to 5 job with a set hourly wage, it’s quite another to have a career in which if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. When you do work, you have to make sure it’s in line with what you need to earn to pay those bills! Freelancing forces us to stay on task, for when we do, the rewards can be great!
- It sparks our creativity. Even if your freelancing is in a niche that wouldn’t typically be thought of as creative, there’s inevitably going to be situations and projects that will require some level of creativity! Those are the projects that, when completed, you might take a step back from and really be amazed at how artfully you went about them.
- It’s an ever-changing profession. Forget that mental image of a person bored to pieces at their desk, staring at the work before them – work that takes on the same process day, after day, after day. Sure, we might have projects that go on for an extended period of time and get a little boring, but no sooner are be bored than it’s back to the drawing board, searching for new opportunities.
- It develops are interpersonal skills. As freelancers, we really need to bring our A-game to every potential query we send, every client or job posting we respond to. Although the Internet can be socially isolating for some, for us, it’s a necessary means of regular communication. We need to be tactful, insightful, and, above all, kind.
- It allows us to be our true selves. Part of why I prefer freelancing to anything else is because it allows me to participate in volunteering opportunities and hobby-related classes that I might not have been able to attend otherwise. Since we’re in control of our schedules, we can allot time to pursuits that not only enrich our lives, but those of others.
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