As freelancers, we have to maintain professional productivity, even if our office is the kitchen table and our IT staff is our teenaged offspring.
How can we obtain cooperation for our work from our household?
If we can get any degree of consistent support from those we live with, we increase our chances of success.
However, what can we do if our family or community actively denigrates the very idea of our working?
This can happen when a job, or this sort of job, is not an expected or accepted role for us, in the eyes of those around us. Let’s figure out how to disarm critics and garner enthusiastic backing.
Our personal sound bite
First, we need to develop a 30-second explanation of our work to share with anyone who wants to know. How we present our work and ourselves can make a huge difference in how others regard us. High-powered and high-priced career transformation gurus teach this concept, so apply it assiduously, for free.
We need to come up with a description in as few words as possible that describes our writing job. We should be clear but not feel the need to be overly detailed. If we are doing academic writing and editing, we can describe this as helping students with their papers. If we write advertising copy, or edit a blog, say so as briefly as possible.
Do not apologize, in either word or tone, for our job. It is irrelevant that we work at home – so do virtually all writers most of the time. Nor is it important that we perhaps bid on work orders – so do Fortune 500 advertising firms!
We need never show samples of our work except to prospective employers. Mentioning the constraints of confidentiality agreements should be enough. Our (nosy) neighbors and family have no standing to evaluate our writing unless we ask for help with a read-through.
Our work space/time/identity
In order to be taken as seriously as our work warrants, we need first to take ourselves seriously. No matter how frustrating the bidding process, no matter how poorly paid, no matter how banal the material, this is real work. No one should scorn such the work, least of all, we freelancers!
In order to invest our work with credibility, we should define and delineate a space, time, and sense of self when writing. As much as possible, we should distinguish our work from quotidian pursuits. A locked door, a folding screen, a blanket hung from a rope; any of these can delineate our area of paid intellectual labor from that designate for household duties. We should arrange our workspace for our needs – a special water glass, lamp, note pad and books, or a special seat.
Set aside a time, announced to all, perhaps even noted on a calendar or a sign hung on a doorknob, for exclusive work. Allow no interruptions except for blood, broken bones, or fire.
We should garb or accessorize ourselves uniquely for work. Consider adopting a work uniform perhaps a smock, special shirt, glasses, or hat, that signals to the youngest or most oblivious that WE ARE WORKING.
Our freelance work’s benefits to our family and ourselves
We should document everything we earn, and everything we spend to in order to earn that money (e.g., Internet subscription). Earnings should go into a special account or lock box track our freelancing work’s contributions to family or personal welfare. We should record all inflows and outflows. For example, underwriting a child’s schoolbooks, purchasing a computer, paying for a taxi to the hospital, or saving for college tuition, should all go on this list. Note all such expenditures or intended use of long-range savings.
Over time, the benefits of our work will become ever more visible, as our account or stash grows, and the list of constructive things we’ve done with our nest egg lengthens. These accomplishments will be less obvious to us and our family (and any other doubters) if such freelance earnings instead flow into a common household account or shared cash box. It is all too easy to forget or ignore the contribution of a family member who is working in a non-traditional, relatively invisible, job, unless visually reminded with some regularity.
The personal benefits of freelancing are more difficult to prove, but we should document these as well. Vocabulary, grammar, typing speed, and, of course, our productivity, will naturally increase as we gain experience. Our self-confidence and our competence at picking appropriate topics and pleasing our customers will increase as well. We should note these in a word processing file, or notepad, and store a copy with the same care used in safeguarding our funds.
Freelance writing is skilled, real, serious, and needed. Only by embodying these characteristics in all we do and say, can we expect respect for our freelance writing work. There is more to say on this anon! So stand by for further articles on the topic.