Dinner with our best couple friends has been a Friday night tradition since our newlywed days, long before babies and mortgages and that time we all moved to a new state together. Weirdly, Hooter’s is Megan’s favorite restaurant, so we gather up for beer and hot wings. Tonight, I’m exhausted from a late night work session and, as always, I’m writing in my head with half an ear on the conversation. The two guys are rambling about their day solving the problems of the business world and she is telling yet another poop-filled stay-at-home mom tale when I let out an enormous yawn. She laughs and asks, “Why are you so tired? You didn’t work or chase kids today.” My brain is so busy trying to come up with an entertaining intro for an HVAC blog post that I almost don’t notice the comment. Suddenly everything squeals to a stop. Huh? My best friend thinks I don’t work?
It’s not the first time I’ve met a comment like this and it won’t be the last. The idea that writing is not a real job is one of the biggest misconceptions freelancers face.
Knowing that other writers face the same misconception isn’t much comfort to me. I’m frustrated and confused every time a friend, family member, or stranger on the Internet insinuates that what I do isn’t work. Over my years as a blog writer for hire, I’ve spent too much time pondering why this idea is out there and what we can do about it.
There Are No Set Hours
I’ll be the first to admit that my schedule is a great big question mark. I’m more creative at 2:00 AM than I am at 2:00 PM and I frequently curl up in the squishy chair in my office for a midday nap. Though, since I often dream of idea pitches and conclusion paragraphs, I prefer to call that “working with my eyes closed.”
While most people have a set schedule, freelance writers are more fluid. We make up our schedules as we go, bending to meet the needs of clients and our families. The biggest perk of this type of work is also something many people can’t relate to.
We Don’t Go to an Office
Every morning, I commute roughly 40 feet from my bedroom to my office. It takes 30 seconds, less if the pup and I get in the carpool lane and pass the husband standing at the washing machine, asking where his dress socks are.
Without a cubicle to call home, it’s hard for some people to see writers as professionals. The truth is, most writers are experts providing a high-quality service. We just happen to do it with NCIS reruns playing in the background.
Be the Change
There’s no sense complaining and not doing something about it, so here’s my plan of attack:
- Respect my own schedule: Whenever friends ask for midday favors or spur-of-the-moment pedicure outings, I rearrange my time and workload. But, it’s okay to say no. I still want to be flexible but, “Sorry, I’m working” is going to get a bigger spot in my vocabulary.
- Brag a little: How many times have I congratulated someone for a promotion, a big sale, or surviving another week without killing their coworkers? When new byline pieces appear, I’m going to shout about it to everyone I know. Or maybe I’ll just post them on my social media accounts. The real reason should be to attract readers to the client’s site or to promote myself as a writer. But, let’s be real, it feels good to show off.
- Speak up: Recently, my mom called in the middle of the day. When I mentioned that I was working, she asked if was I cleaning the house. I just changed the subject. Don’t be like me. It’s okay to gently educate people that writing is an actual job.
- Just make peace: The misconception that writing isn’t a real job isn’t going anywhere soon. But does it matter? I have a career I love, I am paid a fair price for my work, my clients are happy and I have the lifestyle I want. Those are the things that matter.
Michelle S is the hardworking, professional writer that composed this post at 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning, sitting on the deck of a sailboat while wearing pajamas. She’s going to take a nap later.