Friday, November 17, 2006

Sitting on the Couch Watching Oprah and Eating Bon-Bons

This perception that freelancers are a bunch of dim-witted people who maybe scribbles a one-liner for a client and then goes off to watch soaps, Oprah and Dr. Phil the rest of the day is an annoying one. Take our friend, Dave, the term paper mill owner (and I know you're still lurking, Dave. Your ego won't let it go) who made several negative references to women or stay at home moms. While he felt he could make more overt comments hiding behind an email address and a first name that probably isn't even his real one, most references to what we do are more discreet.
My goal buddy, Heather Larson, will make the leap full-time into freelancing on December 19 and wrote me a note about what other people think we do all day long. Heather works in a school library and said a male teacher asked her if she was retiring. When she told him what she was going to do, he said, "I wish I could stay home and write full-time." Another one said, "I want to write a book." Heather thought, "As if we sit around and watch soaps and eat bon-bons all day long." She wanted to tell them, "You probly could if you spent the last 20 years doing it and getting better at it, like I have."
Those of us who have been freelancing for a long time are used to this. I've had people tell me, "Oh, I think I could probably do that, how did you find work?" I wanted to tell them, "Well, first of all, you need to learn how to write more than your name, and then you have to learn how to do marketing, accounting and everything a small business owner does while fending off idiotic perceptions by family and friends that you don't do anything all day."
Before I celebrated my free day I went to a conference where a writer was telling us about the writing life. She told the story of a guy (so, we aren't all women, are we) who was an excellent writer. He did well at a number of publications and then decided to embark on a freelance career. The problem was that he couldn't keep himself off of the golf course on nice days. He thought freelancing was only for the days he couldn't be outside. It wasn't long before he was back to a 9-5 job. Another writer on the same panel advised us, "You can't let a messy house bother you when you have deadlines to meet." How true. While my schedule is a lot more flexible now that I'm self-employed in that I set the 60-70 hours a week I work (no more timing into that maddening corporate computer time clock), if I don't work, I don't get paid and if I don't get paid, certain bills go past due - and that makes everyone unhappy.
Heather didn't know how to respond to these people and I've never quite figured it out either.
Give us your best responses in comments.


Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:43 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had these kinds of comments too. Normally when I say I am a freelance writer, I get shocked stares as if I've just told them I am a freelance homosexual gigolo. My parents are convinced I am on a permanent holiday and I get smirks if I tell them that "I am busy". The normal response is something like "what, busy getting out of bed?".

Ah well, family....can't live with them, can't kill 'em.

7:45 AM CST  
Blogger Peg Nichols said...

Oh, Drat! I was more interested in the "sitting on the couch eating bon-bons" part. Now you tell me that isn't true.

8:02 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a friend of mine alerted me to the fact that you are STILL writing about me. your obsession with drumming up hits to your blog is admirable, especially in light of the few, oh so few, comments that you normally get, but alas, i don't have anything more to say to you. i'm bored with it.

blog wars are fun for about a day or two, and then they get old. especially when they are with decrepit, bon bon eating stay at home moms who have nothing better to do than to get into other people's business.

good luck in your endeavors!


11:24 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend told him? Well, I guess that would require anyone to believe this loser has any friends to begin with! If he's so bored with it, why bother?

10:13 AM CST  
Blogger Laura said...

Teachers get the same opinions.
People are far too quick to judge.

12:08 PM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get the same comments - what hurts the most is that it's such a degrading thing to think or *say* to a person...and the people making the comments to me are friends and family. Stuff like Have You Gotten A Job Yet, when are you going to get a job, etc...and I just want to scream. I'm making more now than when I was working full-time as a television producer - and yeah, that pays darn good - but there isn't a good way to say "I made xx dollars last month...what was your take home" without coming off like a pretentious jerk. But I may just do that next time...

10:08 PM CST  

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