5 ways to make people take your freelance status seriously

This post is inspired by an event that occurred last week. One of many similar ones. It’s Tuesday morning, 10.20 am. I am halfway through an assignment, racing towards an early afternoon deadline. This is my second deadline of the day and it won’t be the last – I have another assignment to complete by 5pm before I pick the kids up, and shall probably do more work in the evening.  Right in the middle of my particularly taxing creative process of trying to make my Norwegian client’s new range of paint emulsion sound utterly must-have fabulous in English, the phone rings. It’s a family member. Wanting to know what I want for Xmas. In July. Try as I might, I can’t get them off the phone. “I’m sorry but I’m working” doesn’t seem to cut it. Because, of course, freelancing from home isn’t a ‘proper job’. To them I spend my days pottering around, staring at my navel, waiting for them to call, or receive parcels on neighbours’ behalf, or babysit for those who do ‘work’. In fact, my entire ‘freelance career’ is treated with much suspicion by family members, friends and my children’s school alike. “But you’re not really working are you,” says a friend who pops round impromptu for a coffee to offload all her, at that point, utterly irrelevant problems.

I get disapproving looks from teachers when I say I can’t make every single netball/hockey/football match my kids happen to be in. Heavy tutting from non-working friends when I say I can’t just skip off and join them for whatever it is they do all day. And yet here’s the thing – other friends who work for much less money in much duller jobs are treated with the utmost respect when it comes to personal call invasion. After all, they have ‘jobs’. Well, enough is enough. If you suffer from similar disruptions due to ignorant attitudes about your career, here’s a few retorts and tactics to hit back with:

  1. Obviously screen ALL calls – and only answer work-related ones (and calls from/about your kids) during your working hours.
  1. Whatever you do don’t answer the door. However much they bang it down. If you were ‘at the office’ you wouldn’t be in anyway. So act like you aren’t there. If you really can’t avoid it, pin a phone to your ear and as you open the door whisper “I’m on the phone to the foreign minister about an urgent assignment – is this really important?”
  1. Educate people about what you do. Big up your job and sell the importance of it and the implications for you (and them) if you don’t meet your deadlines. “Want me to join you for that family week-end this summer? Then let me get on with earning my living so that it might actually happen!” Don’t focus on the fact that you  ‘work from home’ either. This is just an open invitation to disruption. Instead keep repeating the sorts of clients you work with (especially the big ones) and the types of assignments you have to deliver, your working hours etc. In fact bore them to tears with it. Eventually the penny might just drop and they’ll leave you alone. If only to get you to shut up about work.
  1. Blatantly lie. Pretend that you are in fact ‘at the office’. You’ve got a terribly important contract for a local client and will be based at their offices Mon-Fri. If someone happens to spot your car in the driveway, tell them you had a ‘rare day working from home’.
  1. Tell people your hourly rate and that you are on a client’s time with whom you have already agreed a set amount of hours for your assignment – so if they want to interrupt that time you will have to charge them for it in the same way you charge your clients, otherwise you will be operating at a loss. Harsh, but you’ve got a living to make after all. And probably unlike your friends/family etc., if you don’t work you don’t get paid.  If all the above fails, this one usually does the trick. Funny that.

Have a productive week!