I’m five months into my life of self-employment and freelancing, and the more I talk to people about what I do, and how I do it, the more I realise there are so, so many assumptions out there about freelancers. From what we actually do (or don’t) to what kit we use, I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about the self-employed life.
Here are five of the most common questions or comments I’ve encountered over the past few months.
‘Why don’t you have a MacBook?’
This is a question I get asked a lot, especially if I take my laptop somewhere public. It’s odd, but I always feel like I have to justify why I don’t have a MacBook – apparently ‘all’ creatives and freelancers have one. I think Instagram and Pinterest and the perfectly curated images of MacBooks on tables with perfectly-barista’d cups of coffee and nicely-arranged flowers have fuelled the viewpoint that everyone who works for themselves has one. I don’t. This response has made people gasp a few times – ‘you don’t have a MacBook?’ – and I’m not sure why. I have an iPhone – maybe they assume because I have one, I should have the other? Not sure why my confession that I’m a Windows user is such a shocker for people.
‘It must be nice to sit in your pyjamas all day and do nothing.’
Ah, the assumption that those who work from home don’t even bother getting dressed in the mornings. Today I was up at 6am to feed Fashion Cat, dressed and breakfasted and out of the house by 9am to attend to some errands, back home by 10.30am (having done the weekly food shop for myself and been to the bank) and straight onto the laptop to answer emails and crack out some articles.
I’m up at 6am every day to feed my cat. I don’t go out every day, and on the days I don’t, I’m dressed in Actual Clothes by 8am and logging onto my computer while my coffee brews and I’m waiting for my toast. Very rarely, unless my Crohn’s is being a sod, do I spend the day in my pyjamas. It’s impossible to focus on work unless you’re properly dressed. At least for me.
‘But do you actually earn anything?’
Yes. Me personally, because I’ve not been going that long, I’ve not earned that much, but the point is I’m still getting paid for doing what I do. It’s going to take me a while to get back to making what I used to in my old job but I have a plan and yes, I am already being paid for doing the thing I left my office job to do. A lot of people genuinely don’t think that self-employed people, unless they own a shop, make any money. But they must have interacted with and paid self-employed people to do things for them in their lives – hairdressers, dog walkers, cleaners… of course people who work for themselves earn money. Or they wouldn’t do what they do. There’s no point in doing a job for no money, is there?
‘What do you actually do?’
My job. Next question?
Ok, bit aggressive, but people do ask me this. Even after I’ve explained what exactly I do (personal styling, wardrobe organising, personal shopping, running this blog and writing the odd article) I still get the ‘yes, but what do you actually do?’
I… I have no words. I’ve just told you what I do. If you really want to find out, book me for some work. Then you can pay me, and stop asking me if I earn anything from what I do.
‘Don’t you want a real job?’
I had one. I did. I have done office work of some description since I graduated from university in 2003. I have sat at desks, answered phones, filed thousands of papers, smiled at hundreds of visitors and coded hundreds of numbers.
I left it to do what I love because I had the opportunity, the means and the desire to start my own business. I don’t understand the mindset that unless you’re chained to a desk, it’s not a ‘real’ job. Work is work is work, no matter what it is. If you’re earning money from it, it’s a job.
All jobs are real, all jobs are valid. Some seem easier than others, but only from the outside. Behind the scenes, what looks easy involves a lot of hard work, and I think until you actually do it for yourself, you can’t appreciate that. I knew it was going to be hard work but I underestimated it slightly – going self-employed has meant I’ve worked harder than ever. I am the only one motivating myself, I am the only one setting my hours, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid.
I suppose though I don’t have to worry about getting written up if I slack. The only thing that suffers is my bank balance! And that’s fairly important!
Fellow self-employed people or freelancers, what are some of the most ridiculous assumptions people have made about what you do? Let me know in the comments!