If you own your own business, it’s likely you’re not the norm in your friend group. Most people work for someone else and have a steady paycheck with pre-constructed hours, so your whole working-for-yourself-thing isn’t exactly regular in comparison.
From the age of 19 I worked full time while also going to school. I was constantly busy and exhausted, and that was acceptable to my friend group because they understood. Two years ago, I left my day job to start my own business and immediately people started referring to my situation as “not having a job” or at least “not having a real academic job“. It was funny for a while, honestly, especially because I kind of took the first couple months to let loose and celebrate my new found freedom.
Now if people say that I don’t have a “real job” I get offended. The harder I work, the more I realize that having your own business is at least the same amount of work as a real/office/desk/9-5/day job, if not more. If I “call out” (i.e. don’t do work that day), there’s no one who can cover for me. Everything is on my shoulders, and it can be a lot to juggle. My success is a direct result of how hard I work.
If you have your own business, it’s likely you’ve experienced some unfortunate commentary in regards to the legitimacy of your job. The more unconventional your profession, the less respect people have for it. That sucks, and I want to talk about what to do when your friends don’t respect your job.
Realize everyone isn’t going to “get it”
Trying to explain that you’re a blogger, life coach, freelance artisan or whatever to someone who doesn’t have any experience with that type of thing is kind of like speaking in a foreign language. It can be frustrating when people say things like “But… why?” with a judgmental head tilt or “How do you even make money doing that?” in a condescending tone, but you have to remember those are reactions based on ignorance. Your best friends and family might never truly understand what you do for a living, but that means they aren’t your target market and you aren’t doing what you do for them.
Join an online group for like-minded folk
There are like, a bajillion online Facebook and Mastermind groups for entrepreneurs, artists, and the like. Having a group of people (even if it’s only online) who totally get where you’re coming from is going to make you feel sane again. You can explain your product to someone in real life till you’re blue in the face, so being able to log into an online forum where you can share your experiences, complain, and get advice is priceless.
Be conscious with your words
Words have a lot of power, so don’t make jokes that you don’t have a job, either. If someone makes a joke about it in front of you, just nicely rephrase what they said to be “I’m actually a _____”. It also helps to come up with a very short, concise, and easy-to-understand elevator speech about what you do so you can easily explain it to strangers and new acquaintances. It can be a bit of a stretch so that it translates across populations, but having something you say about your job over and over again will start to sink into your friends’ minds and they’ll eventually start thinking of you that way, too.
Set boundaries and say no
One of the biggest issues I face in my life is people not accepting my time. I set my own schedule, so to most of my friends that equates to “Mary is constantly available”. When I tell people I can’t do X, Y, and Z because I’m working I’m met with a lack of understanding, frustration, and sometimes even guilt.
Creating your own work schedule is one of the most amazing parts of being self-employed, but ultimately the work still needs to get done! Sometimes you’re going to have to work even more than the standard 40 hour work week because you’re doing everything yourself, and sometimes you’re going to need to put in extra hours to pull off a special project. Don’t let anyone guilt you into doing something when you know you need to be working.
Make your feelings known
If setting boundaries isn’t getting you anywhere and your friends are still guilt-tripping you about spending time with them, you need to actually step up and say something. Explain that you’re doing your best to create a business you’re proud of and happy to work at and that takes a lot of time and effort. Say you appreciate that they want to spend time with you and you love spending time with them, but you need to have them respect your boundaries the same way you do with their schedule.
Ultimately, love yourself enough to stick up for what you do and make your job and passions a priority in your life, second to none.
Any additional advice from you self-employed femtrepreneur bad ass babes?
This is such great advice Mary! I’m still working full time and fitting in freelance stuff on the side. When I tell friends that I want to work for my self full time eventually I get such weird looks like “why would you want to do that!” Also right now, I do have to tell others no to things I really want to do because I have some longer term goals to work on right now.
Eventually I’ll take the leap (there are some circumstances preventing me right now), and I can’t wait. I’m glad to have articles like this to help me realize that there are people out there who do this everyday and love it!
Thanks for your comment, Diana! I do love what I do, even if I’m overwhelmed a lot of the time. I don’t ever regret leaving my day job, if anything I’m terrified I’ll have to go back! It’s hard to deal with the judgment of others, but I promise it’s worth it. Just because someone else doesn’t get it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after it! I wish you lots of luck with making the leap.
This is a great article and a lot of people don’t really tackle this 🙂 It’s good hearing your words and I find, that even in my own brain- when I was doing Photography more part time, I still had a hard time saying that I had a day job and was a photographer. That for so reason, I thought it was less legitimate just because someone else was not my boss.
Absolutely. It’s hard to find the write words, especially in America when the first question new people ask us is “So, what do you do?” I know full-time/stay-at-home moms struggle with answering this question, too. I would never want to be a stay-at-home mom but that’s just because I don’t want kids. I wouldn’t judge someone if that’s their answer to that question! We’re always worried about what people will think when we say “I’m a photographer” or “I’m a freelance writer” because what often follows that are inappropriate questions that you wouldn’t ask someone with a desk job like “How much money do you make?” “How do you make money?” and “What are you going to do if that doesn’t work out?”
And thanks. I was a little nervous about publishing this one because I don’t want my “real life” friends to read it and think I’m angry at them! I try to get past that and share things I think are important even if they’re uncomfortable.
Love this, Mary! It came right on time too, as I’ve recently decided to get back into my photography gig and try to get to a point where I can eventually quit my day job and work completely for myself. Thank you for the motivation! <3
Yes, please do it! You’re really talented and I think you will thrive as a self-motivated/self-employed business gal. Thanks for commenting and sharing!
I have always talked about you because you’re my friend and you’re fun and exciting, and when people ask what you do, I tell them you’re a street artist and a blogger, and I don’t know how it works, but I love that you do it. Now I can tell them you’re a writer!
People give me similar kinds of shit for working graves. It makes your whole life backwards, and you really can’t go help someone move at 2pm between graveyard shifts. Lots of people can’t see past the end of their own nose.
Haha, I actually was really relieved to have this whole book thing finally happen because I’m glad to finally be able to say I’m a writer because that’s something people respect way more than blogging.
I can totally see that. It’s really anything that goes against the grain and makes people wonder “How does she does that?” Sometimes it’s jealousy, sometimes it’s judgment, and overall it’s just ignorance.
It’s crazy to me how many people can delegitimize things they just don’t understand. Your advice is great, I especially like what you said about the people who guilt trip about your time. I wish people knew how that behavior makes me want to spend even less time with them!
Hahha that’s so true! The more you disrespect my time the less I want to make time for you!
People don’t understand what I do and have been trying to delegitimize it for two decades. I hear get a real job, you went to college for that, what a waste and my favorite Interesting-what do you do again. Even my kids (18 and 19) don’t get what I do and I have been working here my own life.
The funny thing is that I get paid really well for what I do (more than a lot a of people), have full medical, dental, a great retirement, etc., and have some fun in what I do. I mean, I get paid for going to games, plays, etc. Also, I have had some incredible experiences through my work.
I think people are afraid of others that have carved out a life that is different than the norm. It is their self-defense of jealously going.
I totally agree. Anything that differs from the norm we’ve been dictated becomes scary and we react to fear with confusion and judgment.
I don’t think I really “got” this until I started blogging and realized how much work it actually is (which is why I slowed down). I can’t even imagine how hard you must work to do this full time and to make a loving from it. Great post. I especially liked how you said not to make jokes about your own situation either. You gave very good tips. Thank you.
It’s honestly impossible to know how hard it is until you’re in it 100%. That’s true for everything, not just blogging or self employment of any kind. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! Thanks for commenting, Lamesha.
Ha!!!!! Some of your advice is 100% correct. My biggest thing is when family memebers think you can just take off when evere or work whenever to accommodate them when they take time off from their 9-5 cell.