If the numbers in this Forbes article are any indication, more and more people are embracing freelancing as a source of livelihood. Although the article specifically referred to American freelancers, it’s reasonable to extrapolate that the trend is the same the world over, since the Internet has pretty much leveled the playing field for these workers.
However, this doesn’t mean that unfortunate stereotypes about freelancers have abated. According to a survey conducted by Crunch Accounting , 75 percent of freelancers claim that they aren’t taken as seriously as larger businesses, because of misconceptions like “freelancers spend all of their time in their pajamas”, “freelancing is for people who can’t find full-time work”, “freelancing is a stop-gap to a full-time career”, and “freelancers aren’t as reliable as agencies/temps”.
It’s possible that your family and friends may also hold these misconceptions, and act unsupportive towards you as a result. If that’s the case, and it’s frustrating you to the point that you’re unable to function at work, here are some ways to cope.
Recommended Reading: Why Freelancers Are Saving The Internet
Understand Where They’re Coming From
If there’s one emotion that makes your loved ones reluctant to support you, it’s fear.
Maybe they’re scared that you’ll end up impoverishing yourself, since “steady income” and “freelancing” don’t go together. Maybe they don’t want your borderline-obsessive devotion to your work to turn you into a stereotypical shut-in: dirty, disheveled, and completely unaware of the outside world. Maybe they’re simply jealous that you get to tweak your schedule as it pleases you, whereas they have to slog it out in their 9-to-5 jobs.
Whatever the root of their fear is, you have to figure out what it is in order to…
Once you figure out why they’re afraid, the next step is to help them dissuade that fear.
If it’s your finances they’re worried about, tell them that you have a well-thought out plan for the future. Don’t just bluff about it; be sure that you actually have a plan!
If your social life (or lack thereof) is the issue, schedule at least an hour or two every day to go out and smell the flowers, so to speak. It’s good not just for your health, but also for your loved ones’ peace of mind.
If they make snide remarks like “My, aren’t you gaining a bit of weight from your comfortable work-at-home job?”, your safest bet is to either brush those remarks aside and change the subject, or make a joke like “Well, I may have doubled my waistline, but I’ve also doubled my monthly income!”
Be warned, though: Jokes like the one above take a bit of skill to pull off, since you don’t want to appear either too self-deprecating or too arrogant. It would also help to have a natural wit, an understanding of what makes the other person tick in a social setting, and a healthy level of self-confidence.
Be Clear About Your Boundaries
Sometimes, they’ll say “Yeah, I’m cool about your freelancing”, but they’ll also do things to you that inadvertently sabotage your career – whether they intend to or not.
For example, they like to call you in the middle of work just because you say that you have a “flexible schedule”. To deal with this, tell them that yes, in fact you do have a rigid schedule, and as much as you appreciate them thinking about you during odd hours of the day, you’d rather they call you at a certain time instead.
Whatever you do, don’t allow them to violate your boundaries. If you don’t look like you’re taking your work seriously, they’re not going to take it seriously either.
Get Them On Board With You (If They’re Interested)
It’s also possible that they’ll be curious enough to ask you what freelancing is like.
In this case, talk to them about it with as much detail and as much enthusiasm as you can. When they see how passionate you are about your work, they might change their tune. They might even decide to become freelancers themselves – which is great, because you’re all going to sail the same boat together!
Accept The Reality
Then again, maybe not.
Maybe, despite all your efforts to convince them otherwise, they’ll steadfastly refuse to see freelancing as a legitimate career path.
Your best course of action, then, is to accept that they’re like that, and keep doing your work to the best of your ability. If they ever ask you about your freelance work in casual conversation, just say “I’m doing great/fine/fantastic!” and abruptly change the subject. They obviously don’t have anything good to say about it, so why bother encouraging that kind of conversation?
All in all, the best recipe to help you deal with unsupportive loved ones – in our opinion, at least – is a pinch of empathy, a dash of self-respect, and a tablespoon of compromise.
If you have any stories of your own to share on the matter, feel free to sound off in the comments section below.