With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s a good time to start preparing for holiday chit chat. Answering the endless questions of what you’ve been up to this year; what your plans on for next year. How is work/school? On repeat.
So if you’re like me, and are self employed, answering those questions can sometimes be difficult, especially to more distant or older relatives. But over the years I’ve learned how to tactfully talk to family about being self employed in a way that helps everyone understand exactly what it is I do all day. And no, it’s not all Netflix and sitting on the couch… well not always.
Sometimes the questions I receive are genuinely curious – what do you do exactly? How many hours do you put into that? But other times the questions are a bit more pointed – you actually make money from home? Are we talking real money?
At this point I generally laugh – because while I don’t always make as much as I did at my agency job in the past, there are some months where I make more (and some where I’m not even close). But I always make enough to pay the bills, and aside from money, I am happier – which is really worth so much in the long run.
So here is how I handle these situations.
Start by explaining your career path.
I make most of my freelance income as a graphic designer, so I generally stick to that. And I explain what it is exactly that I do as a designer. Even this part can be tricky sometimes without adding in the working for myself aspect. But I try to explain in a couple of sentences and then pause for further questions. Or for them to decide that now is the perfect time to grab another drink… and then I’m off the hook!
Break down your day to day.
Next, talk about how your career breaks down into your day to day tasks. And here is where I start to incorporate how all of this is done from home (or the coffee shop down the street, etc). Sometimes I even share what my top to-do items are for my upcoming week or month.
Share your recent achievements.
If the conversation is still going strong, now is when I generally pull out my phone. I’ll show them my portfolio site, or pull up a recent web design I’ve worked on. Then I start to explain how those visuals were created. If you’re a blogger, you could even pull up your blog – unless of course you don’t want your family reading it. Then now is when you grab another drink…
Chat about others in your field who are also self employed.
If you don’t want to self promote the whole conversation, or if you’re still being questioned, sometimes it helps to bring a third party into the mix. Show off someone else’s work who you admire, and who is also making a living in the same way you are. This will make your work seem more relatable.
Share why you want to be self employed.
For me, this means so much more flexibility. Yes, I’ve had days where I’ve worked 16 hours. But I’ve also had time where I’ve decided a day before that I’m packing up and going on a quick road trip – and then I work a few hours in the evening from our hotel room. I also want to start a family soon and my freelance will allow for me to be home during the day but still bring in income, and have my own identity outside of being a mother.
What if that doesn’t work?
Well then you have a few choices. You can make up a new story for each person who asks. Grandma thinks you’re a doctor now and Aunt Susie thinks you’re going to be in the next superhero movie? Sure!
You can print out a sheet ahead of time to pass around the party that goes over all the general questions – and even “hints” at what you would rather talk about aside from work.
You can pretend like someone from the other side of the room is asking for you as soon as anyone asks.
Or you can simply say you don’t want to bore them with the details, but you’re happy and making money and then change the subject.
Have you ever had trouble explaining your career choices to family?
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