Going freelance takes guts, in our steady-job-worshipping culture. No matter how much indie spirit you have, it can be hard to stick with your new business if the important people in your life–your mate, your kids, your family and your friends–don’t support what you’re doing or actively undermine it.
Here are some common types of push-back freelancers get and some ways I’ve seen writers respond that have strengthened their relationships and their businesses.
1. Freelancing doesn’t seem like a real job. To friends outside of your field, it may seem mysterious or even bogus, like those work-at-home scams they see on the web. They may think they’re saving you from a dire fate by discouraging you from doing it.
The remedy: Once you’ve completed some projects for good clients, show the doubters the results. (“That article I was working on finally got published!”) The bigger and better known the publication, the stronger your argument will be.
2. It looks like you’re going to go broke. If you’ve given up a full time job to freelance, your spouse may have a legitimate fear that you will not be able to pay the bills.
The remedy: Nothing speaks louder to a nervous mate than seeing checks you’ve earned in the mailbox, so don’t leave business development to chance. Spend two or three hours a day networking with potential clients– developing profiles on LinkedIn and in online marketplaces (I like MediaBistro), meeting with former colleagues who might need to outsource projects, and otherwise drumming up assignments. Stay open to assignments that fall a little outside of your interests but pay really well. And be diligent about invoicing and collecting from clients, too, so your spouse isn’t worried about checks arriving late.
3. You’ve added six pages to their to-do list. Starting up a one-person business can take a lot of time and it’s easy to irk your significant other if you suddenly try to hand off a lot of your household responsibilities.
The remedy: Every relationship has a different division of labor, so talking things out is important–and it often takes more than one conversation. If you’re in the “pre-revenue” phase, it may be tough to persuade a spouse who’s paying the bills to take on extra household work. It doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is unsupportive. Someone who has become the sole breadwinner, even temporarily, may feel added pressure to achieve at work, which often entails more time at the office. If that’s the case, you may be able to tackle your to-dos more easily by getting up an hour earlier, asking children to pitch in more and relying more on delivery services for groceries and autoship services from stores like Amazon for frequent purchases. Once your revenues rise, explore options like hiring cleaning help.
4. You’re being a slacker. Everyone needs a break from the keyboard, but if you’re spending long mornings reading the news and investing more time in your writer’s group than actually finishing articles, it’s not going to go over well with a mate who’s trudging out to the commuter train every weekday.
The remedy: Spend the vast majority of your freelancing time on pitching work and completing assignments–and treat career development activities like seminars and coffee with your writing buddies as a reward for getting your work done.
5. You’ve become a basket case. Freelancing isn’t an easy field for people who are extremely sensitive. If a rejected pitch or request for a rewrite by an editor sends you into a tailspin of depression or triggers unhealthy habits, the folks who are closest to you are going to notice and become concerned.
The remedy: It’s important to have a support system of other writers, whether it’s an online community or a freelancing buddy you can call for advice on collecting from late paying clients and the like. One of my favorite communities is Freelance Success, which has active message boards where freelancers share challenges and dish out advice, but there are many others. Like any business, freelancing has its dark moments, but it’s a lot easier to weather them when you don’t feel like you’re alone.