I’ll be the first to say it: freelancing sucks for your social life. While the ladies love guys who own their own business (can’t say their eyes don’t glitter), when they realize you work from home, one word comes to their minds: “easy.” But we know that freelancing is by no means an “easy” jobโ€”far from it. We have a myriad of different responsibilities to juggle. So what can we do as freelancers to prove that we’re doing something worthwhile?

I don’t know someone who has been freelancing who hasn’t said they’ve got the weird look when they tell someone they work from home. For those of us so lucky enough (*cough*) to still be living with our parents, you know how much you hate the rude comments from your mom to get a “real job”, or to put away the dishes when you’re clearly in the middle of coding a complex script to do it for you.

Oh, and I’ve included a little update at the end of this article as to what’s going on around here (for those of you who have missed us)!

Show That You Love What You’re Doing

But can we blame our friends and family for feeling nervous about our career? I mean, there’s no job security and no benefits. I’m not one to say the latter, though – I believe there are plenty of benefits to freelancing, and that’s what you need to prove to them.

It’s tough for our self-esteems if we don’t embrace what we do. Likewise, if we don’t love what we’re doing, it will show in our actions and the way we talk about it. When talking to a friend about problems with a certain client not paying on time, they asked me why I’m freelancing. Without a second’s pause, I was able to list the reasons I freelance, and why I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Walking away from that conversation, my friend could see that what I was doing wasn’t just a hobby. It was my career and I wouldn’t want it any other way (other than that client paying me on time).

And Keep Them In The Loop Of What’s Going On

There is a fine line between having a good self-esteem and having an inflated ego. While we all know the benefits of freelancing, they may not. Keep them in the in the know of new clients, new milestones, and tell them why you love what you do. You do know why, don’t you?

Peter Parker – Or Spiderman?

While I would rather not get into a debate of who would win in a fight between Spiderman and Batman (although we all know it would be Spider Man), let’s look at Peter Parker as a prime example for someone with two identities. He keeps the two completely separate (for the most part, I haven’t finished reading the comics), and is better for it. So should we, as freelancers, try and live “separate lives”.

So, how can we do this?

  • Physically separate your office from other places. Since the majority of us likely work from home, having a door (preferably one that locks) or room divider is very useful. If you set a physical boundary around your desk, it will mentally tell others that this area shouldn’t be entered. (A big “do not enter” sign works as well.)
  • You have to treat your office the way you would treat your office if you worked in a building. While I’m notorious for making food and bringing it to my desk to watch Lost, physically take what you need out of your office space to do what you need. This way, you mentally tell yourself that when you’re in your office, it’s for work purposes only. This only helps with productivity.
  • Have hours of operation. We’ve discussed this a little in a previous article, however, having hours of operation might help some of us. While most of us choose freelancing to break from the 9-to-5 and we can’t always do it, having set hours where you don’t take personal calls, etc, is always a good idea.

If you separate your lives, you not only condition yourself mentally, but you tell others that your work is important, and that you’re not to be bothered when you’re working. Peace is always tough to get if you’re not living alone, people will still be liable to knocking on your door, or your mom might still be bothering you to put away the dishes – but it takes time.

Give Them Time

As I was just saying, it all takes time. The switch to freelancing isn’t an easy one for you, or for others. Since the dot-com boom in the mid-90s, this sort of work (speaking particularly in reference to web design and development) has been seen as somewhat of a hobby. It was not only until the early 2000s (which we’re still technically in) that people started pursuing design and development as a more full-time job. So give them some time to get their heads wrapped around the idea and sit tight. It’s tough to take the comments, but they’re more than worth it.

Updates? Where?

When I started this blog some two months ago, I started with a very rigorous posting schedule. Since then, business has boomed much more than I had intended it to (but that’s a good thing, right?). Due to this, I have decided to remove the “Sunday Special” Round-Up articles that destroyed my schedule, and am trying to push for 1-2 articles a week. If you would now like to check out cream of the crop articles, please follow us on Twitter. We believe that with this, we will be able to push out higher-quality articles that you’re interested in.

However, the last month(ish) of not posting hasen’t been for nothing. I’ve been able to go in every now and again to make some very important design and development changes around the blog-section of the website. If you haven’t notices already, pages are loading a hilarious 1-2 seconds quicker with some code improvements. We are now following suit utilizing CSS3, and have removed the majority of our images. We’ve tried to improve legibility by playing with Lucida Grande (instead of Helvetica) for body text, line-heights, et cetera. We’ve also implemented some nice little features like threaded comments, and the ability to be notified when another comment is left on the article.

I also mentioned a big contest, and I wasn’t lying. Keep your eyes peeled! If you have any other suggestions for what you’d like to see, please tell us in the comments below! Oh, and if you aren’t already – please add us to your subscribed feeds!

Now that that’s over…

It’s your turn: Do you have any tips when dealing with family and friends?

  • Very useful post. I agree with your points.

  • Megan

    I still find this concept incredibly difficult. I am trying to hold down a 9-5 and branch out into freelancing. So I really have two jobs (not to mention working out, going out and chilling out). But I don’t live with my parents. So they don’t really get it when I say that I am constantly working and busy. They hear me say what I am trying to do, but don’t comprehend the involveness of this. It is incredibly difficult and something I am constantly stressing out and struggling with. My suggestions for those of us that don’t live with our parents/family/etc. Communication. When I do talk to them, I break down into the minute details of what my projects entail. I see their eyes go all glassy, and I know I’m boring them and I know they don’t have the slightest idea what I am talking about, but it helps.

    Hmmm…think I just vented. Sorry! Maybe others feel me on this topic! Thanks for the post!!

    • James Costa

      Hey Megan! Thanks so much for offering that advice. Having freelance as your second job is tough, but good for you!

      Yeah, communication is definitely very important in freelancing. We need to realize that what we’re doing seems obvious to us, but may not be for others. Keep up the good work!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I run a small start-up: http://www.purplecoffee.co.uk

    Reading this was like reading my thoughts in plain english…i sent this to my family in a hope that it may have some positive effect!

    Great article!

  • Because my own Dad is one of those “basement” designers, the rest of my family sees me as the same. They consider my work a hobby, when i’ve actually been working very hard as a full-time designer for about 10 years.

    It’s also difficult to get my clients to understand that when I’m doing my social media rounds, like Twitter, that I’m not just wasting time. It’s all a part of my business strategy, and they have a hard time wrapping their heads around how social media can be a wonderful marketing tool.

    • James Costa

      Yep – I’ve been there. I spend a good 1-2 hours a day on social media every day. A lot of it is just networking with other designers because most of my niche isn’t necessarily on Twitter, but I land the odd job, and always have someone ready to help me out with the next project because I help them out as well!

      Good for you for keeping on it for 10 years! Keep it up!

  • This is really interesting.
    I’ve been thinking to start freelancing when I have established myself a little more within the industry,needless to say the points you have stated have definitely been on my mind!

    I’m glad I read this as it has reassured me that keeping a little “office” at home is definitely a must have for freelancing!
    Also I totally agree in being able to show the people around you that what you love is not just a hobby!! – although it can get very frustrating always having to prove yourself!!!

    Excellent article! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • James Costa

      Thanks Krishna! Freelancing is definitely something tough, so make sure you get some good reading in before you commit to it – and even then, try to lean into it slow.

      Yes – an “office” in your house/apartment/condo is very, very important. I’m in the corner of the condo right beside the big-screen T.V., so I don’t get much privacy!

  • People who don’t understand the value of complexity of web design and development will struggle to understand what you’re doing all day. You have to explain it, and the value in it, and that it is a serious job and not just ‘tinkering’ with technology.

    • James Costa

      Thanks for that comment! It’s definitely very difficult – especially when less than a decade ago it was still considered a hobby!

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