Online Writers: How “Real” is Your Career?

Even as blogging becomes more popular, many online writers are still asked about getting a “real job.”

We're at an interesting place in our society. Technology offers opportunities for new ways to make money, but “traditional” work in the “real” world is still a major part of our economy — and probably always will be. However, until online writers and others working online become more accepted and common, we are unlikely to avoid comments about getting a “real job” instead of “playing on the computer” all day.

real job in the real world

Jessica Hagy put together a great look at many of the assumptions that many people have about online writers and other freelancers. Sometimes I get a little bummed that I don't have a lot a friends in the “real” world, but the people I associate with online are also real people, and we have actual professional relationships. And, dare I say, friendships.

Unfortunately, the tendency to see what we do as a “hobby” can lead to some awkward moments. Working from home has its drawbacks. A number of them relate to the fact that other people don't realize that you work from home.

Do You Really Have Time for That?

It's hard for many online writers to explain that what they “do all day” is, in fact, work. Hagy encapsulates the struggle with the following chart:

online writers

I have to admit that I usually do have time to help almost anyone out with almost anything. But that has more to do with my current schedule, and the fact that I have, for years, been building toward this point. It also helps that I have exactly one child, and he is in school for six hours a day.

When I first started, and I was working for peanuts, and I had a young son at home, it wasn't so easy for me to agree to help others out during the day. If I wasn't taking care of my toddler, I was working.

Just because I do that work from home doesn't mean that it's not important to my family finances.

In fact, since I am the primary breadwinner, my work is vital to my family's finances. It's not as vital as it used to be when my husband was working on his Ph.D., but I still bring home make from home most of the proverbial bacon, and just not working isn't an option.

But that's hard for many outsiders to see, because I'm home all day.

If you had asked me, six years ago, if I could spend half the day watching your baby, or doing something else, I would have had to say no. Because the mortgage needed to be paid and I like to eat.

Today, the story is a little different. I really am “living the dream” (or at least some version of it). I mostly choose my own hours. I like my lifestyle. And I finally have time to do things like get involved in local politics and volunteer with the PTA. It's nice. But it's not something I could have done at the beginning, and it's not something that all online writers have right now.

The reality for many online writers is that they are trying to pay the bills and manage their families. For many, this isn't a hobby. It's an important part of the household finances. At the beginning of a freelance career, you may not have the luxury of saying yes to everyone who asks you for help or to do something for free.

Your friends and relatives wouldn't ask you to walk out of a presentation you're giving in the meeting room of a traditional office building because the workspace is clear. When you work from home, that distinction isn't so easy to see. So, if you need to get some of your work done, you need to be assertive about the situation. Set boundaries. There's nothing wrong with saying, “I'm sorry but I've got an important work project to finish right now.”

As more of us enforce our work time, the more likely it is that online writers and other freelancers everywhere will receive more respect for their time.

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