Never Ask A Freelancer When They're Getting A 'Real Job' — Because We Have One

by Kristen Mae
Originally Published: 

When I started telling folks I was getting divorced, a couple of people asked me if I was “going to get a real job” or what I was going to do “for work.” I thought that was an interesting question to ask, since I … already had a job, and they knew that. I’ve been a freelancer now for about eight years.

Yes, I did have to increase my workload when I became the sole earner in my household, but I was able to do that after just a couple of months of tapping into my network and hustling for more work. Freelancing is in fact a job, folks. While there are days when I want to throw my hustle in the trash and set it on fire because I’m fucking tired of always being on the prowl for more and higher paying work, most days I love the freedom and flexibility of being a freelancer.

Because my income is cobbled together from a variety of sources, I never have the same day or week or month twice. The four novels I’ve published bring in passive royalties every month whether I advertise or not, though if I put in the work to advertise, I can increase that income. My college degree is in music performance, so I teach a few hours of violin and viola lessons every week. In non-COVID times, I play in the local symphony (so close to getting back to that!). I get paid to write articles for various websites, and I pick up an editing job here and there to fill in any gaps.


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My work is very independent. I plan my own hours — if I want to work one day and not the next, I can do that without having to ask anyone. If I get a headache and want to sleep it off for a few hours, that’s no problem at all; I can take a nap and catch up on work in the evening. For most of the work I do, my laptop is my office. I can travel to visit my long-distance partner without having to check with anyone in “the office,” and as long as I bring my laptop with me, I can keep up with work even when I visit them.

I am typing this article while sitting on my couch in a T-shirt and underwear, no makeup, no bra, hair askew, my dog curled up beside me. Every few sentences, I take a bite of cinnamon oatmeal or have a sip of coffee.

And, best of all, I’m literally making money right now for just typing out my thoughts for people to read. Hi, friends!

This is what I’m going to do for money, Judgy McJudgyface who apparently thinks freelancing isn’t a real job.

And yes, I do in fact make money. With the right skills and networking hustle, it’s completely possible to make a very good living working for yourself. Quite a few freelance writers I know bring in six figures. A woman who started blogging around the same time I did has built a million-dollar empire designing high-conversion email campaigns for people and businesses. The woman who edited my novels makes great money as a freelance editor — all her clients come to her by word of mouth because she’s that good at what she does.

Just because someone isn’t working “for” someone else at a 40-hour-per-week nine-to-five job doesn’t mean they don’t work. And just because someone works in their pajamas doesn’t mean they’re not making money.


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Of course, there are drawbacks to the freelancer life. Finding affordable health insurance is a huge barrier for people wanting to freelance. My children are covered under their dad’s plan, and I have a plan subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. For folks who need to cover an entire family but earn near the threshold of that ACA subsidy, health insurance can cost as much as your rent or mortgage. This expense often outweighs the benefits of the independence and flexibility that comes with freelancing.

And doing taxes as a freelancer fucking sucks. I pay estimated quarterly taxes every few months and then come tax time I have to sift through about 22 1099s. Tax time is a nightmare and is without question the most annoying part of being a freelancer. Every year, come tax time, I wish I could just enter a W-2 and be done with it.

But mostly, I love the work-from-home freelancer life. It’s a job — a real job, that yes, I and many others make actual money at. So, if you’re a freelancer and living that hustle like me, know that I see you and I acknowledge that the work you do is as valid as the work of anyone who goes into an office every day.

And if you’re a regular nine-to-fiver who gets a W-2 at the end of each year to happily plug into your extremely simple tax return, please don’t ever invalidate the work of a freelancer by asking when they’re planning on getting a “real job.” It makes you look like a jerk.

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