Did you become a freelancer because you want to pursue your passion? To build a business around the line of work that inspires you? Did you want to answer to yourself instead of being a cog in a corporate structure? Have you always taken a “whole picture” approach, where you see projects through from A to Z, from soup to nuts and everything in between, without turning to anyone else for guidance?
Is it safe to say that when it comes to your work, you’re essentially a lone wolf? Plenty of freelancers are. We’re the introverted bunch that favors slippers over timesheets.
Just don’t be shocked when your feelings of solitude start extending beyond the confines of your work.
It’s pretty likely that your friends and family don’t really understand or have much love for your business. Even if they appreciate the idea of following your passion, or taking on a complete slate of responsibility, the odds are high that they are not going to truly wrap their heads around how you feel about what you do – nor why you do it.
Consider the following reasons why people close to you might feel removed from what is so exciting to you. Armed with better understanding of where they’re coming from, you’re likely to find it easier to deal with the emotional gap your feeling.
Questioning Their Own Career Paths
People love to complain about their jobs. Well, in a sense no one truly loves complaining about anything, but judging by the amount of complaining people do about their jobs, we might be forgiven for thinking that there’s a lot of love around for this activity. It’s one of those go-to topics, right after the weather.
Now here you come, tootling along, fulfilling your passion and not complaining about it much. Presumably, of course, you could complain if need be, because freelancing is tough. But that’s not what your friends and family are picking up on. They’re just hearing the humble-brags about the flexibility of your lifestyle, the meaningful fulfillment you’re deriving from gigs and the connections you’re making in your field – none of which matches their own experiences in the rat race.
Don’t forget – these are people who need to convince themselves every day that despite the drawbacks of their day jobs, it’s the least evil solution for making a living, and they’re best off continuing to grind it out. So when you talk about this alternate route you’ve found, which circumvents the cubicle altogether, it’s a type of threat. On an implied level, you’re essentially calling them out on the lies they need to tell themselves.
When people see someone they respect truly loving what he or she does, well, then there’s a natural tendency to wonder why their own chosen careers are not engendering the same level of enthusiasm. Perhaps they’re just in the wrong field?
More Passion Than They Have
Sometimes enthusiasm can be a turnoff. If you’ve ever encountered the kind of diehard fans (of anything) who go to conferences and conventions about whatever it is they love, and if you’re not that kind of diehard fan yourself, then you know the feeling of smug superiority combined with guilty inferiority that such passionate fans can engender.
You’re the normal one, after all. You’re not head over heels in love with Cuban postage stamps like they are, and aren’t you better off? Then again, is there anything you care about to the degree that you can imagine pursuing it with disproportionate gusto? Well, your friends and family may react to your passions for work in a similar vein.
It might be making them feel a little smug about just how even-keeled they are – not being all that passionate in that way about anything in their work. And it also might be making them a little bit uncomfortable.
A Dash of Jealousy
In the same way that most people want to be loved, people harbor dreams of finding the activity or enterprise that they can fall in love with. The one that makes them feel like their lives have purpose. The one that overshadows everything else they do and imbues even the most mundane tasks with meaning.
We all make compromises in our lives, and with work, many end up making compromises we can’t forgive ourselves for. Is it really possible to make ends meet and spend your time working on things that are meaningful and enjoyable to you? As a freelancer, you hopefully believe that it is, but many of us believe that it isn’t. For someone who has made such a significant compromise to be confronted with someone who doesn’t have to, it’s tough.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not you relate to your career in that way. Chances are good that there’s a hint of jealousy among your family and friends who believe that you have found the professional love of your life, when they haven’t.
You are in the exceptional – and yes, enviable – position of having a passion that you can earn a living from. Looking at it from the inverse perspective, you’re also in the rare position of earning a living that you are impassioned about. Let the friends and family have a little bit of a hard time with it. In this situation, you’re the lucky one.
Understand where they’re coming from, and keep in mind that they have been less fortunate in this particular regard than you. Feel free to share other pursuits with them, so that your differences don’t become an obstacle in your relationship. You can talk shop with other freelancers via meetups or online forums. When your social circles are alienated by your freelance career, you’re best off emphasizing what you have in common with them when you interact.