What Do You Do?

The other day, I was talking to someone about becoming a freelance writer, and the real and/or perceived struggles I am experiencing. Anyway, I had an epiphany and I wanted to share it here. Maybe it will be helpful to you, particularly if you’re thinking about self-employment.

Being someone who willingly walked away from a “good job” to pursue a freelance career, I just realized that one of the most difficult aspects of this transition for me is figuring out how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

How to answer the question, "What do you do?" when you're self-employed (especially newly self-employed).

Here’s how I typically end up answering, “What do you do?”

Um. Well. I’m a freelance writer, but I only have a couple of clients. I just quit my job three months ago, so I am kind of still figuring it out. So, we’ll see if it ends up working out for me or not.

You know what that sounds like?

It sounds like I don’t believe in myself. It sounds like I’m worried about what other people are going to think about my life choices. It sounds like I’m making excuses. (These are true to some degree.)

That lovely saying you’ll hear about a gazillion times between the time you finish college and when you retire or die comes to mind: Fake it ’til you make it. Clearly, I need to take that a step further.

Fake it until you can fake it better.
I’m bad at faking it. I have no patience for inauthenticity, which is why I sometimes swing a bit too far in the other direction with extreme honestly and too much information. I let my feelings about how I’m doing encroach on the facts about what I’m doing.

So what do I do? Tell people what I do without implied question marks or caveats.

I’m a freelance writer, a content strategist, and a small business owner.

Simple, true, and to the point.

Self-Doubt and the Way Forward

There are days I feel optimistic.

Other days, I wonder what the hell I’m doing “burning the candle at both ends,” if you will, because none of this is going to land where I want it to land.

So I’m going to be frank. I’m going to let you in on what I’m really doing here — that there is a bit of a grand plan to this new blog.

But let’s start here: I love to write. When I started my first blog, it was because I wanted to write. I never gave any thought to my blog’s strategy, marketing my “brand,” or gaining a followers. But I made some blog friends and had a few regular readers. It was fun. I wrote a lot for a while, and then, as it happens, life got in the way.

I thought about blogging during my time away. I thought about starting a new blog. I thought about what I wanted to write. I thought about giving blogging a real and more serious shot.

But, I figured I was too late to the party. Particularly because I want to write about topics that fall into the mommy blogger category — a space already saturated with talented and popular bloggers — it seemed dumb to even try.

So I thought about other options. I thought freelance writing.

But, I assumed a career as a freelance writer was a long shot — what with my lack of journalism degree, published clips, and professional experience, not to mention that there are so many good writers out there. Except that I do have writing experience — a lot of it — I’ve just never been called a writer at work.

I’ve stalled.

But this summer I started thinking about the intersection of all of these things: where I’ve been, where I am, where I want to go. And realized that maybe the intersection is the answer, rather than the point at which I have to choose one direction.

If there’s anything I believe, it’s that the choices we make are leading us to something.

My decision to stick with my day job is something I have questioned, but it has pushed me in a new direction — content marketing. And content is really does tie together all the other things for me: ye old blog, all the blah, blah, blahing I’ve been doing on the Internet for eight years, my desire to write, my marketing background, my project management experience, this freelance career I’ve been mumbling about for lord knows how long… it’s all connected. It doesn’t have to only be one thing. It can be many things.

Here’s the bottom line:

I want to do something I love. I want to be creative. I want to lend my voice and opinion to the conversations about motherhood, parenthood, and the balance of family and work that are happening all around us online. I also want to cook dinner and manage our household. I want to take care of myself and my family. And I want to have the flexibility to take my daughter to a park on a Friday afternoon while she’s still little. I want to volunteer in her classroom when she gets older. I want to walk her to school and be there to pick her up when the last bell rings.

I want to write this blog, and I want to build a business as a freelancer. And hopefully, they can feed one another.

I’m old enough to know that there is no perfect situation, and I’m probably romanticizing this other life. I’ve also been around the work world long enough to know that if my job was fulfilling items one and two, I’d probably feel a little better about the balancing the rest of the list. And not for nothing, I realize how privileged it is to even be able to entertain these ideas.

I regularly live in a headspace dominated by thoughts that I cannot change the path I am on, that I don’t have what it takes to build something, and that most people don’t get to do what they really want to do anyway. But then, I put together and execute a successful content marketing plan at work; I teach myself how to edit CSS; I design some graphics; I take a decent photo; I put myself out there for a guest blogging opportunity; I have a call with a potential freelance client. And I think that maybe all of the voices in my head are wrong. I have a solid set of skills, and I’m willing to put in the work to build the ones I don’t have. And maybe, if I’m smart and planful and a little bit lucky, it will all work out the way I want it to.

Like I said, there are days when I feel optimistic.