A few days ago my middle son’s teacher stopped me outside his class when I dropped him off. “I have a favour to ask”, she says, “Do you work?” Me: “No, I don’t work, why?” Teacher: “Can you help us on the school trip next week?” Well, it so happens that I can’t, because The Little Guy will be with me all day, and younger siblings aren’t allowed on school trips, for obvious reasons. But… “No, I don’t work”?! Really!? Is that the right answer Sara? Why did I say that?! I do work. The fact that I’m self-employed and work from home as a freelance writer doesn’t mean I don’t work. So why exactly did I say that I don’t?
Photo courtesy of Carin Thakrar Photography.
1. I’m fairly new to the job
It’s been a while since I left my last job – nearly 10 months, to be precise. I’m a Business Analyst by trade, and I was in that career for 11 years. Without a professional background as a writer, I must admit I do find it hard, sometimes, to accept and acknowledge this change of career. But now I am a writer. And to convince myself, I just have to bring up the argument that I do write. For a living. That means I am a writer and work as a writer. Yes, it’s early days, and I’ve not been doing it for that long, but it’s what I do now. I don’t do it as a hobby, so yes, I do work.
2. Working from home isn’t the same as working from an office
The fact that after dropping my children off to school or nursery in the mornings means that I can go back home and choose what to do (work wise) for the next few hours, doesn’t really feel like work to me. When you have a job, you get up in the morning, get ready, and you GO TO WORK. If I’m not going anywhere, does it mean I’m working? Well, I am. I’m not at home watching morning TV. Working from home is still working. Right?
3. I don’t have set hours
What looks like another leftover from the many years spent in traditional employment is the fact that when you have a job you’re expected to be at work at a certain time. If you’re not, you’re late (which may or may not be a huge problem). And you can’t leave before a certain time either. Unless you’re ill, or your house is on fire. If I don’t have set times, and if I can work whenever it suits me and my family, then it must mean I don’t work. But ha, you guessed it – I do!
4. My salary is no longer guaranteed
Or maybe I instinctively say that I don’t work because I don’t have a set salary? I don’t earn as much as I used to. And the mere fact of turning up for work (even if you’re feeling brain-dead from a night spent up with the baby) no longer means that I’ll get paid at the end of the month. Now when I feel brain-dead from having a bad night, and I don’t get as much done, I just don’t get paid for it. If I’ve not produced anything, there’s nothing I can be paid for. Does any of that mean I’m not working though?
5. The impostor syndrome overpowers the internal dialogue
Or perhaps this is it. Exactly this. I’m letting all the internal self-talk and self-doubt take over. How can I be a writer? I didn’t go to university to study to be a writer! Did I spend years in a career that involved writing professionally? I did, actually – not creative writing, as such, but writing nonetheless. Writing that I was very good at and that came really easy to me. So yes, a few brownie points for me there. I am ‘allowed’ to call myself a writer. Because I write.
“Yes, I do work”
It’s a bit annoying, frankly. Nearly a year on, when people on the playground or at my children’s school ask me if I work, I say I don’t. But I do. I’ve been writing on the MummyNatal and BabyNatal websites for over two years now. I regularly publish my work on the Huffington Post UK and on Parent.co. And I’ve written a number of guests posts on other sites (you can see some examples on my Work with me page).
I’m writing my first book, to help people who had a similar leg fracture and surgery to mine. And the fact that I have now written 86 posts on this blog has to count too! Plus, I spend a huge amount of my time reading and learning. About writing, marketing, social media, building and promoting an online business, as well as all the subjects I write about, like stress, mindfulness or decluttering.
So yes, I do work. I work around my children because I needed the freedom and flexibility that a ‘traditional career’ wasn’t able to give me. So I had to put my big-girl pants on, make a big, scary step and reinvent myself.
I work from home. But it doesn’t mean that my job is any less important, valuable, or rewarding than anyone else’s. So it’s about time I start owning this.
Next time, I’ll have the right answer ready. I promise.
Have you recently changed your career? Do you suffer from Impostor’s Syndrome? Do you have any experiences, thoughts, or tips to share?