Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Get a Real Job? Not Me!

I’ve worked some strange jobs. Paintball magazine editor doesn’t even top the list, which is pretty unusual considering the sports demographic is 89 percent male and, well into my adult life, I’d never played any organized sports or held a gun.

But I’ve also worked promotions for a country radio station, been an advice columnist for an online men’s magazine, and, more recently, a beauty product tester.

And the Auction Jobs. Ah, the famous art & sports memorabilia silent auctions for charity, which I blogged about in this post.

I work auctions about two nights a week to supplement my freelance writing income. Not only is it fun (most of the time), I’ve also made some great connections. But I don’t need to justify myself… Really. ;)

The other night, at a hoity-toity hospital fundraiser, I started a conversation with the lady selling raffle tickets, a volunteer for the organization. She asked if I worked for the hospital (a common question for the night; many people started conversations that way, by means of introduction.)

I replied, “No, I work for the company running the silent auction.”

“Oh,” she said. “That’s a job?”

“Um, yes,” I replied, wracking my brain for a snappy comeback. “But I also own a magazine,” I added, by means of salvaging some self-respect.

Why I should care, I have no idea. They say women begin “discovering themselves” in their 30s, blossoming into confident, glamorous, devil-may-care vixens, secure in themselves, their careers, their sexuality, their life-choices. When will I get the inner confidence and self-respect to just let these things slide, rather than feeling like I have to prove myself to complete strangers?

Regardless, I felt it necessary to defend my life and justify my means of income.

Then, out to dinner last night with a close friend, we started talking about holidays off. Because my husband works for the school district, he has most of this week off. My friend, who works for a bank, gets to leave early Christmas Eve, but was lamenting working on Black Friday.

Then she added, “Well, you don’t have to worry, Dawn. You don’t wor— “

I stopped her mid-sentence, pointing my fried shrimp at her like a loaded weapon. “Go ahead,” I dared. “Finish that sentence.”

“Well, I mean… you don’t have a real jo—“

I smirked, one eyebrow raise, shrimp still poised for attack.

She finally found the proper phrasing. We’d been through this before. “You get to set your own hours and you don’t actually have to DRIVE to an office,” she finished.

“Yeah, isn’t it great?” I grinned at her.

I know freelancers can relate to this... Writers, I'd love to hear your worst "my family/friends just don't understand what I do" stories.


Karen L. Alaniz said...

Great post! I am only beginning to have success in freelancing but have already had people say, in response to my telling them about my most recent publishing credit, "Do they pay for that?"

Uh, yeah. They pay because it's called...work. Sheesh! One thing I haven't figured out how to respond to is this, "So how much do you get paid for that?"

It feels so intrusive. I don't ask how much they make. Why are they asking me? I don't understand why it's fair game. That is by far the most common question I get.


Dawn Allcot said...

Hmm... that IS a good one. I'm usually pretty open about how much my assignments pay, so it wouldn't bother me. I think most people are curious, because they see it as such an odd thing, to be paid for writing.

Some answers to the pay rate question could be:

"It varies by publication. How much do you make for [fill in their job here.]?" (That should shut them up for sure!)

"Enough." If they continue to press (and I read this from an etiquette expert somewhere), smile and say, "Why do you ask?"

"Not enough! That's why the Hollywood writers are striking."

Of course, all of that is easy to come up with here in the blogosphere, when we're not put on the spot by a rude person who's not really intending to be rude, but IS! :)

Joanna Sandsmark said...

For a long time my mother would do anything to avoid discussing what I did for a living, even when I wrote for TV. Then I started getting books published and she suddenly became a one woman marketing squad. Mom, you see, is a librarian. Books are the only, true legitimate form of writing. As long as I keep stay on that path, she's as happy as she can be.