Help Family and Friends Understand you ARE Working!

“You’re always on your laptop or Tweeting!”

Do you find yourself having to justify to your family about the time you spend online?

Is your new job earning money online still in its infancy?

Are you working unsocial hours to make sure you don’t miss opportunities whilst you build up a client base?

Are your family demanding you spend more time with them and not valuing your occupation?

It’s really hard when you’re in the early days of this new life as a freelancer for your family and friends to recognise that it is a job, and that you are working.   They don’t see you heading off for work each day, and as far as they can see you get to spend a lot of time on the laptop, PC, Facebook and Twitter, which some of them do surreptitiously at work.  They use their computers for social networking and playing.  Are you sure that’s not what you’re doing?  They see you getting to hang out at home, or the local cafe, library, or park.  It looks like fun.  Meanwhile they’re continuing the daily drudge of a commute, having to please the boss and put up with some difficult colleagues, meet deadlines, fit some lunch into their busy day and then rush for the train/bus to get home in time to spend time with you and the family.  Only YOU are still on the computer!

You’ve stopped and prepared a meal for the family, and now you’re sitting together watching TV etc, and still you’re connected to Twitter/Facebook!  Surely you can put it away now, stop now.

Here are a few ideas that may help them understand:

1) In your work space/office, have a spreadsheet tacked to the wall showing your earnings each week.  Make sure it is colourful and big enough to stand out.

2) Tack a graphic illustration (such as a graph) showing your weekly earnings over the last 3 months (hopefully it will be positive reinforcement of your worth).

3) Show a list of your clients and the jobs in hand.  No need for real names if confidentiality is an issue, but Client 1, Client 2 etc.   A weekly job sheet for each client tacked to the wall, showing what you have to achieve each week for each client in order to be paid.

I went out yesterday and bought myself a couple of whiteboards, I thought it might be useful to write down my clients and what work I have to do for the week so when my family and friends (and my partner) come into the office they can see that I am working, even if that is tweeting… it’s all work!

That’s all I have for now, how about you?  What other ways are there to keep your family informed and onside?

If you’re looking for some tips on how to manage your time as a freelancer, take a look at my recent post ‘Freelancer? How Do You Manage Your Time?‘  or if you’d like to know how I manage my day, ‘A Day in the Life of a Virtual Assistant‘ might help.


  1. Hi Jo!
    Wow I can definitely relate to this! Loved reading this – excellent post!

  2. I love the whiteboard idea Jo – I’ve been toying with getting a combined whiteboard/magnetic board to keep reminders in view so I don’t forget … looks like this will have hidden benefits! :)

  3. Good post Jo.
    I find that it helps when I say to my wife – I’m going upstairs to work, leave me alone for a couple of hours. I’ve also found that it is useful to keep the door shut when I am working, that way people get the idea that I don’t want to be disturbed.

    • I think it’s more about people wondering whether you’re actually working behind that closed door and not just tweeting and socialising online! :)

  4. This is extremely helpful information. I am constantly being asked, “So how’s IT going?” I just want to say it right back to them and let them see how unfriendly it feels. It’s like they think that IT is so different from what they do. We do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done. I will try some of your ideas and the ideas from the other comments to see if that stops some of the badgering.

    • Thanks Dyrene, I hope you can stop the badgering, I have just implemented my whiteboard idea, so far just written my weekly earnings, on the other one I will put my to-do list and my clients. Good luck! :)

  5. I can relate! Great post, and good ideas I’ll try. My whiteboard has my to-do list, but I like the client list idea!

  6. Where were you 3 years ago, Jo? Better yet, where was this post? My husband and I BOTH work from home, and it took just up until about a year ago for us to get (one family member in particular) to understand that he couldn’t come over & ‘hang’ during the day! It was absolutely infuriating!

    • Sorry Jenny, I was a full-time employee 3 years ago… it’s only now that I’ve come across these problems while working at home. Hope you managed to sort out the family member in question now. :)

  7. I guess you could also have a large scale planner up there on the wall. Maybe you can design and print something off, showing your week in blocks of time. That way, when a family member asks for your help ( not that I am suggesting you do this every time) you can take them with you and look and see when you have a space to help them.
    If you’ve blocked in the times too that you’re shopping, cooking and washing (you know, stuff you do in the home whilst you’re playing ;-) ) it might make it clearer where your hours have been spent.

  8. my family is pretty much aware with what I’m doing but spreadsheets of my earnings and whiteboard is something nice that i havent done yet lol.. havent track that yet i guess i need to start now..

  9. This is fantastic advice Jo. I still have problems with this, my dad is the worst! Will try your tips out and see if he notices next time he is round..

  10. This is an excellent post and has given me an idea that will kill two birds with one stone: to help keep me motivated and to reassure my (disbelieving) Dad that I really do work. Thank you for the post. Just reading it helps. Having sold my business two and a half years ago, I am hardpressed to convince people that I am NOT retired but still working as hard as ever. Just differently.

  11. Excellent post, Jo. Week 2 of my brand new business has found me taking (my retired) Mum to choose a new kitchen (5 hours!) and then point out that she can’t watch Deal or No Deal on the computer sitting on the kichen table because that means I can’t work! Grrrr! It’s tricky right enough but I love your ideas and I’m about to dig out my magic whiteboard roll. As they don’t need fiting (they stick with static) I don’t need anyone to help fit them :)

    • Pleased you liked my post Ally, I laughed when I read your comment. I think my partner is the worst culprit, expecting me to drop everything at a moments notice to go shopping or visit family. Good luck with the whiteboard roll, not heard of those… might take a look as my whiteboard is filling up! :)

  12. I love the idea of printing and pinning the spreadsheet :-)

    Great post – will definitely be using your tips.


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