When Are You Getting A Real Job? (And Other Dumb Things People Say)

I had coffee with a fellow entrepreneur chick the other day, and the subject came up of people not necessarily understanding what we do. Or maybe I should say knowing what we do but assuming that it's only temporary until we find a "real job".

I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by a ton of brave, badass entrepreneurs. Most of my clients either work from home or run small businesses, I grew up watching my parents run their own business, and I'm in several large Facebook groups full of people doing unconventional things. But I'm realizing not everyone is fortunate enough to have those examples in their life, and there are certain things we've all heard at one point in time from people who just don't get it.

"Well, at least you can always go back to being a waitress"

"What have you been doing all day?"

"You can watch my kids, right? Since you're home all day anyway?"

"When are you going to get a real job?"

"Are you still wearing yoga pants? It's 4pm."

"Why is there wine on your desk?".

It's especially tough when the work you do is mostly computer based, sometimes with no "tangible" results to show at the end of the day. I've actually had people in my life who believed that all I do is play on Facebook all day every day. Seriously. I keep that to one day a week, tops. 

With the recent increase in small businesses and entrepreneurs in the US you wouldn't think we'd have to explain to anyone what we do. But it seems that there are still some hold-outs who believe that if you aren't drawing a steady paycheck and parking your butt at someone else's desk everyday you're really just playing office.

So what do you say when you suddenly feel like you have to defend your business to someone who just doesn't get it? I have a few ideas.

  • Remember that they may not have examples of strong, successful small businesses in their life. Be patient with them and explain that small businesses make up a huge part of the US economy and account for roughly 50% of the product sales.
  • Remind them that all businesses started somewhere, even the "real" ones. Amazon, Google, and Apple all started in garages. Nearly every highly successful person started out doing something that felt unconventional to everyone else. You may not have the desire for the same type of success as Gates or Zuckerberg, but there are plenty of stops on that train, and the scenery is great.
  • If this is someone who plays a major role in your life and you want them to know exactly what it is you do all day, show them your work. If you're a writer let them read some of your blog posts or your book manuscript. Show them that client's social media account you've been managing. Tell them what a day in your life really looks like. You never, ever have to explain yourself to anyone, but if it's important to you then show them.
  • Let living well be your statement. Keep doing your thing, work hard, play hard, and don't feel like you have to justify your lifestyle to anyone. As long as it's working for you (and anyone you're responsible for supporting) you're doing just fine. 
  • Point out that you're able to pay your own bills, set your own schedule, and for the most part adult fabulously. Thank them for their concern, but tell them you've tried the job thing, and you don't think you'll be doing that again if you can help it.
  • Tell them how much their support and understanding would mean to you. Explain that you of all people have calculated the risk of entrepreneurship, and it's still the best decision for you. Be specific in what you need them to do or not do, then leave it up to them. You can't change anyone's opinion, but you can feel good knowing you gave them the tools they needed.
  • If all else fails just smile, say "You might be right", take a sip of your desk wine, and walk away. Do your own thing. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life anyway.