Family not wild about your decision to begin working for yourself? They’ll come around if you follow these seven steps.
So you want to be your own boss. Working for yourself sounds great, right? Forging your own path, starting your own business and building up your own network of clients can be very satisfying. Becoming an entrepreneur or starting a freelancing career can also be a great way to earn money and accelerate your career growth.
That is, until mom or dad tries to put on the brakes.
You can almost hear them now, as they lean into the doorway of your childhood bedroom or check in with you on that weekly phone call: “Aren’t you going to try to get a real job?”
I was lucky to grow up in a home where self-employment and freelancing were seen as normal. My mom teaches piano lessons, and I started assisting her when I was in junior high. As a teenager, I took on my own piano students and began working as an accompanist for multiple choirs — all skills that prepared me for my current freelance career.
But not everyone has a family history of entrepreneurship. If you’re a first-generation freelancer, you might have to put some effort into convincing your parents that working for yourself is not only a good idea, but one of the smartest moves you can make with your career right now.
Here’s how to start that conversation:
1. Show them the numbers
A recent Freelancing in America report, released by Freelancers Union and Elance/ODesk, showed there are 53 million Americans working as freelancers. That’s 34 percent of the American workforce!
How do GenY workers fit into this? The study states: “Millennials (workers under 35) are more likely to freelance than older workers — 38 percent of Millennials are freelancing, compared to 32 percent of those over 35.”
Let your parents know that freelancing and self-employment is part of the new employment landscape. It’s also future-oriented: the Intuit 2020 Report predicts that 40 percent of the American workforce will be contingent workers — freelancers and independent contractors — by 2020.
If your parents think it’ll be “safer” for you to go work for a big company, explain that many self-employed workers do freelance or contract work for large corporations, and this type of work opportunity is likely to grow. Intuit’s data suggests that more than 80 percent of large corporations will add freelancers and part-time workers to the payroll in the next five years.
2. Prove that you’re taking action
Your parents will be much more likely to support your freelance career if you show them that “working for yourself” doesn’t mean “playing around on the Internet all day.” Prove that you’re taking action by showing your parents your professional website, sharing your business plan and telling them when you hit milestones like landing your first client.
If you haven’t yet started your freelancing action plan, use this seven-step guide to help you get your career off the ground. Let your parents know that you’re working towards your goals, and they’ll be more likely to believe you can achieve them. (Click here to tweet this advice.)
3. Be on top of your finances
When you work for a large company, they handle many of the financial details like payroll, taxes, health insurance and retirement planning options. When you work for yourself, you’re responsible for everything from making sure you get paid on time to putting aside enough money for when you retire. (And yes, you should be thinking about retirement now.)
Show your parents that you have what it takes to run the financial side of a solopreneur business. Consider taking a class on how to manage finances as a freelancer — after all, you can always write it off as a tax deduction! Set up a meeting with a CPA to talk about estimated taxes, licenses and other finance-related tips and tools.
4. Share your new skills
What new skills are you learning as you prepare for your freelance career? Are you becoming a graphic design guru? Did you learn how to make animated GIFs to accompany that listicle you wrote? Maybe you tried a new piano pedagogy technique on your level one students and they totally got the difference between legato and staccato.
Show your parents your new skills, so they know that you are working on professional development. They know that the more skills you have, the more valuable you are to employers, so let them know you’re doing the work to make yourself as marketable as possible. Your parents will probably want you to teach them how to make animated GIFs too!
5. Show off your growing network
Nearly every career is built, at least in part, on who you know — and freelancing, where each new job depends on knowing a potential client, is even more dependent on having a good network.
So build your network and show it off to your folks. Let them see that you have 5,000 Twitter followers, or that one of your clients referred you to an editor at Wired. If you need tips on how to get that network started, we’ve got lots of ideas for growing your network.
6. Share your successes
When you land a new client, tell your parents. When you complete your first job, tell your parents. If you get a big paycheck, tell your parents. Letting them know that working for yourself is putting money in your bank account is one of the best ways to get them on board for your new career.
If you’re still in the early stages of your freelance career and haven’t gotten any big paychecks yet, you can still find successes to share. Let your parents know when you have a promising meeting, or when you add a new skillset to your portfolio.
7. Tell them how self-employment makes you happy
Your parents want you to be financially successful, but they also want you to be happy. They probably know what it feels like to have a less-than-optimal job, and they may worry that you are putting a lot of work into something that isn’t very enjoyable or rewarding. “Wouldn’t you be happier,” they might think, “in an office full of people and steady paychecks?”
Tell them exactly how self-employment makes you happy. Maybe you like the freedom of learning new skills, or the excitement of working for a new company every week. Maybe you like creating things on your own and selling your work to other people. Maybe you like the stability of having multiple clients and multiple income streams.
Whatever you love about freelancing, let them know. That way they’ll understand that by choosing self-employment, you have chosen the best path for you — and they’ll be more likely to stand alongside that path and cheer you on.
How did your parents respond when you said you wanted to work for yourself? Do you have other tips for people who want to help their parents understand what a freelance career is all about?
Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.