When people seem to think your job is a “hobby”.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from Jo Breeze. Jo is a crowdfunding consultant and writer, she says:

“My work makes a genuine contribution to paying the bills in our house. It’s not quite 50/50 but some months it’s pretty close. But when I tell people what I do, I sometimes find there’s an assumption that it’s a hobby that I’ve taken on to keep me busy (HAAA) around children. I feel especially awkward when people tell me about their wife or their friend who’s ‘self-employed like you’ when it turns out what they mean is sells things on eBay sometimes, or similar. How do I assert that actually my job is a ‘real’ job, without doing down the choices of other women?”

Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:00:11.170] – Frankie
Hello. You’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. My name’s Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:00:21.430] – Steve
Hello. Yes. Each week we take a question asked by a member of the Doing It For The Kids community, do our best to answer it, and then also read out your comments. We record this every single week, even though it’s harder. But it works because I love the comments.

[00:00:36.870] – Frankie
Yeah, me too. It’s fun!

[00:00:37.860] – Steve
Last week’s question was all about food. Basically — how do you go about your working day with kids without just eating biscuits? So, yeah. Any comments not involving jacket potatoes or…?

[00:00:51.630] – Frankie
So yeah, there was a lot of chat about jacket potato-gate and whether one should microwave a jacket potato before it goes in the oven or not. I did a poll on Instagram. Very disappointing. 70% would microwave it. 70%!!

[00:01:07.830] – Steve
Do you know what, though? I saw that poll and it was a bit Brexit-y.

[00:01:10.850] – Frankie
That’s true. I set it up pretty badly, didn’t I?

[00:01:13.290] – Steve
The wording was wrong. I think it said something like, “have you ever microwaved a jacket potato?” What you should have said to put it in your favour is… “is the jacket potato better when it has been cooked in the oven?”

[00:01:25.360] – Frankie
Correct. Then I probably would have won, right? Definitely won.

[00:01:27.930] – Steve
Yeah for sure.

[00:01:28.400] – Frankie
Because I got lots of messages from people saying, “yes, I microwave it, but I’m not proud of that. Don’t hate me!” In fact, one of our comments from last week was from my mate Shruti, who says, “I really liked Steve, until he mentioned microwaving a baked potato”.

[00:01:46.530] – Steve

[00:01:47.270] – Frankie
Your days are numbered.

[00:01:48.430] – Steve
Fiona Firth says,

“I struggle with this, although it helps that I have a teenager around. Making lunch for us both forces me to take a proper break and make something healthy. Otherwise, it’d be crisps”.

Oh, yeah, we didn’t talk about crisps, mmm.

“Meal planning for lunches, too, is the best thing I’ve done.” You mentioned that! That is a good idea. I liked that. That was one of my favourite things actually.

[00:02:11.470] – Frankie
Honestly, it will change your life. It’s a massive pain in the arse. It’s like another thing to do, but it pays off. Your week will be easier if you just do that half hour. Do it!

Oh, someone asked about the app that I use. It’s called Plateful. It’s not very good, but it does the job. Put that on your testimonials!

[00:02:29.240] – Steve
Hashtag #notanad

[00:02:30.860] – Frankie
Definitely not an ad. No.

[00:02:32.020] – Steve
Lynda Kendall got in touch. She said,

“OMG, making sandwiches is so depressing.” Oh, yeah, I said that, didn’t I? “Because you have to get all the stuff out of the fridge and chop it up and pile it in and then cut it in half, and at the end, you only have a sandwich. My go to is avocado on toast with feta and a big squeeze of Sriracha sauce over the top.”

Oooh what’s sriracha sauce?

[00:02:53.960] – Frankie

[00:02:54.360] – Steve
What’s Sriracha sauce?

[00:02:55.850] – Frankie
Sriracha is LIFE, Steve.

[00:02:58.990] – Steve

[00:02:59.370] – Frankie
This is not an ad.

[00:03:00.110] – Steve
You know what it is?

[00:03:00.750] – Frankie
Oh, my God. Did you not see me sharing the Sriracha gifs in the group?

[00:03:05.960] – Steve
There’s gifs? What’s sriracha?

[00:03:08.290] – Frankie
It’s salt and sugar and chilli in sauce form. Literally, in my house, we eat it with everything. EVERYTHING.

[00:03:15.310] – Steve
Like some people might use Worcester sauce?

[00:03:17.000] – Frankie

[00:03:17.360] – Steve
You use sriracha sauce? Okay, good. Thanks.

[00:03:20.030] – Frankie
It’s amazing. It will change your life, honestly. So good.

Suzannah Bolton says,

“Fried egg sandwiches are not lame.” She says, “Sorry, but that’s something I feel quite passionate about. Honestly, I get so excited when we run out of actual food and it’s a viable option.”

[00:03:36.500] – Steve
Suzanna, I feel like that could be a good autobiography title. I would pick that book up in a bookshop if I saw that title, wouldn’t you?

[00:03:44.150] – Frankie
‘Fried egg sandwiches are not lame’.

[00:03:45.650] – Steve
Bare Cupboards and Other Stories by Suzanna Bolton. I’d buy that.

So, anyway, thank you so much. I mean, I could read out all of the comments I got in support of putting potatoes in the microwave, but I won’t.

[00:03:57.200] – Frankie
That’s true.

[00:03:57.610] – Steve
They are there.

[00:03:58.510] – Frankie
The comments have been quite biased in my favour, haven’t they? Sorry about that.

[00:04:02.170] – Steve
Yeah. I should, at this point, point out that Frankie takes the comments and copies and pastes them into a document for us to read from and has conveniently missed out all of the ones that mentioned microwaving potatoes was okay.

Anyway, thank you so much for all your comments, as ever, and we look forward to getting your comments on this week’s questions coming up in a moment.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:05:50.510] – Steve
This week’s question comes from Jo Breeze, who is a crowdfunding consultant and writer, which I find very interesting. Have you ever checked out Jo’s website?

[00:06:00.050] – Frankie
I have, yes.

[00:06:01.460] – Steve
It’s a really interesting thing that she does, isn’t it? Helping people with their crowdfunding.

So her question is,

“My work makes a genuine contribution to paying for bills in our house. It’s not quite 50/50, but some months, it’s pretty close. But when I tell people what I do, I sometimes find there’s an assumption that it’s a hobby that I’ve taken on to keep me busy — ha! — around children.”

She wrote the ‘ha’ by the way. Jo says,

“I feel especially awkward when people tell me about their wife or their friend who’s ‘self-employed like you’, when it turns out what they mean is they sell things on eBay sometimes, or similar.

How do I assert the fact that actually my job is a real job without doing down the choices of other women??”

Crikey, can we go back to talking about crisps and jacket potatoes?

[00:06:49.370] – Frankie
Right, this is like our first…

[00:06:51.970] – Steve
Soup! There were some people who agreed with me that they make soup in cans and you don’t have to go making it from scratch. Do you remember the good old days where we talked about soup, guys?

[00:06:59.670] – Frankie
That’s true. I could have read Ross’s quote. Who backed you up on the soup can comment. There we go.

[00:07:03.810] – Steve
There was quite a few comments, actually, but didn’t past them, did you?

Jo. Thank you so much for your question. It feels like this is pointing out that this situation mainly applies to women, right?

[00:07:14.400] – Frankie
Oh, yeah.

[00:07:14.590] – Steve
But I don’t think it is, because I’ve felt this at the school gates as well, and I think it’s that kind of like, “oh, well, you’re around to drop the kids off, therefore what do you do?” Do you see what I mean? Because then the assumption is, “well, if you’re around that much to look after the kids, then surely, you don’t have a real job because people who have real jobs are on the train into London”, where we live anyway.

Once we had… it was actually one of our daughter’s friends. So she was probably four-years-old, five-years-old at the time. And they were over for a playdate at our house, as usual. And this little girl put a hand on her hip and she looked at me and she went, “Don’t you ever do any work?”

[00:07:54.710] – Frankie
Holy moly!

[00:07:56.830] – Steve
Because think about it, right? She was like, “well, you’re always around”. Because her mum goes off to a ‘proper’ job and her dad goes off to a ‘proper’ job and yet I’m always around. It’s not just the grown ups thinking it.

[00:08:12.500] – Frankie
That is brutal.

[00:08:14.430] – Steve
Anyway, she didn’t get any ice cream!

[00:08:16.120] – Frankie
No. Fair play.

There are many layers to this onion, this onion, conundrum onion, onionundrum? And one of them is that, yeah, I think freelancing generally has a bad rep. If you’re not self-employed, you don’t really understand what that means or what that looks like. And there’s an assumption you’ll sit around in your pajamas watching Judge Rinder or whatever and going for leisurely lunches and stuff like that. I have some friends that always want to invite themselves round when I’m working because they literally think I’m not doing anything?! Which is a bit awkward.

[00:08:47.170] – Steve
Or, “can you pop to the shops and pick this up for me?”

[00:08:52.040] – Frankie
Yes, yes, yes, yes! “Can you queue at the post office for 2 hours on my behalf?” Yeah, totally. And accept all the deliveries.

Yeah, so I think there is an issue around the term ‘freelance’, full stop. And some people even choose to move away from that quite pointedly. They’re like, “I don’t want to call myself a ‘freelancer’” because they think that people make assumptions about them based on that.

[00:09:12.510] – Steve
Yeah, do you know, I had a guest on the Being Freelance podcast, Vicky Knights, she’s a photographer, she has two kids okay, so she’s one of us! And she said that, you know, at the school gates or at a networking event or whatever, she wouldn’t introduce herself as a ‘freelance photographer’. She made a point of the fact that she introduces herself as, “oh hi, I’m Vicky and I run a photography business”.

[00:09:35.750] – Frankie

[00:09:36.600] – Steve
Or “I own a photography business”. She was absolutely adamant that that was the way that she was going to be perceived. I’ve never used that phrase. But it does make sense, doesn’t it?

[00:09:45.900] – Frankie
Yes! But I’m so conflicted on it because yes, on the one level it might make my life easier, but equally like, I like being freelance! I’m proud of that fact. It’s part of my identity. There’s a huge community of people that also identify that way and it’s like… a thing. It’s not just the way I choose to describe myself, it’s a way of life.

I get that it might make those conversations at Christmas easier or whatever, but I do wonder, as your business grows… Like, if you’re a limited company, for instance, and you outsource a lot of stuff — at what stage are you an entrepreneur or a CEO? Where’s the line?

[00:10:20.310] – Steve
So that’s one option, depending on how that sits with you, is to say, “oh, I run a — in this instance — crowdfunding business” or something like that. Although, you see, if you said to me, “oh, I’m a crowdfunding consultant”… Actually the word ‘consultant’ there plays a similar role to business. As in, it sounds-,

[00:10:37.400] – Frankie

[00:10:38.730] – Steve
Yeah. It sounds grown up, doesn’t it?

[00:10:40.010] – Frankie
It does.

[00:10:40.600] – Steve
I’d be like, “Oh wow! What do you do?”

Are you not using that phrase? Are you saying, “Oh, I work around the kids”?

I think a lot of it depends on how you confidently portray that phrase.

[00:10:51.620] – Frankie

[00:10:52.260] – Steve
So if I go, “Oh, I’m a freelance video and audio production person”, and I say it with confidence — that can work. But if I go, “Oh you know… I make videos for businesses…” And I’ve done it! I’ve done it where I’m almost ashamed of it? It’s been awkward? Maybe that’s part of it.

[00:11:09.020] – Frankie
Totally. And I think that’s a real issue for women, like a complete lack of confidence, particularly because a lot of women become business owners or freelancers when they have children and so it’s quite a new thing often and that confidence really comes with time. When I was asked what I did six years ago, it would be completely different to how I describe myself now.

[00:11:26.960] – Steve
But I also find myself, like, judging other people?

[00:11:31.450] – Frankie

[00:11:31.780] – Steve
No, but out of curiosity! And it’s not the mums, it’s the dads usually because, in the past few years… I’ve been dropping off at the school gates now for, I don’t know, four years, five years? There are more dads around than there were before, but back then there was just me and one other person.

[00:11:46.480] – Frankie

[00:11:47.220] – Steve
And now there’s actually quite a few of us. But it does make me think, “Oh, I wonder what they do!” Seize that as an opportunity because actually having people at the school gates know what you do is really useful. They’re part of our network. So it’s interesting asking what people do.

[00:12:01.690] – Frankie
People ask me a lot about how to get clients when you’re just starting out and how to promote yourself. I talk a lot about ‘playground promotions’. Basically the idea that wherever you are, the parents that you’re talking to and the people that you’re meeting via your children… by the time you’ve ended that conversation, you want them to know what it is that you do.

And not in a really salesy, cheesy way — “here’s my card”. But literally, you just drop it in at some point. You start it with, “well, I’m self-employed, so blah, blah, blah… This is how my life works”. And then later in the conversation you’re like, “yeah, well, as a designer”, or whatever. Do you know what I mean? You just put in little… it sounds so contrived but it’s really not. It’s just that every person you meet is a potential, if not a direct client? They know somebody that could hire you for a job.

[00:12:42.440] – Steve
Yeah, playground promotion is just the same, if not more powerful than standing in a networking meeting. So actually it is helpful to rehearse in our minds what we are going to say in those situations because otherwise we become flustered and less confident and then that is what gives, or can give, rise to us seeming flaky with what we do.

I’ve definitely done that in the past and as you say, maybe in time confidence comes? But if you can vocalise it. If you can say it out loud to people. Even practice saying it to other people or practicing it to that obnoxious five-year-old who’s come over — that is actually a useful thing to do. That’s a good thing, because those people could actually be helping you find your next client. Well, probably not the five-year-old, but you know…

[00:13:32.850] – Frankie
Yes. And this is the first issue where I have to get a bit heavy for a minute. Basically, what Jo is feeling about people having assumptions about her being a freelancer and working around her kids. We can’t talk about it in isolation, it’s in the context of the history of humanity where women haven’t been treated particularly well and like, we’re maybe possibly the first, but potentially the second generation of women ever to work and have children. And by that, I mean paid work. Obviously, as a society, there’s huge social baggage around that. And what that means. And that’s potentially exacerbated by the fact that, yeah, people think freelancing means you sit around and do nothing!

[00:14:10.900] – Steve
Yeah, you’re right. It’s a load of baggage which they haven’t caught up with yet, and we shouldn’t feel bad about that. It’s hard not to take it personally, isn’t it?

[00:14:19.510] – Frankie
Yeah it is, massively. Because you’re already dealing with that social baggage yourself and the guilt around being a ‘working mum’ and being pulled between being with your kids and being at work. You’re already dealing with all that mum related guilt and shame internally. So when anybody even gives you a sniff that that’s what they think about what you’re doing, it’s just like your brain goes into overdrive, doesn’t it?

Obviously, you get the guilt too. We all get the guilt. I mean, Rob goes to work five days a week in an employed job and he feels guilty as hell, so that doesn’t go away, I don’t think.

[00:14:56.270] – Steve
A lot of this seems to be about how Jo feels, obviously. It’s like an emotional reaction to what other people are judging about you, or are thinking about you and so on. And we all feel that.

I think one key piece of advice — which I’ve not given to my children yet, but I do give to lots of other people is… It’s just two words, but it is crucial. And that is… f*ck them.

[00:15:21.670] – Frankie
Yeah, you might have to wait for your kids to be a bit older for that one!

[00:15:26.710] – Steve
Like, I don’t know. There are just some people who will have thoughts and they’ll be doing it about all of us, right?

[00:15:33.870] – Frankie
Yeah, yeah, yeah,

And they’ll be doing it about the mum that’s selling stuff on eBay as well as you, like whatever you’re doing. You’re between a rock and a hard place, aren’t you, really?

[00:15:43.570] – Steve
Oh, they’re doing it to all of us. So, yes, we can own it. Yes, we can change our language. But ultimately — f*ck em.

The flack was bad enough when we talked about jacket potatoes. Imagine what’s going to happen now.

[00:15:58.500] – Frankie
I got to say, I’m looking forward to the comments on this one.

[00:16:00.680] – Steve
Yeah, as Frankie said, we would love to hear your comments, so get in touch using #diftkpodcast. There will be ways to get in touch on Instagram, on Twitter, and of course, Frankie will be posting this inside the Doing It For The Kids community. So go find us there and we will read out your comments on next week’s episode.

What would your advice be?

Let us know your thoughts using #DIFTKpodcast on Twitter and Instagram, and join in the conversation via the DIFTK Community on Facebook.