The 'And you can make a living doing that?' question

By Katharine Swan On Tuesday, March 11, 2008 At 9:53 PM

I recently ran into someone I haven't seen in 15 years. While we were catching up, she asked whether I was working.

"I'm self-employed," I answered. "I'm a writer."

"Oh, and what do you write?" she asked.

"Mostly I do copywriting for the Internet. You know, websites and stuff." Obviously I write much more than this, but it's the simplest way to answer this question on the fly. Most people's eyes glaze over if I try to explain in detail, so I stick with the easiest — if not the most eloquent — answer.

"Oh. And you can make a living doing that?"

I'm sure virtually every freelance writer has heard that question at least once during the course of his or her career, and probably actually many times. I suppose I am asked that about 50 percent of the time. The other common response is something along the lines of, "That's so cool!" or, "I always wanted to be a writer, too!"

There are some exceptions, of course, but it seems most people fall into one of two categories: Either they think writing isn't a viable career, or they think it's all fun and games.

I remember house-hunting with my husband, back in January and February of 2006. We didn't sign on with a realtor, so every time we toured a house we had to deal with the same barrage of "What do you do for a living?" questions. One realtor, when I told him I was a freelance writer, immediately turned to my husband and said, "And what do you do?" You could almost hear him thinking, Well, she's no good. Hopefully he has a real job.

What are the most memorable (whether annoying or humorous) responses you've received?


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Blogger Unknown Says:  

Oh, that's annoying! My most memorable snub came at a dinner for my husband's international colleagues from both England and Italy. We're sitting in this dining area in some opulent vineyard mansion, and one of the British colleagues looked at me and asked, "Do you work in chemistry?" I said, "No, I'm a writer." It was visible - not even responding or acknowledging what I'd said, he turned his entire body to face a person to his right across from him (I was sitting on the left across from him) and never looked my direction again. He was a jerk.

Blogger Kathy@TheFlawlessWord Says:  

I get this all the time. Knowing that I'm successful is usually revenge enough for me, but sometimes it can get irritating. One of my most annoying responses? My aunt, who knows I majored in math, was telling me about a friend who was an actuary. She went on and on about how much money he made and how I should consider that as a profession (which at one time I actually did). I told her that I was happy where I was, doing what I do. Her reply: "And you do okay with that?"

Blogger Katharine Swan Says:  


Wow, that's amazing. I can't believe anyone could be that rude!


I hate it when the people closest to me aren't supportive. My mom thinks it's great now, but you should have seen her face when I told her I had decided to quit my job to go freelance!

Anonymous Anonymous Says:  

Well, as for me, whenever I tell people what I do, they don't snub me. They LAUGH at me. LOL. I think they thing I'm joking when I say I work at home.


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Katharine Swan is a full-time freelance writer with more than 5 years of professional writing experience. In addition to maintaining several personal blogs, she writes a variety of online marketing materials for clients, including company blogs, articles, and press releases. In her free time, she spends time with her horse, reads, and writes fiction.

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