Pass the Bean Dip: What Homeschooling Taught Me About Freelancing

A friend of mine was feeling as though some of the scientists she interviewed were questioning her legitimacy when she told them that she was a freelancer. This is the advice I gave to her, slightly cleaned up:

I came into freelance writing after almost a decade as a homeschool mom. Homeschoolers tend to get judged a LOT, and I was no exception. I recieved all kinds of looks and raised eyebrows and people passing judgment (though I admit I had it easy because when I told them I was an English/astrophysics double major and not worried about teaching math or science, they often let up). While it might seem like homeschooling and freelancing aren’t related, I did learn a few things as a homeschooling parent that have stood me in good stead as a freelancer.

It is *my* job (and my spouse’s/SO) to determine what is best for MY family. Not anyone else’s. On the personal side, I received a lot of lectures about how deprived my kids would be, etc. from well-meaning family and friends, especially in the early years. There’s this thing that’s gained ground in the homeschool community often referred to as the ‘bean dip response’, or ‘pass the bean dip’. The idea is that, when it comes to personal stuff, instead of responding, you basically just say “oh, thanks for your thoughts, can you pass the bean dip”. You don’t fight or argue your case. Instead, you dropĀ  the subject and move on. Because no one else gets to have a say in what YOU do for YOUR family.

Can you say, pass the bean dip please?

That applies to work as well as your kids and their education.

When I told a friend I was moving back to Atlanta and that I was working as a freelance writer, he offered to help me find a “real” job. I said, “Thanks, but Smithsonian & Scientific American pay just fine.” (I was totally name dropping for recognition there, but it served its purpose.) But I was a little bit insulted that he equated “freelance” with “general random blogging.”

When it comes to professionals, it works the same way. Who cares what some academic thinks? You do the interview and then move on. Writing, interviewing, reviewing, pitching. Don’t sweat the other folks.

And who knows, you could be being over-sensitive. I swear, everyone I’ve talked to has been like, that’s pretty cool, oh you get to bring your kid with you, sounds like a great job. If I’m feeling insecure, I might do some name-dropping of some of the more well known publications I’ve written for, and they seem to be okay with it.

But mostly, so what if they think you’re legit? As long as the folks sending the checks send them in your name, that’s all that matters.

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