How Does a Freelancer Answer the Question, “What Do you do for a Living?”

I get this question a lot. It’s a common opener when meeting someone new or seeing someone you haven’t seen in years. I usually say I’m a marketing consultant. This is true, but it’s only a small part of my business. It’s just that people might actually know what that means. To add a touch of humor (to my husband’s chagrin) I say, “I do anything I can get paid for.”

Before you respond ask yourself it the questioner is looking to make conversation or if they’d prefer a quick reply. I’ve found that when I’m giving a seminar or teaching a class participants are often highly interested in hearing the story of how I started my business (remind me to do a YouTube clip on this sometime soon). Students are often small business owners themselves or they’re desirous of starting their own company. This type of audience may appreciate the longer-winded explanation.

The Serious Route

Be ready to share your business card with these responses. Simply state that you own a small business. (All freelancers do!) You may choose to follow up with mentioning a few of your key services. Or try, “I’m an independent… (your specialty).” If you have a primary long-term client for which you do most of your work you could call yourself an independent contractor and mention your client’s name. As I do, freelancers may call themselves consultants.


If you’ve gotten to that point where you’re tired of answering what you do for a living or you sense that the asker isn’t really that interested, lighten up the atmosphere by injecting a little humor. This is also helpful for doubters and non-supportives who suggest you “get a real job.” Truth is, you do whatever you want to do. (You do choose which projects you’ll take on, right?) I sit in front of a computer all day. I make money through the internet is a true, if not almost sketchy reply. Perhaps they’ll wonder why they aren’t doing the same. For relentless persecutors, be bold. Tell them you’re independently wealthy. Your wealth comes from you, right? And if they don’t believe this, no big deal; they didn’t believe the “freelancing” thing either. Chide them right back with “Work, what’s that?” (They already think you watch soaps and eat bon-bons.)

Whatever ways you choose to respond to the question, “What do you do for work?” don’t let it get to you. Soon enough people will stop asking and start respecting. As long as you’re happy and the bills are getting paid, who cares?

Do you have a clever response? Please share in the comments below.

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