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What I Do. (It’s Legal Enough.)

In modern society, there’s this question we tend to ask each other. Sometimes it’s an innocent conversational ice breaker, but other times it’s a secretly sinister excuse for judgement — like its very answer might justify the asker’s heightened sense of self-worth and leave the askee exposed to all kinds of undeserved assumptions and ridicule. The question, “So, what do you do for a living?” is not just the elephant, but the unexploded ordnance in the room — that thing that, if you don’t like your own answer, can blow the witty, carefully assembled persona you’ve crafted all to smithereens.


There was a time in my life when the answer wasn’t daunting. It was simple. And due to the fact that I was always in some type of schooling at the time, never embarrassing or unexpected:

“I’m a waitress.”

“I’m a tour guide.”

“I’m a dishwasher.”

Sometimes, if I felt like making myself sound more important, I’d expand a bit on the job description:

“I’m the top-selling watch repair kiosk girl in the company because I know how to convince people to spend twenty-two dollars on a new battery.”

“I’m an expert burger flipper at A&W Rootbeer, and sometimes they let me work the drive-through.”

“I sell jewelry for one of the wealthiest families in town and often carry hundreds of thousands of dollars in product to the post office for them in my purse.”

Then, when I got close to college gradumatation and in the years following, I actually became a little proud of the answer. Like maybe I was doing something more meaningful or, at the very least, somewhat justifying the amount of time and money I’d spent in my early adult life learning about karst topography and plate tectonics. My job titles were capitalized and had at least three times more syllables:

“I’m an Environmental Engineering Intern and Air Program Coordinator at the Air Force base.”

“I’m a Geographic Information Specialist for a prominent environmental consulting company.”

“I’m the Sustainability Coordinator in the Environmental Management Branch at the Army installation.”

But the truth is, at that point in my life, I’d reached some kind of plateau — this point at which I’d earned bragging rights about my position and my salary, was chipping away quite zealously at my icy mountain of student loans, and had fallen into the all-too-common void of complacency. While my job was good, and the people I worked with were gooder-than-good, I was turning into a surly, deliberate, wench of a human being.


I was caught in a current of shoulds. And I’d thrown myself into the deep, deep end. (You can read the sordid tale right here if you have no idea what I’m talking about.)

So I quit. And that’s about when the answer to, “So what do you do?” seemed to become far more complicated.

And just a tad embarrassing.

“Well, for two months I made hot sauce in Costa Rica.”

“Nothing. I do absolutely nothing.”

“I lament publicly online about my current sad state of existence. (Also known as ‘blogging.’)”

And the worst — “I’m trying to be a writer.”

I’d actually say that to people. I’m trying. Like I’m trying to get accepted into grad school or I’m trying to learn how to play the guitar, except what I was trying to do wasn’t actually tangible. You can’t try to be. You either are, or you aren’t.


You either do or do not. There is no try.

It took me a long, long time (we’re talking years, here — apparently I’m a slow learner) to realize that you’re not a professional anything until you start calling yourself one. That’s it. There’s no club. (Well there probably is, but I’m guessing it costs money. And while I’m a professional writer — because I’m calling myself one — I’m not a successful professional writer because I’m not exactly earning a living wage.)

But I think, if you have the drive and the means (like a supportive family, karmically awesome financial luck, or, in my case, a husband who would literally get thrown into prison if he tried to quit his job so he’s stuck being the official breadwinner), you actually can become a professional whatever-you-want because it seems like the moment you start believing it, it starts being true.

At least that’s what’s happening for me.

When people ask, I call myself a writer or Freelancer, which is just fancy speak for, “I do whatever people are willing to pay me to do as long as it’s legal enough to claim on my taxes.”

I decided to be a freelancer around the time I wrote about the excruciating pain of that job opportunity falling through, and then magically, in my in-box, was an email from one of my readers who was interested in hiring a part-time, remote freelancer for her growing business. And I was all, if that’s not a sign, I’m not sure what is. And she was all, I understand you’re pursuing your dreams, and that’s okay, but I still think we could work awesomely well together, and how about we give it a try? And I was all, you read my blog and you still want to hire me? And she was all, I think you’d be great for what I need done! So I sent her my resume replete with important-sounding job titles and also the hot sauce gig for good measure, we signed the dotted line, and so far it’s working out splendidly, I think.

I’m a freelancer. I’m a writer. Maybe one day, I’ll be an author.

I can answer the question now with nary a twinge, because I like what I do. And. Now that I know what that is, I only plan on getting better.

What do YOU do? And, more important, do you mind answering question?


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Kat Richter

I hate this question so much… I change my answer every few weeks I think. You are right though: fake it til you make it :)


I’m surprised you hate it! You have many interesting possible answers. :)


So true. Though it seems the list of things we CAN’T say to/ask one another is growing by the second in social media. So I choose not to get offended when someone asks something that could potentially be offensive. It’s a mind exercise. :) (Gotta run out the door to do taxes but I will watch that video when I get back!)


I don’t get offended. It’s always just lame when I say, “accountant” and people say, “oohhh.” and then there’s awkward silence.


I LOVE that you are an accountant. In fact I love it so much, I wish you were an accountant in the U.S. who would do my taxes in exchange for a wonderful, home-cooked vegetarian meal because you’re my friend and save me from the hell that was my tax-filing afternoon.


Got a chance to watch that video! They nailed it.


Well now you have done it …Now i have to type out one of my long comments again .. this hasn’t happened in a while ….

I see the Yoda and the topic you are speaking of “trying” if i didn’t know better I would think you were actually reading my own blog becase this sounds like a Direct response to one of them but… you have only ever commented on my first one………… soooooooooo…… its just a guess… :P

What do i do? I can put that in any number of ways ..

I teach people to a way to “live” their dreams ,

To escape the matrix of the 9-5 world we are socially brainwashed into accepting,

To become self sufficient,

Help people To stop relying on people giving them fish and becoming the fisherman

(give a person a fish they will eat for a day teach a person to fish they will eat for a lifetime )

To quote a great author of our time Robert Kiyosaki to stop having a “Poor Dad” attitude

I have watched you and your Blog for a long time I have seen you wish to travel more to become a worldwide food and travel blogger.

Now becase of multiple factors , **your complete misconceptions** (we have had a similar discussion in the past) that your obviously not willing to change yet, and the fact you still have what Robert calls a “Poor Dad” Type “E” ( employee) attitude you still chase and try to fulfill your dream by trying to put a “job” label on yourself which this posts proves and working to fill other people s dreams instead of your own

You know what the greatest answer to your question is .

I live my dreams and i show other how to live theirs .

In the last week or so I have simplified my landing page and intro page of my website and the link to my blog is still there.

You like to read knowledge is power I Challenge you to read my website and blog and then think about that question again :)


Haha, now you’re making me feel bad. :) I’ll admit that your blog always loses me when it starts talking about a free retail website and all of that. I understand passive income, and lord KNOWS I could use some tax help, but when I start to read all of that I get confused and want to start drinking. ;) I’ll admit, though — being a fisherman DOES sound good! Or how about a fisherman-slash-author? (HA!)


I hope you were joking wasn’t supposed to make you feel bad . Fisherman / author sound great

my whole point was

You could be the world food and travel blogger you have always wanted to be NOT becase someone has HIRED you to do it as a JOB but becase

You have enough passive income per month that you can do it becase thats what YOU WANT TO DO. you are making enough passive residual income every month you can travel anywhere in the world at any time for as long as you wanted .

Just like you are blogging now being a world traveling Food and travel blogger becomes your HOBBY not a source of income..

Hopefully you will find this explanation a little less confusing.

The reason I stress that its a Free retail website is becase people in general seem to have this overwhelming feeling that there is some catch somewhere when there really isnt.

People literally get paid to be a customer simply for buying a monthly product and helping the company and helping the company expand their customer base.

When you wrote about your sauce adventure.

If they told you as thanks for promoting their product blog here is a special website you and any of your customers would get a commission off of every jar that was sold or was ever sold BECAUSE of them

( Like that degrees of separation game person e is linked to person d who is linked to person c who is linked to person b who is linked to you person a)

Say your sauce cost $6 and you got 1$ from every jar you sold 2 jars and they sold 2 jars each thats 6 Jars on monthly subscription so that is $6 commission..

So if you do the math when the 7th jar that gets sold either by you or someone else that is in some way connected to you. You not only get all following jars for free but you actually make a profit of $1 per month simply for buying it.

Soon your getting you sauce in the mail with a extra $50 etc. etc.etc.$1000 etc etc

All you did was buy spend $6 a month on some sauce you liked . Nothing complicated no risk no catches it really is that simple

Anyways hope this was a little less confusing and your not reaching for your wine … just incase that is why i waited till the afternoon to comment …


Haha! You definitely didn’t hurt my feelings — you know me better than that. :)

I understand what it is, but it’s my experience in life that things that usually sound too good to be true — like lots of pay for little work — usually are. And I’m just not ready to go down that road again. I hope you don’t take offense, because I really value you reading my blog!


I am not offended at all in fact this is the same impasse we reached last time as I stated in my original reply to topic. I simply still dont dont understand how you come to that conclusion..

” but it’s my experience in life that things that usually sound too good to be true — like lots of pay for little work — usually are:

Your statement is a true statement for any investment or anything that regarding you to put up money up front that you expect a return on investment for for. That statement would even apply for buying lottery tickets.

I am confused as to what the statement has to do with the example i presented you though

What are you risking for you to have that fear with your statement with above example I gave you?.

The opportunity is FREE its like shopping at any other retail store . The only difference is this one gives you the opportunity to become ” Paid to be a customer” simply by using their products by doing what you do already that is recommending them and helping increase their customer base. No one is asking anyone to risk any of their own money. There is no possible way to “lose” anything..

I respect your opinion. that but leave this topic with a couple of additional Facts for you to think about since you are looking for ways to monetize your writing .

The next time you write a blog recommend a return product, service, restaurant in your blog ask

whats in it for you ? remember your blog is going to be there as long as you want it to so that is alot of advertising .

What are they giving you for doing this form of “free advertising” ?.

Are they paying you a commission for any customers you send them?

Are they giving you free product?. or to allowing you to not only get their product free product but also a commission on top of that?

Also differance between the lotto system and this system is .

Everyone who follows the lotto system could win money but will most likely lose it

Everyone who uses the above system correctly as i demonstrated above. Will make money simply for being a customer as I state on the open intro page of my website.

In the end i guess i did make you shake your head and head for the win … but hey like you need an excuse to have a glass of wine right :P lol

Britany Robinson

I had a professor in college give an entire lecture around your point here. (The class was called, “The Situation of the Writer”. Oh, art school.) Anyways, this teacher told us we all had to expel the word “aspiring” from our vocabulary. We needed to all stop calling ourselves “aspiring writers” and just be “writers”. If you write, you’re a writer and you’ll always be a writer, regardless of your official title and how much money you’re making. (Leave it to a professor at a private university to tell us money shouldn’t be a concern — nevermind those student loans!)

Despite wanting to pull my hair out at the idea of forever calling myself something that rarely comes with a salary attached, I agree with his point, and yours.

We’re writers no matter what, and i think owning that identity is a solid first step in becoming successful.

Congrats on the new opportunity and I’m looking forward to reading all about where this new freelance path takes you! Writers rock! :)


And you, as well! While there are certainly a lot of cons, the greatest part about this “job” is the flexibility and multitude of paths we might take. :) And if anyone understands the frustration of not really doing what you’re meant to be doing, I know it’s you!


Yup. Splendidly. For sure.

Colleen Brynn

Oh, I totally tell people I’m a writer. But I do this from the stance that I am a writer in my soul, not that I am published or that it makes me money. Writing is what keeps me sane, and a lot of people say that, but I itch like crazy if I don’t write in a while. Tonight I spent a couple hours writing in my journal and I was writing about things I didn’t even know I had wanted to write about or that I was unaware were bouncing around in my head!
Do I mind answering the question? Nope. At this point, I just laugh at my perpetual student status. Hurrah.


I’m envious that you journal. I’ve tried before, but my hand cramps and I never really get into it. I suppose this blog is a journal of sorts, but it’s certainly not as candid as I’d be if it were private — or even anonymous!

Dave M

Throw your heart over the bar, and the rest will follow…Norman Vincent Peale


I like that. :)


I’m a firefighter. But sometimes I’m hesitant to say it, because it generates so much.discussion.


That is because it’s FASCINATING! I mean, I know a quite a few women in the military and can’t imagine what it must be like for them during deployments. And in the firefighting profession? I imagine women are much more of a rarity. But the absolute most interesting thing about it isn’t that you’e a woman working in a typical male job — it’s that you’re doing something your passionate about, regardless of the fact that it wasn’t the easiest path. And that’s more than most people can say. :)


I think the answer also depends on how much someone is interested in hearing the answer. It’s difficult when people are expecting a one word label. It has definitely gotten much more difficult to answer since I left my easy answer teacher. Now I’m a knitter, designer, theatre artist, local crew, blogger, teacher, exam grader and Netflix watcher oh and also Air Force spouse in some circles. Most people aren’t willing to listen long enough to hear the whole story. Although now I have business cards that label me as a designer and instructor. Paper gives me legitimacy! Don’t we all just want to be validated as worthwhile members of the community. (Also we should have been better friends in college. I didn’t listen enough to know how similar we are)


Very true! Sometimes people just want the quick ‘n dirty answer — not a long-winded explanation of our quarter life crisis, trip to Costa Rica, and subsequent floundering through the world of self-employment. (Wait. Maybe most of that is just me.) :)

I agree about college, too. Though, aside from keeping my grades up, I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything smart in college. It was… college. ;) (P.S. Did David ever tell you about the time we randomly ran into each other in a Hallmark store in Valdosta, Georgia? Good story.)


My boyfriend is a self-employed artist. He asks people, “What do you do for fun?” I used to embarrassed by this strangely personal question posed to strangers, but I’ve witnessed people who light up when they get to talk about what they’re passionate about, which is often not the 9-5 of their day.


I love this so much that I’m going to start doing it. What a FANTASTIC ice breaking alternative! Thanks for posting it!!

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