7 ways to respond if someone asks about your ‘real job’

They probably say it with the best intentions.

After all, they’re only looking out for you…. Or maybe they’re honestly baffled. How can it be work if you don’t have a boss?

Then again, maybe they’re trying to justify their own life choices.

Either way, it can sting when someone asks if you plan on getting a real job (or going back to work, or…).


Sometimes it comes right after you’ve expressed some sort of frustration with your business, or when you’re grappling with early-stage growing pains, or when you’re first confiding the vision you have for the future … i.e. exactly when you’re feeling most vulnerable!

How do you respond? With anger, sympathy, humor, logic? Do you trade rudeness for rudeness, flip the script, or instead try to start a conversation that might benefit both of you?

One thing’s for certain: We do NOT want you caught off guard, stuttering your way through a response! The fact is that each time we help someone open their mind to non-traditional modes of work, the better it is for all of us.

That’s why we asked current stay-at-home entrepreneurs to share their best responses. 

Choose a couple, practice in front of the mirror, and get ready to Jedi mind-trick the next person that opens up this conversation….


Flip the script

“I ask them in the nicest possible way when they are going to get a real job. One that works to their talents, that they love, that they want to get up in the morning for.” -- Rachel Percy, researcher, blogger and coach at www.wellbeingatworkdr.com

"Good news! I’ve found an employer that truly has my career and well-being in mind. One who won’t lay me off due to investor focus on short-term results. Management that sees all of what I can bring to the table making me more passionate as an employee. The work conditions and the potential for career satisfaction and growth is immense. With the movement towards a gig economy where big companies are choosing to contract employees rather than taking on the cost of idle or down time, my employer is a more conscious business. The gig economy is a bell weather for a bigger trend coming in the workforce. Working for yourself has all these benefits, job security etc., as long as the person’s business savvy is as good as their craft, discipline or trade.”

“Tomorrow’s jobs will look more like mine than like yours, my friend.”


Short and sweet

“I have one, thanks!” -- Ionela Spinu, lifestyle coach at www.getlifestylegems.com

“Everyone’s going to have an opinion [but] they don’t necessarily deserve a response beyond, “I love what I do, and believe me, it’s more than enough work to keep me busy.” -- Maya Hampton, joy expert at www.SayYes2Joy.com  

“Getting paid makes this a real job.” -- Jessica Scotten, founder of Pineapple Relations, www.pineapplerelations.com 

“Thanks for your concern, but I’m doing fine.”


Point out the facts

“My dad expressed concern once that working for myself wasn’t as stable as my previous corporate jobs. I just let him know that three of those previous companies had since downsized and eliminated my former positions, so I felt that working on my own these days is actually more stable because I know for sure I won’t downsize myself.” -- Nicole Croizier, marketing coach for passionate solopreneurs,www.lovewhatyoudoagain.com

“I would ask him what benefits he gets from what he calls a ‘real job.’ Working from home has a bunch of benefits beyond what he might answer.” Ahmed Elsayed, virtual assistant, http://www.egyva.com

“An employer keeps too much of the profits that I generate. I’d rather have them in my pocket.”


Get passionate

“Tell them to eff off.” 

“I’m not a compliant robot.”

“I’d rather starve to death.”

“Take the real job and shove it.”



“I guess I’d ask them, ‘What do you mean by a real job? Seriously, I’m curious to know exactly what you mean by that….’ engaging with them with curiosity rather than defensively … might be an interesting conversation! In my experience different people mean different things by ‘real job’ and for most of us who say that, or indeed have lived it, how we define it depends greatly on what was considered acceptable in our family/social circle.” -Denise Barnett, somatic therapist, Soul Motion® teacher and business consultant at www.denisebarnettsomatics.com  


Promote yourself

“Smile and be a shameless self-promoter. Be proud of what you do.” -- Allie Kloster, social media strategist at www.alliekloster.com

“Usually I give a version of my ‘elevator’ pitch. Then add, ‘Believe me, it’s real work…. If I ever feel like I need to make a change, I will.’ Then I walk away kind of abruptly if I can. I want them to know that they were rude.” -- Kathleen Green, author and speaker, www.shepersistedblog.wordpress.com   

“I tell them to get a peek at my bank account.”



“Someone’s gotta wear these pajamas.” -- Kylie Ansett, author whisperer atwww.authorwhisperer.com.au

“I don’t have the stomach for that kind of uncertainty!” 

“But how will I get Tuesday afternoon facials if I’m stuck in an office?”

Now take a look within.

In all seriousness, if you feel hurt by this kind of question it’s worth digging into a bit.

Things that touch a nerve often reflect your own beliefs. Do you believe that your current project is realistic? Do you believe that being your own boss is sustainable?

If not, be prepared for more and more of these subtle attacks, because others always mirror our deepest fears and beliefs (which helps us expose them, so thank you).

Think about this: If somebody told you your hair was blond, and you knew it was black, you probably wouldn’t feel wounded by their statement. You’d assume that they didn’t speak the language, or had an eye problem, or were making a joke. Whatever. 

And then you’d carry on with your day and forget about it.

Getting to the root of this is some of the most important inner-game work you’ll ever do.

It will greatly influence your likelihood of success. It effects how you feel and the energy you bring to your project. It affects whether people will want to work with you or invest in you. And these all directly affect your bottom line.

At the end of the day, nobody’s opinion really matters but yours:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena….” –Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Here’s to staying in the arena,



P.S. Ready to see the difference this kind of inner-game work can make for you? Let’s hop on a call and see if it makes sense for us to work together.

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