Freelance copywriter? Nah, you’re just a dole-bludger!

December 10, 2014 •
Me in my bogan fancy-dress

Something interesting happened to me the other day. Something a little disturbing. And it got me wondering if it’s happened to other freelance copywriters too.

But first, a little context…

My house is right next-door to a council reserve. It’s almost surrounded by trees called Angophoras – a flowering variety of Eucalyptus or ‘gum’ tree. Here’s what I see when I stand in the back-yard and look up…

What I see when I stand in the backyard and look up

Every year, these trees develop a covering of white blossom. Sometimes a light covering, sometimes a blanket. This year was a blanket year.

(Bear with me, I’m getting to the disturbing bit. And no, that photo of me isn’t it!)

After a couple of weeks, all these flowers fall off. Not the whole flower as a single unit, mind you. Their wispy-thin, hair-like ‘petals’ all fall separately. Millions of them. Almost like snow. I filmed it on the worst day, and although the footage doesn’t truly do it justice, you’ll get some idea. Just be sure to watch it in full-screen HD. (My son put his swimming goggles on that day, because he said he couldn’t see properly without them!)

That video might look quaint and summery (and it was), but there’s still one thing I haven’t mentioned: I have a pool. Here’s one night’s worth of debris:

My pool after one night of flower snow

So now we get to the crux of the story. You see, my neighbour (Peter) up the road has a pool too. Usually Peter and I just wave and say Hi; we don’t spend any time talking. But the other day, I was in the reserve building a BMX track for the kids, and he was walking his dog, and we got chatting about the flowers.

He said they’re the bane of his life, because they form a brick in his pool filter, and it takes him forever to clean it out. I replied that I feel his pain, but fortunately I don’t mind cleaning the pool. Assuming I have the time, I find it quite therapeutic. His response?…

“I don’t mind cleaning it either but I never have time BECAUSE I WORK ALL WEEK.”

(Emphasis added.)

And that, right there, is the disturbing bit. Apparently my neighbours think I don’t work at all. I’m a dole-bludger!

While I’m no fan of that term, I don’t like people thinking I’m a bludger. So now, every time I see Peter or the flowers or the mess in the pool, all I can think is how I want to explain myself. “But I do work, honest!”

How can I find a way to tell him that as a freelance copywriter, I work many, many hours every week? And that when I’m not working, I feel I should be? How can I remind him that I have 3 young kids (he’s near retirement age)? And that to top it all off, I get more flowers in my pool than him, because I live right on the reserve, whereas he lives up the road from it?

Knowing me, I’ll spend the next 5 years obsessing about it.

Has this happened to you?

Do your neighbours think you’re a dole bludger? Or a rich retiree? Do you bother to correct them?

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
David Carse wrote on December 10th, 2014

I just smile in the radiance of their envy. You don't need to defend the way you work. You are the future. I say "I work for myself and have a good relationships with my clients", "I have time to spend with my wife and my children instead of commuting", "I work in relaxing beautiful environs", "I work the way you want to work", "I work the way you should be working and the way your children will do in the future".

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Candice wrote on December 10th, 2014

I'm pretty sure my inlaws think I sit at home and eat bon bons all day. They've even heard me talk to clients on the phone. I figure there's no point in trying to change people's minds. The people in my house know and that's what matters.

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Glenn Murray wrote on December 10th, 2014

Sure, if he actually knew I worked from home, I would. But I don't think we've ever discussed it. :-\

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Glenn Murray wrote on December 10th, 2014

Fortunately, I think my extended family knows I work hard. I think...

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Camilla wrote on December 10th, 2014

I think it's a problem the older generation have because they don't understand online businesses. I haven't had someone be as blunt with me like that before, but I do get these a lot: - "It must be so nice to choose when you work!" - "I couldn't work for myself, I need deadlines." - "Can you meet me in the middle of the day? You've got time, don't you?"

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Glenn Murray wrote on December 10th, 2014

Haha. Yeah definitely heard all of those before! :-)

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Belinda @ Copywrite Matters wrote on December 16th, 2014

I agree with the comments here. You don't need to justify or explain yourself. That said, THIS WOULD DRIVE ME BATSHIT CRAZY. I know I would seek out 'spontaneous and casual' conversations and oh so casually drop in my work schedule. Repeatedly. To the point of being awkward. But it's no use because once the moment is gone to laugh and say, "so do I (work all week)", the moment is gone. My friends and family know I work hard. Partly because I'm always working and partly because I tell them I'm always working ;) I'm sure a lot of people I meet nowadays think I'm a stay at home mum. Whatevs.

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Glenn Murray wrote on December 16th, 2014

Yeah, you hit the nail on the head there: The moment is gone. Now I feel like any mention of it will be awkward. Especially as I don't speak to him that often... "Hi Peter, you'll never guess what I did WHILE I WAS WORKING ALL WEEK, this week..."

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James wrote on January 15th, 2015

I do not care for swimming. Nor for conversing with neighbours, come to think of it. It seems I'm not missing a great deal.

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Scott Bampton wrote on February 23rd, 2015

It's tough to explain the distinction to some people - and boomers seem to have the most trouble with it. To them, "work" means punch clocks, a lengthy commute, and staying with the same company for 35+ years; the modern knowledge-based economy is totally foreign to many of them. I say this because a boomer recently told me I was "really just unemployed". My reply helped him understand the distinction: "The unemployed get financial help from the government. I don't get jack." I guess the difference there was that I'd already told the guy what I do and he still thought I was a dole bludger!

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Tapon wrote on December 11th, 2021

Write vindictive, venomous, hate filled and above all, honest op-eds about surly, ignorant old red neck white pig boonger bashers whose worst nightmare is cleaning the pool, and spend the rest of their time whining about how they do all the work, which is actually done in China, and how they pay all the taxs, whereas Government funding comes in fact from credit creation with interest paid by mineral extraction, and that if their small-minded self-righteous world seems a bit dark and smelly, they should pull their head of their arse. I hope this will help you as much as it has me.

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