This was a concern that featured prominently early in my freelance career. From the outside looking in, many people saw the “working from home” situation as “just a hobby” and “something he can do until he finds a real job.” Well, here I am several years later, still working from home, and still very much a small business owner. This is one of the biggest keys to earning the respect of your peers: stick it out. By demonstrating your commitment to your craft, you demonstrate that this is a real business and not “just a hobby.”
One of the major freedoms of freelancing is the freedom of time. In theory, I could work at just about any hour of the day. This flexibility allows me to work through the middle of the night, should I so desire, but it also means that it is possible for me to take time off in the middle of the day as well. This isn’t always the case, but the freedom is there.
With this freedom, though, comes the perception that you can abandon the office at the drop of a hat to run errands for your friends and family. This obviously is not the case. Most people respect the “typical” working hours of a typical office job, so you may consider having set business hours (or “office hours,” if you prefer) for your freelance business too. This option isn’t for everyone, but it is an option.
There are many tactics you can take to infuse a better sense of legitimacy in your business. You could have a mailing address outside the home, like a mailbox rental or co-working space, so that the “business” has a different address from your personal one. You should have business cards, demonstrating that this is a real business. Or your legitimacy can come by way of your clients.
In my case, I feel like my legitimacy got a boost when I became a published author, for example. However, above all else, you have to respect yourself first. With self-respect comes confidence. With confidence comes success. And with success comes a great deal of respect and legitimacy.