Anyone who has yelled "This IS what I DO, mom! YES, it's a real job! NO, I don't care that Matty's Mattress Warehouse is hiring!" at a family dinner knows that it can be hard to be taken seriously as a freelancer. But let's face it - in order to be taken seriously as a freelancer, you need to take freelancing seriously first.

1. BE ON TIME

You generally have to show up on time for a "real" job, yes? If not, there are "consequences", right? To that end, sleeping until noon just because you're working from home probably won't cut it. Figure out what kind of time you need to allot for each assignment you're working on, and structure your schedule accordingly. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your reputation by turning in a rushed, sloppy final product. Many of us work in pajamas – or heck, at least yoga pants. We can meet the universe halfway on this one!

2. MEET THE DEADLINE

I know, I know... No cubicle can hold you, "The Man" isn't going to lock you in some corporate cage! YOU ARE A FREE AND INDEPENDENT SPIRIT!

Still - you have to get the work done on time. You may enjoy the freedom that comes with not having a barking boss glaring at you over a "wall" that's essentially a glorified corkboard, but it isn't the worst idea in the world to pretend the threat exists. Maybe you can hire a guy in your building to check in on you once in a while, or ask your barista to stare at you while sighing loudly every so often. Whatever gets you to the finish line.

3. DEFINE YOUR WORKSPACE

The coffee can be good, and there doesn't need to be an annoying officemate asking you about the big game (what game? Where? Who?), but you DO want to build a structured work environment. That means creating conditions that will help you stay focused. Can you surf Facebook all day or get caught up in a Veep marathon at a "real" job? Make some rules for yourself and then have fun breaking them now and again. Simply having parameters in place will increase your productivity more than you can imagine.

4. GET WHAT YOU'RE WORTH

Now for the fun, empowering part! Once you've taken freelancing seriously, you can expect freelancing to treat you that way as well. You've done the work, and you deserve the respect (and the money) that goes along with it. The loose lifestyle of a freelancer often makes people look at your vocation as side work, or - worse - a hobby. Remember, no freebies! Just because you're not punching a clock 5 days a week doesn't mean you're just shooting off a few emails by poolside either. This is your work, and - if anything - we may have just proved that creating your own structure and holding yourself accountable makes it even MORE difficult at times!

So go out there and get paid! After all, freelancing is your "real job".