Banishing my freelance loneliness
I’ve found so many great things about being a freelancer. Being in control of my own time, my workload, avoiding commuting and having no end of flexibility from a very understanding boss (myself!) are all parts of the job we’re lucky to have. But sometimes, working for myself and on my own has made room for loneliness to creep in.
I’ve recently moved from a busy and bustling corporate office to work remotely and the adjustment to hanging out on my own all day every day has been kind of difficult, sometimes completely overwhelming. A couple of times, it’s left me questioning my decision to ditch my old job in favour of a new workstyle.
So how have I adjusted? And how do freelancers look after their own mental health when it’d be all too easy to let the loneliness rule our lives?
Social media can be an absolute salvation for remote workers. I’ve discovered an abundance of freelance groups on Facebook and regular chats on Twitter (like the daily #1pmLunch) which offer a bit of support from like-minded people. There’s no better place than these to turn when you’re feeling a bit out of the loop.
For journalists, The No1 Freelance Ladies’ Buddy Agency (this is a secret group, so you’ll have to search for it to join) on Facebook is a hive of activity, support and water cooler type chat (this is one of my favourite online groups), while UK Freelance Creatives Facebook group offers more artsy types the chance to crowd source ideas, discuss the mundane details of being self employed and share a wealth of experiences.
Bite the networking bullet
The word “networking” fills me with fear, but as a digital nomad, even as a fairly introverted one, it’s a great chance to mix with people who “get it”. So many local networking groups for freelancers have been set up by people who found the solidarity of their work difficult and are based on helping make work more enjoyable for these people.
Websites like Meetup are such a brilliant resource for discovering groups near you, or creating your own. Find fellow freelancers near you and meet them to talk ideas. Even if they’re not in your industry, meeting other creatives who work in a similar way to you can kick start your inspiration and give you heaps of new ideas, as well as giving you a break from your own brain.
Leave the house
If you can’t face mixing with a bunch of strangers, just getting out of the house can feel like an utter blessing, breaking the monotony of sitting in your home office. I love the fact that gyms, exercise classes and swimming pools all tend to be less busy and cheaper during off peak hours. Running in the middle of the day is absolutely one of my favourite things about being a freelancer.
Going and meeting friends for their lunch breaks has been another salvation for me. It’s a great opportunity for some quality time to catch up, while arriving early and getting my head down in a cafe for an hour or so beforehand has allowed me to benefit from a new environment.
I’ve also made the most of the “coffices” near me too. So many cafes and restaurants offer wi-fi these days, allowing people like us to pop in, buy a coffee and be inspired by the bustle of people going about their everyday business. As more and more people ditch the classic 9-5 in place of working freelance, these places are becoming more accepting, even welcoming, of the folk who want to plug their laptop in in the corner and settle in for a few hours work and a bit of cake here and there.
All that said…
For many, working alone is one of the very best things about being a sole-trader, and while it can be tough, I’m inclined to agree that it’s pretty great. Flying solo in the working world allows us to be flexible, free from being dragged to unnecessary meetings, being distracted by unruly co-workers and having to listen to chats that are largely irrelevant to my workload.
I’ll take adjusting to the odd lonely day over commuting into Central London at rush hour any day.
If in doubt, I’ve heard getting a pet is a great way to bring some company to your life. Dogs for everyone!