How to Fight Freelancer Loneliness

“If you’re alone when you’re alone, then your in bad company”

Jean-Paul Satre
how to fight freelancer loneliness ybkbs small business magazine Jess Dixon
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By Jess Dixon

Being freelance is amazing. I love what I do and I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve managed to carve out a space for myself in the busy freelance marketplace and make a living doing what I do best. The great things about being freelance include the freedom to set your own hours, the ability to work from home in your pyjamas, and the (at least theoretically) uncapped earning potential.

 

But, as with all great things, there are downsides too. Income insecurity and having to get your head around the intricacies of the tax system are two of the most obvious. The other one, though, is the loneliness.

As a card-carrying introvert, I didn’t think I would miss the traditional office environment too much. Surprisingly, adjusting to working from home has been much harder than I anticipated, at least in some ways. Today I want to share some of the strategies that help me battle the work-from-home loneliness. I hope they help you too!

 

Join a networking group

Joining a networking group for local freelancers or businesspeople can be a great way to get some of that sense of office camaraderie back in your life. Most groups are meeting online at the moment due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19, but even a Zoom call full of friendly faces with whom you can share your trials and triumphs can be a real joy. And when the lockdown is lifted, you’ll be able to meet face to face.

 

One of the great things about work friendships is that they’re built on a shared experience – you work in the same place, you’ve probably shared celebrations over successful projects and rolled your eyes at the same annoying office quirks. It’s surprisingly easy to recreate this with other self-employed people. Even when you’re all in different industries, the struggles can be remarkably similar!

 

Talk by video chat or phone

Don’t always just email your clients, customers, and contacts. When it’s appropriate, make the time to pick up the phone or jump on a video call. Seeing another person’s face or hearing their voice, even if you’re just talking about work, fosters a sense of connection and helps you feel less lonely.

 

No-one wants to fall into the trap of “a two hour Zoom call that could have been an email,” but don’t shun phone or video calls altogether. The more personal interaction that you get from them is more than worth the extra few minutes.

 

Use social media

I’m not suggesting you spend all day mindlessly scrolling Facebook or “liking” cat pictures on Instagram, but if you use social media constructively it can be a great way to keep connections going when you’re working at home.

 

Join groups for other freelancers or people in your industry, and take some time to read, post, and join in with discussions.

 

And, sure, do some checked-out scrolling every now and then. Laughing at a meme, smiling at a picture of someone’s cute baby, or clicking “like” on a post that perfectly encapsulates your feelings on an issue are all important micro-connections to other people.

 

Just make sure your use of social media isn’t exacerbating your loneliness or giving you FOMO. If it is, then it’s time to log off for a bit.

 

Socialise on your lunch break

At the moment, of course, these have to be appropriately socially-distanced get togethers. Can you meet up with a friend, family member, or fellow freelancer and go for a walk? Aside from the benefits of getting away from your desk and stretching your legs, the social interaction will do your morale and mental health the world of good.

 

A standing lunch-date or lunchtime walk with someone who lifts your spirits gives you something to look forward to if you’re feeling lonely.

 

Co-work

Co-working spaces, like so many other businesses, have become a thing of distant memory in the era of COVID-19. But it’s not forever. When they start opening up again, consider finding a coworking space near you and going to work there for a few hours, a day or even a few days at a time. These spaces simulate the feeling of being in a more traditional office environment and allow the kind of casual interaction with other people that you get in an office, while still giving you space to get on with your work.

 

Coworking also doesn’t have to be in formal coworking spaces. Can you and another freelancer or two get together in a coffee shop and work together for a few hours? Even inviting a fellow freelance friend over to cowork in your living room – with plenty of breaks for coffee and chats, of course! – counts.

 

Be wary, though, that “coworking” doesn’t turn into “just socialising and not actually doing any work!”

 

Incorporate family time into your schedule

Spending more time at home with our loved ones is one of the reasons many of us went freelance in the first place. So don’t become so engrossed in work that you forget to spend quality time with them!

 

One of my favourite things about living in a two-freelancer household is getting to have lunch with my partner in the middle of the day. Fit in time with your loved ones in whatever way works for you, whether it’s breakfast together before your partner goes to work, taking some time to play with your children at lunchtime, or taking an afternoon off a week to go and visit your mum. If you don’t have family or loved ones nearby, how about setting up a standing phone chat each week?

 

I’d love to know how you’ve combatted loneliness, whether you’re a full-time freelancer or just working from home due to the pandemic. Tweet me your ideas and I’ll use my favourites in a future piece!

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