While the freelance life can seem glorious from afar, with its promise of free rein over your daily schedule, many find that working independently is… a little lonely. Even if you were ambivalent about your 9-5, you may find yourself missing the camaraderie and social interaction that comes with a traditional work environment.
But don’t panic – with the right approach you can combat freelance isolation! Here are a few helpful tips:
1. Plan out a schedule for your day, and stick to it
While cranking out work at vampiric hours of the night or random spurts throughout the day might suit many freelancers, having an erratic, haphazard schedule can work against you. You may feel a disconnect working odd hours while the rest of the world is just leaving their 9-5, or snoozing.
By setting a daily agenda and accomplishing work within a certain time frame, you may be more freed up to meet friends for coffee, or attend a social or networking event (without the nagging sense that you should get back to work.) Having your schedule for the day mapped out can also make you feel more in control and help fight sloth.
On the other hand, if your peak creative hours are late nights, it can still be helpful to plan a schedule around when you get your best work done. You may try to plan social engagements or errands for points in the day that you are typically less focused.
Designate time to get some reading done, do laundry, or go for a run. Staying occupied and spending your time more purposefully can help to combat isolation.
2. Bond with other freelancers
53 million Americans are currently independent workers -- by 2020, 40% of America’s workers will be freelance. There is a whole new workforce that is eager to make connections with others: for collaboration, gigs, or just for hanging out.
Solid networks are crucial for a successful freelance life, and there have never been more resources (both on and off-line) that connect independent workers. Freelancers Union’s online community, Hives, gives freelancers a chance to collaborate, find work, and strike up conversations that aim to collectively improve our freelance lives. Our monthly “Spark” meetings take place in cities across the country, and are a great way to join forces with other independent workers.
You also might consider checking out a co-working space. In addition to giving you a more structured feel, it could open up both work and social opportunities.
Having a sense of community and a strong network can greatly reduce the strain of freelance isolation.
3. Stay engaged
Particularly if you’re new to freelancing, you might feel obligated to spend countless hours cultivating new clients, expanding your business, and drumming up new gigs.
But this doesn’t mean you need to turn into a total workhorse/hermit. Get out, see a play, do a creative project just for fun, attend a book club, or take a day off and go to the museum. Expand upon your interests and hobbies – consider checking out a Skillshare class, where you can learn new skills or brush up on old ones.
Taking a break to do something creative or fun can help revitalize you and ultimately boost the quality of your work.
4. Work it out
It’s all too easy to get sedentary when you’re really busy or working in a home office environment (especially during the cold winter months.) Being cooped up inside can whittle away at your energy and vitality: it’s a good idea to schedule a break in your day for a bike ride, trip to the gym, or even just a walk around the block.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a 2-hour ordeal – just taking 10 minutes out for some simple stretches can help clear your mind and sharpen your focus.
Take advantage of your flexible schedule to attend some midday yoga or meditation classes, which can help you feel less stressed, and more focused and alert -- and offer a chance to engage with other people. Stepping away from your computer and participating in a group class regularly can improve your mood and outlook.
5. Reach out to old friends (and make new ones)
Take advantage of your flexible schedule to focus on relationships new and old that you may have been neglecting. Whether you meet up with an old friend for lunch, call your dad, go to a Meetup, or supplement your regular e-mail and Gchats with face-to-face meetings, you can find a way to stay social when working from home. You can also take the time to reconnect with former co-workers and reach out to other freelancers in your area (our freelancer directory might be a good place to start.) Just because you work independently doesn’t mean you have to toil alone!
Is freelancer solitude something you’ve struggled with? How do you deal with the challenge?