Even if you work with a group of people on various projects, there is a strong possibility that some of the things that you do as a freelancer, you do alone.
Take freelance writing for example. An editor may make a suggestion for a topic; the writer may bounce her ideas off of a few people; but ultimately, unless the writer is co-authoring a piece, she is writing in isolation.
Writing, like other freelance services that some of us offer, is a solitary act. As such, freelance writers aren’t the only ones who may experience a sense of isolation as an outgrowth of the creative process.
Whether it is alone in a quiet office, in a co-working space, or on a park bench, the process of creating something from start to finish by oneself can be a rewarding experience. Ostensibly, creating in isolation can also lead to a sense of loneliness. For this reason, freelancers may be particularly vulnerable to feeling disconnected and lonely. To combat these feelings, it is important that freelancers partake in activities that enhance their overall well-being.
Well-being, or what some may interchange with the phrase self-care, is probably more important to freelancers than any other group that I can think of. Often, we are goal-driven, highly disciplined, ambitious, and comfortable working independently. Sometimes in an attempt to meet the needs of our clients or to build up our clientele roster, we may put everyone, and almost everything else, ahead of our needs. On the surface, self-motivation, drive, and determinism are laudatory, but over time, a strong work ethic detached from a sense of well-being is not sustainable. What is sustainable is engaging in practices that are geared towards helping you re-energize or reboot.
Network with others
When working in isolation, the key to your well-being just may be remembering to socialize with other people. Networking can have amazing benefits not only from a business standpoint, but also in terms of helping you to build and grow your own personal network of friends. Many larger professional organizations have city chapters and they may offer networking opportunities. In addition, university alumni associations will often sponsor events with the expressed purpose of connecting people.
If socializing with other people is something that you look forward to doing then also consider joining a local organization that centers around a shared interest. Theme- or hobby-oriented meet-ups are popular in many areas. These groups tend to me smaller and focused on particular topics. Some may have prerequisites for participation whereas others may be open to the public.
Lastly, you can also see if there are freelancing groups or hubs in your area that either offer programs and/or spaces to meet other freelancers on a regular basis. Whichever of these routes you decide to take, the key is connecting with people who will pour into you and with whom you have something in common.
Join virtual communities
If you like the idea of connecting with people and being a member of a community, but you’d prefer not to meet in ‘real life’ then a virtual community may be better suited for your personality. You may want to consider joining one or several FB groups. As an introvert who is living an extrovert’s life, I love virtual communities.
If the type of group that you desire does not exist, create your own FB group. I recently started one called Writers Supporting Writers to provide a safe space for writers of all backgrounds to commune. Although I don’t know most of the people in the group, it has the potential to become another community that I draw from when I am feeling isolated.
Paradoxically, one of the benefits of FB community membership is that, for the most part, it is non-committal. Because members often help to create the culture, you can always leave if it is not a good fit or you are not getting what you really need. Many groups are geared towards members sharing information, providing feedback and/or engaging in communal online activities. As with anything, make sure that you are clear about the group’s purpose and any administrative rules that may apply for members.
Take care of your body
Since I left academia, I have gained weight. Now, instead of walking from classroom to classroom or across a quad area, I am sitting in front of a computer screen, engaging in webinars, coaching clients and or hosting virtual meetings with my team. Of these, I spend the overwhelming majority of my "work" time in front of a computer screen.
In other words, for me and I suspect for some of you, the isolation that comes along with freelancing has led to a sedentary lifestyle. A change in lifestyle can force us to re-evaluate some of the choices that we are making from what we eat on a daily basis to how much exercise we intentionally integrate into our lifestyle.
As I try to make the shift to getting back to where I want to be weight-wise, I have enlisted the help of some dear friends who double as accountability partners. Although I am the one who has to make better choices and who has to do the work, I know that I don’t have to do it alone.
Your well-being matters
As you freelance, if you find yourself feeling isolated, disconnected, lonely or even alienated, make sure that you make your well-being a priority. If these three suggestions are not suited for you, try to find things that bring value, comfort, and a sense of connection to your life — and share them with others.