Freelancing. It holds so many promises. The freedom of being your own boss, of working from home, of making your own schedule. Sure, all those things are true but I can tell you from experience that if you let it, freelancing can be really, really lonely and isolating. And it affects everyone differently. Some people relish being on their own, and some people find out that they’re much happier working with other people.
The problem is, you probably won’t know which type you are until you’ve actually tried freelancing – and that means working from home for an extended period. Sorry, but the occasional day at home here and there from your office job is not a statistically significant sample of what type you are. Yes, you may love those days – but they’re singular events that are out of the ordinary. It’s really only after 2 or 3 months of working from home consistently where you actually know if it suits you or not.
The good news is that unless you live in the middle of nowhere, you are surrounded by people and ways to make freelancing less lonely. Here are 11 ways that I have found to make it a less isolating experience.
Shower and get dressed before you start working.
Working in your pajamas may sound appealing but I always find that I feel much better about my day when I am dressed like I have somewhere to go. And if you’re dressed, you don’t have an excuse not to leave the house.
Have a plan.
As a freelancer, some days are crazy busy and some days not so much. Have a plan every day and don’t wing it. Remember, you eat what you kill and you need to make the most of your time. Use those less busy days to network and publish to your blog.
Leave the house.
Even if it’s just to do an errand or to work out of a local coffee shop, it’s important to your psyche to get out of the house. It breaks up your day and surrounds you with other people.
Work out of a coworking space.
If you live in the city, you have plenty of options here from WeWork to WorkBar and everything in between. If you’re in the suburbs, Regus has some affordable options. You’ll meet other freelancers and entrepreneurs and maybe even a few new clients. Plus they usually have snacks.
Use Skype or Google+ Hangout.
Video conferencing with clients and project members is more interactive and personal than just a phone call or email. And seeing the faces of the other people you work with makes them feel that much closer.
Go to networking events.
This is a no-brainer but it’s important. Not only is it a way to find new customers, but also forces you to keep up your social skills (especially when you go alone). Make it a game and give yourself a goal – meet 5 new people or hand out 10 business cards.
Go to the gym.
(Or yoga or barre). Either start your day this way or go at lunch to break up your day. Again – it puts you with other people and it’s good for you to boot. It can also be a good place to network.
Go to lunch.
Don’t just eat by yourself at home or in your home office. Meet someone you know that also works at home and make it a regular thing. They may be looking for ways to break up the alone time as well – it can therapeutic for both of you.
Walk your dog.
(Get one if you don’t have one.) Dogs need walks and so do freelancers. Make walking Fido a regular part of your schedule – it breaks up your day and gets you out in the fresh air. Bonus points if you live near a dog park and your dog walking also becomes a social opportunity.
Find speaking opportunities.
First off, it’s good for your business, is good public speaking practice and will likely land you new customers. But at a minimum, it forces you to interact with others and will certainly build up your network (and your online profile).
Partner with others on projects.
You don’t have to do it all yourself – in fact, you’ll probably deliver a better work product when you find people that you work well with together – whether they live in your city or town or 2,000 miles away. Virtual teams can be very effective for customer projects and may give you the opportunity to work on bigger projects than you can get on your own.