When embarking on the freelance lifestyle, the ability to work from home is usually one of the big incentives. No more commute, office politics, or irritating colleagues. Just you and your computer, the flexibility to take breaks whenever you like. Bliss!
But as with anything, the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and after a few weeks of home working, the cabin fever can set in and you can get lonely. Days can go by without you seeing another soul and you miss having colleagues around for a quick chat or to share in your trials and successes. It’s just you and your thoughts - not so blissful after all!
Some people cope with this isolation better than others – introverted personality types for example, are likely to find it easier than strong extroverts.
But irrespective of that, we all need human interaction, or we start to go a little bit mad. So bear in mind these easy strategies to make sure you don’t become a freelancing hermit!
• Work in a freelancing team: There are an increasing number of opportunities for freelancers to work in virtual teams, using sites like The Work Crowd to link up with other professionals with complementary skills. This not only gives you ‘colleagues’ who you can turn to for support and to bounce ideas off, it also enables you to work on bigger projects than you could manage on your own. You can read more about this way of working here.
• Join a regular networking group: With nearly two million freelancers across the UK, there are plenty of likeminded individuals out there for support and a chat. And with the internet and apps such as Meetup, it’s easier than ever to find them. Just a quick search on the app and you can find around 30 freelancing groups in London alone, plus many more focusing on different skills and interests. You should also consider joining an industry association such as the PRCA, which runs regular member events. You might even learn something at the same time!
• Hot desking: Rather than working from home all the time, try to find some more sociable locations to base yourself sometimes, whether that’s a co-working space or a comfy coffee shop. It doesn’t need to be every day, but making the effort to leave the house a couple of times a week gives you a chance to interact with new people and be inspired by a new environment. There are loads of affordable co-working spaces, which offer a ready-made community, superfast Wi-Fi, as well as events and collaboration opportunities. The Work Crowd has just teamed up with The Brew to offer members more than 50% off hot desking so why not check out our offer here. We also have partnerships with Workspace and Neardesk who also do desk space.
• Pay your clients a visit: Just because you can do everything via phone, email and Skype, that doesn’t mean you should! Why not make the effort to visit your clients for a face-to-face meeting, or catch up over coffee or lunch, at least once per month? It will get you out of the house, give you some precious human contact, and your clients will appreciate the personal touch. It’s a win-win!
• Make time for outside interests: We’re all guilty of letting work take over every now and again, and at the end of the day you can feel too whacked to do anything else. But your hobbies and outside interests are precious, not only as a way to unwind but also as a way to meet new people, or keep in touch with old friends. So dedicate at least one evening a week to pursue another passion, whether that’s practising a sport, learning a language or attending an arts class. It might seem like an effort to begin with but after a couple of weeks you’ll find it much more energising than staying at home with the TV!
• Interact on social media: Love it or loath it, social media is now part of the fabric of society and can be a valuable way to stay in contact and feel connected to your friends and family, particularly those that live far away. A recent study found that when Facebook use is moderate and complements offline interactions, the social connectedness it brings can have health benefits, and even make you live longer. Just be careful not to overdo it – virtual friends aren’t a substitute for real-life ones!
• A freelancer’s best friend: They may not be so great at conversation, but pets are famously good for the health, with benefits including lowering the blood pressure, reducing anxiety and staving off loneliness. In fact, one of the great benefits of freelancing is you can be around to look after a dog or a cat during the day, and it means you always have somebody for company. Check out our recent blog here for more on the benefits of working with your pet.
• Plan lunches and coffees: Staying chained to your computer all day can do more harm than good, leading to potential brain meltdown and increased isolation. Try to break your day up regularly with plans to meet friends and contacts for lunches and coffees. Catch ups don’t need to be long, and you’re likely to return with a fresh head and inspired to start work again. So start filling up that calendar!