Sometimes Freelancing is Lonely

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A lonely woman against a sunset backdrop

“Feeling lonely is fine. Staying this way forever is not.”

– Maxime LegacĂ©

Freelancing is amazing and I love it in so many ways. To be honest, most of the ways I love it aren’t super glamorous – even if we weren’t still mid-pandemic (after nearly a whole freaking year) it would still be more “box-room-in-Melton-Mowbray” than “beach in Tenerife” most of the time. Yesterday, I fell in love with freelancing all over again when I had a truly terrible night’s sleep – the kind where you feel ill because you’re so tired – and realised I could sleep in late and no-one was going to tell me off.

Freelancing is great. But freelancing can also be lonely.

I’m an introvert and I like my own company. I was always the person at school who dreaded the words “group project” and honestly, at the age of 30, that hasn’t really changed. On the other hand, I’m also a social creature and, like many people, have found this whole “enforced isolation” thing incredibly painful and frustrating… and lonely.

Things aren’t normal right now, of course. Vaccines are happening and there’s a light appearing at the end of the tunnel, but COVID is still pretty much running the show at the moment. Even so, when you work for yourself, there’s an additional level of loneliness that can come with it. There are no officemates to bounce ideas off or go out for spontaneous lunches with when you’re having a bad day.

Go networking

I’ve been doing a lot of online networking events over the last year and I’m really looking forward to being able to go to them in person again when the plague is over. Networking sounds scary, but really it’s just a way to build connections and even make friends amongst others who understand how challenging this whole “working for yourself” thing can be. I’ve met some amazing people through my networking group and other one-off events I’ve attended.

Do classes and courses

Is there something you want to learn or an area where you want to improve your skills? Why not take a class or a course? (Do your research first and choose something reasonably priced and reputable!) You’ll learn something new and get to interact with people who share your interests at the same time. If you click with someone, why not connect on social media and have a virtual coffee together at some point?

Reach out

Freelancers and self-employed people are all largely in a similar boat. Is there someone you want to get to know or would like to chat with? Drop them an email or a message on social media and connect! Chances are they’re also experiencing some degree of freelance loneliness, especially at the moment, and will also welcome the opportunity to make a new friend.

Be proactive – it’ll pay off. Just be clear what you’re asking for. A networking “pick your brains” meeting is very different from an “I think you might hire me” meeting, which is different again from a “you seem cool and we work in similar spaces, let’s have coffee” social engagement.

Call your friends

I know we’re all a bit Zoomed out and Skyped out at the moment. But what about a good old fashioned phone call with a friend or family member? I can be having the worst day and half an hour on the phone with my bestie makes everything feel happier and more hopeful again.

The problem with loneliness, especially when it’s accompanied by depression, is that it can be self perpetuating. You feel crap so you don’t reach out to people, so you feel even more lonely, and so on. Try to consciously avoid that cycle by calling someone whose company you always enjoy.

Use social media (but do so consciously)

I love social media. Even in non-pandemic times, I live at least an hour from all my friends, and much further from many of them. In a very real way, social media is how I stay connected and present with everyone between one-to-one calls and in-person gatherings (…remember those?)

There’s a lot of talk about social media detoxing, but honestly, if Twitter and Facebook and Instagram make you feel better than have at it. They are real and meaningful windows of connection for many of us. Just make sure you take a break if they start making you feel bad, or unfriend/unfollow any accounts that bring you unhappiness or stress.

Marry another freelancer!

Okay, I’m slightly joking about this one, but I’m also sort of not. My partner is freelance as well (he has been for far longer than me) and having someone else in the house most of the time – even if we’re working in our separate offices – is so valuable. Taking a break to have lunch together, pausing to take care of house and life admin stuff, or even just sharing a silly meme or laughing at our cats being ridiculous can brighten up even the most tedious and lonely day.

Do you have any tips for beating the lonely freelance blues, whether during the pandemic or more normal times?

You know what to do!

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