Isolation is common when you’re freelancing – no more coworkers, no more water-cooler, no more guaranteed daily interaction with others. For some, it’s fine. For others, it’s torture.
Even if you’re more introverted or you tend not to need a ton of social interaction to feel ok, you do need some interaction with the outside world if you’re going to stay mentally balanced. And don’t think that the people (and animals?) living under the same roof will give you “enough” interaction, day in and day out.
Isolation is common when you’re freelancing
First of all, they aren’t enough to fill that need, and second of all, it’s not fair to expect them to be. (Could you imagine being the only person your significant other talks to?)
It doesn’t take a lot to get your socialization needs met. No networking parties, no big events, no rooms full of strangers necessary – unless you really like that stuff, in which case go right ahead!
I personally am a WAHM to a chatty preschooler, but I’m pretty introverted by nature, so I’m a bit structured and strategic about my friend-time. So, if you want to beat the feelings of isolation, here are some of my best tips:
Find Your Best Work Environment
First off, know where you work best. For some people, this is a home office with a door that closes. For others, it’s a coffee shop (the energy!) or the library (people but no noise!). Are you most comfortable and productive sprawling out on your bed or lounging on the couch? Find what works for you.
A new thing that’s getting a lot of attention – for good reason – is a coworking space. If you need to get out of the house and see somebody besides your cat, see what coworking spaces are available in your area.
Once you’ve found a good environment, find your work-related communities where you can drop in regularly without using up a ton of time.
This might be easiest to pull off online. Look for forums, listservs, Facebook groups, and even the comments section of blogs. See where the people who you admire are spending their time online, and pay attention to names and communities that others mention.
You’ve got a good starting point here at Freelancer FAQs.
Looking for more recommendations? I personally like hanging out in the forums at Carol Tice’s Freelance Writers Den and Sophie Lizard’s Be A Freelance Blogger; and in the Facebook groups for Carrie Smith’s Careful Cents Club and Amanda Abella’s Make Money Your Honey.
Note that these aren’t all for writers specifically, which is great for making connections across industries. Ask around or do a quick search to see what turns up.
Once you do plug in, you’ll find that these groups of people become your colleagues and friends, and having that instantly accessible network of supportive, like-minded folks who also like to chit-chat can go far in relieving isolation.
It’s also critical to find your interest-related communities outside your door. This is your in-person stuff – which is great to have, especially when you’re feeling a bit lonely.
Scan Meetup, a local community website or paper, or fliers you spy in nearby shops to see what catches your interest. Volunteer for a cause that means something to you, attend religious services, or even take a class for a hobby you’ve been meaning to pick up.
There may even be a local business or freelancer group you can plug into – check with your local chamber of commerce for leads.
Keep In Touch
Keep in touch with your friends – in person and online.
This can’t be stressed enough.
Texting, Skype, email – these are all easy ways to keep in touch in the one-on-one way we all need. I love using Skype to catch up with friends in other states, both the chat feature and the video calls. Read your friends’ and colleagues’ blogs and newsletters, and be involved there.
You’ll find that as you build a network of “online friends” who have flexible schedules like you, you can easily meet up (via chat or video chat) during the day, when everyone else is day-jobbing.
This is great for developing your business, troubleshooting issues, and letting off steam — something many of us used to do at work.
Make It Personal
Finally, stay in touch with yourself. Keep tabs on how much interaction you’re getting in the average day or week, and compare that with how you’re feeling mentally. How much quiet time is actually detrimental, as opposed to just not being what you’re used to?
If you think the adjustment period should have passed and you still feel lonely or blue, it’s probably time to try out a new social strategy.
As a freelance writer, stay in touch with yourself.
Or, on the flip side, are you overdoing your social interaction at the expense of your work, because you’re just too lonely? When I’m feeling completely isolated, I hit burnout much faster and find that I only want to go to the forums and hang out with friends. While it’s good to meet that social need, it’s not good to be so involved that I can’t actually do my work effectively.
When you’re working from home, keep tabs on your need for social interaction and take proactive steps to keep it at bay. Take stock of your situation, find a social rhythm that works for you, and keep building and maintaining the connections that give you a boost. Not only will you be much more productive as a freelancer, but you’ll be much more content. And that’s what this is all about, right?