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Sunday, July 21, 2024

What to Do When Facing Loneliness as a Freelancer


When I first started working as a freelancer, loneliness wasn’t a concern. The promise of choosing my own hours, skipping the rush of a commute, and having a ‘sky’s the limit’ approach to earnings were all at the forefront of my mind. Any worries about working alone were a tiny cloud in a very blue sky.

But, skip to a year down the line, and my home office was less of a haven. Because of my industry, the phone barely rang, and there wasn’t anyone sitting next to me for a bit of office chit-chat (my cat was no good for a natter and would slink off if I gave her too much attention).

After speaking to other freelancers and asking Google (my new BFF) for advice, I found that feeling lonely working from home wasn’t a rare problem. So, I decided to do something about it. Here’s everything I learned along the way.

loneliness as a freelancer

Mental Health is No Joke

My first scary wake-up call was to discover that loneliness is a prerequisite for many mental health problems. Depression, in particular, can go hand-in-hand with the isolation of working from home, and as I was feeling more cut off from the world than ever before, I was putting my mental well-being at risk.

Luckily, I was able to take action before my loneliness became serious. But I do acknowledge that I’m fortunate in this regard, and would recommend anyone who’s struggling with chronic loneliness to seek help. Take a look at a list of local depression treatment centers, speak to a trusted friend or family member, or get in touch with a therapist.

I’ve sought help for anxiety in the past and can’t speak enough about how helpful it was. To have someone listen, empathize, and advise can make all the difference.

Find a Reason to Get Outside

Working from home can make you feel so entirely out of touch with the world. You’re cut off, doing all your tasks from inside the same four walls, and (if you’re anything like me) end up feeling like you’re missing out on life.

That’s why it’s crucial to get outside.

Now, I’ll be honest; I still have days where I enjoy being in my house all day (especially if it’s cold, wet, and windy), and I’ll allow myself these moments of hibernation. But, on the whole, I make an effort to get outside daily for a non-work-related activity.

I’ve found that creating a reason to head outside is key to consistency. Here are some of the ways I’ve made it a key part of my regular schedule:

  • I’ve canceled home food deliveries and do smaller food shops (in person) every couple of days rather than one big online order every week.
  • I’ve stopped ordering other products online and now visit local shops instead.
  • I told my partner I would meet them at the train station every day when they returned from work.
  • I’ve started running outside a couple of times a week.

These are examples of little changes you can make to get you out the front door more frequently. Or, if you’re able to, you could just get a dog! Problem solved.

Work Away From Home

One of the joys of freelancing is that you can (depending on your job) work wherever you want. If you’re feeling lonely working from home, move your office!

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Public Spaces

Taking your laptop to a local cafe, to the library, or to another public area is a great way to be around the buzz of other people. You can also tailor trips to suit your budget, ordering a cheaper item or going only once a week when money is tighter, making this an accessible option. Treat yourself to a cup of coffee and a slice of cake for a joyful working experience.

Co-working Spaces

If you have one in your area and can afford the expense, I’d also recommend giving co-working a try. Often, these spaces allow a free taster session, letting you test the waters before you commit to a month’s membership. Co-working is great for:

  • Networking with other professionals
  • Accessing fun, useful events (where you definitely won’t feel lonely)
  • Helping you create a work routine away from your home
  • Feeling more connected to the world while you work

Check out some of the best coworking spaces for freelancers to learn more about what to expect.

Rent a Desk

Some areas also have desks for rent in shared workspaces. You’ll have a specific desk (which you can use to store products or papers you need while you work) and you’ll be working around the same faces when you pop in.

If you’re missing that communal office experience after becoming a freelancer, this is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

Give Networking a Try

Most towns and cities have thriving business networking communities. From curry clubs to small meetings at coffee shops, find your local group and get involved.

Though you’ll still be working alone at home, you’ll now have a regular event in your diary to take your business outside your front door.

You’ll also meet lots of like-minded entrepreneurs in the same boat. Here, you can share the struggles of feeling lonely working from home and find solutions with others who feel the same. Perhaps you start working together from a shared space once a week or meeting for lunch on Mondays, using community support to beat loneliness.

You’re also likely to earn new clients from networking, which is an added bonus!

Expand Your Business

If you don’t like working alone, consider changing the way you conduct your business. This could mean:

  • Collaborating with other freelancers to improve your business or bring more services to your clients
  • Meeting clients face-to-face rather than over phone/video calls
  • Setting up regular client meetings to discuss ongoing projects
  • Bringing an employee or second freelancer into your business

I’m Lonely – But I Like Being Alone

I prefer working independently; it’s one of the reasons I became a freelancer. So, while networking and bringing others into the business might work for some, they weren’t options that appealed to me.

So, what can you do when you like working alone, but don’t like feeling lonely?

Something that really helped me was creating an energy journal. I kept tabs on my social energy, including times when I didn’t want to see anyone, times when I was lonely, and times when I was happy/unhappy to have plans. This helped me understand more about my social needs.

I found, for example, that Friday nights were a time when the need to socialize would overtake my desire to be at home, so I’d make sure I wasn’t working at this time and found regular activities to do instead.

I also discovered that if I do something social first thing in the morning, I tend to feel less lonely for the rest of the day. So, I got a gym membership and started swimming a few times a week. Sometimes my partner would join me and other times I’d go alone, but I’d always push myself a little out of my comfort zone to interact with those around me.

Understanding more about how my social needs fluctuate throughout the week was game-changing. It gave me the initiative to create a more social schedule and get out of the house at times that worked with my energy levels. But it also highlighted the hours when I enjoyed solo work, helping me maximize productivity in a way that worked for me.

Beat Your Loneliness As a Freelancer

If you’re feeling lonely working from home, I highly recommend trying out a couple of these tips. They might push you out of your comfort zone, but any anxiety around doing something new will disappear after a few days of repetition, and the loneliness-busting benefits will last a lifetime.

Do remember, too, that if you’re struggling with your mental health then seeking support from a trained professional or trusted friend or family member is always the right option.

Keep the conversation going…

Over 10,000 of us are having daily conversations over in our free Facebook group and we’d love to see you there. Join us!

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