For the most part, I love the fact that I get to work from home.
I get to walk my dog, wear sweatpants, and don’t have the office interruptions that are productivity’s worst nightmare. I can really knock out some writing assignments with long, uninterrupted stretches of silence.
But lately, I’ve been feeling really lonely. And I think this is something freelancers who work independently need to talk about more than we do.
Sure, I have Slack groups and a few fellow freelancers I go back and forth with online on a fairly regular basis, but it’s not a real substitute for face-to-face human interaction. And because I live in a fairly rural area, there aren’t a lot of industry meet-ups for me to attend. Co-working spaces aren’t realistic for me here, either.
So what’s a freelancer to do?
Admitting Freelancing Has Its Caveats
I think the first step is admitting, openly, that freelancing/working from home isn’t always all rainbows and unicorns.
For a long time, I never wanted to share that I was struggling with loneliness because I felt guilty. Guilty that I had the opportunity to create my own schedule, to earn more than if I had a set annual salary, and to not wash my hair for three days if I didn’t want to.
I saw people I love having to go to jobs they don’t even like, day in and day out. And here I was, living the dream, being my own boss. So how could I complain?
But the thing is, as time passes, I realize I actually do miss some of the things that come from working with other people.
It gives you something to talk about at night over dinner. You build relationships with your co-workers, who act as a support network for you when you’re having a crap day. There are people around for you to go out to lunch with.
But when you work alone, you don’t exercise those social brain muscles. And not only is it hard on you emotionally at times, but mentally, it can be isolating.
Taking Steps Toward Better Mental Health
I know the fact that I spend 90% of every day within the exact same square footage (since I both work and live at home) is not necessarily a good thing.
There’s no outside stimulation in this space, which can curb my ability to be creative and inspired. Plus, I can go four hours without speaking a word out loud or hearing a sound (I can’t listen to music or watch TV while I write—too distracting.)
I know that it’s important for my mental health to step out of this environment every once in a while, so I’ve been trying to go work in a coffee shop once every week or so (to at least have the noise and scenery of human activity around me.)
Along with this, I’ve been making it a priority to go to exercise classes, where I get to interact with some familiar faces each week. I’m also working toward using the warm summer weekends as opportunities to travel—to get out of town and experience new things. That sometimes means taking on less work, too. I’m okay with that—I think this is important.
And finally, I’ve been asking fellow freelancers how they cope with loneliness. Just starting a dialogue about this helps me feel less alone.
I'd love to hear from you: Do you struggle with loneliness while freelancing? How do you cope? Tweet me @kaleighf.
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