Your coffee cup’s filled. The morning sun peeps through the window. And the house is sweetly silent. It’s the perfect environment to pursue the freelance life.
Or is it?
Being a freelance writer can be a lonely and isolated existence. Ever feel that way?
Here’s how to tell if you’ve spent too much time in solitary confinement:
- The only voice you hear all day is the one inside your head nagging you about deadlines.
- You get excited when a crow flies by the window.
- You wish the package handler who stops by your house by mistake could stay and chat.
- You talk to Siri or Alexa just to hear the voice of someone congenial.
Working from home in peace and quiet is certainly a benefit of the freelance life. And it can be a productivity boon.
But spend too much time alone, disconnected, and it can throw you out of balance.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. I know, because I struggled with loneliness when I first started freelancing. Here are my top tips to beat loneliness as a work-at-home freelancer:
The freelance life doesn’t have to be lonely
Freelancing can feel pretty lonely, especially when you make the leap from an office job to working from home.
Maybe you’re used to lively office conversation, bouncing ideas off a colleague, learning about new tools and software from a co-worker, or getting the inside scoop on bargain-price shopping and happy hour deals.
You might not be sitting next to anyone when you’re working on a writing assignment at home, in your pajamas (another perk of the freelance life). But it doesn’t have to leave you feeling isolated.
Here’s how to deal with feelings of distance and disengagement to keep the spark in your freelance life:
Send a writing friend an email
Feeling isolated or need input from a fellow writer? Start with the most mundane of connections: email. “Reach out and type someone” could be the phrase here.
If you haven’t heard from an old colleague for a spell, send a simple email:
It’s been a while.
What are you working on? Getting any good gigs?
Just a two-line exchange from a connection can lift your spirits and make you turn to your work with renewed vigor. And you could get the added benefit of your connection turning you on to a new client or suggest partnering with you on a project.
I had an oddball editing question the other day I couldn’t find a satisfactory answer for after calling Uncle Google. So I emailed a fellow editor who was able to answer it for me.
A few days later, she asked me about finding audiobook resources, and I was able to help her. We were able to catch up and help each other out, win-win.
Feeling lonely? Do this: Send an email to a fellow writer or contact in your professional network. Say “hello,” catch up, and talk shop about freelance projects and deadlines.
Collaborate on a writing project
Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you can’t work with other like-minded writers.
I wrote a novel together with a friend of mine thousands of miles away. The collective decision-making we exchanged was stimulating, fun and definitively produced a better book.
Freelance copywriters collaborating with graphic artists, which I’ve done many times, works in the same way.
Feeling lonely? Do this: Check in with the graphic designers, editors, marketing managers, and agencies you know and ask if they know of anyone who needs a writer.
Work at a location other than home
Some writers do all their work from a coffee shop. You’re still working alone, but you’ve got the benefit of being around shop workers and patrons. And you can soak in the atmospheric camaraderie typical of most coffee shops.
Sometimes just getting out of the house makes you realize it’s nice to be among fellow humans. I typically work from home, but I just got back from an overseas trip where I worked in coffee shops and other places.
Feeling lonely? Do this: Skip your usual work-at-home-all-alone plan, and work from a different location like a local coffee shop, the library, or even a hotel lobby.
Meet other professionals in person
If you’re lucky enough to live in the same town with colleagues, do lunch, go for coffee, or arrange a meeting in person. It’s a great way to catch up, brainstorm ideas, share advice, and stop feeling like you’re working in a cave.
And if that doesn’t work, use MeetUp.com to connect with other writers and professionals. In most larger cities, it’s easy to find people who are interested in entrepreneurship, marketing, or copywriting. This is a great way to get out of the house, do in-person networking, and generate leads.
(If you can’t meet in person, stay connected with others writers in a place like the Freelance Writers Den.)
Feeling lonely? Do this: Arrange a meet-up with another writer or professional contact, or attend an in-person networking meeting in your area.
Use a co-working space
Here in the Silicon Valley area, co-working spaces are a thing. For a fee, you can secure a space where entrepreneurs of all stripes congregate.
DesksNearMe and CoWorker.com are two places you can check out to find co-working spaces in your area. (Keep in mind many co-working sites are open-space environments, so that might not be conducive to the way you work.)
If you don’t have the budget for a co-working space, ask around and see if you can work out a trade agreement for co-working space to get out of the house.
Feeling lonely? Do this: Find out if there are co-working spaces in your area or ask your contacts about working at their place instead of yours.
Make a call
Here’s a novel way to stay connected. Pick up the phone, or use Skype, Zoom, or another platform that allows you to talk with someone else.
If you have an accountability partner, a short phone call once a week can be a great way to stay sane and productive.
Calling your clients is a good way to stay connected, too. Of course you don’t want to bother a client with busywork or trivial questions. But if there’s a complication that’s best resolved by a call, set it up and do it.
So often, I’ve found in such calls that other issues around a project (changing deadlines, new information, side requests) comes your way, when they wouldn’t if you’d just emailed.
Feeling lonely? Do this: The next time you need to catch up with a colleague or client, pick up the phone or arrange an online call, instead of relying on email exchanges.
You’re never really alone as a freelancer
Let’s face it. As a freelancer, you have to be comfortable working and producing alone. But that doesn’t mean you should wall yourself up in a windowless room with only a daily five-minute break to water your solitary rhododendron.
Say “hi” to the outside world now and then. Make your keyboard dance over a few warm “hellos.” Meet up with other writers and professionals in person. Or just pick up the phone. When you reach out to stay connected, you’re never really alone.
And you’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk to other people, develop relationships, forget about feeling lonely, and build a better freelance life.
How do you handle working alone as a freelancer? Lets discuss on Facebook.
Tom Bentley is a California-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in Forbes, the Los Angeles Times, Writers Digest, and many other publications