I spend a lot of time writing about how great the freelance writing lifestyle is, but an article by one of my favorite bloggers, Eric Barker, made me realize I’ve been terribly remiss in discussing one of freelancing’s significant downsides – isolation. As Barker relates, isolation leads to loneliness, which can be emotionally and physically damaging because human beings are social by our nature. For freelancers, the risk of becoming isolated is extremely high since we can do so much of our work alone, hidden away in the privacy of our houses or apartments. I’ve managed to avoid this problem for the past 25 years in large part thanks to one of the best pieces of business advice anyone has ever given me.
Just before I started my freelance business, one of the few successful freelance journalists I knew at the time, pulled me aside and said, “Kevin, make it a point to get out of your house every day. Make a sandwich for lunch and go someplace else to eat it.”
I took his recommendation, literally. Having just moved into a new apartment complex, I carried my sandwich to the pool every afternoon that summer. After just a couple days, I met several neighbors who either worked from home or worked in the evenings. They too were making it a point to get out of their apartments. Our little gang ate together often throughout the summer and moved our lunch bunch to a sub shop once the pool closed for the season.
That summer helped me realize that leaving the house is only half the battle. In addition to having a change of surroundings, you have to be with other people. With this in mind, I have developed numerous strategies over the years to avoid becoming isolated by my home-based business. Here are a few tips that worked for me:
Form your own lunch bunch – I bet there are lots of people in your neighborhood who work from home and are dying to get out. Find them and start meeting for lunch once a week at the park or local sandwich shop.
Mix business with pleasure – Make it a goal to schedule at least one business-related lunch every week or so. Invite a prospect or an existing client out. Or canoodle with your business partners. You will increasingly find yourself talking less about business and more about life. And that’s a good thing.
Sign up for Meetup.com – Whether you want to socialize for fun or business, this website is a goldmine of informal gatherings of people sharing common interests right in your town. Most occur after work and on weekends, but some are at breakfast or lunch. Can’t find a Meetup that interests you? Start your own. I went to one last night.
Join an association or your local chamber – You might just pick up some extra work. Two excellent associations for freelance writers are the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. Check the web to see if they have chapters in your area.
Create a kitchen cabinet like Teddy Roosevelt – Bring together a group of fellow freelancers or small business owners in your area and meet once a month for lunch or happy hour to talk about the problems your businesses face. Become each other’s unofficial board of directors.
Compromise with your family – My need to get out of the house didn’t disappear once I got married; it became more complicated. As my wife was getting home after a hard day at the office, I was itching to head out the door. That was the last thing she wanted. We had to reach an agreement on how often we would eat out, and she had to accept the fact I would attend the occasional after-work social function without her.
Want to know more about what it takes to be a successful freelancer? I recently recorded a class that I’ve presented to local writers’ groups for the past couple years, and you can watch it for free online. Check it out – Six-Figure Freelancing: Three Keys to Success.
Here’s a link to Eric Barker’s blog about the risks and remedies of isolation that got me started on writing this article: https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2018/04/how-to-make-close-friends/.