Freelancer Blues? 6 Tips to Beat the Lonely Bugs
I want to chat about something that affects all of us freelancers at one point or another, and it’s one of the downsides to running your own show (along with chasing clients and payments!).
Sometimes, freelancing can be downright lonely, especially if you’ve gone from working full time for the man to a solo gig at home, perhaps with a small child or a cat to keep you company. (Not that kids and cats aren’t awesome company but sharing ideas and thoughts with other adults is one of the great joys of life. Preferably with wine! I’m just saying).
So, it's super important that you a) acknowledge this; b) realise that you're not alone in this (far from it, my friend!); and c) be proactive about finding a better work-life balance.
If you’re worried about “finding time” and “falling behind” on your work, don’t be. Trust me, the hamster wheel of online business will still be running when you hop back on; what you need are better systems for managing your time and expectations. The important thing is not to burn out, and that means taking a break from your computer and business, and sometimes - your introverted self!
So, here are my 6 tips to managing the freelancing blues…
1. Get outside
Do a regular exercise activity, join a gym, take a yoga class, or just go for a walk and clear your head. Meet up with a friend if you can/like, or just have that time to yourself. I like to go swimming in the morning - there’s no gadgets, I can’t listen to podcasts or take notes about anything. I’m usually joined by a friend and after laps we have a bit of a yarn, and then I go home and get stuck into my day.
2. Meet up with friends
Go for a coffee or a regular lunch date. Join a book club. Go to a local pub trivia night. Play bingo. Take a class. Hang out with other mums in the school playground. When I lived in Canberra, I started organising a weekly school drop off coffee date for whichever other mums were available in my daughter’s kindy class. I was surprised at how popular it was! We were all stay-at-home or part-time working mums who really needed a friendly casual catch up, and it only cost about $4 for a hot drink.
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3. Move your work space
Change things up by working at a coffee shop or a library. You'll be around people but you don't have to engage in chitchat, unless you want to. In Canberra, I used to like working at the National Library. Apart from being a fantastic resource (when I was researching for a story), it had a great view over the lake and there were lots of people around, creating a kind of silent camaraderie.
Put your awesome business/research/organisational skills to good use. Whether it’s volunteering at a local charity, the school canteen, the hospital, a community event, whatever… volunteering is a great way to interact with people and use your skills at the same time. It also helps with networking for your actual business.
I recently put up my hand to coordinate the raffle for the annual charity bazaar here in Vientiane, a 1-day event that draws over 10,000 visitors. I love event management and planning and I threw myself into spreadsheets, emails and long lists. It allowed me to get to know new people and help out with a great cause, and then it’s was over and I could return to my hermit’s cave!
5. Get a part time job
This one can be harder than you think as it means making room for yet another commitment. But at least it pays! There’s lots of options if you have a few skills - waitress, barista, uber driver, yoga teacher, English/maths tutor, exam invigilator, election staffer, dog walker… you name it.
6. Join a networking group
Networking is a great concept especially if you live in a big city; it’s often harder to find these ops in a regional area. But then you can always organise your own. Networking groups are a great initiative to put like-minded business people together to chat about work and strategies, which is also a hugely helpful thing for a freelancer or small business owner.
When I lived in Australia, I felt the freelancer blues more often that I do now in Laos. That’s because most people I knew had full time jobs and I was the odd one out, “working from home” (whatever that means - oh yeah, we’ve all been there!).
But here in Laos, the shoe is now on the other foot and I don’t have a lot of lonely blues. In fact, people often mistake me for an extrovert (chuckle chuckle) because I organise a lot of social activities.
What they don’t realise is that I plan those events around my own work schedule; when I need a break, I email a bunch of friends for a coffee or lunch or dinner get together and see everyone at once. I don’t even need to be extroverted then as everyone else does most of the talking. Then I shuffle back to my cave with no one the wiser :)
Tell me, as a freelancer what do you find to be the toughest part of running your own business?
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.