Opportunities for freelance work are exploding, and many people are experiencing the joys, freedom, and challenges of building careers on their own.
But even as they embrace the advantages of a freelance lifestyle, some workers are discovering a downside to flexibility: loneliness.
So says a recent infographic from Sage. While 93% of freelancers love being their own boss, the Sage graphic says, 39% have experienced loneliness, and “that number rises to 54% of the 24-34 year old age group.”
The fact is, humans are social animals, and a lack of interaction with other people can take a toll over time. If a freelancer’s loneliness grows severe enough, it can lead to depression and other emotional and physical health problems.
Fortunately, freelance workers can take action to overcome that sense of disconnection from other humans. Here are six suggestions to help you in that battle of freelancer loneliness:
1. Take a break from your home office.
If you’re in need of some contact with other people—even if it’s only in the form of background noise—pack up your laptop and head to the local coffee shop. Work there for a few hours, enjoying the Wi-Fi and munching on a pastry. If you don’t like the restaurant scene, rent a spot for a few days at a coworking space. It might be just the ticket to help you feel less alone.
2. Find a furry companion.
If you prefer socializing with animals to chatting with other people, consider getting a pet. Pet owners tend to have lower stress levels and are less likely to feel lonely. If you have to take your dog for a walk, that also gives you a built-in break time and an excuse to get up from your desk and head outside for a few minutes. Fresh air and physical activity are good for boosting one’s mood.
3. Seek out a virtual community.
While you may be alone in your home while you’re working, you’re definitely not alone in facing the challenges of freelancing. As a Huffington Post article suggests, “Find a virtual community online, perhaps a group of like-minded freelancers that you can chat with at any time, whether you’re talking about freelancer problems or something not connected to your work. The sense of support can mean you never have to feel completely alone.”
4. Attend networking events.
These get-togethers are not only for job seekers, according to an article from The Open Mic. “Professionally, such events are amazing. However, they do something else that is good for you: that is, pushing you to communicate with others. Some of those people you exchanged business cards with may become a friend in the future. You will want to meet them for non-business purposes after that seminar. Social gatherings with colleagues are great at shaking off that solitude.”
5. Visit your clients.
If you’ve completed several projects for the same company—or even if you’re on your first gig for a particular organization—it doesn’t hurt to get to know your employers. Schedule a face-to-face visit with the person overseeing your work. Or, if possible, ask if you can squat in an empty cubicle at the office for a day or two. Not only will this ease your loneliness, but it could also help you get a better feel for what you’re expected to produce.
6. Make something, and then share it.
This advice comes from Freelancers Union, which notes that the thing you “make” can be as simple as a haiku. “Show someone what you made. Sharing your creative expression can lift some of the burdens of your emotional state. This doesn’t mean presenting your work in a formal exhibition or performance (although that could be a meaningful goal). Just handing what you made to the next person you encounter or taking a photo and sending it to someone can do the trick.”
You likely will think of other ways to overcome the sometimes lonely aspects of life as a freelancer. The key is to recognize when you’re feeling disconnected and take action to break out of that rut.
You don’t have to sacrifice the flexibility of your new life for a little social interaction. If you manage your career wisely, you really can have the best of both worlds.
Here’s the full infographic from Sage:
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com