When you work for yourself, you often work from home and therefore work alone. With no one to bounce ideas off or seek reassurance from, you feel isolated and alone. Everything you do to make your business a success is dependent on you and you alone, which leaves you feeling overwhelmed. All the problems and issues you face are tackled by you and no one else. Make no mistake, freelancing can be lonely.
But don't fret! There are thousands and thousands of freelancers across the UK who are in the same boat. Feeling isolated is quite a normal predicament for anyone who works for themselves. But how do you stop yourself feeling this way? Speaking from my own experiences, I've put together these top tips to help you tackle isolation and become a happier freelancer.
Meet other freelancers
An obvious first tip but you should really start connecting with other people on your own doorstep. Try searching in Google for other local freelancers and send a friendly email or give them a call. Arrange to meet-up or ask if they know of any good networking events. Of course, you may come across some people who are wary of you or competitive but don't let them put you off! Not everyone is unwelcoming. Meeting other freelancers is easy - you just have to be bold and prepared to make the first move.
If you don't want to go for the direct approach, networking is a great way to meet other freelancers and make friends locally. Just arm yourself with plenty of business cards and go along to relevant events in your area. Things like Jelly are great alternatives to the more traditional networking events. Jelly runs special co-working days where freelancers and business owners come together in the same space to work! And there are plenty of other events and regular meet-ups out there, so make the most of them.
Start your own meet-up
If you can't find any decent networking opportunities in your own region, then why not start your own? That's exactly what people like GeekUp did and it's now a huge success with events happening all over the UK. It isn't difficult to arrange a meet-up. I've organised a few myself simply by tweeting to other freelancers and asking if they want to meet in a local pub. It worked! Over 30 showed up to the first one I ever arranged. Nothing is stopping you from doing the same. You'd be surprised how many other people out there want to organise something but just don't know how.
Sort your desk out
Make yourself happier by ensuring your workspace is clean, tidy and comfortable. Put some happy photographs of family and friends on your desk and ensure you're not facing a brick wall. If you've got a window with a nice view, make sure you can see it. Ensure you have plenty of natural light. Sounds daft but isolation only gets worse if your work environment is poor, so sort it out today.
Become location independent
Make your business 'virtual' so that you can work remotely and from anywhere in the UK. By having access to all your work via an external harddrive and/or laptop and setting yourself up so that you receive all emails and calls no matter where you're based - you'll be able to work wherever you like. And this means you can get out of your home office or one-person workspace whenever loneliness kicks in.
Get some office space
Renting office space is definitely an overhead many of you can't afford or will want to avoid. However, renting office space within something like a business centre can be extremely worthwhile. These dedicated spaces often have many other small businesses and that means you won't be alone anymore. Plus separating work from home life is always a positive step. Just make sure you're friendly and make an effort to get to know other people in your building.
Try out co-working
If renting an office isn't quite your thing, then why not join a co-working community? Central is a fantastic co-working, collaborative workspace in London. It has meeting rooms, a coffee shop and areas where members can pull up a chair and work. There are many places like Central across the UK and they're a great way to stop feeling isolated.
Hot-desking is a great and flexible way to get out of your home office and meet other people. There are lots of opportunities across the UK, including at business centres, private offices and even at agencies. You don't have to rent a desk seven days a week - just hire something every now and again if you can.
Twitter, Facebook... they're both great social networks that keep you in touch with friends, and in this case - other freelancers. Nothing beats supportive tweets or Facebook updates to throw questions out there when you need help with something. You sometimes just have to chat to people who are in the same position as you and that's why social media works so well to beat isolation.
Join a local group
Every creative industry field has a local community group or organisation somewhere. Find out what's on your own doorstep and sign up as a member! Get involved and help out if you can. Go along to any events, workshops or conferences they might stage. I can't stress enough how important it is to get out there and meet people.
Collaborate where possible
In the creative industries, it's not uncommon to end up collaborating with other freelancers on certain projects. You might be a web developer needing a web designer or a PR professional seeking a graphic designer. You could be a photographer looking for a copywriter. Whatever you need, start making connections by offering collaborative work to other local freelancers. Building relationships in this way could be the start of something beautiful.
Get chatting online
There are so many online resources these days, especially for freelancers. FreelanceSwitch is really cool and you can sign up and become a member and chat in their forum with like-minded folk. Or there's FreelanceUK which has all sorts of forums, relevant to your creative field. Sign up, join, become a member - make the most of what's out there on the web.
Remember, you're not alone!
Finally, please remember that there are literally thousands of other freelancers out there, all feeling the same way as you. You are not alone and you really can tackle isolation but it's down to you. You can only stop yourself feeling lonely if you do something about it. Get out there and make some friends because life is too short to feel cooped up and isolated.