As a freelancer, raise your hand if you’ve been asked any of the following: How do you stay disciplined? How do you juggle it all? Don’t you get lonely? Surely, you’ve heard them all.

Yes, all of these are challenges freelancers face, but they are all well worth the pay-offs. These challenges are easy to overcome if you embrace them as part of the game and tackle them head-first.

Loneliness as a freelancer specifically stems from working remotely by yourself and having a career that most of your friends and family don’t fully understand. You face a different set of opportunities and hurdles than your peers do. You make day-to-day decisions that are difficult to empathize with if you’ve never freelanced.

Additionally, society and school don’t prepare us with discussions around dealing with the loneliness of an ambitious career. It’s assumed that after graduation, we will work in some kind of workplace. But for a growing number of us, this is not the case.

With more people turning to freelance as a viable career, and with entrepreneurs creating products, services, tools and events catering to us, it’s more possible than ever to avoid and overcome loneliness as a freelancer. Why is this important? Because research shows that loneliness can be bad for your health. If you’re focused on being a happy, healthy freelancer, here are some specific things you can do to ensure you don’t fall into the loneliness trap!

1) Switch up your workplace  

Switching up your workplace doesn’t mean you have to join a coworking space full-time or leave your house for the entire day, every day. However, it is beneficial to make a conscious effort to surround yourself with other people to avoid loneliness.

Our Peep David Hathaway posed a question to fellow Peeps in our Facebook community about how they overcome the loneliness trap of freelancing. (If you’re a Peep, join the conversation!) Several of them said that going to a coworking space part-time has made a big difference.

Surrounding yourself with fellow creatives and people who enjoy flexible schedules is an easy and quick way to feel fulfilled and motivated. Such environments will reinvigorate you with a special type of energy. They’ll make you want to get stuff done and pursue more. Plus, you’re far less likely to be browsing Facebook in the middle of the day when other people can see your computer screen. 😉

Many Peeps also create their own coworking environments. Some meet up with fellow freelancers at cafes. Others partake in Freelance Friday, a monthly global community event where freelancers get together for a day of coworking.

freelance-friday-SF
A candid from one of the recent Freelance Fridays in SF

A similar energy can be found by visiting cafes and libraries (remember those?). The simple ambiance of being surrounded by people (and books) can help make you feel more social and accomplished. We’re social creatures by nature. You can get out every now and then and still be just as productive. Who knows, maybe even more so.

In the Scientific American, Scientist and author Matt Lieberman says: 

“Across many studies of mammals, from the smallest rodents all the way to us humans, the data suggests that we are profoundly shaped by our social environment and that we suffer greatly when our social bonds are threatened or severed. When this happens in childhood it can lead to long-term health and educational problems. We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.”

2) Make time for productive social outings

Consider time-blocking your schedule with work time, social time, productive social time, exercise, relax time, etc. We’ve learned previously that this is how many of today’s leading creatives maximize their schedules.

Similar to coworking, getting coffee, tea, or going for a walk with friends, colleagues, clients or mentors will help you fight loneliness and feel energized. When you break up your day with social time, it’s easier to create blocks of time for focused work.

Peep Lynae Cook says, “I try to make an early coffee date every day and plans for when I should be done working. It also helps me manage my time better.”

Attending professional or industry events help too. Make some time each month for educational or networking events. In addition to face-to-face time with real, live people, these are opportunities to build lasting relationships with people in (or out of) your industry. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a list of meetups for community, content and marketing professionals.

3) Have face-time with clients

Your only touch point doesn’t have to be with fellow freelancers. Having face-to-face meetings — in person or through video chat — can help prevent loneliness as well. They’ll also help satisfy what you could be missing from an office environment.

Work some quick social catch-up time with your clients into the meeting. Ask them how their weekend was, how they’re family is, what they’re reading, or if they’ve seen a good film lately. Being genuinely interested in your clients will strengthen your relationship with them as well. It may sound obvious, but having that point of contact with someone will make you feel more accountable and motivated to work on their projects. Simply put, brainstorms and collaborations help ideas become stronger and work become more fun.

Our Peeps say that even phone time can make a big difference. Our own Tessa Greenleaf said, “If there’s a need for a paper trail from a call, then that’s a simple follow up email. You still get the interaction on the phone and you can track any important info via email. Win-win!”

4) Pick up a hobby or extracurricular activity

Peep Kimberly Lee said she did a short psych course last year in a room with people she didn’t know to expand her mind and get out of her bubble. Not to mention, psychology is a great area to be well versed in when working with clients.

Picking up a hobby that forces you to spend time with people outside of your industry can be conducive to triggering creativity. The experience will provide you with new ways of looking at problems and allow yourself social time without feeling like you have to be working.

Brooklyn, NY has a very cool organization called Brooklyn Brainery with classes on all sorts of topics from typography to ice cream making to the history of whiskey. We suggest finding an organization like this to test out new hobbies till you find what you enjoy doing.

A few examples of different hobbies you can explore!
A few examples of different hobbies you can explore!

Another option is to spend some of your spare time beefing up skills that do relate to your work. Consider taking a class at General Assembly to learn anything from new digital marketing techniques to coding with fellow professionals.  

Workout classes and exercising is another area you can spend your extracurricular time on. Try ClassPass, where you can take classes at different gyms and studios or just make a habit of going to classes at your regular gym. This is a healthy way to get in both your social time and healthier and happier mind and body.

5) Get a pet

We understand that this isn’t an option for everyone, but having a cat or dog can do wonders for eliminating loneliness.

The Center for Disease Control says having a pet can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels and feelings of loneliness. And of course, they increase your opportunities for exercise, outdoor activities and socialization.

Having a dog, especially, means going for walks, spending time in parks and making time for play breaks or play dates. Much like children, having a dog means having a routine. They usually wake up at the same time each day, need to be fed, walked, etc. For you, having a routine means consistency and stability. You’ll be more productive with a furry companion. Plus, research shows that pet owners are less likely to become sad or depressed.

If you can’t get a pet for any reason, give pet sitting a try or since you have a flexible schedule, consider picking up a shift as a dog walker! 🙂

6) Find your tribe online

We’ve preached the benefits of having a community before. Having a go-to group of people to chat with at any time – whether you’re talking through client problems or about something fun (i.e. the new Kendrick Lamar album) – means never having to feel completely alone. Even if you’re just chatting with someone on Facebook or Slack, having that line of communication makes you feel connected and happy.

Empathy is a powerful tool. Find your tribe online who you can connect and converse with. This post itself was inspired by a conversation within our community! 🙂

There are tons of online communities around any topic. Peep Danielle Devereux says, “The Buffer community slack channel has been great for feeling connected. I have met tons of folks that I check in with daily. Peepchat is great for that sense of community as well.”   

If you’re a freelancer, we’d love to have you as a member of our tribe!

Being self-aware

Generating awareness around how you’re spending your time, and who or what you’re spending your time with is the first step to overcome loneliness. If you find yourself working around the clock by yourself, allow yourself a weekend to go do something fun. We all need breaks, or else we’ll breakdown.

Try building in social and professional networking time into your routine. If you want to learn more how the freelancers in our community fight loneliness, join CloudPeeps today.