11 Ways to Banish ‘Lonely Freelancer’ Syndrome

WAHFs (Work-at-Home Freelancers) have it tough. Sure, there’s freedom of work schedule, not having to sit in traffic or otherwise commute, eating a home-cooked meal and being able to watch soap operas or Oprah everyday. But for some of us it gets darn lonely working at home all day, every day. Combine the state of the economy, the Holiday season, or the start of the winter blues and the feeling of loneliness right now can be magnified manyfold. If you’re single, it’s even worse because working at home means it’s that much harder to meet people, even for casual conversation, weekly drinks or whatever. Here are some tips for weathering that “lonely freelancer” feeling that sometimes visits.

Banishing the ‘Lonely Freelancer’ Syndrome

  1. Have a schedule. Working long hours by yourself just reinforces the idea that you’re alone. No matter how busy you are – and because of that – you always need time to yourself each day. Practice efficiency in fewer hours. Stop working at a certain time, no matter how much or little you got done that day, unless there’s an emergency. Just don’t let those emergencies get out of control. This will stop you from feeling that you’re constantly working, as well as give you time for family and friends.
  2. Microblog. Use Twitter], Plurk, Pownce, or your Facebook status and spend a few minutes sharing your thoughts, a link or whatever. Just don’t let it get too addictive. (When I was weathering a downturn earlier this year, I spent 6 weeks on Twitter and mostly Plurk and Facebook, procrastinating.) An alternative to this is to post on other people’s Facebook Walls, which can stimulte a micro-conversation.
  3. Participate in a peer forum. If you feel like writing something more than 140 characters, or want to bounce an idea of off a peer, join a forum relevant to your niche. There are often understanding people that’ll lend a digital ear to a lonely colleague.
  4. Chat via IM. Some of my colleagues leave IM chat windows open to a few people all day long, especially if they’re collaborating on something. Unlike a phone call that ends as soon as you hang up, IM software allows you a permanent background connectedness to other people. If you need to ask a question or share something, it’s easy to do, get a response, and move on.
  5. Call friends, family or colleagues. If you really need to hear someone’s voice, you have a choice of phone line or VoIP (e.g., Skype, Sightspeed) or VoIM (AIM, GTalk, Messenger, etc.).
  6. Express it. You’re a creative person. Write about it the loneliness of freelancing, draw a funny cartoon, paint “happy” colors, take an inspiring picture or come up with a logo or web design that is uplifting. Find a way to express your feelings first, then counteract that with a positive action.
  7. Step out. Fresh air really does do wonders for you. Just stick your head outside for a few minutes, or go for an extended walk around the neighborhood. Not only do you get fresh air and exercise, but a nice daily walk can relax you and stimulate your mental idea bank. Or go run your weekly errands early, if you need to be “around” people for a bit.
  8. Take a course. Upgrade your skills and meet people at the same time. Alternately, teach a course, give a talk, attend a conference or workshop – all of which will allow you to network.
  9. Network, socialize, speed date. Have an informal get together, or go to one. Or have a weekly coffee or drinks meet at a local pub. If you’re single, speed dating is an opportunity for busy professionals to meet, with no obligations. Consider throwing a “networking” cocktail party at your home.
  10. Get visual input. Just a personal observation, but creative people tend to need a lot of visual stimulation. So look at a magazine or surf websites with lots of images. Use a Flickr app to browse through random inspiring images. Watch TV, particularly talk shows with lots of guests, not weekly dramas. Also watch “live” stage/ sketch comedies, not sitcoms – something where it feels as if a person is talking to you.
  11. Interact with a pet. There’s a reason why single people with pets tend to live longer than those with out. We all need physical affection, and if you’re in a position to take care of a pet, they’ll give you back some of that affection you give them and more.

Have you had the lonely freelancer blues? What did/ do you do to dispel that feeling?