So you’re a freelancer. You wake up early, get through your morning routine, and casually go to your local coffee shop. The barista knows you and your order, so then you casually clock in by opening up your laptop. Life is great! You create your own hours, avoid pesky morning traffic and don’t have to report to any manager or supervisor. However, there feels like something is missing, dare I say it, coworkers. The perks of being a freelancer are quite liberating, but it’s easy to feel lonely sometimes. I know. I am one.
I started my freelance journey about two years ago. Like most freelancers, I was previously at a job I hated and decided to go off independently. After a year of scraping coins from my couch, I was finally able to make a living off of freelancing full-time. Although I am grateful for my blessings, I must admit I have struggled with feeling lonely.
See, what no one tells you about freelancing is that you are the manager, HR, assistant and employee. There are no team-building days, gossip sessions in the break room or sharing laughs with your favorite co-worker. The truth is, most days, it’s just you and your laptop. However, I can assure you there are ways of building a community to defeat loneliness and achieve better mental health. Here are a few tips that have helped me overcome loneliness as a freelancer.
Find an online tribe.
Whenever I’m feeling lonely, I connect with other freelancers to bring me back to center. Freelancers understand freelancers. Having someone who can relate to how you’re feeling is refreshing. Luckily, I built my “freelancer tribe” through social media, aka Facebook groups.
Facebook groups have helped connect plenty of freelancers, form support groups and create long-lasting friendships. Two online tribes I love are Unbothered and Girls United By ESSENCE. These Facebook groups are here to create a safe space and empower women of color. Take this opportunity to follow these women on other social media platforms and ask them out to coffee. Connecting with freelancers can be emotionally fulfilling and potentially give you a work buddy.
Work from freelance spaces or coffee shops.
As a freelance creative, I love working in creative spaces and with creative people. Working alone can be very unmotivating at times, and that’s when I know it’s time to work in a creative freelance office space. These spaces are a perfect way to feel like you have “co-workers.” Here you can find freelancers who crave an office environment minus reporting to a boss. Most of these spaces also provide a printer, meeting rooms, and refreshments. Although these perks are amazing, it’s also important to have diversity in the office, even in co-working spaces.
Diversity in the workspace has been a topic of conversation for years. Although I do not have a traditional job, as a woman of color, it is essential for me to see freelancers who look like me. A few Black-owned creative workspaces across the U.S. include BlackBird, La Creates Space and my favorite, Ethel’s Club. These co-working spaces provide a diverse office for freelancers to just be, and it’s beautiful to see.
If a co-working space is outside your budget, consider trendy Black-owned coffee shops in your neighborhood. Here are a few if you’re in the NYC area; The Lit Bar, BKYLN Blend, Sincerely Tommy and Sweet Home Harlem. Coffee shops are also a great way to meet other freelancers in your local area.
Set up virtual meetings with clients.
We live in a world where virtual mediums are the means of staying connected. I love virtually connecting with clients or people within my niche. Setting up virtual meetings can help you deeply connect with clients and spare you a lonely day. Start by setting one to two sessions a week with clients for about 30 minutes or dedicated monthly check-ins. If you are in a niche that doesn’t serve clientele, try setting up informational interviews.
The point of these meetings can be to discuss deadlines, brainstorm ideas with clients, discover more about the industry you’re in or collaborate. Scheduling weekly meetings can ensure that you have some social interaction. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling interactions that can empower you.
Attend networking events.
Networking events allow us to learn, grow and connect. Although most networking events are currently virtual, they are still ways to get some interaction in. Virtual networking events have implemented “chat boxes” for attendees to feel a part of the conversation. This is your opportunity to exchange opinions, get to know attendees and exchange contact information. The best thing about virtual networking events is getting connected all over the world.
There are plenty of ways to find networking events. I have had success finding networking events on Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Instagram. I’ve learned networking events don’t necessarily have to be in your niche to be of benefit. Attending networking events that catch your interest is just as good. Here are a few networking events that I have enjoyed: Black Women Of Power Summit, The Great Girl-Friends Conference, Black Wall Street Homecoming and CurlFest.
Join a physical activity class.
Freelancing can be stressful, and it’s always great to burn off some steam, so how about a physical activity class? Joining a workout class can give you something to look forward to in your day. I prefer joining a workout class because it makes me feel part of a team, which I lack in my professional life. Since joining a workout class, I have been liberated by all of its benefits.
Research done by the University Of New England College Of Medicine proved that people who attended workout classes were less stressed and had a higher overall quality of life. The use of this information can benefit the freelancing experience. Releasing the stresses of freelancing combined with interactive physical activity can only improve mood. There are also other benefits to implementing physical exercise we cannot forget, like more energy, focus and confidence.
Find a fluffy friend.
We can’t forget, a dog is man’s best friend, right? Pets have been used as companions in many households. For those who mainly work from home, having a pet can be very fulfilling. According to Health-Line.org, “Pets can reduce stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. A pet can add real joy and unconditional love to your life.”
Unlike humans, there’s no way to come off “too needy” to a pet. We can confide in animals as much as we like without any judgment. Our pets are always here to listen and comfort us in ways a human simply couldn’t. Having a pet such as a pooch is also a great reason to go on daily walks and take a moment away from the office.
Take a break and go outside.
As a freelancer, it’s easy to lock yourself in your remote office for days on end. There have been times where I’ve prioritized work so much I forget to prioritize myself. The more isolated I am, the more I become trapped in my thoughts, and then I know it’s time to get outside. In my experience, getting out to where people are decreases my loneliness almost instantly.
Schedule an hour in your day that is dedicated to going outside. Surround yourself in environments where you are guaranteed to get some form of interaction. Go to your local coffee shop, talk to the barista, grab lunch with a friend or chat it up with your neighbor. Putting yourself out there can be intimidating, but it can also become a confidence boost and make you feel more connected to your neighborhood.
Build a healthy routine.
Before I built a solid routine for myself, my life revolved around my work. I would wake up and check my email before I checked on myself. I constantly prioritized late working nights before sleep or having a social life. My work eventually became the root of my depression, isolation and anxiety. I knew if I wanted to get to a better mental state, I had to change my habits.
Having a healthy routine can make for a better work-life balance. Yes, the work is freelance, but it’s also great to create structure—schedule in a morning routine, dedicated office hours and a night routine. Try incorporating healthy habits like morning walks, meditation, listening to podcasts or going for a run. These healthy habits can make life less about work and more about living.
Any time I go through a dark period, it always comes from a deeper place. I learned that my season of feeling lonely didn’t come from my work, friends or family. After a few therapy sessions, I realized that it came from not knowing how to be comfortable with my own company. Having this knowledge helped me learn about myself, what I like and how to enjoy being alone.
Self-reflection can benefit you through your season of feeling isolated. It’s the perfect time to reflect. One of the best ways to do this is through meditation and breath work. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be deeply connected with ourselves. Try this out by closing your eyes, taking three deep breaths and allowing yourself to feel. What is your body trying to tell you?
After your meditation session, follow up with journaling. This practice will allow you to get out anything you have been holding in. Journaling also gives us the space to go deeper than we would with friends, family members or even therapists. Ask yourself the tough questions: What are you missing within yourself, and how can you fulfill that which is lacking within? You’ll be surprised what comes up.
Know this is only a season of your life.
Moments in our life are like seasons – they come and go, but they never last forever. Know that this is a season in your life, and you will get through it. Explore your loneliness, allow it to teach you and embrace growth. Loneliness is the opportunity to get to know yourself in ways no greater company could show you. Take this time to discover your true essence.