Freelancers, when they start their career, feel amazingly empowered. The choice of working at their own timings, for the clients they chose, and no stress of the annual appraisals give a freelancer all the freedom they wanted throughout.
Time passes, they begin to realize the pains which come along. We often talk about difficulties like how freelancers have to be their own sales team to get new projects, their own finance team to chase for payments etc.
One aspect which is very commonly associated with freelancers and yet less talked is the Isolation they face while working as freelancers. They have no teams to go out on lunches, no colleague for the hallway talk and no one to share the evening coffee with. The impact on mental health is tremendous and counterproductive for their freelancing career.
Impact of Isolation
No one to talk their problems through
Working for yourself does not mean there will be no problems at all. Work related problems will continue to exit, but the issue is, you have no one to talk about them. You don’t have a goto person to solve your problems, that might exist in a regular job. And sitting on a problem for hours, if not days, is really stressful. Should this happen a few times, it can make you anxious, de-motivated and depressed.
Isolation is a deterrent to creativity
Ever wondered why some companies have war rooms or idea rooms? If used rightly, collective wisdom fosters creativity more than an individual. Brainstorming generates new ideas. Sure, concentration might be your greatest strength but to achieve a higher level of innovation and creativity, you need to have collaborative and critical discussions. Certain something that someone else says triggers a whole new stream of thoughts and ideas. Similar to what happens when you read a good book.
After a fixed period of time, your body and mind needs a break. You need to cut yourselves from the current topic you are working on and talk/do something else. The law of diminishing returns of Economics holds true here as well. Once you achieve the highest level of productivity, stressing your mind and body further will only reduce productivity. Talking about the Sunday Football game with someone at the coffee machine will help you maintain similar levels of productivity.
Getting Over it
I am sure, as a freelancer, a lot of people would be able to relate to what is written above and might think they are suffering through this. First and foremost, don’t overthink. That would be counter-productive. Think about how to solve this problem, like you have been solving other problems till now. I suggest the following
Work out of a co-working space
That’s the best way to solve this problem provided your finances allow. You will find a lot of people from your tribe. People doing some amazing things, solving problems and inspiring the world around them. You won’t miss the staircase chit chat and nor the office cafeteria. They are the best of both worlds. The freedom of working for yourself and the office atmosphere.
Join your tribe.
Find freelancers’ communities around your place. These might be generic ones or profession specific ones, let’s say a designer’s community. Join them and contribute. Take initiatives of organizing online or offline meetups to create a strong sense of belongingness. And if there is no community around your place, it is time for action to create one. You can find a mentor for yourself or you can choose to mentor someone as well
While community is a great catalyst for networking, other methods are equally result oriented.
Reach out to freelancers from your profession or industry on Social media and try to establish working relationships. The key to establishing a successful working relationship is to solve their pain points and be a giver first. Networking will help you identify your go to person when you suffer professional, or for that matter, personal roadblocks
Play a sport
Sports is a great collaborator, for it sees no boundaries. Pick up a sport and head off to the stadium to play. You will find a lot of co-players from different backgrounds. Listen to them, hear their stories, go out for parties with them and when you need them, they will also be there for you.
Freelancer Isolation and the mental health challenges which come along with it are real. It’s time we address the elephant in the room and start working towards it. If you are a new freelancer, don’t get intimidated, read this blog on how to start and fly!