When you’re a solo freelancer, it’s easy to develop cabin fever – especially if you work from home. You can spend hours, days, even weeks on your own, beavering away, with only the odd phone call to remind you that the outside world actually exists. Those pleasant watercooler, coffee break and at-the-desk interruptions that everyone takes for granted when they’re based at a workplace simply don’t happen.
If you’re a solitary type, fine
If you’re a genuinely solitary type, that’s fine. You can enjoy the peace that comes from vast, uninterrupted expanses of time.
However, past a certain point, even the most hardened hermit can find themselves longing for contact. You can find that you’ve almost forgotten what other human beings look like during the working day – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
One way to get out there and experience different environments is to work remotely, but this doesn’t always present the kind of opportunity to connect with others in a meaningful way. These days, many urban cafes are effectively mobile offices stuffed with freelancers hunched over Macbooks rather than genuinely social spaces. People are engrossed in their work, wearing headphones, shutting others out.
One effective antidote to freelance loneliness is networking. Not only do you feel more connected when you’re discussing work, industry or even informal topics with others, but you’re able to extend your contacts book and develop business at the same time.
We need to invite people into our lives
Besides, in order to change and grow professionally, we need to actively invite new people into our business lives, keeping things fresh.
And who knows, if people get on really well, some of those contacts might even become friends.
Above all, when you’re working solo – and this applies especially if you’re a creative – it’s often important to feel like you’re part of something happening, whether that’s a team, a project or simply an industry colleague.
I’ve advocated before that creativity at its best is all about collaboration: creatives are able to spark off each other, come up with new ideas and provide support and advice.
The great thing about getting out there and networking is that the people you talk to don’t necessarily have to be doing the same job as you. In fact, it’s more interesting when they don’t, because they can bring a fresh perspective to your line of work.
Your skills might be something they need
Moreover, it may well be that the skills you offer are something they need, and vice versa.
And even if you don’t see a direct relationship forming, or the fit isn’t right, perhaps you could be helpful to each other for referrals.
For example, if you’re a web designer, do you know a great editor who could proofread a client’s content for them? If you’re a marketer, do you know a designer who could help you (or others) with branding? If you’re an artist, could you illustrate a book for a publisher, and so on.
Speaking the same language isn’t essential, but being willing to look outside your own niche and explore different interests is. If you don’t want to end up eating brunch in your pyjamas every day in front of your computer, invite that contact you met at a trade fair to coffee.
Organise an informal meeting with others over drinks to talk shop (and other stuff too). Or simply look through online portals such as Meetup, sign up to whatever special interest groups look like they’re worth exploring – and give them a try.
You never know. It could be the start of something exciting – both for you and your business.