I love life as a freelance, but there is one common problem…
It can get lonely.
It’s great being able to schedule your own work, choose which projects you take on, and have days off whenever you fancy.
But sometimes, you do miss the buzz of the office.
Even out on the road, you had buddies in the TV trade.
So here are ten thoughts for fellow freelancers to help alleviate the loneliness... ranging from resolutely practical to entirely oddball (as ever with me).
There are endless events in every field of interest you could choose, from high-tech to high-intensity running, communications to coding.
I did lots of networking when I first moved to Cambridge, and it really helped make me feel less alone.
By networking, you get to meet some fascinating people - above, in Continuing Education - you often pick up work, but most importantly…
You get to talk, and sometimes you realise how little you can do that when you’re sitting alone at home, working.
2. Time Off
Building in time off that forces you to encounter fellow members of the human race is a smart and simple ploy to tackle loneliness.
I commonly head to the Cambridge Botanic Garden, where apart from enjoying the beauty, I often say hello to fellow walkers, and exchange a few words about some of the plants...
The shared interest is a pleasure, and I particularly love talking to the gardeners, hearing about their passion for their work, and what they have planned for their green oasis next.
3. Take a break
Sometimes, just getting yourself out of your office, and popping into a cafe for a drink can lift the spirits.
I often talk to the waiters, and it’s remarkable how pleasant they are when someone is genuinely interested in talking to them, rather than just demanding a service, or complaining.
(The treat of a cake is always a good morale lifting move, too.)
4. Fall back on friends
Picking up the phone to talk to a friend isn’t a bad thing, either.
And I mean talk, not text, or WhatsApp, or any other form of such lesser communications.
Just a few minutes chat, just a little touch of humanity, can bring a warm glow that lasts for hours.
This is a double feel good trick.
My main charitable work is helping students into careers in the media and creative writing.
I very much enjoy lecturing them, then sitting down with them, hearing how they're getting on, and helping them on their way.
You get that happy tingle of helping people out, but also you get to chat as well... and even remember what it's like to be young (however vaguely.)
This is another double, maybe even triple feel good trick.
You get stronger and fitter, which I find helps with clearer and sharper thinking, and you just have to talk to people if you’re at the gym.
It’s all about sharing the suffering, after all.
Just a quick walk is often enough to lift the spirits. Seeing the sky, feeling the sun on your back, it all helps.
This is an often overlooked friend.
It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you can have some music on while you’re doing your business thing, I find it helps to lift the mood.
I have a pile of CDs within easy reach in my office, from all different phases of my life.
I often also sing along (it’s a good job I’m alone), and that feels like a form of talking to someone, even if there‘s no one around to suffer it.
Scheduling your time for maximum variety can help beat feelings of isolation.
None of my tips work so well if you just sit on your own in your study for hours, and then go out for half an hour for a coffee, or for an hour to a meeting.
Far better to have a couple of hours on your own, then an hour out, then a couple of hours on your own, then another half hour out et cetera.
I so want a dog, even if my lifestyle doesn’t allow it.
A pet can be a real lift for the mood, and a wonderful friend to help alleviate loneliness.
But I have improvised, and do have some animals to talk to, as I’ll explain below, in my final tip.
This is so simple, but so joyful, and so uplifting…
Who do I talk to at home, when I don’t have a pet?
Well, if I can’t have my beloved Exeter geese nearby...
Then I’ve managed to find an alternative.
Get yourself a birdfeeder. This one came courtesy of the RSPB.
It doesn’t cost much, the seed is cheap too, and it attracts a wonderful array of birdlife.
I’ve counted 10 species in my garden, from sparrows to thrushes, blackbirds, a pair of doves, and even a jay.
I’ve positioned my desk so I can look out over the garden, and it always makes me smile to see the birds wheeling through the air as they squabble over who should get first call on a tasty treat today.
(And, since you're wondering, I have indeed named some of them, and I do talk to them as well.)
Yes, loneliness can be a shadow on life as a freelance... but there are also lots of rays of sunshine you can make the most of to help keep it at bay.