Most solopreneurs are more than ready to wax lyrical about all the benefits that a freelance life provides - an enviable work/life balance, the opportunity to scratch even the most irksome of wanderlust, financial gains and career progression to name just a few.
But what about the darker side?
Unless you’re lucky enough to have a job that pays you a fortune to do whatever you love with whomever you choose, then every career has its negatives. For the more traditional workplace roles, this probably involves demanding bosses, long hours and stressful deadlines but what about freelancers? What’s one of the biggest challenges that the self-employed population faces?
That’s it - one little word but a BIG problem when it comes to self-worth, confidence and wellbeing. Feeling isolated is something that no-one wants to experience, and it can chip away at people in a subtle yet steady way until they’re in a dark cave without realising that they entered.
In this new age world where the topic of mental health is no longer the stigma it once was, how is it that the problem of loneliness is not something regularly discussed by freelancers? When you take the plunge into the freelance world, people don’t stop giving you their top tips, or talking about networking disasters and the challenge of getting paid on time, but old-fashioned loneliness is something that just isn’t discussed very often.
At Xolo we’re looking to help freelancers get past the loneliness and find their tribe. But before we get into that, let’s look at why loneliness is becoming such a big issue and what can be done to keep the beast at bay.
The working world has shifted dramatically in recent years. Digital nomads and remote workers are no longer the peculiar add-on to the corporate world but are an intrinsic part of it. They are living, breathing reminders to 9-5 workers that there is another way.
A survey by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs found that remote work in particular grew 91% over a 10-year period. That could be people working a couple of days remotely for their firm or those who are full-on living the nomadic freelance dream.
But this greater level of flexibility paves the way for loneliness to creep in where it couldn’t before.
According to a survey by specialist bank Aldermore, ‘Loneliness is a real issue amongst those in the UK who work for themselves’; it’s felt by 39% of the country’s self-employed. The report summarised that while 93% of self-employed people in the UK ‘enjoy being their own boss’, they are also ‘struggling with feelings of loneliness and a loss of control’.
Networking Groups are the first tool in a freelancer’s armoury. Finding groups that can help you grow your network and find clients is a must. Chatting to people face-to-face is an engaging way to show off your skills. These groups can be daunting at first but finding a community near to you that meets for a monthly breakfast, weekly lunch or runs ad-hoc events will be a lifesaver.
Coworking spaces are a great way to get out of the house, remove yourself from the distraction of the housework and provide a real breath of fresh air. You can meet a whole bunch of like-minded individuals who will understand your lifestyle and may even want to collaborate. Many coworking spaces host regular events as well so you can let your hair down and even indulge in some after-work drinks with your peers.
No formal coworking spaces near you? Head to your local coffee shop. You’ll be surprised at the number of remote workers bent over their laptops while shooting furtive glances around trying to see if someone has the guts to make that first step to being freelance friends!
Passionate about what you do and want to ensure that your freelancing community doesn’t get overlooked? Why not join the Freelancers Union? This organisation provides a wealth of information and is a strong advocate of independent workers’ rights.
Most of the clients you work with will have a physical office so you could ask to hot desk at their premises. They will love having you on-site and you will get a top-up of office banter, brew rounds and communal treats that you’ve been missing.
Let’s face it, the freelance lifestyle wouldn’t survive with online communities. You can find support groups for nearly anything these days – mumpreneurs, digital nomads, industry specialists to name just a few. Facebook Groups like The Freelance Xchange will allow you to learn from others, share your experiences, exchange ideas and tips and learn from fellow professionals who are facing the same challenges that you are. The important thing to gain from groups like this is the knowledge that you are not alone.
The trick to all of this is realising that it’s ok to have different people in your life for different reasons. Creating your own community around you is an essential survival tactic.
You need a networking group to generate business and expand your client base. You need a friendly and like-minded freelance crew who you can vent to and relax with without worrying they’re going to steal your clients. You need a supportive online safe space where you can chat to your peers from across the world, drawing on their experiences and learning from each other.
Surrounding yourself with these groups will help to combat the loneliness that solopreneurs so often feel and stop this from getting in the way of your success.
Make sure you prioritise time for these groups in your busy freelance schedule, trust us – you won’t regret it.
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