Self employed loneliness
Putting connection on your to-do list
Loneliness might feel like part of the job description when you’re self-employed, but there are plenty of things you can do to build your work connections and feel more connected. Lizzy Dening, the author of the Out Of Office newsletter for self-employed women, gives us her top tips.
Know it's incredibly normal
When you’re self-employed you can be made to feel as if you’re a bit odd, or something of a rarity. Freelancers can be a bit of an afterthought in the workplace 9-5 culture. It’s the same for people who work nights, they can be made to feel ‘different’ which can be very isolating. But things have begun to change, especially since the pandemic and more people are working from home. People are acting as if they’re self-employed even when they’re not. For women, especially with childcare responsibilities, having more flexibility has been a good thing.
Remember the good things
On bad days being self-employed can feel very isolating. Unless you don’t deliver your work on time there’s no one to check in to see if you’re ok, or notice you crying at your desk! But try to remember what is good about being self-employed and how incredibly liberating it can be. Use flexibility as your superpower and structure the day to suit you. If you finish all your work by midday and want to take the dog for a walk or meet a friend for lunch, do it.
Go for a fake commute
It’s a really good idea to go for a walk at the beginning and end of your workday to make you feel less like a prisoner in your own home. I like to work in coffee shops when I can, it’s nice to see people other than my husband. Even if you can’t get to a coffee shop there are ambient sounds of coffee shops on Youtube. I used to listen to it during the pandemic when everything was closed, it can be a comforting backdrop to work to.
Socialise during your work day
What I’ve come to realise is that socialising and seeing people doesn’t have to be limited to evenings and weekends. I have a friend who’s employed but we make time to have a catch up on her lunch break. We both go out for a walk and spend an hour catching up on the phone. It feels like a quality hour where you really find out what’s going on in a friend’s life, rather than Whatsapping on the sofa in the evenings.
Have a coffee Zoom
I run an accountability membership when people come together for a monthly session. We chat over Zoom and it’s very friendly and informal. It is partly about setting intentions and having someone notice, but different people get different things out of it. For me it’s an invaluable space to talk about self-employment and offload and know that you’re normal. Also to celebrate the good things, otherwise your achievements can feel like they exist in a vacuum.
Be honest on social media
Social media can be a bit of a poisoned chalice, on a lonely day you can go on it and feel worse. But it can be really good if you use it in a targeted way. I once tweeted about how weird I was finding freelance journalism and asked if anyone was feeling the same way. A bunch of people replied and we set up a WhatsApp group. It could apply to any profession, not just journalism. There are limited chances to talk about self-employment and our friends might not understand it, so it’s about reaching out to people who do. Facebook is another good place.
Loneliness isn’t just for the self-employed
If you were in traditional employment before, remember how lonely that could be as well. Proximity to other people isn’t what feeling understood is about. If you’ve got an unsupportive boss or unfriendly colleagues that can feel a lot lonelier, so that’s something to bear in mind. The good thing about self-employment is that you get to choose your own colleagues.
To subscribe to Lizzy Denings' Out Of Office or join one of Lizzy’s accountability sessions, go to www.outofoffice.substack.com