The myth of the lonely freelancer
What’s wrong with people? Whenever I mention that I’m a freelancer, I invariably get asked if I’m lonely.
“No, I don’t really like people so it’s fine,” is often my glib response. But this hits on one of the biggest myths surrounding freelancers – that we’re all lonely.
Of course, I am not making light of the detrimental impact loneliness can have on an individual’s physical and mental health. If you are struggling, there are now plenty of ways to reach out and get help.
But what I am talking about is the innate assumption that freelancing equals loneliness. Not only is this assumption wrong, I’d also argue a little loneliness is a good thing for both your business and your wellbeing. Let me explain why.
Life is busy
Loneliness is a major issue for many people. Within the freelance community, 19% claim it is a top-three disadvantage of self-employment. However, this figure is significantly lower compared to regular employees, where separate research reveals more than half of UK workers admit to feeling lonely in the workplace.
But just because you work alone does not mean you are lonely. First, there’s all the stuff that goes on around your working life. For me, that’s two young children and a crazy dog who take up a huge chunk of my time, energy and patience. And that’s fine, I am grateful for everything they throw my way.
I am also grateful for the peace and quiet freelancing provides, where I can sit alone in my home, working away, without anyone disturbing me. In many ways, work provides a rest bite from the chaos of my home life.
I’m not alone, with mothers now making up one in seven of all self-employed people in the UK. Of course, the reasons behind the rise of freelance mums is difficult to pinpoint. Personally, freelancing lets me juggle my home and work commitments and pursue a worthwhile and challenging career, while sipping a warm mug of tea. While sitting down. Without watching Paw Patrol. Bliss.
Second, there’s all the stuff you don’t need to do if you regularly work from home. There’s no commute or office politics to navigate – both of which can be more exhausting than wrangling a stubborn six-year-old into his school shoes.
What’s more, by not working with the same set of people everyday, research reveals that you could develop more compassion for people outside of your usual circle of friends. Further studies also reveal that being surrounded by people kills your productivity, while those who seek solitude are more creative.
So, it looks like a little self-enforced loneliness isn’t necessarily a bad thing for either you or your work.
Some 97% of freelancers have worked from home in the last year. So, it can’t be all bad. But the flexibility of freelancing is also the perfect panacea to loneliness, which is something many people may not appreciate.
For starters, freelancing does not mean you must exclusively work from home. Thanks to ubiquitous wifi and the rise of the gig economy, there are now plenty of different places for a freelancer to work from. There are coworking spaces, coffee shops and libraries all geared up to welcome freelancers through their doors. You don’t have to work in isolation, if you don’t want to.
If you still feel alone in a crowd, there are also plenty of communities on both a local and national scale to help freelancers meet up and connect. Not to mention a vast range of other ways to combat loneliness as a freelancer.
But, if you need to knuckle down and concentrate on your work, you’re also free to lock yourself away in a room until you’ve met that deadline.
This is one of the key benefits of freelancing, you can dictate where you work from and when, as long as you get your work-life balance right.