Home based business: The myth of the lonely freelancer

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Working from home means for most of us not having to go to a regular office anymore. We can work from our desk, anywhere in the house we feel comfortable, but this can sometimes turn into a ‘lone wolf’ situation.

Many of the people who are considering freelancing or have little experience with it fear or already complain about the fact working from home keeps them away from their peers and they get bored/lonely.

While this can clearly be true in some cases, here are some ideas about it and how to prevent this from happening:

1. Remember: you have FULL FREEDOM to work when and where you like

When going to a regular job, you’re also working together with people. Some of us hated the idea, others can’t live without the interactions. Why would you feel forced to stay at home all day long, when you are the only one to set a schedule for your work? I felt more limited when I had to be from this hour to this one at a certain location in the city, whether I liked it or not. Now, that I work from home and am the master of my own schedule, I can work in any conditions I feel like.

lonely-freelancer

So, what’s stopping you from taking a long walk each day? What’s stopping you from working from a cafe today, just because you feel like it? What’s stopping you from working next to others in various ‘co-op hubs’? You set the rules of the game, make it so that you’re happy.

2. BE PRODUCTIVE

The biggest achievement is not to work 14 hours/day. If you wanted this, you could have become a doctor. Don’t aim to work ‘as much time as possible’ each day, because this doesn’t mean anything but wasted time. Maybe you won’t get to work 4 hours/week, but you can clearly cut down your working hours to something more reasonable.

Right now, my regular working regimen is around 5-6 hours/day. I work for a big client most of this time, then I fill other hours with blog posting/reading (if I still want to be online). Otherwise, I just read a book or go outside. There are days when I don’t work at all, there are days when I put 10 hours, just because I really feel like doing it.

The biggest quest is to be productive and get more stuff done. If you can get all the things done in 2 hours/day, why drag your ‘tail’ for 8? If you’re meeting deadlines with few working hours, just because you’re doing the job fast, why bother waste more time just to ‘punch’ a number? You’re not at the office anymore, no one is paying you to pretend you’re working for 8 hours/day.

So, change your mindset. A successful and fulfilled freelancer is not working 14 hours straight. He or she works when he/she NEEDS to work and enjoys life the rest of the day.

3. Schedule your work the right way

If you’re a bit of a planner, you can clearly know your deadlines days/weeks ahead. Unless you have to work daily with a certain client (in which case you have to put in the hours, you’re not being paid to have fun), you can just properly schedule your work around these deadlines. Based on the main deadlines, break down your projects into smaller ‘chunks’ and schedule them on stages, making sure you’re working every few days to meet the deadline.

If you have to finish a website design (am talking about my case) in 4 weeks, break down the entire project and schedule work in between. Today I might take 2 hours to do something, tomorrow 1 hour and in 5 days another small stage. By the time my deadline is approaching I’ve already finished most of my work, I never had a day when I could barely breathe from all the work and the results are not sloppy, since I had enough time to really manage my tasks.

Instead of letting each day ‘hit’ you with emergencies and tasks that need to be done right away, schedule your work and you can take a day off (or half), every time you feel like it.

4. Don’t be a recluse

You are lonely if you choose to be. If you already have the time/space decisions at your fingertips, there are absolutely no reasons to be alone and trapped in your home. Go out with your friends, take a walk, choose a nice hobby. I’ve never had so much time in my life and still am productive, earn well and the business is going strong. If I choose to stay at home for a day (or two) it’s just because I don’t want to go out (usually it’s all about the weather). If it’s sunny and nice, I’ll be off the door before you can say ‘dojo’.

Don’t think that freelancing is keeping your from seeing your friends. YOU are keeping yourself from seeing them. Your work should not come in between, if you schedule it right and know how to be productive. Ideally, working from home should mean more time for your loved ones and not having to work 14 hours/day. If it’s the case, you need to charge better fees and organize your workflow better.

5. Learn how to reap the benefits and be more flexible

If you come from a regular job, ditching the 9 to 5 mentality is not really easy. As a small home based business owner you are NOT working a ‘regular’ job anymore. Sure, you can borrow many ideas and ‘ways’ from back when you had an office day (no one said corporate work is worthless or bad to provide you with some inspiration), but do learn to be more flexible. You can now decide how much to work, when to work, which are your priorities, what prices to set etc.

It’s not easy for someone who’s worked for a boss all their lives to become their own boss, but it’s not impossible. Freelancing gives you complete freedom. You can succeed or fail, you can work 14 hours a day or 4, you can take 3-4 days off just because you want to etc.

See for yourself what works better and what is not OK for you. Make adjustments and re-asses in few weeks. You’ll get to have your own schedule, understand when you’re more productive, find ways to entertain yourself and still get the job done.

Freelancing IS NOT a loners’ job. If you feel secluded, you’re doing it wrong. If you miss your friends, call them and schedule meetings. Work from a cafe or a rented space for a while. Really be there for your family. Take a new hobby. There’s absolutely no reason for you to work alone and unhappy. If you’re doing it right, this new ‘way’ will allow you to be sociable enough (even more than before), earn a very good living and understand the ‘free’ in freelancing.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Ramona, I wouldn’t call myself a “freelancer,” rather a writer and a speaker and I’m working on building my business. Since Nov. 2012 I haven’t had to go in to an office to work (with the exception of a contract job I did over the Summer).

    I never feel like I have time to spare in part because the learning curve is so high for me right now…Wordpress, email campaigns, social media outpost upkeep, how to write an effective post, how to monetize, etc.

    As for being lonely, I never feel that way but I do feel the need for collaboration and in-person feedback. For that reason I’ve started to seek out like-minded people via Meet Ups. I recently found one I really like; a small group more focused on supporting each other in live and business than simply networking.

    Great post, thanks! Ree

    • Meetups are a great way to find new people and also get a lot of ideas and feedback. And it clearly makes working from home more interesting and rewarding.

  2. I am just glad that when I decided to go freelancing and work home-based, I already have had my share of social life having worked in a company outside home in the past. Also, with the kids with me at home, I am thankful I won’t get to experience being bored and lonely while I type away.

  3. In my case, I do feel a bit lonely. A couple of years after going the self employed route, I had to get back to my hometown, which was pretty empty – about 90% of my friends are gone to bigger cities and rarely visit. Not only that it’s difficult to make new friends when you’re almost 30, but working from home does have some drawbacks… plus the fact that none of my actual friends know anything about blogging, so there’s no way I can chat with them on the matter. I did try to find fellow bloggers and have meeting or something, but it’s a small city and I failed. So in my case, the myth of the lonely freelancer is true. But I’d still not give it for anything in the world!

  4. My goal is to work from home someday, as a part time income. My husband does work from home and I am pretty jealous especially this time of year when it is cold out and I have to go out into the cold world and he stays warm at home with his morning coffee. But I see firsthand from him that working this way requires a lot of discipline to stay focused.

    • Working from home is mostly rewarding when it’s cold/nasty outside and you don’t have to get out 🙂

      Maybe in time you’ll find something to do yourself and start your own home based business. Never say never …

  5. My sister works from home full time. She’s constantly on the phone so she doesn’t really have the advantage of working from anywhere because she needs to be online and in a quiet place to have so many calls. But she does benefit from not having any commute time. It’d be nice to work from home and not have any time restricted deliverables, but that would require a lot of self motivation to set and meet your own goals.

  6. I am not really a sociable person offline anyway so I enjoy the fact that I work in my own little bubble to be honest. I can see why others could see it as a lonely job but I enjoy the peace and don’t find it lonely either.

    • I’m pretty outgoing usually, but also LOVE the fact that, if I have to work, there’s no one to buzz me. I think we are as lonely as we allow us to be 😉

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