Five ways to beat the dreaded freelance isolation zone

Posted on: February 9th, 2014

Welcome to guest writer, Marina Gask.

When I tell people I’m a freelance journalist and press consultant their response is either ‘You lucky thing, is it brilliant being your own boss?’ or “Don’t you find it a bit – well – lonely?”. To be honest, it’s yes to both.

The freedom to choose your own projects and not have to answer to anybody is a joy indeed. But there are times when you can feel isolated and find yourself climbing the walls. Here are a few ways to make sure you enjoy the freedom without wasting your day pining for human company and talking to the TV.

1. Know yourself
If you’ve previously spent years working in a busy office and thriving on human interaction, you’ll need to make sure you build some into your day. Take your laptop to the nearest friendly coffee bar and spend the morning there, or arrange to meet a friend for lunch, or schedule something fun for after a work meeting, or join local networking groups like Meetup (www.meetup.com) to find out about gatherings of likeminded people. Or have a work-free day every week to go out and do something fun – all day. Just because you can.

2. Create a working day
Tempting as it may be to stay in your pyjamas and work weird hours just because no-one’s going to see you, this doesn’t promote a positive mental attitude and can lead to an inevitable drift towards sofa and daytime TV. Structure your day as if you were working in an office. Yes that means getting dressed, making yourself a coffee or tea before you start, sitting down at your desk at the same time every day and taking breaks as you would at work. When you finish work close your computer and move away from it, preferably into a different room. Keep work and home life as separate as you can and don’t let the two spill into each other any more than necessary.

3. Blow away the cobwebs
It’s taken me almost all of the nine years I’ve been freelance to discover – truly discover – just how important fresh air is to my wellbeing. Working on my own can see me sitting at my computer for interminably long stretches of time without noticing how long I’ve been there, and this can wreak havoc on my back, my energy levels and my brain. I literally become fuzzy headed from tunnel vision and lack of air. My solution is long bike rides along a stretch of river I’m lucky enough to live near – gulping a few lungfuls of fresh air works wonders. So get some exercise in every day. It doesn’t have to be the gym.

4. Use the phone
We’re all so used to communicating by email, social media and text that it’s not uncommon to go whole days without uttering a word. This is not healthy. The danger is that we can become very inward and lost in our own little world if we don’t chat. Or telling the Amazon delivery man our life story when he has the temerity to ring on the doorbell. So call a fellow freelancer, or ring around a few of your favourite clients to see if there’s any work going, or just ring your mum or sister or friend for a natter. Move into a different room so you give your brain a proper break from the work you’re in the middle of.

5. Get some company
Hate being on your own? Get a dog. Seriously, if you work at home you have one less excuse for adopting a canine baby – they won’t be home alone all day. Also having a dog forces you out the front door to get that much needed air and exercise. And as for companionship – well who else is going to care about your looming deadlines and faulty internet than a loyal pooch? OK, so maybe a dog doesn’t fit your lifestyle or budget – in which case, get a cat or two.

Marina Gask is a freelance press consultant, journalist, copywriter and blog coach. For more information go to www.marinagask.com, contact her at marina.gask@sky.com or follow her on Twitter @MarinaGaskMedia.

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