More Connected

It’s the flip side of working from home. At first, you relish the great joy of working in your pajamas. Soon you realize you could end up staying in those pajamas all day, feeling isolated and even depressed.

Freelancing can be a lonely business. In one survey of freelancers, nearly half admitted that working at home was lonely or isolating at times. While 54 percent found freelance life liberating, 29 percent missed being part of a team, and about one third of respondents reported missing office banter.

Solopreneurs lose the social benefits of a job: the water cooler chitchat, the weekend recaps, the lunch partners. Those may seem like trivial losses, but humans are social beings. We’re more creative when we can bounce ideas off others. Even if your line of work requires you to shut out the world and concentrate, you’re still more likely to ultimately achieve a higher level of creativity and innovation when you collaborate with others, if only informally. That’s why companies are so intentional about designing workspaces that invite people to connect and collaborate.

Loneliness may also make you more vulnerable to mental health issues like depression and addiction. Some studies suggest that loneliness can contribute to physical problems, too, such as higher blood pressure, troubled sleep and or a less-than-robust immune system.

As a solopreneur, you’ve already figured out that everything is up to you. You’re the CEO and the janitor, and everything in between. The same goes for the HR and social chair functions. You’ll need to create your own office social life, especially if your work is largely solitary – where you can easily go days without speaking to another human being or having any face-to-face interactions.

Here are some action steps you can take:

Bond with other freelancers. Find others who are looking to make connections, to collaborate or just to hang out. Have lunch with other people who work from home; use the time to socialize as well as to bounce ideas off each other. Finding fellow freelancers shouldn’t be too hard — by 2027, it’s estimated that half of America’s workers will be freelance, according to a survey commissioned by the Freelancers Union.

Get out of the house. Work at a coffeeshop or a café, if only once or twice a week. Consider renting a desk in a co-working space. Some co-working companies offer drop-in day passes for those who just have an occasional need.

Go to the gym. Exercise will lift your mood and keep your brain functioning, and you’ll see other people. Consider opting for social exercise classes like yoga, instead of a solitary half hour on the treadmill.

Volunteer or find a part-time job. Some freelancers in creative industries find that gigs involving work that’s very different from their primary professions – such as working as a barista, a tour guide or a movie usher, for example – actually help fuel creativity.

Network. Join the local chamber of commerce or find a tech group or meetup that relates to your work. You’ll make connections that are good for your business while fighting isolation. If you work remotely for an organization, propose ways to building connections, such as quarterly meetups or web conferences.

Start training. Take a class, attend a conference or sign up for a training program. You’ll hone your skills and you’ll meet people. Even an online class can involve chat groups or other ways of virtual socializing. Or: teach a class! If you’ve mastered a skill that others want to learn, why not?

Maintain non-work friendships. A solid personal social life serves as a healthy offset to the times when you must work alone. Schedule regular outings to see a movie or enjoy happy hour with friends. Get out, see a play, visit a museum or join a book club. Reconnect with a few old friends. You need the social time to stay sane and productive, and they’ll love to hear from you.

Take a few intentional steps now to help you fight isolation and boost your creativity too. Manage the social aspects of freelancing well, and you’ll also be happier, more productive and ultimately more successful.