18 years. That’s how long I’ve been a freelancer. On the surface, the journo lifestyle might appear glitzy and exciting but the reality is it is also flippin’ stressful.
Waiting months on end to get paid *and forever chasing invoices* is no fun when you’re the only one paying the mortgage and can only vent at four walls and a house bunny (albeit a cute one).
Plus, working solo behind a desk for weeks on end can leave you feeling somewhat disconnected from the outside world. So it came as no surprise when I saw the findings of a poll of 1,000 freelancers published by Epson this week.
Most of the respondents (91%) worked from home at least some of the time and almost half (48%) felt lonely.
Although 54% found this lifestyle liberating, 46% confessed to feeling ‘isolated’ and a quarter said they had experienced frequent periods of depression.
Worryingly, around a fifth of respondents claimed that the loneliness of remote working had caused them to have suicidal thoughts.
The findings were released by the printer brand to mark the launch of its Epson EcoTank Pop-Up, a creative space in London’s Covent Garden that is hosting free talks, interactive workshops and panel sessions from work, parenting and lifestyle experts throughout September and October. The venue is also giving freelancers, bloggers and other self-employed people the chance to work and access free Wi-Fi, drinks and printing.
According to Mind, feeling lonely isn’t a mental health problem but it can have a negative impact on your mental health.
“People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons: they simply don’t see or talk to anyone very often or even though they are surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood or cared for,” it states. “Deciding which is the case for you may help you to find a way of feeling better. It can be helpful to think of feeling lonely like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your body you need food, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.”
The charity, which has lots of useful advice on how to combat loneliness here, also reiterates that being alone is not the same as being lonely and there is nothing wrong with being on your own if you are comfortable with it.
I guess I’m lucky in that I’m mostly quite content in my own company (must be the Scorpio in me). Even so, I’d rather not spend 60 hours a week holed up in my study so below I’ve listed some of the tips that help me feel less isolated. I hope they help.
Are you a freelancer? Do you work from home regularly? Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
MIX UP YOUR FREELANCE WORK
The prospect of spending an entire week working from home is not one that fills me with glee especially as I’m a bit of a workaholic. If I’m not careful I can end up stuck upstairs for 14 hours straight (as I put the hours in on the blog around the day job) and by the end of the week, I can feel utterly drained. Your home should be a place of rest and relaxation, not something you want to escape from. For this reason, I schedule in PR meetings, news shifts, media training/consultancy work and celebrity interviews around my features to ensure I do not have days on end on my lonesome. As they say, variety is the spice of life. (To find out how to work with me click here )
LEAVE THE HOUSE FIRST THING
Even if it’s just for five minutes. I don’t know about you but I can procrastinate with the best of them. However, I’ve found that rising an hour earlier and establishing an early non-work morning routine – either a quick swim or nipping to the shops to buy the papers – puts me in a positive mindset and gives me the social interaction I might not encounter for the rest of the day. I’m then raring to go by 9am and strangely focused. I also check on an immobile elderly neighbour to see if she needs anything. As well as helping others, good deeds are a great way to lift your spirits.
JOIN INDUSTRY GROUPS OR FREELANCE FORUMS FOR ADVICE
There are plenty of social media support forums for freelancers which can be a Godsend if you feel isolated or unsupported. As a freelance journalist, much of your life can be spent tackling unfair payment practices or challenging companies that try to grab your copyright. Then there are the IT issues (awful for a technophobe like me), tax returns, the list goes on. However, supportive groups can help you find answers to questions quickly and give you some much-needed solidarity especially when others have experienced similar difficulties. (I’ve also found this to be the case with chronic illness groups, too)Just don’t get drawn into negative, time-wasting debates which can raise your stress levels. Click here for 20 stress-busting tips.
HAVE A FRIEND ON THE END OF A PHONE OR ON WHATSAPP
My go-to work buddy who has since become a good friend is Rachel Spencer, a fellow hack who has been in the industry for the same length of time. We didn’t know each other before last year when a chance job brought us together and we ended up bonding as it emerged we were both launching blogs at the same time – if you’re a dog fan check hers out here . We support each other through thick or thin. I mentioned that I was penning this post and she kindly gave me the following tip…
GO FOR A WALK (WITH A DOG IF YOU HAVE ONE)
Loneliness can be difficult when you’re a freelancer and you can end up having no contact with the outside world. I got a dog in 2009. I was single at the time and working from home a lot but Daisy changed my life. I’d take her for walks in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening. It was great. I’d get chatting to other dog walkers or run into people I knew and would feel liberated. I used to think of stories when I was out, write them in my head and bash them out as soon as I got home. The walks broke up my day and made me far more productive. If you’re not a dog owner you can go on Borrow My Doggy and find out how to spend time with one in your lunch break. Thanks Rachel!