After 3 years of working for myself I thought it was about time I spoke about something on here that I speak about to nearly every self-employed, one-(wo)man army I ever share coffee with. Loneliness. This isn't a downer post, but after three years of working alone in my home studio I feel as though I may be a pro on the topic.
I think anyone planning to work for themselves, by themselves, with themselves all day, everyday has to be comfortable with having themselves as their own company. When starting out as an introvert I thought that I would love being alone all day. And I do, but there is no doubt that even I find it lonely from time to time. I have a few ways to combat this, some may work for you and some may not. Some I will talk about below that didn't work for me and I know why. A common thread through all of these posts around working for yourself, is knowing yourself, how you work and how you don't.
The easiest advice. Don't work alone.
The easiest and first advice I would give is for someone to look into co-working spaces. Whether that is desk hire, co-working environments, looking for a partner and so on. A lot of freelancers and creatives take this route. You are able to collaborate with those around you, talk out issues and brainstorm with others (dependant on your environment). For me, this is something I knew wasn't for me from the start. Firstly the type of work I do most days require much more than a desk. I like to listen to loud music while I work and leave the chaotic crazy mess as it is at 5pm (if i'm lucky) until I have fresh eyes in the morning. I sometimes work chaotically and wouldn't feel free to do so if I thought others were watching. I also hate small talk.
Say the first piece of advice doesn't work for you, I have listed my advice that I practice myself below.
BE-FRIEND YOUR COURIERS
( make sure your parcels require signature )
There have been countless times where I have been stressed or in my own head about something and the yell of a courier has snapped me out of it. Not because my new X, Y or Z has arrived but because for a moment you have human contact again. Sounds a lot more tragic when I type it but it's not, I promise. Plus I also feel like the courier gets something out of it also. I am nicer than a dog barking.
You need to find little ways in your work day or week that means you have to go outside. My example would be my postal run. I can have this set up so that I don't have to leave the house and somedays I wish I did but the truth is I enjoy the drive. I go to one 3 suburbs over that is privately owned and I talk to Deb behind the counter about what movies we have seen and how her quilting is going. You could do this by always leaving your studio for lunch, taking a walk at the time you're least productive in the day, picking up supplies in store etc.
IF ALL ELSE FAIL - STORIES
Sometimes just making noise helps but I would advise not to watch them back. You will sound slightly crazy talking to yourself.
THINK ABOUT WHO YOU WORK WITH
You no longer have to hear about how many drinks [insert past co-worker] had on the weekend but I guarantee you will after a while miss the sound of those voices while you work. I thought about this for a while and realised I can work with anyone's voices or opinions aloud in my studio. This is a huge fucking advantage. Listen to podcasts, ted talks, documentaries, YouTube videos.
There are somedays where I just want white noise though, that's when I turn to Youtube accounts that vlog their day. Their ordinary days. It sounds selfish but it is like hearing about somebody's day without needing to reply. Sometimes when you don't know what song you want to play or feel like listening to something important it does the trick.
I also have tried listening to story-time podcasts like Serial & This is Actually Happening and as much as I loved them, I feel myself getting distracted and too involved while I work. I end the day deeper in thought about the stories and the people.
FIND YOUR PEOPLE
At nearly every place I visit during work, I found my people. I found Deb at the post office, I found Allison at Botanica, I found Jade at Flower Lovers, Jessy at Molten Store. These small businesses hold people who have big places in my heart and even if I am just dropping in for 5 minutes or urgently picking up salad (let's be honest - treats) for lunch they brighten my day. Find your local people.
I love to hear your thoughts below in the comments on these posts.
Give me your advice, what works for you, what doesn't? Is anyone else up late in their studio feeling lonely?
Come on. I can't be the only one.