How can freelancers tackle loneliness?

Freelancing and wellbeing are terms not often paired. But, with increasing levels of isolation amongst freelancers – it’s time to talk about it. Michelle Pratt, founder of Dive Deeper Development, offers five ways to wellbeing. And how can freelancers tackle loneliness

Michelle accepted voluntary redundancy in order to become self-employed, and advises freelancers on why they may need to focus on their wellbeing more than employees.

“When you are employed, a lot of things are given to you,” she explains, “someone tells you how many hours to work, when to work, the environment you work in, how much you are actually worth in pounds and pence. 

“When you become self-employed, all of that comes onto your shoulders.”

As challenging as starting out is, Michelle says that being self-employed allows you the freedom to start again and ask, “How do I like to work?”. Many of us wouldn’t know how to answer that question – haven’t we all just accepted that the working day is nine-to-five?

For freelancers and the self-employed, there can be a lot more flexibility with deciding how and when to work. In order to figure out the best way for you, Michelle suggests five ways to wellbeing as a freelancer.

The five ways to wellbeing as a freelancer

1. Understand yourself

Michelle encourages freelancers to discover the environment they work best in.

“I have an extroversion preference, so I need people to work with,” Michelle says. “If I don’t have that, I tend to become quite withdrawn and very isolated very quickly.” Human contact every day is important for everyone, even introverts, she explains.

This doesn’t just mean co-working, although this can be a fantastic way to meet fellow freelancers. “It could just be by working round a friend’s house or going to a coffee shop where people know your name”, Michelle explains.

“When you are employed, you don’t need to do that, but when you are self-employed you have to actively seek it”.

There are practical ways to tackle isolation too, Michelle says: “If you are feeling stuck in a rut, or feeling isolated, physically moving your body can really energise you and give you a different perspective on things.

“I go out for half an hour every day and just walk. Whether that’s just lost in my own thoughts, or it’s just to get a bit of exercise, that is something I do on a regular basis.”

It's a bit like having colleagues - we even go for Christmas dinner together

2. Choose the right people around you

Freelancing presents unique challenges, and it can be helpful to meet with others who share similar experiences to you. Going to events aimed at freelancers is a great way to find a network, if you’re wondering how can freelancers tackle loneliness.

“Not every event is going to suit every crowd,” Michelle explains, “but your crowd is out there – it might just take a little trial and error to find that crowd.”

There are some fantastic support networks for freelancers around. Every Friday, Michelle attends Katy Carlisle’s pop-up co-working group, Freelance Folk.

“We take our laptops and work from the same place. It’s a bit like having colleagues – we even go for Christmas dinner together.”

Want to find your crowd? Check out Freelance Corner’s upcoming events here.

3. Focus on your strengths

Michelle recommends The Power of When, a book by Michael Breus which helps determine when you have your best energy in the day. This can help you discover when to do your focused work, when you can be more creative, and even when to eat lunch.

A benefit of being self-employed is being able to decide when to work. This may mean that you work better later in the day, or that you do all your creative tasks first thing in the morning.

Curious? Take The Power of When Quiz here.

4. Manage distractions

“Managing distractions is about the fact that we can’t really multitask,” Michelle tells me. According to her, when we think we are multitasking, what we are really doing is switching between tasks too quickly, which creates a real drain on our ability to focus.

Michelle suggests switching off notifications on your phone, turning off all sounds and alerts, and even taking the battery out of your doorbell to allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time.

5. Measure small successes

“It takes a lot of work to develop your own business and you often don’t get the pay-off for your efforts until far off into the future,” explains Michelle, so celebrating small victories can be very motivating.

It is important to work out what is best for you as an individual so it can allow you to get the best out of yourself and your business. This helps you to look after your wellbeing and remain productive, and gives you some answers for how can freelancers tackle loneliness.

Summarising freelancing, Michelle says: “Everything is for you at the end of the day and that is very motivating.”

Michelle spoke at the Freelancing: The way to wellbeing event in Manchester on 15 May 2019, hosted by IPSE.