The Freelance Workplace: Solitude or Isolation

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A couple of weeks ago, I did a post about creating that perfect home office. This is the place where the genius happens. It’s where you earn your paycheck. It’s where you can escape from the kids and get some real work done.

Working from home is generally very productive. There are few of the distractions commonly found in the workplace. In fact, Udemy published a Workplace Distraction Report in which they reveal that:

  • 80% of workers feel chatty coworkers are a distraction
  • 70% feel office noise is a distraction
  • 61% feel device and technology changes in the workplace are a distraction

At home, there are no coworkers to distract you. You won’t hear them gossiping by the water cooler. No one is going to stop by your office and bend your ear about a new idea or an annoying client. Breaks and lunch can be taken when desired. And the power to turn off distractions and get a lot accomplished is all yours.

But at what point does this workplace solitude start to feel like isolation?

There is no denying the fact that working as a freelancer from a home office means working alone. All. The. Time. And I would wager to guess even the most introverted of us feels isolated from time to time.

When there are no work colleagues to talk to day in and day out. When we never actually SEE our clients face-to-face. When we only ever really see and talk to our family, or worse, live alone, what do we do?

I am a single mother of two teenagers. I have spent nearly 12 years freelancing from my home office. I get feeling isolated. I don’t even have another adult in the house to talk to!

Most of the time, I get along just fine, but I have my moments. We all do. That’s when a change of scenery is called for. And that’s when one of many other potential places can become your office for the day. Here are some options:

Porch/Deck

I know this might not be an option for everyone. But if there is a front porch, a back deck, or even an apartment balcony accessible, this is a great way to get a change of scenery, while still enjoying all the comforts and amenities of the home office.

Getting outside at your own home provides fresh air while working. It’s peaceful and can provide more inspiration than the four walls of the indoor office. My porch is my summer office.

Local Library

The local library is a fabulous place to work as a freelancer. And for so many reasons, including:

  • Free internet
  • Loads of quiet areas
  • Desks
  • Outlets
  • Plenty of research material
  • There is usually a good coffee shop nearby (or bring lunch from home)

I have taken advantage of working at the library and it is ideal. It makes for a great change of scenery and doesn’t cost you a dime.

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This is one of my favorite options. But I just love coffee shops, anyway. I love the atmosphere, the quiet bustle, the music (most of the time), and the baristas. Coffee shops offer the following:

  • Free internet (some local establishments don’t offer this, but this can make it easier to work without distractions when you don’t need internet)
  • Comfortable seating
  • Good food and drinks
  • The opportunity to chat with people (less isolating)
  • The opportunity to network with other professionals, particularly if you frequent the shop on a regular schedule

Of course, it is easy to spend money when at a coffee shop, but many freelancers can use this as a work expense when filing taxes.

Local University/College

I have not used my local university as a place to work, but I know a lot of people do. A university has a great atmosphere in which to work. Plus, it offers:

  • Free internet
  • A wide range of choices when it comes to location—library, student union, and study cubicles everywhere!
  • Places to get food and beverages if desired
  • The opportunity to chat with people

A local university definitely has a buzz and a unique atmosphere. It’s a great work environment for those who feel comfortable working in an educational setting.

Local Park

This is similar to getting outside on a porch or deck at home. But it offers an even greater change of scenery. Getting outside is so soothing. It’s good for the soul, for creativity, and for productivity.

There are plenty of park benches and picnic tables available. Plus, in many municipalities there is now free Wi-Fi in the downtown core. This is the case where I live, and we aren’t a huge city. There is even a charging station at our downtown park.

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A co-working space is a great option. I cannot say I have firsthand experience because the city in which I live is too small to have one of these gems. However, anyone who wants office space can rent that space at a co-working facility. They can rent a desk in an open-office concept or a private office, full-time or part-time.

Co-working spaces also tend to offer a number of amenities. Depending on the facility, these might include:

  • Some hardware, such as printers and photocopiers
  • Office supplies
  • Meeting rooms
  • Snacks and beverages
  • Fitness facilities
  • Networking events
  • Referral service
  • Reception staff

In larger cities, co-working spaces can be pretty swanky. While there is a rental fee associated with them, they offer the freelancer many opportunities, including the opportunity to network with other professionals. Those in a co-working environment can refer their clients to each other and collaborate on projects.

The World!

Yes, the whole world can be a freelancer’s office.

Think about it. A freelancer only needs a laptop and Wi-Fi. And free Wi-Fi can be found in airports, hotels, and resorts around the world. Having the freedom to travel while working, allows freelancers to:

  • Go on a working vacation
  • Visit family without taking time off work
  • Travel extensively while working
  • Become a digital nomad

This last one is really catching on. Many freelancers will literally live in a city for a few months or longer and then move on to a new city. They might spend a year in London and then move to Paris for six months before heading to Tokyo for a couple of years. There is no limit.

I have taken working vacations and been able to travel through California, visit family for an extended period of time, and even just get away for the day. I love the small towns in my area. It’s great to escape from time to time and spend my day in a different town, sipping a chai latte in their local coffee shop, and enjoying new scenery by the lake.

Now, aside from working in different locations, there are a few other ways to alleviate the feeling of isolation when you’re a freelancer. These include:

Get Outside

Weather-permitting, get outside, even if it’s just in the yard. Chat with the neighbors when you see them. Go for a walk to your local park. See the light of day other than what little streams through the office window. And get some fresh air.

Take a Trip

If it is affordable and logistically possible, do it. Make it a working vacation of sorts, even if it’s only for a night or two in a nearby town. I realize this isn’t necessarily possible if there are family or other commitments. But it might work for some people.

Other Freelancers

Make an effort to find other freelancers nearby. Perhaps all of you can get together and form a local freelance group. After all, writers have local writing groups. Meeting regularly and setting up times and places to work together can alleviate that sense of isolation.

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Many cities offer business networking opportunities. These are groups that meet regularly, exchange business cards, collaborate on projects, and make referrals. This is a great way to meet other professionals and get out of the office.

Online Networking

While this isn’t as ideal as face-to-face networking, it is easy to meet other professionals online. Use forums and professional networking sites to find and chat with other freelancers and professionals.

Get a Job

I know this sounds funny, but it can be effective. Get a part-time job aside from the full-time freelancing. This will offer a change of pace, the chance to meet new people, and relief from always working alone.

I used to work as the lunch duty supervisor at my daughters’ elementary school. An hour a day away from my desk, interacting with teachers, staff, and kids made for a nice break in my day. Now, my kids are in high school and I took a part-time job at our local bookstore. I love it! I love the people I work with. I love chatting with customers. Plus, it’s – well – a bookstore!

While it can be tough to work from home all the time, there are options. I know it is harder when home is in a rural location. I’ve done that, too. But there are ways to lessen that feeling of isolation and interact with others.

And perhaps freelancing from a home office isn’t for everyone. I think there are ways most of us can make it work. But in the end we each have to make the decision that is best for us.

What ways have you managed to alleviate that feeling of isolation as a freelancer? We’d love to hear about it, so chime in in the comments section!

Cheers, Karen

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