It’s Friday evening. You look up from the kitchen table, tired yet triumphant having successfully completed your latest assignment before the weekend buzzer. For a brief moment, the idea of heading out to celebrate shines brightly in front of your strained eyes, only to fade equally quickly as fatigue and failure to make plans in advance combine to ridicule the preposterous notion of a “social life.” You warm up some leftovers and head for an early night… again.
An exaggeration, perhaps, of life for those of us who offer a freelance writing service – or any freelance services, for that matter – but by no means an unfamiliar one.
As a freelancer it’s all too easy to get lost in thrall of project after project, with only yourself and your deadlines for company. All too soon you’ve become a recluse; a hermit who recoils at the very thought of human interaction.
Okay, that’s definitely hyperbole. But the challenge of freelancer isolation is a real one that can cause problems both personal and professional, if left to fester.
Avoid Freelance Isolation
The key is spotting the symptoms early, understanding when your dedication has turned into isolation. Some early warning signs include:
- Once close friends respond to your texts with “Who is this?!”
- Thanking the UPS guy is your idea of meaningful conversation.
- You recoil like Dracula when exposed to sunlight (if you’re British, as I am, disregard this as a natural reaction).
- Sting’s “Message In a Bottle” has become your personal anthem.
If this sounds all too familiar, it’s time to take to steps to remember what the real world looks like.
Getting Back Out Into the World
These are some practical steps you can take to redress the work-life balance:
- Force yourself to work away from home once or twice a week. A coworking space, coffee shop, or even a friend’s place are all viable alternatives where you can balance the need for both people and productivity.
- Make plans with friends well in advance. Book time for fun before you know what deadlines will be in effect, then schedule your workload around those plans, rather than the other way around.
- If work really must rule your schedule, sign up for a conference or day seminar. This way you’ll still be learning and developing new business, but will be forced to block out time for human contact.
- Allow yourself out for lunch and, whenever possible, never eat alone. You have to take time to refuel your body, so you might as well invite conversation that refuels the mind at the same time.
- Make a concerted effort to choose phone or video calls over email and text conversations. It’s amazing how much difference it makes to hear a voice or see a face (and relax, you’re still getting work done!)
Remember, your work is only as good as the mind that drives it. If you don’t take time to refresh and connect every week of two, all the extra hours in the world won’t stop your standard of work from slipping.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must take my own advice and see if any friends still remember me.
Steve B is a freelance writer and content marketing consultant who lives in Brooklyn, hails from England, and harbors a secret scribe’s crush on Paris. He views “freelance isolation” as the perfect cover for his mission to personally visit every coffee shop in the five boroughs.