Working alone and coping with loneliness
Loneliness is usually one of the least talked about elements of working alone. Here are some strategies for handling this common phenomenon.
I’ve been working as a soloist for sixteen years. Day in and day out I make my living from working on my own. Yes, I have customers, friends and family but most of my working day, I’m on my own. And that’s what often gets to a new soloist.
In an office environment you can bounce things off other people. If you’re feeling down, someone’s always there to pick you up, crack a joke and cheer you up.
But it’s different when there’s just you and the four walls in which you work.
You probably know other people who have started their own service or consultancy and you may have read articles and books about it, but it wasn’t until you decided to go solo that you realised there were quite a lot of things people hadn’t told you. And loneliness was an unmentionable.
This happened to my next-door neighbours. They saw me working from my home office and tried it themselves. She opened a secretarial service and he took a real estate course. Sadly, both of their solo attempts lasted less than six months. Neither of them thought about coping with the isolation factor.
"Isolation can be overwhelming or it can be the sanctuary from which you work. I have chosen the latter."
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Here are a few tips on how I overcome loneliness.
Every morning I walk in the fresh air. The area where I live is fairly rural so I may not see anyone except some horses and cows. During this walk I plan my day. I decide on what I want to achieve and how I will do it.
After my shower I dress for the office, smart casual is my theme. I do my hair and apply my make-up; just the same as I would if I was going to an office away from my home. It’s so easy to let these things slip.
Imagine going to the post office to collect your mail from the box dressed in an old tracksuit, hair a mess and no make-up and meeting a customer. It could happen.
Your confidence and professionalism would be shattered. The customer would have second thoughts about working with you, and even you would have second thoughts about working with you.
A friend said to me some time ago, you only have one chance to make a first impression and I have never forgotten it.
I play music that gives me inspiration while I’m writing.
About lunchtime I take a short break and sit on my chair on the verandah and enjoy a cup of tea. I might see my neighbour and wave. Thank goodness, there’s another human being.
I usually contact at least one customer or prospective customer every day. If I don’t, the longer I leave it, the harder it gets.
Isolation can be overwhelming or it can be the sanctuary from which you work. I have chosen the latter.
If you’re a “people” person, join the local Chamber of Commerce, Business Enterprise Centre, networking group or local action group, but don’t let the people you meet take over your life. Having company is one thing, getting caught up on committees and the like is another.
Being a soloist is the best, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.