• Jenny Stallard

Loneliness Awareness Week: Freelance Lonely Feels

I decided to touch upon this for two reasons. One, it really fits with the reason why I have started Freelance Feels, and secondly because whenever I spoke to people about the idea of FF when I was planning it, this ALWAYS came up.

Then, when I was working on the final copy for Freelance Feels, I found out it was Loneliness Awareness Week. What could be more pertinent?

Isolation. Loneliness. Exclusion. The working from home ideal – but, er, not so ideal after all. So I wanted to explore the emotions of it and what I do to try and combat this. It also ties in with networking – one way to get out of the house! So how can we combat this?

Feeling alone in a world of successful freelancers?

I wrote this post on a Monday afternoon. Half past two. After hanging out a load of washing and looking at Sunday night’s washing up. That’s for another post on procrastination, I’d say. But I was getting to the witching hour: That time when, in recent months, I’d found myself disheartened. Disillusioned with the freelance life. Emailed out for the day.

Scrolling through social media in the pretence that I was doing it to further my contacts and look for work opportunities when really all I was doing was looking at Bafta coverage.

I don’t want to play down social media. There is a lot to be said about the negative impacts, and how over-comparison can be a vehicle to severe mental health issues. But social media is often also the saviour of the self-employed human.

Putting aside the distraction it brings, social media is also an amazing way to connect with Freelance Friends when you’re stuck at home alone. Every way you turn this double-edged sword I actually see another edge. It’s so multi-faceted. Yes, I can reach out to other self-employed humans. But even then I find huge self-comparison. Why’s ‘her’ book doing well, and mine wasn’t a top ten bestseller? Happy publication day to him! Why not me?! They're award-winners! Why didn't I get one?!

I am guilty of the reverse, too – of posting on social when I’ve written something, of looking super busy when I do shout outs for case studies. I do instagram posts from events, talking about networking and showing that I’ve been out and about meeting people, when others will have been unable to come for myriad reasons ranging from budget to geography to emotional challenges.

However, I don’t think there’s any substitute for a phone call. And I am trying more often to pick up the phone and call. I spend all day on what’s app, and email, but every time there’s a work call, things get done. Ideas start to germinate. And one big overriding feeling: an ‘actual’ voice on the other end of the line makes my face and heart light up as I remember I am not actually totally alone.

I’ve felt alone a lot of my adult life. Living alone and being single plus freelancing can be a super lonely place to be, too. On a personal level, I’ve found that networking can help – also, having a freelance ‘friend’ to call can really make things easier. It’s hard to reach out when you’re feeling isolated and that’s often when Facebook groups can really work. Freelance Heroes is one I must mention, as it’s a really fab place to throw around ideas, and has a very friendly and welcoming approach.

Being lonely when you work from home can end up being a huge mental health problem. For me, the moments of loneliness led to this project, but it doesn’t mean I’ll stop feeling them. I try to mix in short term contracts and ‘shifts’ as we call them in the journalism industry, to balance things out. I try to remind myself to walk away from my desk and social media when I feel isolated. But it’s not always possible, or I don't always find the strength.

A What’s App group with fellow admins of a freelance facebook group is a godsend. That’s probably my biggest ‘loneliness beater’, for sure. When I need a reminder I’m not alone, one word to those ladies and things feel better.

Is there a cure for freelance loneliness? I’m afraid I don’t think so, but a combination of efforts can help you back on track. And one thing I remind myself is it’ll always be there, to some extent. When we choose to work from home, or even remotely, there’s an element of seclusion and isolation. It’s something we all need to work on, and I hope Freelance Feels helps in some way!

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