How Solopreneurs Can Overcome Loneliness and Thrive Taking care of yourself will also provide the greatest chance that your business succeeds

By Paul Benson

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A key change in the working environment that has enabled greater choice has been the explosion of the freelance economy and the rise of the solopreneur. But for all the positives that this change brings, primarily around flexibility, there is at least one potential downside, loneliness.

Let's consider some ideas you might like to implement to combat the loneliness demon and ensure your freelancing delivers a holistic, fulfilled life.

Take Care of Yourself

While we all value quiet time to ourselves, it is undeniable that humans are inherently social creatures. Isolation is a key challenge when moving to self-employment. Layer this with an unpredictable income, and it's easy to see the potential for mental health distress.

Recognizing this potential and having plans in place to counteract it, is certainly wise. As a freelancer, you are the business. If you get sick or bogged down in a state of mental paralysis, so does your business. Just as you buy insurance to protect against financial disasters, making plans to protect your mental health as a solopreneur should be high on your priority list.

Taking care of yourself will also provide the greatest chance that your business succeeds. Clients are generally won, in part at least, on a gut feel that this is a person they'd like to work with. If you're tired or grumpy, and feeling low, prospective clients will pick up that vibe. We are all attracted to people with energy and positivity.

When developing your plan to overcome loneliness as a solopreneur, a good starting point is to think about your routine – or lack of it.

A key change when moving to a freelancing work life is that no longer do you need to be sitting at your desk at a particular time. You have full control over how you spend your day. You could stay in bed until midday and there's no-one to that's going to get antsy with you. Except if you do this, chances are you'll very quickly become miserable.

Routine is Good

Turns out, we humans like routine. But routine need not be the enemy of creativity or personal happiness. Think instead of routine as an enabler of your success.

Let's say your primary income generation activity is editing and copywriting. You might have found that you do your best writing first thing in the morning, while editing tends to be something you can do at any time of the day, provided you have regular breaks. As part of making your business a success, you must also gain work, and that requires networking and maintaining relationships with key people. You've found that Friday is a good day for this – people are often up for a bit a relaxed lunch or afternoon coffee on a Friday.

So now you've developed a loose routine for your working week, you can start to plan your strategy for combating potential loneliness.

If Friday is your business development, get out and meet people day, then we're all good on that day. Of course, some of your business development work will be done online, and perhaps this is your Friday morning activity. But ensure you do actually get out and see people face to face. Digital is great, but it's not a complete substitute for personal contact.

So how should you shape your Monday to Thursday? Perhaps Monday is a day to work from home - a fully focused, get work done kind of day. Hopefully, you're fresh from the weekend and good to go. Perhaps, you plan a yoga class at 5pm as a way to get out of the house and combine your physical and mental health needs.

For Tuesday to Thursday though, it's time to get out of the house. Working from home all the time is a key ingredient to loneliness. Separating our work and home lives can be a foundational step in overcoming isolation. When home is also your place of work, there is the potential to either work too much - to never know when to switch off, or conversely, to procrastinate in front of the fridge, and then get depressed at your lack of progress.

So perhaps your solopreneur routine is to work from a co-working space Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. There are a multitude of these spaces in capital cities, and they are popping up increasingly in rural communities too.

Go Co-working

Co-working spaces give you people to gain inspiration from, to discuss challenges, and to feel connected with. They cost money, sure, but any business has overheads. If your business can't afford three days at a co-working space, then you may need to look at your pricing or broader business strategy. Freelancing operations are pretty lean machines, but as the old cliché goes, sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

So with your routine figured out, you are a long way towards solving your potential loneliness problem. But what other steps can you take?

One might be to reflect on whether your use of social media is having a positive or negative effect on your well-being. For many freelancers, a personal brand is important as a way to gain business, and development of your personal brand typically occurs on social media. So switching off social media entirely is probably not sensible from a business standpoint.

But if the bulk of your social media usage is looking at people whose goal appears to be making you envious of the wonderful life that they lead, perhaps it's worth asking whether it's making a positive contribution to your happiness.

Paul Benson

Podcast producer and certified Financial Planner, Guidance Financial Services

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