Curse this modern work-lifestyle. At first it seems too good to be true, the freedom to work wherever you want, the autonomy to dictate your own hours, the liberty to create the work environment most likely to see you flourish as a professional. And yet, despite having this expanse of work place luxuries, you feel a cold, dark emptiness which gnaws at your subconscious. You’ve made the leap into the new workforce, the empowered remote professional, the cafe-dwelling urban nomad, but something just doesn’t quite feel right.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This is actually a big part of the problem, though you won’t understand it until you’ve taken the plunge and gone solo. The work life of a freelance professional (consultant, photographer, designer, developer – you name it) can be remarkably isolated. Beware, the grass is always greener, especially when you’re stuck in corporate-land and dreaming of a life outside of the 60 hour commute-toil-commute nightmare. Solo work can seem like the solution you’ve always longed for, but never found. The elusive silver bullet.
That’s what makes the reality of solo work so much more of a shock once you do take the plunge.
The truth of it is that solo work – startups, freelancing, passion projects – can be a lonely endeavour. There’s a reason why two-founder startups are more likely to succeed compared to solo-founder projects. It can be remarkably isolating to leave the corporate team and go it alone. Gone are the basic infrastructural luxuries of an office, the camaraderie of the team, the water-cooler politics, the pleasures of explaining why you’d do things differently if you had the power. Life as a solopreneur (yes, it’s an awkward term, I’ll admit) can unlock a whole range of beneficial life habits, opportunities and experiences – but it does come at a cost. The solo life is, in a word, lonely.
There are other pressures you’ll face, but let’s focus on this one issue for now – isolation. It’s the single biggest emotional challenge I’ve faced, working on my own. Being so disconnected from people on a daily basis can become a burden. Instead of spending 40+ hours a week with a team of peers, you’re suddenly your own best and worst company. You may find yourself second guessing thoughts and ideas. You may find yourself obsessing over unimportant details. You may even find yourself procrastinating on small jobs or chores that you don’t want to do. The solo life isn’t always laptops on beaches, it can get ugly.
It doesn’t have to be. Here are my top 3 tips for avoiding solopreneur cabin fever:
- Find a co-working space. Most cities in Australia have co-working spaces that are located near public transport hubs, come well furnished and are very affordable. This is the most efficient and effective way to avoid loneliness, as it brings you into contact with other people like you, helps you to find your solopreneur soul mates, gives you access to a support network & may even provide you the missing link in your entrepreneurial journey (be that users, co-founders, money, inspiration or – simply put – good advice). Being part of a community goes a very long way to maintaining your sanity. You don’t even need to become a full time member of co-working communities (especially useful if you live far away or can’t bear commuting anymore) you can join them and enjoy the benefits of these communities online. You’ll be invited to meetups, to events, receive resources and more. It’s such an investment, I could even stop here and my job would be nearly done.
- Join an interest group. Meetup groups are increasingly common, cover a wide array of interest areas and often don’t come at any cost to join. You could join an interest group for personal reasons, getting connected to a wider community of people who share similar goals. Alternatively you can join an interest group for professional reasons, finding new client or networking opportunities. I’ve also found interest groups are an excellent way to find incredibly talented people, all of whom I’d love to work with.
- Which brings us to our third tip: find people to collaborate. Common goals and passions can unearth collaboration opportunities & these are very valuable for undoing the harm of isolation. A common goal is very effective at bringing people of different backgrounds together & the future network benefits of great collaborative projects are endless. Surround yourself with smart people, find worthwhile projects to work on & you’ll soon realise you’ve kicked that isolation to the curb.
- One more tip for good measure: there are literally hundreds of resources for entrepreneur lifestyle success. Podcasts, blog posts, books and more. Don’t stop at this blog post, dig deeper. Find the voices you aspire to emulate, the people who’ve tackled the same challenges you face, or simply find someone whose message resonates with you – and hit subscribe. It’ll make a big difference.
Loneliness was the last thing I anticipated, when I went solo nearly two years ago. It hit hard. It took me a while to understand what I was going through & to find the right balance for myself. I found a co-working space (hat-tip to Fishburners in Sydney), joined a community of entrepreneurs, met some incredibly talented people & found projects to collaborate on. You will build momentum, so the sooner you take the first step, the better.
Just remember – you’re not alone. We’re right here with you.