Freelancing’s Double-Edged Sword: Independence and Isolation

yellow irisWe work from our home offices. We get to pick and choose which jobs we take and which ones we turn down. We can work in our PJs, if we want (but we don’t), and we can throw in a load of laundry whenever we feel like it. Heck, we can smell the flowers whenever we feel like it, right? Ah, the independence of freelancing.

Yes, a certain allure is associated with being a freelance writer, but here’s the thing. We work ALONE in our offices, without the benefit of camaraderie from coworkers. There’s no birthday cake for the guy in the next cubicle, no baby shower for the woman working across the hall. And no colleague in the corner office to brainstorm with when we’re having trouble interpreting a CSR. And when the computer takes on a mind of its own, we can’t just pick up the phone and call IT. That’s the flip side of freelancing.

How do we handle the isolation? Here are some tips:

• Plan monthly lunches with other freelances. This gets you away from the office and gives you the chance to compare notes with colleagues in the same situation. And keep the receipt. Lunch with your colleagues is a tax-deductible expense if you’re a freelance!

• Join a local business association and attend meetings. Consider the local Chamber of Commerce or another business-networking group. You’ll have the opportunity to meet other local business people and network with businesses that might need your services.

• Schedule breaks during your work day. Staring at the computer for hours on end can make you feel even more isolated. Leave the office, go to the gym, walk around the block, say hello to your neighbor, do anything that gives you a change of scenery, no matter how brief.

• Don’t be afraid to call other freelances when you need another perspective or some business advice. How do you find these colleagues? By leveraging your contacts through the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) as well as other professional societies. Both of us have colleagues we call now and then to complain or bounce off ideas.

• Teach a class for fun. We find that doing something completely different from medical communication can be exciting, as long as we don’t overcommit. What are you good at? Cyndy teaches quilting classes; Brian judges educational events for the New Jersey FFA. We find the balance refreshing.

Photo credit: Cyndy Kryder