One of the biggest potential changes in becoming self-employed is feeling isolated or lonely. Even if you're contracting or freelancing in a busy office, you can feel separate from the employees around you. And those running their own company can feel disconnected from any staff or sub-contractors as the people in charge.
Many people see the ability to work alone and choose a comfortable level of sociability as a big advantage of self-employment. If you prefer solitude, or have a more introverted character, working and socialising with other people can be exhausting. But it's important to find the right balance, as it's easy to be so caught up in your work that family, friends and other social commitments can get ignored.
The benefits of being social have been widely researched. A Harvard Medical School study showed that the best predictor of wellbeing in old age was satisfaction in social relationships many years before. And the health cost of loneliness and isolation has led to NHS England to invest in social prescriptions for a range of activities and services.
Alongside boosting your physical and mental health, social wellbeing can help your self-employed business or career. Not everyone wants to attend formal business meetings and constantly hunt for new clients, but alternatives do exist. These could include more social gatherings and meetups around your areas of interest (many social events are held around the UK for anyone interested in coding, creativity, community groups etc), or connecting and collaborating online.
Whether you want to connect with potential mentors or get advice, find a place to share any freelancing frustrations, or discover great examples of work for inspiration, there are communities available online, or in the real world, to let you socialise in the way that best fits your preferences and routine.
Not everyone has the time or energy to attend every local networking or social event. And while social media can certainly have downsides, it provides a great way to get a burst of social interaction, inspiration, collaboration or friendly conversation even if you're still at your desk.
We've written widely about social media from a business perspective, including in our Winning Work advice section, How the self-employed can use social media, and asking How social is your freelance business? But connecting with other freelancers and individuals through social media can offer a range of benefits to you, as well as your business.
In one example, a single tweet asking if any local freelancers wanted to meet up has turned into a 10+ year old community with hundreds of members, an annual STEM Festival attracting thousands of attendees, and not only led to a host of new friendships, but even a new relationship.
These can include finding suitable coaches and mentors, becoming part of the right online groups and communities, and getting to know collaborators from anywhere in the world.
Finding local events and groups
Articles on social wellbeing for freelancers and the self-employed:
- How freelance communities can change your world
- How can introverts cope with freelance networking events?
Webinars, Videos and Podcasts:
- Tackling isolation for women in self-employment (IPSE members only)