This article was produced by AND CO, the app that automates freelancers’ administrative tasks.
There are a ton of benefits to being a remote worker: You can choose to live anywhere in the world, reduce your cost of living by moving to a cheaper neighborhood, be your own boss, work the hours that are convenient to you or that work for you and your family’s schedule, and, if you hit all your deadlines and your cash flow is strong, you can give yourself a day off whenever you need it.
But there are some pitfalls that remote workers need to face as well—it can be lonely spending hour after hour in front of your laptop in your home office. According to The Atlantic, people who work from home can have trouble with work-life balance—when your bedroom is the place you rest, the place you work, and the place you spend the vast majority of your time, you can find yourself constantly in work mode, even if you’ve already “finished” working for the day. Things can be even more difficult for someone with a family, because the remote worker can also be expected to take care of the bulk of household tasks and child-rearing—even if they have piles of work to do for their job or their freelance business.
For many people, having a separate workspace and relaxation space has innumerable benefits. Even if you’re a freelancer who does not have an office to go to, you can consider coworking spaces as a viable alternative. You can also spend more time actually out meeting with people—networking, taking or teaching classes, and just generally become involved with your community. All of these things might not only help you feel less isolated as a remote worker, they also might help your business.
The Benefits of Coworking Spaces
Anyone who has been out of work for any period of time can attest to the type of “cabin fever” that can happen from having no place to go on a daily basis. Remote workers, even if they are extremely busy, can suffer similarly—human beings need human connection.
Coworking can offer many of the benefits of a traditional office, with fewer of the downfalls—you still get the human connection. You can still stand around the office cooler talking about the last great book you read or the latest political scandal, but the important distinction, according to the Harvard Business Review, is that the people you are socializing with in a coworking space are not your actual coworkers. There is no sense of competition, of messy office politics, of knowing that the person in the other office got that job you wanted instead of you. There is no need for a “work persona.”
When the guy to your left is a graphic designer, and you’re a web developer, and the woman to your right is a marketing genius, and you’re all freelancers, you can enjoy your time working beside one another without any stress. In fact, you might even find ways to work together—maybe you need that graphic designer to help with a logo and that marketing guru to edit some ad copy for a client’s website, and they might eventually need your help too. These are the types of connections to people that you never would make if you spend the majority of your time working from your couch—not only could it lead to more money in all of your pockets, but, perhaps more importantly, to friendships that will help keep you sane when you’re on the 11th straight hour of tweaking that big project you’re working on.
Then, afterward, when you head out to happy hour together, there is none of the stress that goes along with socializing with coworkers—you’re all free to be yourselves.
Networking For Freelancers
Networking can be one of the most beneficial ways to spend some of your time as a freelancer—as long as you make sure to do it correctly (that means not constantly being in sell, sell, sell mode, and actually talking to people and making connections with people like, you know, an actual human being). Very few people want to work with someone who has no sense of when or how to talk business.
When networking, the goal isn’t to land clients right then and right there—the goal, instead, is to get to know people. People who maybe own businesses, or who have a similar skill set that you do, or who know more about your field—you want to be able to both help these people with your knowledge and learn from their knowledge. The end goal might be to expand your business, but you don’t necessarily do that by beating someone over the head with information about what you offer as a freelancer—the time will come for that conversation when it arises naturally. Ask questions of the people you meet, and show genuine interest. That means actually being genuinely interested in other people, and why wouldn’t you be? There’s so much to learn from everyone around you!
The types of events you attend, or even organize, may only be tangentially related to your freelancing career. You can find meetups for freelancers online (Facebook events and Meetup are two places to look), but why not think outside the box and attend meetings of small business owners, or make your own networking event—invite a bunch of people out for dinner or drinks and have fun while occasionally talking shop. Example: I am both a freelance writer and musician. I honestly can’t keep track of how many gigs I’ve booked by actually hanging out with people who are involved in both of these fields. Many of these people are now true friends of mine, and booking a gig can sometimes be as simple as sending a text and asking when they have the availability/budget to hire me again. No pressure needed.
Both coworking spaces and networking are not the only ways to combat the loneliness that sometimes goes along with being a freelancer, but both can lead to unseen and unforeseeable opportunities. You really can’t know what you’re missing until you find what you’re missing, and you can’t find what you’re missing unless you let yourself take a look.