The Lonely World of Freelancing

Is Freelancing Lonely?

Are freelancers lonely? This question caught me off guard. When doing a Google search for new blog ideas, as you do, this question popped up and it got me thinking. Like many people out there, I turned to freelancing because of mental health issues. I wanted my happiness at work to be solely dependent upon myself, and not my co-workers and managers. That loosely translates to, I don’t like being told what to do! Everything worked out better than I could have ever imagined, and here I am, three years after leaving teaching, doing something I love. Not to sound too soppy, but I think this is what I was always meant to be doing. I took a circuitous route, but I got there in the end.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the definition of ‘freelancer’. I understand that some people reading this blog might be unfamiliar with the term, or have certain misconceptions. That’s fine, all experience levels are welcome here. A freelancer is somebody who works on a self-employed basis. ‘Freelancers lend their skills and talents to a number of clients on a flexible basis. They aren’t employed by a company or committed to a single customer – freelancers have the freedom to choose the projects they’d like to work on and the clients they’d like to work for. They usually work from home, although some rent studio or office space.’[1]

Why Do People Turn to Freelancing?

There is a common misconception that people turn to freelancing because it is an easier option than traditional employment. And, in some ways, it is. For example, I no longer have to deal with office drama, unless you count my dog Buster being a pain in the arse. There’s also the fact that you don’t have management to answer to, you can make your own hours, and for most people, you can do something that you love. For me, working from the comfort of my own home is a gift I don’t take for granted. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon this career when I did, as it has had untold benefits upon my life and my mental health.

This page on Quora shows a very interesting side to why people choose to freelance. If you’re not into reading discussion pages, I’ll provide the Cliff Notes down below. Quora: Why Do People Become Freelancers?

  • The chance to be your own boss.
  • To work on projects you are passionate about.
  • Work/life balance.
  • Avoiding office politics.
  • More money, and no unpaid overtime.
  • And many variations of the above.

Something I did notice, is that nobody stated mental health on that forum. Not one person said that mental health was a contributing factor to them turning to freelancing.  I’m not sure whether my own experience is clouding my judgement here. That would certainly be possible. However, when I’ve spoken to people one on one, many have said that their mental health was a factor in turning to freelancing. This is something I plan to look into further, but let’s put this tangent aside and get back to the task at hand.

Are Freelancers Lonely?

I asked the question in a couple of groups on LinkedIn, which is by no means empirical research, of course, but it gave a little insight into the topic. The poll results were: 54% stated that freelancing is lonely, and 46% disagreed. This isn’t shockingly far away from other (better) research into the topic. I also received some incredibly thoughtful responses in the comment section. Here are a few of them:

“It can be if you’re used to office environments and work colleagues. However, being a freelancer means that you give yourself every opportunity to join a thriving community of like-minded people. You’re never truly alone.”  – NW

I’m a massive extrovert so even though the nature of freelancing is working alone, I try and reframe it by working with different mates in different cafes or making the most of my flexibility by seeing friends for coffee breaks throughout the day. I also have a colleague who kindly lets me go and work with her in her office once a week and it’s a lifesaver!” – BH-K

“However, this lonely nature of freelancing protects us from some hassles like office politics, toxic gossiping, and sometimes from unfriendly colleagues or short tempered bosses.” – SH

“Freelance isn’t too lonely if you have a good support network. Having communities like my LinkedIn network and some FB groups for freelance writers and editors helps me feel not so alone too. It also helps having cats and dogs that get to listen to me ramble and complain.” – HB

There were loads more too – but I can only include so many here. Thank you to every person who took part, especially those who answered in the comments too![2]

According to one website,[3] over 64% of freelancers experience loneliness each day compared to 29% of office-based workers. Perhaps one of the downsides to freelancing, and working from home in general, is the lack of social interaction.[4] However, for some people, the working alone aspect of the job might be exactly what draws them to it. You see, as with anything out there, certain jobs attract certain types of people. If you’re prone to loneliness and thrive in a workplace environment, then perhaps freelancing isn’t the right option for you. Perhaps. There are things we freelancers can do to help combat loneliness, which we’ll get into in a moment or two.

It seems that studies regularly show that freelancers feel anxious, lonely and depressed.[5] However, something that struck me is that many studies don’t comment on the freelancers’ mental health prior to starting their freelancing business. That’s just something to think about.

So, when we question whether freelancers are lonely, the likely answer is ‘yes’. Unfortunately. It’s the very nature of the game. We work alone, most of the time. And usually at home. And yes, occasionally in our pyjamas. How much it affects different people will depend upon their circumstances.

Why are freelancers lonely?

There are some aspects of our lives that will make us more susceptible to loneliness than others. For example:

  1. Whether you work from home.
  2. The number of people in your household.
  3. The quality of your relationships.
  4. The time you spend around others.
  5. How many hours you work.
  6. How many hours you get to do the things you love.
  7. Whether you have children (or pets).
  8. How often you interact with clients, and how you interact with them.

For a lot of people who turn to freelancing, the loneliness and isolation can be something they didn’t anticipate prior to taking the plunge. That’s not to say I don’t think people should freelance. Quite the opposite, in fact. But I think it’s important to make people aware of the ‘downsides’ to freelancing beforehand, so that they can go into the situation with open eyes.

If people don’t talk about things such as loneliness and isolation, it means that people who experience these feelings often think they’re alone for feeling that way. By being honest, I think we can have open conversations about difficult topics and work together to try and solve issues like this.

How can you combat feelings of loneliness as a freelancer?

Here are some things that, in my own experience, have worked to stave off the loneliness of freelancing. However, I do have to admit that while I sometimes miss the banter I had with my colleagues, I don’t suffer from feeling lonely too often. I’m lucky in that I have great relationships, and actually love working alone. That being said, I would love to meet more freelancers who do similar things to me!

  1. Join online communities. LinkedIn and Facebook have some great groups to join, where you can ask questions and talk to people in the same boat as yourself. These little interactions can actually be a really valuable learning experience, as well as a social one.
  • Try co-working. There are co-working spaces popping up everywhere, especially if you live in a city. Being in this kind of environment might be just the boost you need.
  • On a similar note, perhaps work in coffee-shops or pubs. There’s a lovely pub near me where you can rent a table for £5 for a full day.
  • Turn off from work. As a freelancer, it is so easy to let your work take over your life. You, likely, live where you work and so it can be tempting to answer emails and work around the clock. This might help you to feel less lonely initially, but it isn’t healthy for your work to be your life. Switch off at a set time and do something you enjoy.
  • Perhaps join a gym, or a club, see friends or family. Spend time building relationships and doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with work.
  • Have a dedicated work room, if you can, where you can shut the door and forget about work until the next day. Sometimes, something as symbolic as shutting the door on the room you work in can get you out of that mindset.

The one thing I want you to take away is: It is okay to feel lonely as a freelancer, and there are things you can do about it.

You don’t have to suffer alone.

Something I’m wanting to try and organise is a meet up for freelancers around my area, or wider if we do it online, where we can connect with people who work in a similar way to ourselves. If this is something you’re interested in, definitely give me a shout!

The statistics are pretty damn high when it comes to loneliness and freelancing.

It kind of comes with the territory but don’t sit back and accept it. Do something about it. Be proactive and reach out to somebody, or try one of the steps included here. If you want to talk to another freelancer, my inbox is always open.

If you need any support at all with your mental health, please don’t wait to reach out to support channels. Here is a link with a list of services available in different countries.






2 thoughts on “The Lonely World of Freelancing

  1. So, I do want to be a freelancer, but I never considered the loneliness factor.

    Does it affect me? No. I’ve been pretty much isolated since my childhood, and constant interaction with people exhaust me, causing me to blow up on them at some point. I got people to whom I can talk weekly for an hour or two, and feel pretty great afterwards.

    Now, breaking in the freelancing is the biggest challenge for me.


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