The sense of freedom you get from working for yourself can feel exciting and liberating, but it might also initially feel a little lonely. Rachel Bridge, author of How to Work for Yourself shares some strategies for creating a community when you’re finally out of the office
FIND A WORK PARTNER
If you miss being able to bounce ideas off work colleagues, then depending on the type of services you offer, you could consider finding a partner who can work alongside you doing the same sort of thing as you. That could be an option if you are an illustrator, virtual PA or accountant, for example. Because you are both in the same field of work there will be endless opportunities to brainstorm ideas and discuss opportunities. And there may be other advantages to simply having someone to share your working day with; if they have skills which complement and add to your own, the two of you working together may be able to take on a much wider range of projects than you could have on your own.
SEEK OUT OTHER PEOPLE LIKE YOU
Even if you don’t want a work partner, it can still be beneficial to meet up with people who work in the same field as you on a regular basis. Not only can it give you a real sense of being part of a community, you may also pick up useful tips and contacts. Stoney Parsons is a stained-glass artist who works to commission making stained-glass doors and panels for restaurants and other buildings, including a screen and pillar for Raymond Blanc’s Michelin-starred restaurant Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, near Oxford. She works in her studio near her home in Tunbridge Wells and is a member of the Chelsea Arts Club in London. She now travels up there once a week to chat to other artists and play snooker. She says, ‘I love my work and when I am doing an intense piece of work I don’t need anyone around, but I definitely get lonely sometimes. If you work in an office, there is always a bit of banter and people to make you laugh if you are feeling a bit down, and I think not having that is one of the biggest downsides to working for yourself. I listen to Radio 4 when I am working but I realised that I needed people to talk to, so I joined the Chelsea Arts Club to be around like-minded people. And it really does work. There are a lot of artists there and they all have the same issues about their work, so there is that commonality, which is really meaningful. It is helpful to know that other people are in the same boat.’ Stoney also started teaching art classes once a month in her studio, calling them Art from the Heart, and now every summer she also teaches art classes for several weeks at Skyros, a creative retreat which has centres on the Greek island of Skyros and on the Isle of Wight. ‘I am quite a gregarious person and I like being able to share what is in my head with other people,’ she says. ‘When you work for yourself it can be easy to forget the self-care bit, but that is really important. We are human beings, not machines.’
BUILD WATERCOOLER MOMENTS INTO YOUR DAY
If you find that you love working alone, but miss having people to pass the time of day with, you could always check out the neighbours. Jacqueline Cloake is a freelance voice-over artist and narrator who does voice-overs for television and radio adverts and documentaries, getting work through an agent. She lives in a small house in London during the week to be close to recording studios, and in an apartment in Somerset at weekends, and in both places she has deliberately taken the time to get to know her neighbours, so that she always has someone to have a conversation with: ‘In London I live in a gated community and in Somerset I live in a converted country house, so there is always someone around for a chat and a cup of tea,’ she explains. ‘Having that sense of community is so important to me and it means I never get lonely.’ Jacqueline also makes the most of her agent’s office. She says: ‘My agent has a recording studio at their office which is great because when I’m there I’ll often bump into other voiceover artists. Everybody is always friendly and it’s like one big family. Even if I am not recording at the agency, I will often pop in to say hi.’
Top Tip: Follow the Sun
The single best thing about working for yourself is being able to suddenly drop everything for an hour or so when the sun comes out, to bask outside in the garden or park. That simple act of blissful freedom is usually not possible when you work for someone else on their time schedule, and will remind you why you made the move.
Meetup – meetup.com – enables you to set up a local group for free where you can meet to work or socialise
Jelly – uk-jelly.org.uk – an informal co-working event for people who work for themselves
Hoxby – hoxby.com – a free global membership group for freelancers, also a great tool for networking, getting and sharing work opportunities, asking advice and local meetups.