When I first started freelancing, freedom was my motivation. Freedom to travel when I wanted, freedom to take a day off when I wanted and to do my own projects. I loved being able to go see my family in Denmark without having to ask anyone for leave. That’s still what I love the most about my job.
But flexibility is a dangerous perk. Without structure it can become a freelancer’s nightmare. Doing work from home isn’t so hard initially but once you move through your first, second, third year… those lonely hours start wearing on you. The house starts to feel like a prison, and the constant fight with the voices in your head get harder to win. Why get dressed when you’re not going to see anyone? Why not take a nap? Why go anywhere if you could stay here and get a little more work done? What’s the point? Life starts to lose its meaning when all you ever see are the four walls of your home office.
Three challenges freelancer face when working from home
Everyone is different. Some people might have different challenges than I did. But what I read and hear from other freelancers – and what I felt in myself – was a sense of loneliness, a lack of structure and the depressing reality of always staying inside the home.
Challenge #1: Structure. At what point does work begin? After coffee? After breakfast? After cleaning and doing the laundry? And when does it end? Before you sleep? Before dinner? The line quickly becomes blurry. There is no real distinction between work hours and private hours. For me, this meant I got less done during the day and couldn’t relax at night. I simply didn’t have the structure to complete my work in my home office.
Challenge #2: Stimulation. Going somewhere seemed indulgent and difficult. I had work to do, I couldn’t just leave my responsibilities to go places. But staying inside all day long was depressing and demotivating. I think humans need to be stimulated by new experiences. I believe going out in the world and experience things, even if it’s just your local library, is a deep natural urge.
Challenge #3: Loneliness. Humans thrive off interaction. Having people around you makes all the difference in the world. Some call it community, or a sense of being part of something bigger. For me it was a simple need to see another face.
How to solve it?
When self-employed, you’re always very conscious of your time. It always feels like there isn’t enough of it. Taking time to go somewhere to work can seem counter-intuitive. You need that extra couple of hours you would have otherwise spent on commuting or talking to people if you had gone out.
It’s a lie your brain is telling you. For me, and many other freelancers, working outside the home is an essential part of thriving. Coffee shops, libraries and co-working offices are all options that work well for me. I’ve heard taking a day out of your schedule to volunteer can help, too. Simply getting out of the house – no matter where – helps.
Co-working spaces are the best option, in my opinion. It costs money, but it makes everything a million times easier. I take longer breaks, indulge in small talking and coffee breaks, but I still get more done. I feel healthier and happier. And by the end of the day, I can go home and relax.
You can do it
Having no social circle is hard. Having no structure is hard. It’s maddening to not have anyone around you all day every single day. To not have any boundaries between your work and your private life. To never see anything else than your home.
If you face the same challenges, know that you’re not alone. Get out of the house, see some people, engage in your community. It will be worth it.