The internet is, in my opinion, the biggest and greatest invention of all times. Better than the light bulb, better than sliced bread, better even than the computer which you need to run the internet in the first place. Except maybe SatNav, that’s pretty good too, at least for a person like myself, who suffers from total lack of a sense of orientation …
Get a Room Already
The internet allows many freelancers like myself to work from home, not needing to leave the house every morning to join the thousands of commuters jamming all available streets and highways from here to eternity. It also allows moms with young children to stay at home and work while the little ones are taking a nap or are away in school or kindergarten, saving a bunch of money on childcare. There are many reasons for a variety of people from all walks of life and in every industry to work from home using the internet. But unless you are one of the above-mentioned moms or maybe a musician in a band, chances are that you, as a freelancer like myself, are a one-man-show, a solopreneur, who at least in the start-up and growth phase of your business, works from home all alone. There are many reasons to work from home: it’s cheap because you’re paying rent or mortgage on your place already anyway, the commute, you save a lot of money on fuel for your car and lunches out with co-workers, the morning Starbucks latte, you can choose when (or if) to take a shower, the commute, when to post to Instagram, loading the washing machine in between emails and the new logo design, the commute, no need to wear make-up and business-casual office outfits, no boss and pesky co-workers breathing down your neck (now it’s pesky clients wanting to know if their job is done already like they wanted to know yesterday and the day before, which was the day after the order came in), and so on. All of this might be fine for an introvert like myself, who doesn’t need people to be happy or tends to feel lonely without human contact other than the occasional phone call, the WhatsApp chat with girlfriends and emails to clients. But even a hardcore introvert needs human contact and some kind of social life eventually. And for everybody else there definitely comes a time when you should abandon your little home office and go out into the world to join other grown-ups, freelancers, artists, and like-minded people. So, if after 6 months of working at a desk next to your winter wool coats and with the cat always nearby watching suspiciously, and having gained a few pounds due to the proximity to the kitchen with a fully stocked fridge, you feel that you need a few co-workers after all, but by god, not the same ones you had during your corporate life, then it’s time to move out and get an office. You will recognize this time when you develop one or more of the following traits:
- Your hygiene habits are slacking significantly
- You have developed an uncannily intimate relationship with the mail carrier
- You have endless deep and meaningful conversations about the state of the world with your cat
- You used to tap your foot impatiently in line at the cash register waiting for the old lady to finish her chat about her general state of health with the cashier, and now you are the one telling the cashier your entire life
- You have a tendency to fall asleep when you are within 10 feet of your bed
Of course, I am not saying you should swap your cheap home office spacer for rented office space outside your home to add additional expenses and then still work in isolation. Rather to look for some office mates. There are many possibilities that are inexpensive and will help you to become a better human being again. When I started my business, I lived a 5-hour car drive away from my hometown where all my family, friends and acquaintances live. I spent my days in my home office building up my business and wouldn’t see anybody but the people in the grocery store that I went to a couple of times per week. So I (as well as my friends and family) quickly decided that I would move back to my hometown, where I have a support network in place and all the social life one can wish for. And as an extra bonus a couple of brother-in-laws that could help me with installing a lamp or put that new Ikea desk together. But until then, I realized quickly that in order to avoid becoming somewhat loopy due to spending all this time alone, I found a few alternatives. For example one or two mornings per week I would go to a coffee shop, and work there, preferably not talking to potential clients on the phone, but doing design work for which I didn’t even need internet access. Also, every day I would finish work sometime between 5 and 6 pm and go out for a walk. I would also set the alarm every morning just like I did during my 9-5 life, and start the day by taking a shower. And tell my mom, that even though I was now a freelancer, office hours are still valid, so no phone calls during the day. And now that I am back in my hometown where she lives too: no spontaneous visits during the day with a couple of donuts in hand!
But that’s my situation, for many others out there, the situation is different. In this case, my favorite solution would be to rent a co-working space with other creatives in an old converted warehouse brick building downtown Seattle or the Meatpacking District in New York City. These shared workspaces are available everywhere in the world, in fact, check out to see if there is one in the city of your residence.
Another solution is to set up your own co-working space in your city, town, or village. I know somebody who has done just that in my small hometown in Belgium. He simply asked around like-minded people and they set up shop in a rented building that was formerly the mansion-like residence of an affluent family.
Or you approach it the same way you would if you were to look for a roommate to share your apartment or house with. Instead of a roommate it would be an office mate.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas to share.
So happy freelancing you crazy ones, you artists, you musicians, you writers, bloggers, and photographers, you work-from-home moms, you graphic designers, you virtual assistant