So you’ve escaped, or narrowly missed, corporate cubicle confinement, but now you’re met with some very different challenges. Sure, working from the home office certainly has its benefits, but many solopreneurs are surprised by confusing emotions resulting from a different type of confinement.
If you’re not careful, your freedom will come at a cost. One of those costs is the growing loneliness that many soloists experience; whether it’s at the very beginning of this new experience or after years of working on their own.
Wireless locations have certainly come to the rescue as many solopreneurs make their way to the local coffee shop, library or even a lovely park bench. And this is solution enough for many home-based business owners. But if you are an outgoing personality type this is probably not enough. I know – I’ve been there! Even if you are speaking with clients or customers on the phone all day it isn’t enough to fill the void left behind when we say goodbye to a regular dose of water cooler gossip and friendly luncheons!
Here are some tips that have worked for me, as well as my clients …feel free to add to the list!
Beware of the home office “rut”. It’s easy to fall into a work-pattern that includes sitting behind your computer for many hours a day. And guess what? It’s exhausting! So, at the end of the day you may not feel like going out to socialize or network. So, on come the pajamas and the television and poof! …you’re a hermit! Well, maybe not a hermit, but it can happen if you’re not careful. Scheduling is the trick here – making commitments in advance and sticking to them.
Schedule simple outings for a few evenings during the week. Go to a friend’s home, meet someone at a coffee house or for a walk, take in a movie – whatever gets you out of the house. If you have small children it’s a good idea to schedule dates with friends at least one night a week while your spouse tends to the kids. Also make sure to get in a date night with your sweetie!
Make the most of your weekend. Building a business takes a commitment, but you will get further faster if you give yourself time off to laugh, play and socialize. There’s a kid inside of all of us who needs to come out to play. What do you most enjoy? What takes the pressure off? Don’t lose sight of your playful side and life will be less stressful.
Get up, get dressed, and get out. I begin every morning at the local coffee house. Whether I choose to work or relax it gives me a destination, as I had for so many years in a corporate job. It also gives me a reason to avoid a long day in my pajamas! It’s novel to make money while you’re in your comfy gear, but the novelty wears off and neglect can set in. Dress for work and get out of the house every day.
Attend mid-day networking events. Daytime socialization offers great benefits. It breaks patterns, builds business and offers a reminder of why you do what you do. Speaking with other business owners will rekindle your passion and build your experience. Even if you live in a small town and have to travel, it’s well worth it. Put some educational and inspiration CD’s in your car and go on a mini-adventure!
Reward yourself with reminders of your freedom. If you sit behind your desk all day you may begin to wonder if working from home is really all that attractive. But if you take a break during the day (again, schedule it in and limit it to about an hour) to take yourself to lunch, go for a walk, to the gym, to do a bit of shopping – whatever you enjoy, it will serve as a simple reminder that the world is your oyster and life is good!
Go to conferences. Entrepreneurs love to learn and stretch their imagination. The internet offers much to satisfy this need but nothing replaces a good conference. Again, it will not only build the brain, but it will build your business as well. The common ground that conference attendees walk upon is a great connector and you will meet some of your most compatible peers, customers and friends during this experience. Budget in at least one per year, but one per quarter is optimal.
Invite your social media friends to share in a virtual cup of coffee. Many of us have “good friends” who we’ve never even met in person. Speaking to them on the phone every now and then will expand your social networking experience in a meaningful way. It helps to know that your resources and friendships extend far beyond your home town.
Avoid “bad” foods and get exercise. If you tend toward feelings of isolation and loneliness, sugary, carb-filled foods will take you closer to the edge. Stock up on healthy choices and get into a routine that keeps you fit and happy. Schedule in daily power walks, trips to the gym or another form of exercise. It clears the mind, releases stress and supports healthy brain chemistry. No time? Don’t believe it! You will be far more productive when your body is happy and healthy.
Find a work buddy. I have peers and friends nearby who also work from home. From time-to-time one of us will set up camp in the other’s office for a few hours. It provides a simple sense of camaraderie and a mock office environment that feeds the need for the “team” experience. To make this work, set your ground rules, which will include a “do not interrupt” clause. We usually take mini breaks about once an hour to ask questions, exchange ideas or just have a good laugh.
If home office truly isn’t working for you, there are many options to rent office space at very affordable prices. I have clients who pay as little as $200 a month for a desk, internet connection, printer and a water cooler! You will find these opportunities by searching “virtual office space” on line. If you live in a small town you may find many options to rent-share or take on a small space inside of another business.
It takes a little imagination and some commitment but you can beat the blues! What solutions have you found? Share with us here on The Successful Soloist!
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.