“Friendship,” said Christopher Robin, “is a very comforting thing to have.”
― A.A. Milne
In a typical work environment you’re thrown in together and meeting new people all the time. You’re making friends (or not making friends, as it happens) with all sorts, tackling projects, exchanging information and swapping ideas. When you work from home, that rapport simply doesn’t work the same way and if that sort of connection is important to you, it’s largely up to you to find ways of creating it.
Freelancing for me, based on the nature of the majority of the sort of tasks I do, is largely a one-person show. I don’t mind this exactly, I’m a nice mix of introvert and extrovert who is perfectly capable of amusing and entertaining herself, or going out and enjoying the crowds. But I’ve found that long term, the solitary nature of my work affects me in interesting ways that I have to be proactive about noticing and correcting.
One of the reasons I decided to seek some volunteer work, apart from experience in a field I love and hope to support in some capacity in one way or another for the rest of my life, was that I was realized I was becoming emotionally and verbally out of touch. Six months into living in London, I was working from home six days a week and doing the bulk of my communicating via email. 99% of my conversations were happening with my husband – who is a great person to talk to, I stress lest you think otherwise – and I was noticing that in a very real way, I was losing the skill of being able to meet and connect with new people. In short I was becoming awkward. Not awkward in they shy and retiring way, awkward in, “Oh hi, so nice to meet you, let’s be friends immediately!” hyper way that instantly throws many off. With some people, such enthusiasm can be cute. I am not one of them…
Luckily, working at the museum is staggeringly fun. Not only am I feeling re-socialized, I’ve also been introduced to a number of publications I’m considering pitching. Most importantly, I’ve made some lovely new friends (like Georgina – another up and coming novelist and all around whip smart girl who I genuinely adore. We bonded over classics and Roman history, which is always a stable foundation for buddy-hood). Having friends, whom I not married to an interact with in places other than my flat, has been tremendously important in keeping my life happy and balanced.
Speaking of, another thing that’s been interesting to recognize is how much inspiration comes from other people. “Duh, C., you idiot,” I hear you say. But I’m not just talking about big ideas and big inspiration, I’m talking about the often small things that jumpstart you and keep you motivated as a person.
I met Alanna at a networking event a couple of months ago and I instantly thought she was one of the neatest people I’ve come across in a long time. She runs a consulting service that specifically works with social innovation, women’s development, and international development. We’ve started co-working together about once a month, and I always look forward to it because it’s easily one of my most productive days in that week. Just being around another person engaged in solid, innovative work is inspiring in and of itself and having another person in the room helps keep me accountable and not goofing off. Not only that, we’re able to swap ideas. Last time we worked together I helped her develop possible pitches to different publications about one of her upcoming projects and she introduced me to a number of sites and online tools that have made her life as a freelancer easier and more productive. Oh, and that swanky new blog logo I’m enjoying? She whipped that up in five minutes just for fun, without my even asking, just because she said she needed something creative to do as a break!
Simply being around people who succeed at freelancing, entrepreneurship, writing, blogging, design work, or just learning new skills personally gives me a tremendous boost of confidence. Seeing others succeed encourages me to think that I can too, in a way that I don’t always feel slumped over my desk grudgingly at one in the morning.
Another example. The other week Andrea and I finally got the chance to meet up (she’s been in Morocco, I’ve been in Paris – I know, our lives are such a trial, right?) for a long overdue hangout. We took in a free photographer’s gallery and then spent a couple of hours sipping tea and swapping stories and our experiences with freelancing and expat life. It’s amazingly relieving to hear that, even though your work might be solitary, your personal problems definitely aren’t unique! Not only that, about every ten minutes one of us said to the other, “That’s a really interesting story, you should pitch that.” Just by chatting and enjoying one others company we were coming up with really great ideas left and right, I came home and scribbled down half a dozen. I can’t wait to go on another girl date with her, not just because she is everything hilarious, delightful and interesting, but seeing her work ethic really gave a boost to my own.
I always believed that people are important to me, personally and professionally. I just never realized how much until this first year of freelancing.
Sharing time! Who are your people, and how do they inspire you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Have you had to get proactive to change unforeseen emotional adjustments due to self-employment? I’m nosy and want to know!