A question that I get all the time is how I handle working alone. How do I manage to maintain my sanity in such an isolated environment? How do I overcome the lack of connection with colleagues and clients? How do I replace the casual contact that I would otherwise get through water cooler chatter and cubicle shenanigans?
Connecting with Colleagues
There’s something to be said about the independence and flexibility of working from home (or from a co-working space). However, it’s still important to make those real human connections with your clients and colleagues. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I attend Dot Com Pho. The casual atmosphere gives me that office banter without distracting me over the course of a typical work day.
While it is certainly true that I have never seen many of my clients in real life, I do make the effort to make a real connection with them in other ways. And the beauty of the Internet is that it is really easy to keep the communication channels open.
Social Media and Regular Contact
Social media is huge. You may have noticed that I am quite active on networks like Twitter and Facebook. These channels allow me to maintain that regular (and casual) contact with colleagues and clients, as we are able to share both work and non-work related events with one another. When combined with instant messengers and regular e-mails, I’m more connected than you think.
Does this replace face-to-face conversations? Probably not, but I never really feel all that alone when I am sitting at my computer in the home office. A friend or colleague is only an IM or tweet away.
The Human Factor
The phenomenon of urban cabin fever is very real and it is very much something that you’ll need to address if you work primarily alone and from home. Human beings are social beings and even the most introverted of people need some human contact in order to maintain their humanity (and sanity).
Again, that’s one of the reasons why I attend Dot Com Pho on a regular basis. It is also one of the reasons why I attend the various tech conferences that I do; I am able to catch up with friends who I may not otherwise see in real life. If it were not for these kinds of trade shows and conventions, I may not have seen people like Bob Buskirk and Danielle Nagami in the flesh.
Reduction of Distractions
To some, working alone at home sounds like prison. To some, the relative sense of isolation would be positively unbearable. If that’s the case, a freelance home-based business may not be the most appropriate choice. That said, having embarked down this road for a number of years, I’m not sure how I would be in a more conventional office environment.
The home office, as it stands, helps to reduce the number and intensity of distractions, making me better able to focus on the tasks at hand. This will depend on your particular circumstances and your chosen home office location, but it works for me. The 10-second commute certainly helps too.