Friday, March 31, 2017

Freelancing And The Not-So-Lone Wolf

Now that I'm freelancing fulltime (which I love, by the way), I find that I still have days in which I'm sluggish and unmotivated. Depressed, even. While I easily chalk some of these feelings up to residual regret over losing my job, I have recently made a discovery that, I hope, will help me -- and perhaps others like me -- to push through and become as productive as I want to be.

It came to me as I continued to apply for job after job in the Christian radio market, even all the while knowing that moving was, at best, a remote possibility. With my kids in a great school system and my wife working an outstanding job in a career in which she excels, the practicality of relocating to serve at another station was, and is, simply well outside the realm of probability.

And in truth, I don't fully want to go back. I like working for myself. I like setting my own hours, pushing against deadlines, and knowing that I will rise and fall based on my ability to deliver quality. I love the freelance life!

So why was I pushing so hard to find another fulltime job, even knowing it would take me away from this new career path I enjoy so much?

One word: Loneliness.

See, when I worked for the Christian radio station, I had an office full of friends: people who would poke their heads in while I worked just to say hello or decompress from the day-to-day stress. And who I, likewise, could distract momentarily to work out my own daily restlessness. People I could talk to and pray with.

I enjoyed those times, and my coworkers, but the thought that I was fulfilling a personal need never really occurred to me. After all, Myers-Briggs swears I'm an Introvert. I hate parties. I enjoy time to myself -- a LOT of time to myself. Crowds of people exhaust me. Classic Introversion.

It turns out, I am what is known as an "outgoing Introvert." It's one of those personality types not really covered by good ol' Briggs and Myers. Extroverts think we're snobs, and Introverts find us either useful or exhausting, depending on their needs at the time.

Actually, being an outgoing Introvert is, I'm starting to believe, probably among the best personality types for what I do: I have no problem networking and putting myself out there to find work and contacts, and I'm perfectly happy working on my own.

BUT, the problem for us outgoing Introverts is that, though too much interaction is bothersome and exhausting, we do need to spend some time, occasionally, with other human beings.

Turns out, being locked up in your house with only your cats and Social Media during the entire work week, every week, month after month, isn't all it's cracked up to be.

So, I took the first step, and one that I recommend to anyone feeling the strain of day-to-day self-sufficiency: own it. Learn to understand what you need mentally and spiritually, and then start to do something about it.

My second step was trying to figure out what to do about it. In my case, I looked for organizations for people like me in the area: freelancers and entrepreneurs. They exist, mostly if you're willing to pay dues, and mostly with the stated purpose of networking and learning about business.

Personally, I don't want to pay dues. So, I got to steps three and four. If the group I needed didn't exist, I'd create one. I called a friend who is also a sole-proprietor and told him my idea, and he agreed it sounded like a good one.

So that's where I am now. In my spare time, I'm looking to communicate with others in the area facing the same daily challenges as I am to create a group. The purpose of this group -- the only purpose for now -- is simply to come together in solidarity, be there for one another, have the occasional cup of coffee, and hold each other accountable for our workday goals. No dues. No lectures. Just time spent with other people.

This works for me, because I'm in an area where I simply don't have a lot of friends outside my former job, whom I can call on when I need an ear. For you, maybe you have a friend or two who wants to just hang out. But whatever the case, if you're feeling lonely, if depression is setting in and hurting your productivity, I truly believe the cure is simply Hanging Out. Schedule something monthly that you can look forward to, or maybe a weekly cup of coffee during the less productive part of your day. Anything that gets you out of the home office and interacting with another human being who isn't a client.

And, hey, if you happen to be in NE Wisconsin, drop me a line! I'm always up for a cup of coffee. You know. If I'm not working.

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