Remember the first time the thought of becoming an entrepreneur entered your mind? Remember the rush of fear and excitement coursing through your veins as you imagine yourself as the ruler of your own kingdom, a realm that lets you thrive and grow, and provides endless motivation?
Now fast forward to today, and say hello to the new inhabitants of your kingdom: loneliness and isolation.
Let’s explore how you can either evict them or make their stay more manageable to all parties involved in your solopreneur journey.
Accept in order to overcome
The first step to overcoming anything involves that age-old adage: only by accepting your situation can you ever hope to crawl out of it. This maxim is true for all kinds of situations and mental states, including anxiety, fear, and loneliness.
By choosing to become a solopreneur, you have essentially chosen a life of career solitude. Yes, you will be communicating with plenty of people on a daily basis, but you don’t actually work with any of them. As a one-person show, you simply have to embrace the fact that you might just be spending most of your working hours alone. And that this is completely fine.
Some will be troubled by this alone-ness more than others. The introverts among us might prefer to work alone anyway, while those who are more social butterflies will have a harder time of it. However, no matter how much you enjoy your own company and feel comfortable with working by yourself, humans are social creatures and the loneliness will start to chafe at some point.
Since the life and career of a solopreneur are dependent on your prowess and productivity alone, you might work a different schedule from your family and friends. You might adopt a new time zone for clients’ benefits, or you might simply be a night owl and prefer to work later in the day (when most of your social circle is naturally available).
All of this is just plain fact. Accept the state of things as they are, and work toward working with them, as opposed to focusing your time and energy on lamenting the facts for what they are.
Set boundaries (for yourself and for others)
Since there is no one else to hold you accountable for anything (not even your clients; not really), you can easily fall into all kinds of traps. Working too much, procrastinating, sacrificing sleep and diet at the altar of success – we all do it at one point or another. But to keep your little kingdom thriving, you need to establish some very clear boundaries around it.
Only work when you are at work. When you are not at work, don’t. It sounds incredibly simple, and it is, but we really don’t work like that, do we? Checking emails after hours and checking Instagram during hours is all just too common.
To preserve your sanity and stay healthy and happy, set yourself clear limits and deadlines, and cut yourself off from work after you are done for the day. Yes, you can always do more. But rest is a vital part of productivity, so when you are not at work, don’t work.
The deadlines are there to help you organize your work. Try to set them earlier than you need to – if the client expects something on Friday, your deadline should be Tuesday. (Or Wednesday. Or the Monday the week before. Whatever works.)
Look after your health
Remember that in order to work to the best of your ability and grow your business, you need to stay healthy above all else. First of all, if you don’t have your health, life will no longer be as joyous an experience as it can be when you are healthy. And on a more work-related note, if you can’t work, there is no one to replace you.
This fact alone sends a chill down any solopreneur’s spine. And it makes focusing on your health even more important.
First, you need to stop sacrificing sleep in order to get more done. Sleep impacts all kinds of brain functions, and it truly is the most underrated element of success. Without sufficient sleep, you won’t be as creative, as productive, or as efficient as you could be. So even if the deadlines start crowding in, don’t let sleep be the one to take a hit.
Secondly, remember that you need to move your body every day. This doesn’t have to be a grueling workout. Even a light bodyweight session can do wonders for your mind and body. Throw some cardio into the mix too (even something as simple as a walk will do). Try to get up at least every hour and move around and do some light stretches to get your blood flowing.
Set aside time for socializing
Finally, now that you have sorted out your wellbeing and your schedule, tell your friends and family when you are available. If they keep texting and calling while you are at work, you’ll get annoyed with the interruptions, and they’ll get annoyed because you can’t give them the time they need.
Clearly set out a schedule for work and send it out to all interested parties. And since you are now absolutely sticking to your schedule, you can socialize at the time of day you have set aside for socializing.
Note that you might want to jiggle your schedule on certain days to fit into other people’s lives – like grabbing a coffee at a time when you would normally work. This is perfectly okay, as long as you get back to work that day. But even if you end up taking the rest of the day off, don’t beat yourself up about it and get back to work the next day.
How to stay connected
Notice how we haven’t actually expanded on any ways to actually stay connected and socialize?
As a solopreneur, you will want to prioritize your work to an extent. And since that is the case, once you have your work schedule and routine down, you are feeling healthy and ready to work, it will be much easier to focus on the social parts.
Here’s what you can do to dull the blade of loneliness:
Connect with other solopreneurs
No one will ever understand you like a fellow entrepreneur, and no one will be able to share as sound advice. There are plenty of online groups you can join, or you can check out any local meetups in your area.
Attend conferences and other industry events
No matter what line of work you’re in, there are bound to be all kinds of events in the industry you can attend. This is not only great for your career, but it’s also a great way to meet all kinds of interesting people.
Meet clients in person
To ease that constant video conference numbness that overcomes you after a while, try to meet your clients and other partners in person as much as you can. This may not be an option if you are nowhere near each other, but if you are, a monthly meeting (or even a weekly one, depending on the job) can make you feel less like an isolated island.
Don’t blow your friends off, and actually have a social life
If you were also guilty of standing up your friends and making all kinds of excuses back when you were just starting out, now would be a good time to remedy that. Offer your apologies and explain what your life and work are like, and make an incredible effort to go out and meet people.
Yes, it will be a distraction. Yes, it will not always be what you want to do at the time. But do it anyway. See family and friends, date, and go to social events, from parties to the movies.
Find a way to make yourself leave the house every single day. Even if it’s just to take a walk and grab a bite at the local deli – talk to people. Even if you can’t meet someone in person for whatever reason, give them a call (preferably a phone call, not a Zoom call) and chat. Text and Facetime your family and friends and ensure you are still connected to the world, no matter how hectic work gets. It will keep you grounded and help you feel less alone.
And now, my dear solopreneur comrade in arms: stand up and stretch, and make a date to see a friendly face – even if it’s just a virtual one.