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How to tackle loneliness as a freelancer


November 1, 2018

Reading about the recent BBC Radio 4 loneliness survey (which found 40% of 16-24 year olds often feel lonely) got me thinking about how the gig economy, virtual working and the rise of social media has the potential to pose mental health challenges for my generation and many more to come.

I’m a people person through and through. I thrive in high energy environments surrounded by positive people, partly because I have a tendency to worry and overthink things, so distractions and reassurance help me to stay focused. I’ve always been interested in the human brain- I did my dissertation at University on influences on the formulation of ‘self’ and found it fascinating. Also having grown up suffering from IBS which flairs up when I’m stressed (something I rarely talk about), I’ve learned how mental resilience is essential to keeping it in check.

I learned a little about loneliness when I was on maternity leave. Living a long way from family with my husband working 12 hour days in London, meeting a friend for a coffee for one of those 12 hours seemed to barely scratch the surface. I’m sure many other mums remember that feeling all too well!

I now work from home most of the time, running my business as a virtual marketing manager for organisations with a social purpose. In many ways I couldn’t be happier – I drop my daughter off at nursery and positively skip home to walk the dog, make tea and settle down to a day’s work. But as somebody who loves company, loneliness can sometimes be a battle.

I keep on top of it by talking to people as much as I can - organising calls, face to face meetups, and sometimes working from coffee shops (which usually means eating the whole coffee shop). There’s no doubt I underestimated the mental resilience required to stay positive and motivated, despite feeling wonderfully liberated being my own boss.

We are all well aware of the mental health implications of social media, which can be incredibly toxic if you are even the slightest bit vulnerable. On top of that, the fact that more and more young people are spending time working alone – 15% of the UK labour force are now self-employed - can result in some facing a very real struggle. I am a passionate supporter of the ‘workstyle movement’ coined by The Hoxby Collective. I believe flexible opportunities are critical to managing fulfilling careers and the demands of life, especially for working mums juggling a million spiralling plates. We all need to feel like we’re part of a community so the more we see business models like The Hoxby Collective the better.

I think perhaps more awareness of loneliness is needed during this time of cultural shift.

I see very little in the way of support available for freelancers and this has to change if we are going to make the most of the incredible opportunities associated with the evolution of the working world. In the meantime, my only advice to others embarking on new career adventures would be to keep talking. Friends, colleagues, family, the dog if all else fails.. you’re never alone and you are amazing.

Victoria is a Chartered Marketer with over 13 years of marketing communications experience.

In 2017 she founded Dexter May Ltd, providing virtual marketing services to businesses with a social purpose. Before founding Dexter May, Victoria spent 11 years working for Deloitte UK, where her focus was on the leadership of responsible business marketing for the firm.

She is a campaigner for equality of opportunity and the untapped potential of talented mums, and is an Associate at The Hoxby Collective and Practical Governance.

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