I am an introverted freelancer with an anxiety diagnosis. I am NOT a recluse… but I could be.
Socialising is exhausting for me. After even a few hours of socialising, I need time out to rest and recuperate. Prioritising ‘out-of-house’ tasks stresses me out because I feel like I should be working. Even checking my email and answering the phone makes me anxious, it’s only natural I’d avoid meeting people in person if I could. It would be easier if I could just stay home with my fiance, my babies (read: cats and dogs) and a bag of chips.
Despite how easy it would be to stay home all the time, it’s still important to leave the house.
As a writer, I get many of my ideas from my exploration out and about. I also exercise, which keeps my body relatively strong and my mind relatively clear. Then there’s food, without a doubt the biggest motivator to leave my house.
If, like me, you’d prefer to hide in your warm and cosy shell instead of sticking your head out into the big, wide world, try these 7 tips to ensure you avoid becoming a freelance recluse. I’m positive at least one of these ideas will appeal to you, and once implemented, make leaving the house worthwhile.
1. Work in a public place.
When I lived in the UK, I had a rule. Every week I had to spend at least one day working somewhere other than home. More often than not, I chose to work in the international freelancers’ hub (a.k.a. Starbucks) because their coffee ain’t awful and the wifi is free.
While I’d spend my working hours sitting side-by-side with other digital nomads, sometimes I’d make an effort to remove my headphones and take in the atmosphere around me. I eavesdropped on many a story while doing this that later became fodder for emails and blog posts.
Working somewhere other than home taught me to work in varying locations. While I always struggle somewhat when I’m away from my desk, working elsewhere has enabled me to manage my workload even when I don’t have the luxury of working in one place.
My two favourite exercises are strength training and cycling. Luckily, for the purpose of this post, both require me to leave the house. I simply don’t have a full gym setup at my house, so if I want to lift heavy things, I have to put on some pants and make a pilgrimage to the gym.
I could cycle at home on an indoor trainer but for two issues. First, I don’t have one. Second, when you ride somewhere you set yourself up with the unenviable task of getting home. On an indoor trainer, as soon as you’re bored or a little tired, it’s easy to jump off the bike. When you’re 50km from home, you’ve got no choice but to ride the 50km to get there (or do the call of shame and ask your partner/parents/friends to come and get you – not recommended). So… it works.
Regardless of your exercise preferences, there’s plenty of options. Join a sporting team, go and watch your favourite team play or even duck to the local pub for a game of darts or pool. Find what motivates you to get out of the house and see other people, then use it to your advantage.
3. Get a part-time job.
Unfortunately, I have to leave my part-time job behind when I moved back to Australia. But for the 6-months before we left the UK, I had a part-time job as a cycle courier delivering takeaway food.
Working in the gig economy meant I could adjust my part-time hours according to my freelance workload, supplementing my income when necessary. More importantly, it forced me to leave the house and talk to people. Even though it was only a quick chat here and there with restaurant staff or delivery customers, or a short chat with a fellow rider, it was enough to fill up my socialising cup.
Being such an active role, too, meant I couldn’t possibly think about my freelance business constantly. When I was riding, I was often thinking about where I was going, taking note of the people and traffic around me or cursing the hill I was riding.
It was a great break, and it’s one I’d highly recommend for any (especially new) freelancers.
4. Take courses/classes that interest you.
As an introverted freelancer, we’re used to having things at our fingertips. If we need a new book, Amazon will deliver it to our door. Groceries, they’ll be delivered by a man in a van. Hell, I even used to get my haircut at home when we lived in the UK.
It’s important to remember we don’t have to do everything on the internet just because we can. Take a look around at classes in your local area that interest you.
A few months ago I attended a Vietnamese cooking class on my own and I had a blast. I was partnered with a teacher from London who loves cooking too. It was lovely to meet a new friend, sharing our love of cooking and the plates of food we cooked together. There’s simply no way I could have had this experience through a computer screen.
Whether it’s cooking, photography, art, language or any other class, look up your local training institute and find out what appeals to you.
5. Travel (Alone if possible).
In 2014, I embarked on a round-the-world trip alone. I jumped in the deep end by travelling to Japan first. I couldn’t speak the language and I’d never travelled internationally before. Oops… I survived though!
Throughout my trip, I met lots of new friends and had so many incredible experiences, like having a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, climbing into the claustrophobia-inducing Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam and visiting the site of the Twin Towers in New York.
I can now confidently travel in many countries, even non-English speaking, because I have done it before. Regardless of where I was, I almost always found someone to chat with. Even when I didn’t, I went to restaurants and events alone.
While travelling, I shed my fear of talking to people I didn’t know. ‘Where are you from?’ or ‘where are you going?’ always got people talking, and once I started chatting I often found my anxiety melted away.
Try it, you might just discover you love it.
It’s time to get out of your shell.
While it’s tempting to set yourself up with a piece of cake and cup of hot chocolate and wrap yourself in a blanket in front of the fire – it’s winter here in Australia, after all – there’s certainly benefits from leaving the house, even if you don’t really feel like it.
The idea generation alone is worth it, while socialising, trying new things and getting food make it very much worth your while. So if you’re an introverted freelancer heading down the path towards recluse-ville, try some of these tips to get outta the house, clear your head and live your best life.