May 6th, 2012
7 Ways to Deal with the Isolation of Freelancing
By Carol Cole-Frowe
One of the toughest things I had to deal with when I made the jump to freelancing three plus years ago was the abrupt difference between a fast-paced, adrenaline-charged atmosphere of a newsroom, and freelancing out of a quiet, solitary home office.
I missed the crackle of the scanner with whatever breaking news. I missed rushing out the door to the everyday stories of wildfires or house fires. I missed the excitement of getting a call with a kernel of a story. I missed my newsroom buddies.
I became depressed, but took steps to get myself out of it.
This is not an uncommon problem, with all the layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing, whatever you want to call it. I have great company — some very good journalists have made the transition from Main Stream Media to freelancing and had similar problems adjusting.
Here’s some things I’ve learned that may help:
- Move your body. Once a day, at least, go move. Go for a 30-minute walk with the dog. Your dog will appreciate it and your heart will too. Even better, do what my friend and SPJ freelance committee chair Dana Neuts does and schedule an hour out of your workday to work out. It will give you more energy all day and bonus — up your metabolism all day — if you do it first thing in the morning.
- Stay away from the fridge. Put a big “Stay Out” sign on your refrigerator and then stay out of it unless it’s breakfast time, mid-morning or afternoon break or lunchtime. Gaining weight from fridge proximity for home-based workers is not uncommon – make a conscious decision not to. I gained weight working out of the house, which didn’t help my mood. Spend an hour Sunday afternoon planning healthy meals that give you energy for the whole week, and have healthy snacks ready when you do get cravings.
- Be a joiner. Network with your fellow SPJ members. Join Toastmasters and learn to be a better speaker. Join your local writers’ group(s.) Join a cycling, sailing, noodling or other interest group (really, there are places where they noodle.) Then — write about what you learn in those groups. My group of choice is master gardening, and it’s one of my favorite things to write about.
- Take a professional development class. See what the local technology center or library offers to improve your still or movie camera skills, Photoshop or PowerPoint or other computer skills.
- Get a post office box. And then go get your mail once a day. Gets you out of the house and it looks more businesslike to not be getting the mail at home.
- Make yourself busy. Have a Query Monday and set a goal to write as many queries as you can that day. Some of my journo friends have Freedom of Information Fridays and make at last one FOI request for a story you’re working on each Friday. Come up with a theme for your day and it will help keep you organized and focused.
- Get help. If you find yourself getting clinically depressed, don’t hesitate to get help. Talk to a professional therapist or psychologist. Talk to your pastor. Get together with friends. Don’t be an island.
Here’s what not to do:
- No TV … unless it’s a channel that’s solid news like CNN. When I worked at The Associated Press, we had a bank of televisions on local stations. However, the sound was off and we only turned it up when we spotted breaking news.
- No housekeeping, laundry or personal phone calls during work hours. I make an exception for cleaning the office, because occasionally my editor used to make me clean my desk and also schedule the occasional hour for filing or organizing your gear. If you need to make personal calls, set a timer for 15 minutes for your break and that’s all.
Carol Cole-Frowe is a veteran journalist and full-time freelancer, working primarily in Oklahoma and North Texas. Her website is www.carolcolefrowe.com.