Sunday, July 4, 2010

Freelancing's Double Edged Sword - Independence and Isolation by Cyndy Kryder

We work from our home offices. We get to pick and choose which jobs we take and which ones we turn down. We can work in our PJs, if we want (but we don't), and we can throw in a load of laundry whenever we feel like it. Ah, the independence of freelancing.

Yes, a certain allure is associated with being a freelance writer, but here's the thing. We work ALONE in our offices, without the benefit of camaraderie from coworkers. There's no birthday cake for the guy in the next cubicle, no baby shower for the woman working across the hall. No colleague in the corner office to brainstorm with when we're having trouble with a project. And when the computer takes on a mind of its own, we can't just pick up the phone and call IT. That's the flip side of freelancing.

How can you handle the isolation? Here are some tips:

Plan monthly lunches with other freelances. This gets you away from the home office and gives you the chance to compare notes with colleagues in the same situation. And keep the receipt. Lunch with your colleagues is a tax-deductible expense if you're a freelance!

Join a local business association and attend meetings. Consider the local Chamber of Commerce or another business-networking group. You'll have the opportunity to meet other local business people face to face and network with businesses that might need your services.

Schedule breaks during your work day. Staring at the computer for hours on end can make you feel even more isolated. Leave the office, go to the gym, walk around the block, say hello to your neighbor, do anything that gives you a change of scenery, no matter how brief.

Don't be afraid to call other freelances when you need another perspective or some business advice. How do you find these colleagues? By leveraging your contacts through professional associations, such as the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) and other societies. It's not unusual for me to call an AMWA colleague or two when I need to bounce off an idea or even complain about a project. Getting a different spin on things is always a good thing.

Develop relationships through social media networking. Today it's easy to connect with like-minded people through social networks such as LinkedIn, Biznik, Facebook, and Twitter. By participating in social networks you can decrease the degree of professional isolation you feel, especially if you're just starting out as a freelance and are experiencing the initial shock that accompanies exiting the corporate world.

Teach a class for fun. I find that doing something completely different from my day job, medical communication, is exciting as long as I don't overcommit. What are you good at? Look around your community for opportunities to share what you know. Chances are you'll find the balance refreshing.

Cyndy Kryder is a freelance medical writer with more than 18 years of experience. She is the author of Nude Mice and Other Medical Writing Terms You Need to Know, and the coauthor of The Accidental Medical Writer. She shares tips and tactics about freelance writing through a monthly newsletter, Pencil Points. To subscribe, go to