In freelancer and online biz circles, there’s a lot of talk about isolation and the importance of getting out and talking to people.
So, in the early days when I first started my business, I dutifully went to weekly networking events, met people for coffee, visited clients in their businesses. I even tried co-working.
But it was miserable and exhausting. Although there were a few good moments (like the occasional new client I’d meet from an event or learning something at a presentation), I mostly hated anything that took me out of my comfy little home office and away from the work I enjoyed doing.
All I wanted to do was work from home like a happy little hermit!
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar? If so, lean in.
I’ve broken down five steps I went through to go from miserable freelancer to happy work-from-home hermit!
Step 1: Figure out what you don’t like
The first step is self-awareness. Soon after I tried to put myself out there, I discovered four things:
- I don’t like talking to people in person.
- I hate bothering with my appearance.
- I find it weird to meet people in person who think I’m trying to sell to them (even weirder if I actually am trying to sell to them).
- And yep, you guessed it: I’m an introvert.
Any time I tried to be a good little freelancer and get out of the house and meet people, it totally wiped me out, leaving me useless to do the actual work or do fun stuff with my family.
And what’s the point in working for yourself if you can’t even do the work, let alone have fun?
Step 2: Try to push through
I kept pushing through, going to events and meetings, for a good year after I realised they weren’t for me. Maybe it’s because I hoped things would somehow get easier or better? But they didn’t. Here’s what sent me over the edge:
- One too many coffee catch-ups that I felt I couldn’t say no.
- Someone I’d barely met recommending me to someone for something I don’t do … again.
- Spending 2 hours cleaning my house to host a client for 30 minutes because they insisted on seeing me face-to-face.
- Having two babies in quick succession, which left me with no time or energy to spare on anything that didn’t serve my family or business.
- And last but not least … visiting a new client’s home which had grown the level of filth that makes you cringe when you touch any surface. We spent more than an hour helping him sign in and out of online accounts (including some seedy looking ones) to try and figure out where he stored his logins and files. The guy seemed to think “digital marketing agency” meant general IT help. And I needed a very, very long hot shower when I got home.
That’s when I decided to stop doing what everyone else was telling me to do, because clearly, it wasn’t working.
Step 3: Make your own rules
Instead of following everyone else’s rules, I had to set my own. So, instead of fighting my hermit tendencies, I embraced them. Now I pretty much never:
- go to networking events
- meet current/potential/past clients in person
- talk on the phone/Skype to people unless requested
- have “coffee catch ups”
In fact, I barely even leave the house all week, except to do one or two grocery shops and visit my family. You could say I’m a bit of a hermit. But I like being a hermit, so I’m owning it. And making these rules for myself means I’m confident to say “no” when I need to.
Step 4: Adapt your business
Instead of trying to fit in what everyone else says you’re supposed to do, as a freelancer, you have the freedom to adapt your business to yourself. Your quirks, your needs, and your personality. For me, this meant adapting my business to work with my hermit tendencies.
Luckily, despite what they tell you, you don’t have to see people face to face, or even talk to them on the phone, to get clients. Here’s how you can be a hermit and grow your business:
- Have a good product/service that people want.
- Deliver 150% of the expected value/product (this brings in repeat business and referrals).
- Be your in your marketing and share your real thoughts and day-to-day happenings (attract only the customers who “get” you).
- Share valuable info/stuff for free (people will trust you without needing to meet you).
- Be upfront about your hermit-tendencies so they don’t expect anything else.
Step 5: Enjoy the benefits!
Once you figure out what works for you and your business, everything gets a whole lot better. For a start, you can let go of someone else’s idea of productive or successful. And you can start working for yourself and doing life in a way that you enjoy. And for me, this means staying at home as much as I can.
Now I have more time to write, connect with people virtually (something I quite enjoy), and serve my clients. And I have way more energy to get it all done.
The moral of the story is… figure out what works for you and do that. Just because someone says you should do something, doesn’t mean it’s right for you and your business.
And if you’re a fellow freelancer who feels like the traditional methods of networking, getting clients, and connecting with people isn’t right for you … that’s fine! I say embrace your hermitty-ness. Work with it. Use it to your advantage. Wear your hermit badge proudly.
And likewise, if seeing people every day, coworking, and scheduling café meetups is your thing, do that thing! Don’t let me stop you.
See ya ‘round. Or not.
Angela Rodgers is a copywriter based in Brisbane. In between wrangling her small humans, she writes website copy for businesses and blogs articles for entrepreneurs.