One fear that aspiring consultants share with me is that they worry that working solo from home will feel isolating. Many of us in the public health profession are used to working in very collaborative environments, with lots of interaction with colleagues and the communities we serve. So going off on our own can feel scary.
Here are my top eight strategies to avoid isolation:
(1) Choose work projects that provide the opportunity for interaction
As a consultant, you are lucky to have choices and freedom. I’ve previously shared that right now I need my work to be flexible and not require travel due to family/childcare reasons. On the flip side, you can easily choose projects (e.g., training, meeting facilitation, qualitative research/evaluation, etc.) that give you lots of opportunities to work 1-1 or in groups with people face to face. You can 100% continue to do community-based, interactive public health work as a consultant.
(2) Find a local co-working space
Co-working is a shared office space where entrepreneurs, freelancers, remote workers, and anyone else can work in a fully-equipped work space. This is a great option if you miss that water cooler conversation from your old office. Co-working can offer lots of flexibility- you can work there occasionally or full time. You can typically reserve a private office, open work space, and even meeting space. In addition to the socialization, this work set-up can also offer great opportunities for networking and collaboration with contacts that run complementary businesses.
(3) Choose video vs. phone calls when you can
Over the past few years, I’ve really shifted to using more Zoom calls vs. traditional phone calls. In addition to giving you face to face time with clients and colleagues, it also forces you to get dressed! While many consultants and freelancers say working in their pajamas or yoga pants is a huge perk of having their own business, I feel much better and more professional when I get dressed to start my work day.
(4) Join in on social media conversations
I don’t recommend mindless scrolling during the workday, but time dedicated to strategic social media use allows you to join in on important conversations and professional development opportunities. I’ve talked about strategies for online networking in previous posts. I think social media provides an incredible opportunity to follow along with conferences, trainings, and twitter chats. These chats can give you the chance to discuss new research, identify consulting or freelance positions, brainstorm business strategies with fellow consultants, and even join a virtual book club!
(5) Join a mastermind group
A mastermind group is a peer-to-peer learning model used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members. It also provides a strong system of accountability to help members set and reach both short and long-term goals. Basically, you get in the room (or virtual room) with a bunch of smart, experienced people and you and your business will benefit.
(6) Join local and virtual networking groups
In my area (Philadelphia), there are several networking groups specifically for women business owners. There is a group in my suburban city for local business owners. My undergraduate and graduate institutions organize networking groups for alumni. I admin a Facebook group for established public health consultants. This is just a sample of what’s available, so be aware there are many choices! These groups can offer in person and virtual events for professional development and networking. Take advantage of the opportunities and it will definitely help you feel more connected to the outside world.
(7) Sign up for professional development opportunities (that align with your goals)
There are many opportunities to build knowledge and skills around public health, business planning, and your specific service or product niche. Many of these events are even budget friendly! I’ve shared a sample of these opportunities in a previous post.
(8) Intentionally participate in other activities outside the house
Promise me you will get out of your house every single day! Even if you just walk around the block. The days where I have stayed inside, in my yoga pants have been the days I have felt most isolated. Meet a friend for lunch. Work off-site. Attend a regular exercise class. For me, I really enjoy walking on the YMCA indoor track or at the local college walking path after my son’s school/camp drop-off. I also organize a book club (not work related!) for a group of local friends and that’s been really enjoyable. Making sure you have a life outside of your home office is key to reducing isolation.
Tell me your thoughts:
What else would you add to this list? What strategies work for you?