How to make self-employment work for you and not feel lonely at work

Lonely woman working on laptop

There are over 2 million freelancers in the UK, and the number is still rising, with a predicted half of the workforce becoming self-employed by 2020. There has been a 41% increase in small and medium business enterprises in London alone since 2010! So, why is this happening? Why are people stepping away from the 9 to 5 work ethic and turning to freelance as alternative methods of earning money?

Since the dawn of the internet and social media, it has become a much simpler process to find alternatives to working long hours in a busy office, which would generally involve travel and less flexibility. A large number of people are opting for a more flexible working environment, and self-employment has now become a vital feature of the UK’s economy. According to the Office for National Statistics, this ‘working for yourself’ trend is catching on quick, with solo workers contributing a whopping £271 billion to the government’s coffers in 2017, of which around £125 – £145 billion coming from freelancers. This is a huge number, and I’m proud to be part of that growing statistic.

So, what exactly does it mean to go self-employed?

Being self-employed means that you are working for yourself as a freelancer or as the owner of a business, rather than for an employer. Working for yourself allows you to take back the control of selecting your own hours and finding more freedom and flexibility to professionalise your craft. And with the current shrinking retail environment, this new method of working couldn’t have come at a better time. There are some pitfalls, however, to becoming a freelancer, which I will discuss in more detail below. Nevertheless, Epson, the UK’s leading printer manufacturer, wants to celebrate and support freelancers in the UK and so have commissioned an independent research company to survey 1,000 UK-based freelancers and asked them about the highs and lows of working for themselves.

“The proportion of freelancers as part of the UK workforce rose from 12% in 2001 to 15.1% in 2017” Epson

The results were astounding! It was found that over 9 out of 10 freelancers work from home with 53% opting for this method of work because it provided a better work/life balance. 62% said that it gave them more flexibility, with 39% freelancing because it means they could work around their family obligations. 41% felt that self-employment would provide them with the career that they wanted and 33% said that freelancing was empowering, with 74% feeling less stressed as a result. In fact, 81% said that freelancing made them happier.

However, research also showed that freelancers can feel lonely and isolated

From the above results of the study, it’s not difficult to see why working for yourself leads to a more fulfilling, flexible and empowering work life. However, the results also brought out the lesser known negative aspects to working for yourself, with 30% losing friendships over their chosen craft and 45% feeling isolated because they had little to no human contact/interaction on an average day other than with immediate family. Others thought that they had become deskilled (27%) and lost track of their career progression (29%).

“It’s very clear that the leap into self-employment brings many changes, most of them beneficial. However, for those lacking structure or support, solo working can be tough.” Annika Fagerstrom, head of consumer products at Epson UK

women working in coffee shop

These problems of feeling isolated and depressed are all too real

Being a freelancer myself for almost nine years, I do understand this lesser talked about issue. Coming from a corporate world to working at home in my own office, you can feel lonely at times, and you do feel like you are taking on the workload yourself, without the ability to bounce your problems off other people, like colleagues, for example. Charities like MIND recognise isolation and loneliness as a contributing factor to depression because you can feel cut off from the world. At least one in six workers experience common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

But there are small, simple steps that you can take to look after yourself and stay active while learning new things.

Even though technology has helped us to connect, some of us freelancers are not connecting in real life, opting to interact behind a screen, rather than face to face or even on the phone. I do miss office banter sometimes, like 32% of respondents in the survey did too, and I also miss being part of a team like 29% did as well in the study.

Freelancers also feel like they never really ‘switch off.’

Another issue with working from home is that when you select your own hours, you don’t have the 9 to 5pm mentality anymore, which means that you are less likely to be able to ‘switch off’. It is difficult to set time boundaries when you are constantly thinking about that draft email or that deadline that needs to be done when the kids go to bed. Unlike my husband who works very hard during the day and so switches off when he comes home at night, I feel like I am always ‘on’ when it comes to working. These are less talked about cons to being able to work for yourself.

However, having said all the above, I wouldn’t change freelancing for the world. Working for myself means that I can drop off and pick up the kids from school, and I don’t have to travel on the busy tube anymore. I can sometimes work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table, or I have the flexibility to work at Costa once a week, or even in the garden when the kids are playing. It is for these reasons why I wouldn’t change my current working environment for the world.

Leyla Preston - Epson EcoTank Pop-Up Shop

So how do we freelancers make life easier for ourselves at work?

It’s not surprising to see that business-related costs are also a concern for the self-employed, with 22% saying that the cost of printing was an issue for them. 15% said they rarely printed due to costs such as ink and paper and a further 13% felt obligated to save their printing until they were in an office environment where they could print for free.

Epson’s ‘EcoTank Pop-Up’ in Covent Garden provides the tools to become more efficient and productive at work

Epson not only recognises the stigma to printing costs, but they also want to celebrate and support freelancers in the UK. They aim to provide the tools for workers to become more efficient and productive at work, but also to find a way for freelancers to not feel isolated or depressed when working.

Epson EcoTank Pop-Up

So, Epson decided to completely turn the whole printing model on its head, not only with their innovative Epson EcoTank printers, which I will discuss in more detail below, but they have also launched an ‘EcoTank Pop-Up’ in Covent Garden, which is a unique retail experience that doubles up as a coworking space in London’s Covent Garden. Open until 31st October, the shop provides freelancers and bloggers, and remote and hot-desk workers with a chance to work together in a shared space, and benefit from unlimited printing on Epson’s on-site EcoTank’s printers.

Epson EcoTank Pop-Up Covent Garden

The idea behind the EcoTank Pop-Up shop is to help self-employed workers to proactively plan their working lives in ways that free up time for them to nourish their mental health and career progression. It’s clear that freelancers can feel lonely and isolated so the Epson EcoTank Pop-Up aims to bring people together in real life so that people can bounce ideas off each other and enjoy the coworking space with lots of free coffee added to the mix too!

Another great way to help freelancers is to reduce restrictions as much as possible and provide you with the tools that give you the freedom to work anywhere, alone or in the company. EcoTank printers are an excellent example of tools that have the freelancer in mind. You can download an app so that you can print your work on-the-go and because the printers have several years’ worth of ink included, you don’t have to buy or store ink for years at a time.

Epson EcoTank Pop-Up Covent Garden

Benefits of using Epson’s EcoTank printers

Epson’s EcoTank printers are a fantastic business resource to use. I have the Epson ET-4550 and the Epson ET-7750, and they are without a doubt the most economical of the printers I have used thus far. I can save nearly 90% on my printing costs, and I can get up to 14,000 pages worth of printing in one tank – that is equivalent to 88 cartridges!

Epson didn’t want to stop there. Along with the Pop-Up in Covent Garden, Epson will be trialling unlimited printing for £9.99, with just an initial deposit to pay. You then simply sign up for two years at £9.99 a month, and you have access to unlimited printing all the time. This trial service is aimed at students, small businesses and families who are looking to save money on their printer costs. You simply ring Epson up when you run out of ink and Epson will send you some more.

How to make self-employment work for you and not feel lonely at work

I attended the Epson EcoTank Pop-Up launch event and, as well as meeting with a group of freelancers like myself, I also got to meet Vicki Psarias, owner of the blog, and author of Mumboss. Vicki worked in a glass monobooth for the day, to represent lonely office workers like me and show members of the public the other side to freelancing.

Vicki Psarias in glass monobooth at Epson EcoTank Pop-Up Event in Covent Garden

“Epson are innovators in their field, and the Epson EcoTank is not only brilliantly well-made but also ecologically sound and the perfect companion for any creative entrepreneur,” Vicki Psarias, blogger and vlogger from and author of Mumboss

Here are some tips from Vicki on how to make self-employment work for you

Vicki talking at Epson EcoTank Pop-Up launch event in Covent Garden

Work hard, rest harder

Working from home means lower childcare costs and you can work any hours that you wish. However, this also means that as the internet never sleeps, we may not sleep either. It’s important to find time to switch off, get your exercise breaks in, turn off your phone, take yourself outside and look at something else besides a screen for a while. Switch off those mental tabs and recognise when to stop working.

Connect with people in real life

When was the last time you went out to a social gathering? When was the last time you met up with a client and talked over lunch or some coffee? Don’t just rely on email or even the phone. Find a network and stop existing only online. Collaborate and connect with each other, set up regular networking events and bring people together.

Fight the comparison paralysis

Don’t compare yourself with someone who has been working in the freelancing world for ten years if you have had only just started. Don’t fall for the social media lies or the best bits edits. This is not the real world. You are you and what you do is unique and best.

Find your tribe

Surround yourself with people who get you. Stick with people who will support you and have faith in yourself and what you do.

“I am enough, I am Beyonce,” Vicki Psarias

My suggestions on how to stay on top of your freelancing game

  • Learn every day. Invest in training courses, free or paid, to make sure you stay on top of your skillset.
  • Implement processing systems as early as possible which takes the headache out of daily tasks like invoicing and admin.
  • Think about outsourcing tasks so that you can work on the more critical parts of your business
  • Network. Raise your visibility in the industry and use social media to spread your skills
  • Find free ways to shout about your business, whether that be with your friends or offering your skills in return for other skill sets.
  • Collaborate with like-minded people in your industry. If you’re a blogger, find other bloggers you can work with on a particular project. You can tap into each other’s audiences and spread the blogging love.
  • Make an effort to go out with your friends once in a while and completely switch off. I am lucky to have made some great friends where we live, which is right next to my boys’ primary school. A lot of the boys’ friends also live on the same street as us. So, we regularly encourage each other, even if it’s only for ten minutes, to stop off for a quick coffee or just mooch around in the shops. The break is invaluable, and it provides a clear head so that you can get back to your freelancing duties with fresh new ideas.

Freelancing is becoming the way forward for those who have family obligations or would like to achieve a better work/life balance. If you have a skillset or a talent that you can monetise, look into self-employment. And, as long as you follow the tips and advice above – and head over to Epson’s EcoTank Pop-Up Shop before 31st October, you can be sure you will lead a healthy and happy freelancing life!

How to make self-employment work for you and not feel lonely at work

*Epson invited Motherhood Diaries to their EcoTank Pop-Up Shop event to learn about how to maximise the benefits of having a freelancing career. All thoughts are 100% my own*

Leyla Preston (595 Posts)

Leyla Preston is the owner and Editor of Motherhood Diaries global magazine for parents. Leyla is a busy mother of two even busier boys; Aron, 8, and Aidan, 7. When Leyla isn’t feeding, managing a gazillion tasks or cleaning the infinite mess at home, she is busy working on this magazine and a new cooking channel coming very soon – no rest for the wicked! You can follow Leyla on Twitter (@M_Diaries) or join the busy Motherhood Diaries Facebook group where all mums get together and share stories and solutions with one another: