Where do solo-workers go to feel less lonely and more connected?

Hello bootsters!

I’m a solo-founder working on my startup and it can get lonely working on my own. I have my family around me but really the more useful company would be other people on the same journey as me.

So it makes me wonder how other solo-workers (founders, freelancers etc) cope with this isolation, disconnectedness from the conversations at a work place?

I realise not everyone on here is a solo-worker, so I would be specifically interested in the experiences of solo-workers to this problem that I have.

Full Disclaimer: I am exploring this problem in the wider world with list gatherer at http://cafesoloista.com

(And no, when I talk to myself, it’s not because I’m lonely. It’s because I’m crazy).

1 Like

When I lived in AZ there were some fantastic co-working spaces. I highly recommend those. Folks in small to one-man companies, doing what you are doing. Same goals. Same mindset. Many levels of success so something to look to for encouragement while encouraging those coming up behind you. Many many advantages.

Thanks Jeremy - co-working hubs are a great idea. Though what if you don’t have access to one?

Then you should totally be a part of a bootstrapper forum.

And then start thinking about starting a co-working space. They are seriously great for business. The one I was a part of in AZ and helped found a branch of was gangplankhq.com. I think it’s a great model.

1 Like

+1 for starting a co-working space if you can’t find one.

Other alternatives:

  • make it known through friends and colleagues that you are looking for some desk space to work from. Many companies have some excess space they would be willing to rent out cheaply or even let you use for free.

  • arrange to meet with a different friend/relative/business acquaintance for lunch every day of the week.

  • find other business owners/start-uppers in your area and arrange to meet them once every week or two for after-work drinks or a startup dinner. http://meetup.com/ is a good way to do this.

For me personally, I think it is important to have a consistent routine. I split my time about 50 / 50 between working out of my home office and working remotely in local coffee shops around the area.

There are a group of local consultants / entrepreneurs that meet every week at the same coffee shop on Mondays. I was lucky that someone else started this routine and I could just show up. If you wanted to do something similar, you could just pick a day of the week and a location and just let people know you will be working there all day each week (or whatever). Maybe hit up a local meet up or mailing list in your field and mention it to others that you are starting this up. I think consistency is the key - if you are always there people will just know and if they have a chance may end up joining you. We have 3-5 regulars on Mondays but there are another 6 or so people who just show up every couple of weeks.

Also, as a bonus - this activity may be completely tax deductible as a networking event. You should probably run that by your own accountant but in my case my accountant says everything including mileage is a write off.

If you end up working out of coffee shops for long periods of time, be careful not to be a laptop hobo :slight_smile: In general, every coffee shop owner we’ve discussed this with is totally fine with us working there all day. The only coffee shops you may want to avoid are ones that are extremely busy. Also, I find Starbucks is not a good coffee shop to work for long periods due to the noise and atmosphere.

Good luck,

Thanks for all the really useful comments. I think human contact is key to being productive and balanced.

I’ll explore how I might realise the options you all suggested and let you know how it goes.

Recently moved to Seattle on my own while working remotely and bootstrapping a side project (read: very little free time like all of us) and while I haven’t met too many folks yet, these have been my more frequented groups:

  • Technical meetups - ones more specific to what you’re working on. Up here the XCoders (apple developers) do tech talks + beer afterwards every other week, and coffee nights to work on things/casually talk every week.
  • Hipchat with fellow bootstrappers (such as the one with @mbuckbee and friends)
  • A masterminds group - a few of us started one after microconf, Brennan’s starting a mastermind-group matchmaking service for freelancers soon.
  • The coffee shop - I go sometimes if I’m in a funk, but I get antsy after a few hours of sitting somewhere that isn’t as comfortable as the home office. I honestly tend to like libraries better.

That said, back in Tahoe, I did none of the above and instead the following:

  • structure the day to wake up early, get work done, go snowboarding for a couple hours in the afternoon, then work more.
  • don’t worry much about working on weekends. Enjoy it with friends, go boarding and party.

…and I was arguably more productive than I am now. There’s something to be said about just having an environmental hack that gets you out of the house easily and exercise.

I want to try the coworking space thing one of these days, but on paper it always seems to be a bigger inconvenience due to all the hardware I use beyond the laptop (monitors / microphones / oscilloscopes / etc.)

Personally, I’m curious to see if there’s a way to rekindle the whole ‘Jelly’ concept started by Amit Gupta years ago. My usual problem with the ones I’ve seen is that they start at 8am, which is usually a bad time due to client calls. Think an afternoon-focused Jelly would make more sense, especially if you can work with the coffee shop to find ‘slow days’ when they’d really appreciate more business.

Side rant: Finally, A good backless chair (such as the travel-friendly ergoergo or swopper) and a monitor raised up to eye level makes you stop lusting as much about coffee shops. Sorry for the rant, I just feel like many cheap bootstrappers forget to invest in good tools first.

1 Like

I found myself in the same position only just a while ago. I had just moved from Holland to Australia and combined that with starting to work remotely. Having really enjoyed the social aspect of my job (at an agency) before, I knew this was important for me to feel good about what I’m doing.

First I tried going to a co-working space with other people who work for themselves. As it turned out, however, I actually really liked working from home a lot of the time, so I couldn’t justify the cost of it. Instead, I started going to the Brisbane Jelly group (still exists here @vivek :). I liked it a lot and I’m happy to say I’ve been hosting the meetup weekly for the last 6 months.

Part of the reason why I’m comfortable working from home is that I my Twitter stream has over time grown to be quite a bit of a community. I’m also in a few chat groups with some old colleagues, some IRC channels, etc. I’ve also picked up multiplayer games again (I hadn’t gamed in years before moving to Australia), and with @BazDeas from Rallypoint (the guy I’m starting a business with) playing some GTA Online or some other multiplayer is our main way of hanging out and socialising, so we actually try to do it quite regularly.

Of course, there are still days where nobody seems to be online, girlfriend isn’t home, everyone else is busy, etc. Those days are perfect for me to listen to some podcasts and remind myself there are other people doing the stuff that I’m doing. Bootstrapped.fm has played that role before, for sure.

What are people’s current opinions and thoughts? The last post to this thread was in October 2013.

I’d definitely suggest creating a meetup group (ie on meetup.com), assuming there aren’t local groups already. I’ve done this for different topics with great success, there are very likely to be people in a similar situation who would come if you created it. You could run it first thing on Monday mornings and meet for breakfast, or make it an evening in the pub thing and be more social. I think this is a great way to meet a bunch of like minded individuals and to build a network you can call on at other times.

I’ve also not gone to coffee shops as much as I find that I’m way less productive on my laptop than I am at my desk with monitor, keyboard, etc. At one point I started going to the coffee shop just for a few hours at a time even knowing that I’d be less productive just to get out.

I totally feel you @mhsutton - it’s super isolating. I haven’t quite figured it out yet and I’m actively focusing on how to un-isolate myself more. Don’t really have any big coworking spaces out where I live.

@vivek - your tahoe snowboarding routine sounds aaaawesome. So jealous!

The Jelly group thing seems pretty cool - I’ll have to see if there’s one in my area.

Hey Lewis, actually I tried a bunch of things. Coffee shops in rural Spain are not really an option for me.

So I:

Had a google hangout a couple of times a week with other people - each getting on with their work.
Going to coffee shops in the city (50 minutes away) a couple of times a week - but like others , the productivity was not as high because I was away from my office setup.

I havent tried any Jelly groups per se. Might do that.

Basically my routine now - when I’m home and not consulting - is to go to the city (Granada) 2 days a week. I found a great co-working space and I’m more productive that in coffee shops. It also gives a small flavor of commuting - enough to know I never want to do that everyday, ever again.

What are others doing?