With or Without You

2009 August 7
by Sam Davidson

Virtual Business generation
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mountain/Ash

They may not talk about it much, but deep down, every entrepreneur, freelancer and consultant confronts it at some point: loneliness.

When you’re out on the road speaking, or writing code from the confines of your home office, or slaving away with earphones in at the coffee shop, you can’t deny the fact that you’re isolated. You’re making it on your own, and as great as that is, part of you kind of craves human interaction other than the kind that comes from communicating with a client or speaking to a room full of accountants.

Corporate America with its miles of cube farms isn’t necessarily the antidote to this disease. You can feel just as isolated in a room full of 250 peers with similar name badges as you do by yourself on your sofa. So it’s not just that you want people around, it’s that you want the right kind of people around.

You want friendly water cooler banter. You want the practical joke or the staff birthday to celebrate. You want the brainstorming session, the creativity maelstrom or the high-level meeting where the real decisions get made.

Is there a way to take the good without the bad? Or are you just left with the facts of the corporate or the entrepreneurial life when it comes to finding community during your day job?

One concept that has taken root in many cities is that of coworking, where entrepreneurs and visionaries find refuge, solace and community under one roof. But is it a perfect solution? Or should someone who wants regular interaction and even friendship start applying for jobs at larger companies?

Tell us: what’s been your experience with coworking? Anyone out there been a part of one? Or, how do you make friends and influence people as an entrepreneur? Or as someone who’s part of a larger company?

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One Response leave one →
  1. 2009 August 7

    As someone who bounces between freelance work and work for companies (roughly every other year), I know exactly the sensation of loneliness/isolation. Especially because I’m in the tech industry, there’s not really anyone in my social circle I can “talk work” with to any great extent. More than the need for banter/camaraderie though, I find I miss the idea sharing and person-to-person trust that a small team offers. When I work on a big project with a team, I can count on everyone to make the whole thing come together seamlessly and focus in on my part of the task. As a freelancer, when something is big it’s all me. Good for the bank account, sometimes bad for the psyche.

    If I get tripped up in one aspect of a big project, it delays everything. The sensation of being behind on an entire project is not a good one. In fact, that feeling has soured a project or two for me over the years. When that happens, it becomes a matter of pushing hard to get through and on to the next one. After projects like that, I tend to survey the job listings to see if anything exceptionally sweet is hanging around. I love the idea of having a coworking space where I could get a second pair of eyes to help me work out complicated bugs, etc. A place where there would be people I trust to help me not get tangled up doing all sides of a project and vice versa.

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