Work from home they said. You can sip tropical drinks beachside, they said. But far more often our days as solopreneurs are spent plugging away in a home office, tapping on our keyboards with not another person in sight for hours.
And that’s what we’re talking about today. A topic that is not touched on much: loneliness in the work from home and solopreneur space. The name here at Immensely Social is about actually getting social with our social media and marketing, but the truth is our work from home experience can be isolating.
And while many work from home solopreneurs are introverts and don’t mind that so much, none of us can get very far without community. The truth is we need each other.
Today’s That Side Hustle interview is with Solopreneur Kat Vellos, author of We Should Get Together. Kat has almost two decades’ of experience creating powerful and positive communities and authentic connections.
*Questions in bold followed by Kat’s responses.
Thanks for joining us, Kat.
So, tell me…
What has your journey of community building looked like and what makes you so passionate about connection?
The first community I created was called Poetspeak. This was back in 2001 when I got out of college. It was poetry and spoken word reading that I held biweekly for four years. For a long time after that, my path focused on bringing people together around the arts and creative expression.
I spent the next seven years facilitating and running programs in the Pacific Northwest focused on creativity, empowerment, and community-building. After that I got experimental. Over the next several years, I let my personal passions guide me and I created gatherings for a range of things including women’s empowerment, friendship and community cultivation, peer to peer learning, and professional development.
Get Out and Connect When You Can Even If You Work From Home
I’m passionate about creating spaces where people have the chance to connect in a meaningful and authentic way. I suspect that some of my passion for this comes from my own experiences growing up. As a kid, I didn’t always feel a sense of belonging because I moved around a lot. Wherever I was, I was subject to exclusion because the kids were like “you’re not from here, you’re different.” So when I finally did make close friends, I cherished them. Perhaps that’s what’s led me to care more about platonic bonds more than other people might.
I saw a quote the other day that said, “your wound is your greatest gift.” I believe this can be true if you use that wound as a catalyst for offering the world the opposite of that wounding—if you turn it into a chance for healing beyond just your own.
Powerful. Why do you think so many adults are struggling with loneliness? Has our need for friendship changed?
Our need for friendship hasn’t changed, but our access to it has.
Loneliness arises when we lack meaningful and trustworthy intimate connection. We need that type of connection from the moment we’re born until the day we die.Click To Tweet
As we move from youth to adulthood, the circumstances drastically change. Routines that previously allowed us to easily make friends that we could easily see on a regular basis vanish.
A cascade of additional attention-shifting changes follow: we move, our friends move, we get jobs, we change jobs, we spend time dating, we get into long-term relationships, we raise children, we care for aging parents, we deal with illness, and according to research, we trust other people less as the years go by.
As if that wasn’t enough, a neverending barrage of attention-sucking apps ping nonstop demanding our attention, and Netflix and Youtube are on autoplay where reality TV stars make it sound cool to say, “I didn’t come here to make friends.”
It’s a miracle that any naturally-occurring friendships spontaneously blossom under those kinds of conditions. And it’s entirely predictable that loneliness, on the other hand, would have fertile ground to move in and take root.
So while the need for friendship hasn’t changed, the requirements have. The choice to prioritize high-quality connections is an honorable act of intentionality. Cultivating deep and resilient friendships as adults require our dedicated effort. As I say in the book, we don’t expect other things —like a romantic connection—to magically appear in our lives with no effort of our own, so we can’t expect that to happen for friendship either.
How can we, as solopreneurs, break the loneliness cycle in our lives and when we work from home?
The working life of a solopreneur is by definition guaranteed to give you long stretches of solitude. Left alone, this can give rise to loneliness and disconnection. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Solopreneur life is a wonderful opportunity; you can literally do things that would be impossible if you were stuck on the 11th floor of some office building across town. Whether you’re motivated by a sense of play, mischief, or self-care, embrace this chance to give yourself something that only a solopreneur can have.
Make Connection A Priority
For example, I book connection time into my calendar just like I do with all my other important meetings. A couple of times a week I have a 30-minute phone call or tea with a friend during the day—Europeans might simply call this “taking a break,” haha. But here in the US, especially for remote workers, it’s normalized to work nonstop.
Productivity isn’t just measured in output, it’s also measured in the longevity of whatever machine or animal is being worked. (Reminder: we are not machines, we are animals.) Nonstop work will reduce long-term health and efficacy.
Spending intentional breaks with someone who makes your heart happy does wonders to cultivate physical and emotional health and wellbeing.Click To Tweet
Make it a part of your solopreneur life.
What and who inspires you to level up in your business and life?
One of the best managers I ever had was a woman named Monda Holsinger. She had this amazing ability to blend expert professional excellence with having a huge, open, compassionate heart. Most people lean one way or the other, leaving gaps on the professionalism side or gaps on the empathy/heart side. Monda could do both equally and it was an incredible learning experience to work for her. I think of her almost every day and she continually inspires me to level up in everything that I do.
Love that! Mentors are so important.
I know we have authors and wannabe authors in our community here at Immensely Social. Will you tell us a bit about what the process was like for writing your book and what made you want to write a book?
I’d never had a hard time making friends before, but when I moved to the Bay Area in 2014, I suddenly did. This puzzled me, because I was meeting great people and “making friends” all the time, but establishing depth and regularity was surprisingly hard.
So I got pretty obsessed with this conundrum and the topic of friendship in adulthood overall. Over the next couple of years, I was writing lots of observations, essays, summaries of conversations, and doing interviews with people about friendship and community.
In 2016 I started hosting an experimental event called Better than Small Talk.
At the very first gathering, I read an essay that I’d written about friendship. That essay later morphed into the first chapter of the book. So technically, I started writing the book before I even knew I was going to write a book.
At first, I thought I’d maybe post the essays online or make a zine that was a collection of essays. When talking about this idea with a couple of friends, they said, “it sounds like you’re writing a book.” I’m really grateful for the validation, support, and possibility that their viewpoint offered me.
When you share a perspective that’s full of possibility, it is an act of generosity.Click To Tweet
I’m thankful to my friends for seeing this possibility in me. They didn’t need to see proof that I’d written a book before to believe that I could write a great one. Their belief in me helped me have the courage to say, “yes, I’m writing a book” and take steps towards that reality.
It took a couple more years of working on the book off and on, during nights and weekends, or whenever I could find some free time. I decided that I wanted to finish it by the end of 2019, so I did the bulk of my work that year: completing the manuscript, having it professionally edited, finishing all the illustrations, doing all the layout and design, and setting up global distribution.
Great job. A book can be quite a project.
If you could start all over in your business, would you do anything differently?
Assuming that I had the ability to look into the future and know that there would be a pandemic in early 2020, I suppose I would have timed the recent launch of my book and my business differently, haha. But of course, there was no way to know that would happen.
I don’t regret it because it still absolutely felt like the right time for me to take this leap. Life is always uncertain. The only thing we don’t have time to sleep on is expressing our soul’s purpose. I’m nimble and can adapt to changing conditions—I always have. The only way to know if something should have been played differently is after the game is done. And the game is far from over.
What has been your number one challenge?
Well, I haven’t been doing the fulltime solopreneur thing that long, so I would without a doubt say that my number one challenge has been the impact of covid-19 on the world’s ability to hold gatherings, conferences, retreats, and workshops. I love being with people in those spaces and bringing people together in those types of settings.
While it’s an inconvenience for me to adjust much of my content for virtual delivery, my bigger concern is about what this will do to individuals and communities. We now have to be even more intentional about connecting on a deep level, more regularly, if huge swaths of the population commit to remote work and self-imposed quarantines for an extended period of time.
Work From Home Passion Business
What advice would you give to someone starting out to turn their passion into a business as you have done with your love of community and friendship?
My advice is: Spend a lot of time exploring every aspect of your passion while you still have the support of a regular job. The challenge with living that double life is that a regular full-time job eats up the bulk of your time, but it gives you stability and a chance to fully explore the range of your passions and possible alternate income streams.
Keep in mind, I’ve been practicing my passion for community-building and friendship-cultivation for 19 years. I only left my full-time job to do this work exclusively for a month or two ago. This wasn’t just some new hobby I’d been playing with for three months or something I just dabble in. I’ve been doing it for years. Even if I get a full-time job working for someone else in the future, my passion for cultivating meaningful connections will always be a part of my life.
How do you balance life and business when you work from home or out or does it all mesh together for you?
Right now the two are very blended together. I suppose if my business was something very specific and distinct like being a paleontologist or a tax accountant, it would be easier to separate my life into two halves of work and not-work. But since my work is so much about life, connection, communication, and supporting people, it blends very easily into my own experience of life. I try to keep boundaries around working hours though, otherwise, I’d feel like I’m working all the time and burnout is no fun for anybody.
Work From Home or Out It’s Great To Connect!
How can ImmenselySocial readers get in touch with you and get on their A-game with connection?
I encourage readers to reach out! If they’re interested in getting coaching in the friendship department, they can contact me at katvellos.com. To learn more about the book, head over to weshouldgettogether.com. To join one of my online workshops or events, check out betterthansmalltalk.com. I’m also booking guest spots on podcasts if there are any podcasters out there who’d like to have me on their show. And of course, I’m open to doing more fabulous interviews (like this one!) with any other media producers out there.
It was so wonderful connecting with you and I’m so grateful for the work you do to help solopreneurs have healthy businesses and lives. Thanks, Lori!
Thank you, Kat!
How about you dear reader? Ready to Work From Home without the loneliness? Share your tips in the comments. Work From Home solopreneurs unite!