Fiona Pullen runs the UK-based The Sewing Directory, and she has a new book out chock full of excellent advice. Craft a Creative Business helps you plan for success as you turn a love for sewing or other artistic endeavors into a thriving business.

From the publisher:

    Covering everything you ever wanted to know, Fiona gives clear, simple advice on the importance of identifying markets, focusing on a USP, assessing the competition, making sure the price is right and setting goals. The book includes sections on product photography, branding and legal matters. The book has particular emphasis on online selling, with detailed information on markets, blogging, using social media and the importance of analytics and SEO (search engine optimization). Information on offline selling is included too, with notes on selling at craft fairs, trade fairs and markets, selling through retail outlets, running courses and workshops and featuring work in the media.

Fiona fills you in on every aspect of writing the book on her blog, from signing a contract to book promotion and everything in between. If you’ve ever thought about writing a sewing or craft book you’ll find lots of information there! You can also learn about Fiona’s sewing and more on The Sewing Directory blog. The Sewing Directory grew by leaps and bounds with the success of The Great British Sewing Bee last year. (Fiona had a great corresponding series on The Sewing Directory.)

To celebrate the US release of the book, Fiona stops by with tips for dealing with the isolation and potential loneliness of working at home. Plus you can win one of FIVE copies of Craft a Creative Business. (US, UK or Canadian address only this time. Thanks!) To enter, chime in with your thoughts on working from home. Do you have tips that work for you? Do you wish you could work from home? How do you (or do you not) balance it all?

How to Cope with the Sense of Isolation When Working from Home
Many of us running our own creative businesses find ourselves working from home to keep costs down, to be at home for the kids or simply because all we need is a small space and a laptop. Undeniably there are many great benefits to this; apart from the money you save on office rental there’s no commuting, and if you want you can work in your PJs all day! I’m sure that many of our office working friends are jealous of the fact we get to stay at home all day.

However, there is one big downside to working from home (apart from the fact you can constantly see the housework that needs doing!) and that is the sense of loneliness and isolation you get. I think you probably notice this more if you are used to working in an office or shop with several colleagues around, customers coming in and out; in that scenario you are used to being surrounded by people all day. There are people to talk to, people to socialize with at lunchtimes and after work…

I have to admit it took 3-4 months before the isolation really kicked in with me. At first I was too busy enjoying the perks of homeworking. Then I suddenly realized I could go entire weeks only seeing my husband and son and no other people. I’d go six hours or more without even muttering a word, which is very odd for someone as chatty as me. I missed having people to run ideas by, to gossip with or even to just talk about what I watched on TV last night. Plus I found it harder to see my friends as my working hours no longer matched theirs.

I took a few different steps to help overcome the feeling of isolation and I wanted to share them with you in case you find yourselves in the same situation:

Set Up Regular Lunch Dates
I made sure that I arranged to meet a friend for lunch once a week to get out of the house, have a good gossip and enjoy a proper break from work. Even if most your friends are working 9-5 jobs they should still get a lunch break so perhaps you can plan to meet up with them then. If you can’t me them at lunchtime what about an evening date instead?

Reach Out to Other Local Homeworkers
Local networking events are a good place to start, or you can use social media. Find other people near you who are working from home and see if you can make plans to pop over for a cup of coffee. I’m sure they need a break and human contact just as much as you do.

Plan Shopping Trips, Appointments, Afternoon Walks, etc.
Sometimes it’s just getting out of the house that you need, and having other people around you. So try to plan something which will make you leave the house ideally every day, or at least 2-3 times a week. I try and spread out errands like going to the shop, to the post office, etc., so that instead of doing it all in one trip I space them over the week, giving me an excuse to go out every day.

Sometimes a bit of fresh air is what you need.

Go to Industry Events
This won’t be as regular as the plans above but it gives you something to look forward to, and a chance to chat to people doing the same kind of thing as you. It’s nice to be around people you can run ideas by, or talk about what is happening in your area of the industry. I try to make sure I visit a big sewing, quilting or trade show once every 2-3 months. I also set up a local sewing group as well which is another chance for me to mix with other people in my industry a bit closer to home.

Join a Gym, Sports Club, Hobby Club or Take a Course
All of the above will get you out of the house and mixing with other people on a weekly basis as well as give you a mental break from work. In the past I’ve tried the gym, a language course and now that I’ve recently moved house I’m looking at joining a weekly sports club.

Have an Online/Phone Support Network
This has been crucial to helping me overcome the loneliness. I appreciate having people I can chat to on Facebook or by e-mail, or ring up whenever I get bored of being home alone with no one to talk to. For me the support network I’ve built up are all people in the same industry so that gives me someone to talk to about work related things. I really missed having people to run ideas by, and now I have people I can discuss things with from home.
As great as it is to see my friends and family they don’t always understand much of what I do so I find having people in the same industry to speak to very important. Unfortunately many of them live too far away for me to meet up with regularly, but I do try to meet most of them at shows, or visit them at least once a year as well as speaking online or by phone.

I’ve now been working from home from over five years and thanks to a combination of the above I no longer miss working in an environment where I have lots of other people around. I still get the social side of working with others combined with the perks of working from home.

What do you do to avoid the working from home isolation? Do let us know in the comments below.

Fiona Pullen is the owner of The Sewing Directory, a directory of UK sewing businesses plus sewing projects, techniques, competitions, interviews and news. She is also the author of Craft a Creative Business, published by Search Press. You can find more free business guides on her website.

Image Credits: Death to the Stock Photo