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Paul Cipywnyk

Tips for Dealing with Freelance Isolation

Freelance editors are a mousy, introverted, cat-loving lot. They’re pale creatures who are often confined to mouldy basement offices where they stare with glazed eyes at glowing computer monitors, barricaded from the world by stacks upon stacks of dusty tomes.


Ha! If that’s what you think, you’ve never been to an Editors Canada conference. Raucous crowds of tiara-flaunting whirling dervishes rush from session to session, hallways erupting with chatter. Hotel rooms are trashed, food courts terrorized … You’ll notice that these conferences are almost never held in the same city in consecutive years — or if they are, there has to be a change of venue.


Well, OK, somewhere between those extremes.

Perhaps we tend to be a bookish bunch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t crave social contact like all humans. So how do you stay sane as a freelance, work-from-home editor?

If you’re reading this, you’ve likely taken an obvious first step and joined Editors Canada, or perhaps some sister association. Their meetings and workshops are an excellent way to meet kindred souls. As has been pointed out in other articles, volunteering is a great way to get more involved.

But what about all those folks who live nowhere near an association branch or twig? Why not join other groups? While you can volunteer at your local library or start a book club or writing group, don’t think you should confine yourself to word-related activities. And even if you have a nearby Editors Canada branch, getting involved with other groups can open up all sorts of different worlds.

I’m astounded when I see reports that people find [insert city name here] a cold, uncaring place where it is difficult to meet people and make friends. These stories crop up in the media year after year. My reaction is that you have to give before you can take. If you’re not willing to reach out, why expect others to?

Allow me to share a bit of personal experience. I lived overseas for 14 years, and when I returned to Canada with my Japanese wife, we led a quiet, isolated existence for a while. We settled on the West Coast, so I didn’t have my prairie hometown contacts and relatives to turn to. And of course everything was new for my wife.

Things changed dramatically when we began attending events and activities with two groups — one an intercultural marriage group for Japanese-Canadian couples, the other the Streamkeepers. Both made new contacts for us who remain good friends to this day, some 15 years on. While we eventually parted ways with the intercultural group (don’t think you have to stick with any association if your values, or theirs, change over time), we are still active streamkeepers.

Streamkeeping became a door into the community. Via streamkeeping I eventually joined a business and community association. That led to joining the local board of trade and volunteering on a few of its committees. Streamkeeping also resulted in a six-year appointment to my municipality’s environment committee as a citizen representative, and eventually a position on a province-wide fisheries advisory board, through which I’ve met wonderful folks from across B.C.

So what will your door be? Start knocking.

Don’t forget to participate online, too. While initially it can be intimidating to wade into an online forum like the Editors Canada mail list or some of the editing forums on, say, Facebook, they are not only a valuable resource for editing- and business-related questions — they are also a virtual support group. In my experience, they are welcoming, friendly places that have zero tolerance for abuse.

Nervous? Just watch for a while and get a feel for the online atmosphere. Dip a toe in by asking a question. Dip another one in by commenting on something you feel you can contribute toward. You may soon find that you’ll have to ration your online activity, as it can be addictive!

One last tip: stay relaxed and take it slow. Forming friendships and relationships takes time. Every person is unique, and every group has its own culture.

Previous post from Paul Cipywnyk: Time, Money and the Freelance Life.

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7 Comments on “Tips for Dealing with Freelance Isolation”

  • Apposite points, Paul. Especially about taking it slow and not expecting new ties overnight. Good things take time to develop.

    • Kristin C


      This was a great article, and I learned a new word in the comments: apposite! Always humbling as an editor how many words there are out there still to learn 🙂

  • Anita Jenkins


    Well, Paul, from what I can see as a member of Editors Canada since 1996, your first paragraph is about right! I am an extrovert – or at least a 50-50 introvert/extrovert, which makes me seem like a 200% extrovert in this gang. So I am often mystified by the habits of “real” editors, dear and wonderful folk that they are. Now that a number of us in Edmonton are retired, most of my colleagues seem happy to continue hiding at home in their pyamas while I am out almost daily soaking up culture and just walking about the endlessly fascinating city streets. Even making new friends who are not editors!

    Looking forward to charges of stereotyping … but that’s how it has always looked to me.

  • Anita Jenkins


    I don’t think virtual connections count. I love chatting on the internet (obviously), but that’s not a social life in my view. You have to get out of your house!

  • Wonderful post, Paul! I’m pretty stereotypically introverted and bookish, but now that I’m living in a place with an active Editors Canada branch (Saskatoon) and I’m involved as a volunteer, I feel much less isolated.

  • Rosemary Shipton


    Over the years I’ve formed some truly rewarding relationships and friendships with my authors. I know opportunities are limited if you are copy editing or proofreading and your publisher or client insists on acting as the liaison between you and the writer. But if you’re a substantive / stylistic editor, you work directly with the author – sometimes over many weeks or months. If you live in the same area as the writer, you meet in person, but you can also make strong connections via phone calls and email. At this time, nothing is more vital to the author than the manuscript, and you’re deeply involved in it too – and so the scene is set for you to become long-term friends.

  • Sue Archer


    Great article, Paul. I’ve changed careers a few times over the years, and I find that my experiences in other forums have continued to help me with both my personal development and my journey as an editor.

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