Working for yourself comes with a bunch of great benefits, like setting your own schedule and handpicking projects that fuel your passion. While freelancing or working remotely is definitely #goals for independent, hustling types who love autonomy, it can also get lonely sometimes. A self-employed introvert, I’ve been doing my solo dance for nearly three years; while I relished the quiet for the first two, I’ve recently started missing office chitchat and easy opportunities I had to make new friends at work. Feel my pain? Read on for five tactics that have helped me break free from my antisocial self-employed slump.

friends hanging out at coffee shop

1. Reconsider how you network. Networking doesn’t have to be uncomfortable, awkward, scary, or even planned; in fact, you can network just about anywhere. To do this, I challenge myself to chat with at least two people each day when I work from a crowded coffee shop; so far, I’ve made friends with a yoga teacher, fellow writer, and design consultant. Places like San Francisco’s The Assembly or The Wing in New York City and DC are prime for mingling with fellow business owners and freelancers. If you’re into setting up meetings with semi-strangers, be intentional about asking people you admire or may have met in passing to meet you for tea, a walk, or something else.

2. Join a group that meets regularly. Feeling a sense of community is a surefire way to overcome lonely feelings while making new friends. Chances are you have a wide range of interests outside of work; finding a group that shares your appreciation should be a cinch! If you’re spiritual, consider joining a church group. If you love art, history, or design, become a member of your favorite museum and attend the members-only events offered. Facebook and Meetup are great places to find offline groups too. Even more, you can expand your social circle by participating in groups with friends you already have, like a recurring wine night or book club where each person can bring a bestie you may not have met yet.

3. Take a class IRL. While digital classes can be a great way to learn, there’s nothing like meeting people while learning IRL. Classes offer the benefit of group exercises and assigned collaboration, which will give you the chance to hone your skills or explore your interests while connecting with like-minded people. Your local community college is a great place to begin your search. You might also consider local stores and studios for creative activities like cooking, dancing, or jewelry making.

4. Befriend the familiar faces at the gym. It might seem strange to strike up a conversation when you’re working out, but sweat working has proved to be a legit way to make business contacts and meet new friends. Use the time before and after your workouts to get to know the familiar faces you see a few times a week at the gym or in your favorite class; once you know people better, you’ll feel comfortable inviting them on a walk or post sweat-sesh smoothie run.

5. Volunteer for a cause you care about. Doing good for others comes with more than a proven improved sense of self-worth; rolling up your sleeves to volunteer is a perfect opportunity to bond with the people you’re helping or working on a project with. Opportunities to pitch in range from more traditional, like lending a hand at a local soup kitchen, to tutoring or even teaching older adults new tech skills. Choose something you’re passionate about and get excited about sharing it with others. You’re bound to make inspiring and selfless friends!

Do you work from home? Tell us how you stay social and forge friendships on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)