Lonely jobs
March 10, 2015 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Do you spend at least 80 percent of your time working alone at your job? If so, what do you do?

This can range from working at a computer in a cubicle farm to working from home in some capacity, to being out and about in the world.

I'm looking for anything that involves solitary work at least 80 percent of the time, though 90 to 100 percent is even better.

If this is your job, what is your job title? If you have any additional information to share about it, such as how you got it, that is helpful also.

I know such information can be found in compilations of "jobs for introverts," but I find that sometimes the information in these lists is off-base.

posted by silly me to Work & Money (38 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a web developer and web marketer and basically never leave my house. It's pretty fabulous. However, I will say that this is probably not an ideal job for introverts as I do spend a good deal of time on the phone, and a fair amount of self promotion is needed to remain successfully self-employed.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:22 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Technical writer. I work in an office, and it's mostly communication over email (though I occasionally have to go to an engineer and ask him what the heck he's talking about in the email, as well as go to things like quarterly company meetings). Was a writer/editor before this, and I went to a 1-year program at a community college to get a Certificate in Technical Writing.
posted by Melismata at 9:29 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm an archivist in what is kind of close to being a "lone arranger" situation. My office is spatially pretty far from my nearest coworker, so I have a lot of quiet uninterrupted time and freedom to listen to music while I work. Sometimes it gets so quiet I'll go to another level in my building to chat with security officers.

The 10-20% of interactive time are spent in meetings (lots of meetings) and oral history field work and that type of thing. It's all very enjoyable.

Memail me if you'd like more information. It really is a great career, in terms of interesting subject matter and autonomy. As a bonus, you'll meet many more like-minded introverts in the field when you go to library school for the MLS!
posted by witchen at 9:38 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I work as an editor for a small nonprofit academic publisher. I work from home essentially all the time except for rare (2-3 times/year) trips to the headquarters for training.

I download material from a central server, do my work, and upload it back. There is also a chat program that the other editors use where we can talk about work/whatever. Most communication is via email or the chat program.
posted by number9dream at 9:39 AM on March 10, 2015

For a lot of telecommuting, you can be physically alone, but you still need teamwork and peaople-skills to interface with the rest of the group/office via email. Does that still count as "alone" to you, or are you really only looking for non-interacting jobs?
posted by aimedwander at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a ghostwriter and I basically never had to talk to anyone--it was all done by email.
posted by chaiminda at 9:40 AM on March 10, 2015

I'm a freelance writer and I work from an office at home. Almost all of my client interaction is via emails, with a few phone calls each week, but not many. I wouldn't say I'm that solitary, or introverted, but working alone works well for me as I can't write in any sort of busy, noisy place. I've done this for eight years now, having previously done the same job in a shared office with my last employer. I'm fortunate in that my industry is quite small and I've spent most of my working life in it, so I don't have to do much self-promotion, just make sure I do a good job with each gig to ensure repeat custom and maintain some strong client relationships. I rarely visit clients as people don't like to pay for travel and time so the odd conference call replaces these. I hate conference calls! I'm quite sociable outside of work but on the whole I prefer quiet to noise and bustle.
posted by dowcrag at 9:41 AM on March 10, 2015

Another freelance writer/editor working from home. The amount of talking to other people I do varies from project to project--some clients are still a little wary about some rando in another state doing work without watchful management eyes, and require frequent check-ins on the phone. For clients who know me well, I more or less am on my own.

Going freelance successfully in my niche market required about 6 years of being in an office first, however, making connections and learning the skills and lingo I need to work independently. And while editors are in general a quiet, awkward bunch, I wouldn't have called most of those environments "solitary". (Except for my time at an encyclopedia--I had a cube far away from anyone and barely ever spoke a word the whole time.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:56 AM on March 10, 2015

I'm an editor, transcriber, localiser, writer and proofreader. I work from home and when I work, I'm alone. I am an introvert and it suits me fine, but I do make sure I get out of the house every day, go to the gym with a friend or running club, and talk to someone other than my husband every day. I email with all of my clients, very rarely take a phone call.
posted by LyzzyBee at 9:56 AM on March 10, 2015

I'm the Executive Assistant to the CEO and one of the things I love most about it is that my work is solitary. That may sound counterintuitive at first glance, but: I have a big office segregated from the rest of the office staff. Nobody expects me to socialize or gossip because they know I can't and won't tell them anything that's going on. I report only to one guy, who is frequently out of the office. My work is done 100% for him and him alone. I do not collaborate with anyone and my work is rarely dependent or influential on anyone else's.

This may vary based on the specifics of the company, but I've held this position at three places and it has been the same type of environment for me at all of them.
posted by something something at 10:00 AM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]

I work in academic publications on the production side, and I work in an office, but 90% of my work is done on the computer via email, so I can basically show up, listen to my own music while working all day, and then go home. I have to talk on the phone maybe once a week, and I attend one weekly meeting.

I am not a huge fan of working from home, so I love having solitariness in the midst of an office environment where I am largely working on my own.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:04 AM on March 10, 2015

Technically yes, but I'm guessing that 8 hours of unpaid prep and grading time to 2 hours of class-teaching time is probably not the answer you're looking for.
posted by wintersweet at 10:09 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm a freelance fiction editor. 100% from home, never have to talk to anybody. It's so great.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:09 AM on March 10, 2015

I'm a legal document processor for a nationwide company. I work in a cube and never have to talk to anyone unless I want to. It rules. Basically all communication is done through IMs and emails. There's a "new missed call" on my phone that has been there for 1+ years now.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:12 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm part of a scientific research lab where once we have data (acquired in the field, from patients, typically, or collected from other places) I sit at a computer working on it alone, and I do various other solo housekeeping tasks needed to keep the research going. I'm always sending my work to others and have to coordinate a few things over email every day, but everything I send to my bosses in the next room goes through a server, github, email, whatever. We have relatively few in person meetings. This varies based on subfields and lab culture across science but there are usually large chunks of solo computer work for everyone. I could feasibly work from home over half the week if I worked for the kind of place that allowed that. I can go whole days without speaking to anyone in my office.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:15 AM on March 10, 2015

Are you interested in getting a B.S. degree in wildlife biology or something similar? If so, you can find seasonal jobs where you spend most of your time alone outdoors. When I was a marbled murrelet surveyor I spent most of my day alone in the woods or driving to and from survey sites.

I work part-time now as an internet assessor for Lionbridge. It's a work-from-home contract job. All communication is online. You literally never have to speak to another person, even when being hired.
posted by Redstart at 10:23 AM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

Bookkeeper/Accountant. It's just you, the paperwork and a computer and the occasional meeting if you work for someone else.
posted by wwax at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a client service manager for a software company. I work from home (as do all of my co-workers - well, from their own homes) and really, really love it.

I conduct training over the phone regularly and field technical calls, but DO NOT miss the co-workers small talk and walk-in interruptions peppered throughout my day.

I'm really comfortable in this job (as a strong introvert) because I'm called upon for my expertise in things I'm really well-versed in (based on my background and time with the company).
posted by Twicketface at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do prospect research for higher ed development/advancement. I spend the majority of my time working alone, although occasionally I'll split big projects with a coworker. I have occasional meetings, but they're often with the other people on the research team (my boss and a coworker; all of us are pretty introverted). I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work.
posted by naturalog at 10:33 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm an instructional design team lead for a large corporation. I work from home, as do most of my team members (who are spread across offices in the US, India, and different parts of Europe). Back when I worked in the same city as my 'home' office I generally went into the office most days - I consider myself an introvert, but actually I do rather miss the camaraderie of working in the same physical location as other people sometimes - but I'm in conference calls a LOT of the time these days (more than I'd like to be, honestly) so it's not like I'm working in total isolation. And hey, the 2-minute "commute" from my bedroom to my office in the morning is pretty nice.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:36 AM on March 10, 2015

I'm the office manager for a music booking agent. I'm his only employee and we work out of his home office and my home office. I only ever see him and the lady who gives us his mail. I also take pictures of houses for a real estate agent who I've never even spoken to. He emails me the assignments.
posted by myselfasme at 10:38 AM on March 10, 2015

My mom is a freelance bookkeeper. She basically has worked for one client for 25 years ("freelance" is more about taxes and legality than "lots of jobs for different people"). She works from home and does almost all her work alone. She does have to talk to the client and occasionally the CPA but it's a very solitary position.
posted by radioamy at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2015

Projectionist for movie theaters. I like to describe it as 'spending 12 hours a day alone in a semi-darkened room'..... and being left alone is a major reason to maintain the equipment properly: if all goes well, I don't see anyone or talk to anyone from the time I come in to when I leave, and frequently they've all already gone before I do. Introvert's bliss!

(It was even more extreme at a previous theater I worked at: I had a door key, so I came in before everyone else, did my thing all day, and left after they did. I could literally spend 14-15 hours doing my job, and not have a single human interaction.)
posted by easily confused at 11:10 AM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm a web services librarian, and my office is in a box in the basement. I go to or chair a meeting once every 2-3 weeks, and deal with my colleagues primarily by email. I do not have any public hours, as my job is maintaining the website and the electronic resources. Coworkers who are higher up the food chain deal with outside vendors of said electronic resources, and then pass the nitty-gritty of the technical work down to me to implement.

I kind of made the job myself--I was originally hired to also work with the catalog system, but it became clear early on that the catalog was a thing all unto itself, and they hired someone else to focus on that, and I got the rest.

My husband is a programmer who telecommutes from home and deals with his coworkers via email and IM, except for phone meetings that take up 2-3 hours total per week.
posted by telophase at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm a junior lawyer with a focus on regulatory compliance (which means virtually no court). 90% of my day is sitting in front of my computer in my office. The amount of face time I have with other people is to a significant extent controlled by me. The more senior I become, the more it's controlled by me. I got this job by looking for a job with a regulatory focus rather than a litigation focus and having experience in the field.
posted by mchorn at 12:05 PM on March 10, 2015

I'm a home based employee for a bank and I do quality control and compliance on loan underwriters. Most days the only person I talk to is my wife, it's awesome.
posted by VTX at 12:38 PM on March 10, 2015

I work at home doing accounts payable/payroll admin-y work. I have one set meeting a week, and other meetings now and then. I got into this a bit haphazardly after getting a liberal arts BA (linguistics ftw), doing mostly customer service work (at libraries, and then at this company) for my whole adult life, then sliding over to the financial side of the company when the opportunity presented itself. I found this job through a craigslist ad where it turned out, to my surprise, that "do customer support at home!" was actually legit.

It's not a super challenging job, but it's fabulous for the solitude, the clear goals and tasks, the fact that I respect what our company does, and that I have nothing but amazing coworkers.

I do spend a lot of time answering email, so there is interaction, but I rarely have to talk to anybody on the phone.
posted by hought20 at 1:54 PM on March 10, 2015

I work 95% from home (the other 5% I work at events or travel to teach). I am a designer, editor, translator and writer in the craft industry. I am self-employed and occasionally get other people to do things for them - all communication runs via emails and/or Twitter. I really like working on my own and my industry is pretty much run by introverts trying to avoid all human contact as much as possible. And then very occasionally I get a jolt of energy by meeting the outside world.
posted by kariebookish at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2015

I'm a secretary & am alone probably 80-90% of the time, sometimes for days or even weeks in a large-ish one-story building. We do vocational training & it's seasonal, for half the year we're prepping for the busy season but that's also when most of us take our vacations etc. The instructors also travel a lot to do special sessions that's why I end up alone, basically there to answer the phone & prep stuff. I do have to always be dressed & ready for a group to arrive w/o any advance warning any morning, keeps me on my toes. There's another larger office w/3 secretaries, they're pretty much bitches so I feel extra blessed to be alone. I keep the bldg locked when alone & park next door so it looks like the bldg is closed. Last fall I was alone for over 3 months, once in a while my boss would stop in to take care of paperwork, he would startled me by walking past my office in the lobby.

Previously I was a retail store manager for 7 yrs prior to this job, and was never alone except for an hour before the staff came in, now it's the opposite. I make the same money, work 8-430, no weekends & no overflowing toilets to snake out. I love my job!

I found my job on craiglist, I was shocked I found it & that it was real. It took some time to adjust to the job & the unique people I work with but I am so glad now. I think the company is glad to have me too because it does take a certain kind of person to handle the job. I am a low-key quiet person who avoids commotion so this is the prefect job for me. Even my passive-aggressive, paranoid, suspicious boss trusts & likes me now, it only took him 2 yrs to trust me! (he never trusted his other secretaries)

In retail, I didn't have a problem dealing with all the activity but on my off days I used to get a lot of anxiety about going out, it was weird but those days I just couldn't face any more strangers. I also lived very close to my store so got recognized frequently which stunk because I had to always be 'on' for the public.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 5:25 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I write from home for a media company, and conduct interviews over the phone (though some of the phone calls are by choice, and I could also do interviews by email). As an introvert, I'm mostly happier at home than in an office, but it also means that I have to make more of an effort to be social to have a balanced life. If you're curious about how to get a job writing/editing, feel free to memail me.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I work in a lab at a research facility. I'd easily spend 80% of my day working alone. Not that I don't talk to people - there is always gossip to catch up on, but apart from the occasional never-ending meeting, most work conversations are less than 5 minutes.
posted by kjs4 at 6:14 PM on March 10, 2015

Response by poster: So many great answers. Thanks.
posted by silly me at 6:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I run a couple of Etsy shops. Depending on my whim, some weeks are 100% spent at home alone, but when I want to, I spend an afternoon at a coffeeshop handing the digital end of my business (answering emails / editing product photos / tweaking the shops / sourcing supplies).

The solitary nature of this has started to get on my nerves a little, so I now also have part-time employment outside the home, but I lived off my Etsy shops for years (after slowly building them up to the point where that would work).

About ten years ago I was a full-time freelance writer for various websites and magazines, which I similarly did alone from home, with occasional coffeeshop work days.
posted by jessicapierce at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2015

Not me, but my mother-in-law is a technical translator. She has a degree in physics (which allows her to understand some finer technical details) and knows several languages well enough to translate from them into her native language. She works freelance from home or wherever she travels to. Very little interaction with anyone.
posted by peacheater at 7:16 PM on March 10, 2015

Web administrator - which involves a little IT infrastructure, web development, web design, web posting, web user assistance and graphic design. I probably work alone 90% of the time. I work in the office 100% of the time. I actually specifically go talk to people because it's too much alone time.

It is a fairly rare job, however. Most places have specialists doing each of the above jobs.
posted by cnc at 9:24 AM on March 11, 2015

I'm an audiobook editor. After ten years of working for a large publisher, I jumped ship to freelance from home.

Working alone might seem ideal, but it could potentially hurt your career if you live under the radar. I'm not great socially -- I'm a walking faux-pas -- get anxious around strangers (I like people but people often don't like me) and generally hate office life but I miss the benefits of being part of a group. If you can network and have no anxieties about selling yourself to new clients, good for you. If you can find regular contract work or be employed as a staff member, even better. But, if you find yourself in a situation anything like mine or ever consider working from home as a freelancer, here's a few words of warning:

- The hours are long.
- Income is irregular.
- When the kids are home, it's a nightmare trying to get any decent amount of work done.
- Making contacts and finding new clients can be extremely difficult.
- The work I do is tedious and time consuming.
- I'm constantly burnt out.
- No holidays.
- Often, no weekends.
- People think I'm unemployed. When I explain what I do, they still think I'm unemployed. (??)
- If you're the sole breadwinner of the family, the stress can become unbearable.
- This set up was a welcome escape at first but now I dream of working as part of a dynamic team creating awesome things, having people complement me, and having a career in which I can apply myself intellectually and creatively.

I guess what I'm saying is, just don't isolate yourself completely. You need a network for your career to survive.

On the plus side:
- Constant access to MetaFilter.
posted by popcassady at 5:36 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Another web developer here. I work for an existing company where everyone telecommutes (we have no physical offices), so having to do the hustle to get clients is not part of my job description (we have sales guys). I work from home and (have) had up to 5-6 hours of a normal 40-hour work week be status meetings and stuff. There is the occasional email - coordination on tasks and emergencies that come up and stuff - but for the most part once you have your task list set you're expected to knock through it and come up for air when necessary.

(Personally this has changed for me somewhat - moving up somewhat has given me more closer to project management responsibilities, and I'm expected to be working out of a client's office sometimes. Working from an office is not bad, though: the client just wants to see that you're there and working, and to ease communication with the stakeholders in the company and give you access to the folks who know the most about what you're trying to write the software for. They're not in your industry so there's not a lot of reason to have office banter unless you want it. In one of these recently I literally saw my point person for all of 10 minutes in the flesh over the 3 weeks I was there.)
posted by mrg at 2:48 PM on March 15, 2015

I work as a programmer for a UK company from Portugal, I go over to meet up with them every 3 months for a week, otherwise contact is by Email, videochat and phone for 3-4 hours per week. I have been doing this for 15 years now!
Everyone else above has mentioned the problems you can have.
Job security is a problem, I think I am quite secure at my company but this last year it has been looking like my company is not so secure and looking at the possibilities of moving on from my position I have found few leads.
Working from home is a challenge with kids in the house and so is constantly being responsible to keep yourself motivated. Working from home with
English colleagues has kept me in a very small English language bubble and so my Portuguese language skill are a bit stunted (I understand fine but make constant mistakes when speaking).

Reading through every-bodies comments.. it is good to know I'm not the only one doing this, but now I have Eleanor Rigby stuck in my head

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
posted by foleypt at 1:48 AM on March 16, 2015

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