There’s no manual for how to build a business. Well, to be fair, there are lots of them. Like, a bajillion books on entrepreneurship, management, leadership, and business. Many of them are great, but none of them are the manual for how to build YOUR business. This means you’ve got to figure most of it out on your own.
When I was trying to figure out ‘my manual,’ one of the of the first places I looked was podcasts. I found information, insight and perspective, and also something else I didn’t even know I was looking for -- community.
This blog series has explored the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, as well as potential antidotes, like co-working, coaching and also group coaching. There’s a common thread in all of these; the imperative of building, and maintaining, community in solopreneurship.
Community can live in weird places!
It may seem counterintuitive that one of the secrets to creating community can begin with a relatively solitary activity -- driving around, doing chores around the house, or going for a run while listening to a podcast. But that’s exactly what I did, and it’s been one of the greatest sources of support in my solopreneurial life.
One of the best podcasts I discovered in my search is called BizChix, and it focuses on female entrepreneurs, as the title may imply. At first, I loved the smart content, the on-air coaching calls, the interviews, the practical tips, and the warm, encouraging tone of its host, Natalie Eckdahl.
Like many podcasts, BizChix has a free facebook group, where listeners can connect, ask questions, engage with the host, share tips, etc. It didn’t take long before I joined the facebook group, and found a really great community there. There were women in there with all different kinds of businesses, from all over the world, and at different stages in their success, but one thing everyone had in common was that same warmth and generosity of spirit that's such a hallmark of the podcast.
When you find your people, put yourself out there
After listening to the podcast consistently for about six months, I surprised myself, and bought a ticket to the show’s inaugural conference, Bizchix Live. It felt totally weird to buy a plane ticket to go to a conference across the country, where I would know absolutely no one, just because I liked a podcast! But off I went, and it was a total game changer for me, and my business.
BizChix Live was amazing! The group of women I met were exactly what I had kind of imagined they would be -- warm, smart, diverse, passionate, vulnerable, ambitious. I immediately felt at home.
However, the conference was just the beginning. The facebook group became an easy, natural way to keep up with the female entrepreneurs I’d met. Several of them became dear friends, and since then, one woman and I have business ‘ biz buddy’ calls about every eight weeks to support each other. The podcast has also taken on a new dimension in my life — once I really felt like I was part of the BizChix community, it became ‘My’ podcast.
Isn’t that all so weird? Can you imagine that happening even five years ago? Some random woman on the internet, I buy tickets to a conference I know very little about, and make lifelong friends, colleagues and business connections? It does seem bizarre, but the story goes on.
About six months ago, Natalie, the host, posted in the facebook group that one of her mastermind groups was planning a retreat in Boston, and did anyone know of space that might be suitable to hold their sessions. I live in Boston, and happen to have an amazing office space, and so, without hesitating, I replied, c’mon down!
Several months later, a small flock of BizChix turned up at my office, and it was so cool, again, to see this virtual connection manifest IRL. Being able to give something back deepened my connection to the community.
Just recently, I was at another conference that a bunch of BizChix were also attending, and we had a breakfast meetup. I made some cool, new contacts and re-connected with some familiar faces as well.
Community is the silver bullet
I’m sharing this with you because I am a better, stronger, happier, and more resilient business woman because I sought out, found, and then invested in community. I showed up, put myself out there, and said hi, this is me, this is who I am, who are you?
We have more opportunities than ever before to make our relationships in the online world real, and to nurture them into genuine connection. Community is, 100%, the silver bullet in battling isolation as a solopreneur, and in the 21st century, be prepared for it to show up in unexpected places!
I've become convinced that isolation is a silent dream killer for solopreneurs. Working alone is like the opposite of ‘groupthink’ -- but no less destructive to a small business.
You know the story, a small, service-based solopreneur works out of their second bedroom, or maybe the occasional Starbucks. They plug away, always on the hunt for clients, ‘doing all the doing,’ reading the right business books, constantly working ‘in’ the business, not ‘on’ the business and just hoping they’re getting it right. They worry about revenue, that they’re working too hard, and ultimately wondering if it’s all worthwhile -- whether they might not be better off working for someone else...
Whenever I hear solopreneurs report this kind of grind, I’m almost certain that the root of their frustration and anxiety is prolonged isolation. Why? Because the number one challenge that all entrepreneurs share is mindset. The laundry list of common issues includes imposter syndrome, burnout, inertia, creative blocks, anxiety and depression.
And it’s no wonder. Building a business brings up everyone’s deepest fears and insecurities -- am I good enough? Will anyone pay me what I think I’m worth? Is there a sustainable market for what I’m offering? Will I have consistent revenue? None of these are helped by sitting at home alone, toiling away in isolation.
Entrepreneurship is a team sport, which doesn’t mean that you have to hire a staff, but it does mean that you need community. Here’s why:
That laundry list of mindset issues? They’re a lot easier to manage when you know you’re not alone. When you have a community of peers, you realize that anyone building a business who doesn’t have imposter syndrome is playing it too safe, and at the expense of their bottom line. When you’re growing, you’re always going to be doing new things that you’ve never done before, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is a lot easier to do when you have other entrepreneurs -- people in the same boat -- to talk to.
There are a million ways to build a business, but you only know what you know. Fortunately, there are lots of other entrepreneurs out there trying to solve the same problems, and sharing information and ideas is a great way to break free of creative and productivity blocks. For example, you may be struggling with keeping on top of emails and calendaring, but someone else in your community may have already successfully used an automation platform that could do all this for you. No one can keep on top of everything, so knowledge sharing is vital to success.
When you work alone, you’re also stuck just thinking your own thoughts every day, which creates huge blind spots. It’s hard to solve business problems creatively when you’re stuck in your own head, with not enough external input.
Referrals and Partnerships
You may know your own market, but have no idea how to access adjacent markets, or even that they exist. When you have a community of entrepreneurial peers, you’ve instantly increased your pool of potential customers. Similarly, you’ll also be able to start tapping into vibrant referral networks -- hard to do sitting at home alone at your laptop.
That all sounds helpful, but how do you make the leap from thinking your own thoughts all day every day to breaking into the wellspring of ideas, innovation, empathy and encouragement that you need?
More to come!
Welcome to the first in a series of posts in which we’ll explore some of the ways that I, and other entrepreneurs, have found effective in beating isolation, and building our businesses. We’ll look at the benefits of co-working, coaching, and community-building. We’ll also examine the role that mindset and resilience play in the success of solopreneurs.
In the meantime, what are your top tips for combating isolation as a solopreneur? What tricks have you discovered to master your mindset? Share them here and we may contact you to be part of a future post.
Due to popular demand, we are getting ready to launch a new group membership program called 'Solopreneur Connection' -- we'd love to have you join us! Click here to learn more about the program, and to submit an expression of interest.
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.